NEWPORT, Tenn. — Owners of small cinemas say the outlook for movie theaters is grim. Ticket sales and overall attendance are down while Hollywood is sending new movies straight to streaming services.
Still, those local theaters are working to keep the doors open during the pandemic so they don't go belly up, but they need community support.
At Newport Cinema 4 in Cocke County, popcorn purchases are overflowing, but ticket sales are nonexistent, according to owner Branden Joynt.
"We made the decision to quit charging for our admission because more people simply show up and we make up our revenue in additional concession sales," Joynt admitted.
Joynt knew when they opened back up at the end of May it would be a gamble, but it's one they had to take.
"This year we have set a goal and our goal is to still be here at the end of the year," Joynt nodded.
Still, not enough people are showing up. Their revenue is down 80 percent compared to a normal year, so they've had to get creative.
"We've run a lot of experiments actually, so we've taken this time to evaluate our business model and just try new things," Joynt explained.
They're showing old movies, offering drive-through concessions and back parking lot family flicks.
"On one hand it's terrifying because we don't know how long this is going to last, but on the other hand, we're not alone in this," Joynt said.
It's not just movies. Every aspect of the entertainment world has taken a hit.
The National Association of Theatre Owners is pleading with Congress to approve pandemic relief loans for the entertainment business.
The group believes if money isn't approved, over 15,000 employees could lose their jobs.
"It's a scary time of course, and you know we're looking forward to the industry reopening and there is some light at the end of the tunnel," Joynt explained.
Joynt said it's all about community backing and small theaters need customers now more than ever.
"I think supporting whatever local cinema you typically support is really going to be key to making sure those theaters are still there once the pandemic is over," Joynt encouraged.
He hopes with more support, sales start to pop.
Regal Cinemas says it will reopen theaters Aug. 21. Guests will be required to wear face masks. Movie chain AMC pushed back its planned start date and is aiming for a mid to late August reopening.