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Countryfest Community Cinema overcoming challenges

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While some businesses are slowly being allowed to reopen, others are still trying to make ends meet while being partially shut down.
Countryfest Community Cinema (CCC) in Dauphin is one such business doing what it can to make money.
About two weeks after closing due to the pandemic, the local theatre was able to find some distributors who allowed them to share links to movies online, sharing in the revenue of the rentals.
“Mind you, it’s not the biggest movies you see, like Trolls and stuff like that. It’s independents that normally wouldn’t go to a theatre or just go to an art house. So it was nice of them to offer some revenues for theatres while we’re closed,” said CCC general manager Ron Suchoplas, adding new titles are added every Friday.
Anyone interested in taking a look at the movies available can check out the website at countryfestcommunitycinema.ca.
“There is a virtual cinema tab. You click on that and it lists all the movies that are available and the dates. You click on them and it will give you a little synopsis of the writeup on it and a trailer. So there’s always complete information about the movie and the price. And it will talk about sharing revenue with us in Dauphin here,” Suchoplas said, adding the price is anywhere from $8 to $12. Some of the movies are Canadian, some are from the U.S., depending on the distributor.
CCC’s share of the revenue will range between 40 and 50 per cent.
“Because what they’ve got to do is offset some of the costs of the distribution. When they post it online, it has to go through another site that has to process the credit card, store the movie and stuff like that. Like any business, there’s fees associated with it, so they take that off the top and they split the rest between us,” Suchoplas said.
This gives moviegoers a chance to view movies they otherwise might not see.
“And because there has been so good support from the people that are releasing the movies, it’s probably something we’ll continue on even after we open,” Suchoplas noted.
“We’ll have our virtual release and our in-theatre releases.”
Because income has been limited, Suchoplas has been unable to do much in the way of advertising other than posting on the website or on Facebook.
As a means of making at least some money, CCC’s concession has been open for curbside pickup and delivery through online orders and recently, opened for walkups.
The concession is open Friday and Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“We may not do deliveries once we open, but we’ll definitely continue on people ordering either for curbside or order ahead and come pick it up. We’ve had people do that before when we were open. They’d come on their way home from work and buy popcorn to take home for their spouse after supper,” Suchoplas said.
Initially, response to the concession being open went well. But Suchoplas noted people were more tied down and the weather was colder in late March and early April.
“So we were doing well and everybody was supporting us. They were getting it as a treat and they were supporting us, too. It wasn’t a big money maker for us. It allowed us to use up the stock before it expired. So it did save us some losses there,” he said.
One thing Suchoplas and his staff noticed was when delivering the treats to the waiting customers in their vehicles, it was not just the children who had big smiles on their faces.
“Even the adults were just smiling when they’d see their popcorn,” he said.
Among the items sold at the concession was what Suchoplas called “bushel bags” of popcorn, which holds 25 small popcorns.
“We usually do one or two a weekend and one weekend when we first opened, we did five bushel bags. That was like a record for us. It’s like $40 a bag, but it feeds 25 people. And we did five in one day,” he said.
As for when CCC will be able to begin showing movies again, Suchoplas has no idea when that will happen, although theatres in other parts of the country have opened. Suchoplas had to layoff all of his staff, but he was able to bring one person back for the curbside venture.
When the theatre does open, movies will be spaced apart enough for staff to do the necessary cleaning between shows.
And Suchoplas expects seating will be limited to 50 per cent capacity or less. With that in mind, to accommodate physical distancing, there will be reserved seating where seats and rows will be labeled.
“So when people walk in, the ticket will say where they’re sitting and they’ll go into the theatre and sit in that seat,” he said.
As a fund-raiser, Suchoplas has been selling 2020 supporter pins for $100.
“So they’ll support us with $100. They’ll get 10 per cent off concession, double points on a rewards program. And we’ll help them sign up for the rewards. So there’s a little bit of a bonus there. And we’re going to do 100 pins,” he said.

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Doug Zywina
REPORTER
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