Wisconsin movie theaters get help from state so that show can go on

Eric Chaloux
Updated: November 24, 2020 06:33 PM
Created: November 24, 2020 04:38 PM

A total of 54 cinemas in Wisconsin are starting to receive help from a COVID-19 movie theater grant program in the past week that awarded $10 million to help those impacted by the pandemic.

“Movie theaters are often a corner stone of our main street businesses, and I am glad we were able to get these funds out the door to help them keep theirs open,” Gov. Tony Evers said.

Grant funds can be used toward pandemic-related operational costs, such as facility improvements, to provide appropriate social distancing, cleaning and sanitizing, and personnel costs necessary to provide appropriate COVID-19 safeguards, according to the Department of Administration.

“It keeps us above water, it definitely, helps, let’s say that it definitely, definitely helps,” said Mike Annunziata, general manager of the St. Croix Falls Cinema. “We are grateful for that but we still need people to come into the movies.”

Annunziata said last weekend business was down 96% compared to the same time last year. Since the start of the pandemic, the theater has gone from 20 employees down to six.

Movies continue to play at theaters across the state, while in neighboring Minnesota, cinemas are closed for at least four weeks after new COVID-19 closures by the state officials.

"Minnesota is kind of in an interesting position, we do have a lot of locally-owned cinemas," said Nathan Block, who operates Woodbury 10 and St. Michael Cinema.

“All the progress I've made over the last five or six months, I feel like I'm having to start over at square one," Block said.

Block would like to see Minnesota leaders remember theaters in future COVID-19 relief.

"It will be nice to weather this storm, until we get a vaccine, and people feel safe to come out again, I'm sure the business will come back," Block said.

A new animated family movie hits the big screen tomorrow, which Block had been looking forward to showing, but it will instead play just down the road in Wisconsin.

“It’s dire, it’s really dire, for our industry,” Annunziata said at the cinema in St. Croix Falls.

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