Bottom Line: Essex Cinemas Owner Is Optimistic Despite Pandemic Restrictions | Business | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Since Peter Edelmann was first released, many disaster films have been screened

In October 2001. He never imagined that one day he would try to weather a perfect storm: COVID-19.

When Essex Cinemas became the first movie theater in Vermont with stadium seating, Netflix was still delivering DVDs to a small number of subscribers through the US Postal Service. Other video streaming services, such as Hulu and Amazon Prime, are still many years away from launch.

Edelmann recalled: "[Theatre] performed well in the first few years,

, Including shopping centers, public green spaces and

. "There is not much competition. No one has really invested in... in the Burlington area theater."

Then, as other theaters opened in Chittenden County and nearby competitors upgraded older theaters, Edelmann tried to stay ahead. In November 2010, he added the tenth auditorium-the 400-seat T-Rex Theater, with 3D digital capabilities and a 60-foot curved screen, which he said is still the largest theater in the state.

But when the coronavirus reached Vermont, the writing was still on the wall. Edelmann even closed the Essex cinema before Governor Phil Scott's "stay at home and stay safe" order ended the large indoor gathering. As the pandemic spread into the spring, Edelmann took a vacation and then laid off most of his 50 employees.

He recalled: "Going back to the end of March and the beginning of April, it was simply doom and gloom." "We don't know how bad it will get or how long it will last."

But even if the screen dimmed, Edelmann still thought of other ways to bring people together. On a Saturday night in April, he lit a popcorn machine and invited the public to drive to the theater to grab luggage. Popcorn is free, but he suggested that each person donate $5 to benefit popcorn.

. Hundreds of cars lined up and people contributed more than $3,000.

With the advent of summer, Edelmann invested in a 40-foot-tall inflatable screen to show the movie on the outdoor center green, and set up FM broadcast signals and outdoor PA systems. People watching movies can watch from inside the car, drive in theater style, or sit outside of folding chairs. Although the pop-up self-driving car has never fully reached its maximum capacity of 72 cars, Edelman said it helps maintain the lighting. Once the temperature drops below 50 degrees, the inflatable screen must eventually be cleaned up.

By August 28, Essex Cinemas

By adopting many new security protocols. According to the regulations of the State Department of Health, seats should be kept at a certain distance and alternately emptied, and the auditorium's capacity should not exceed 50%, with a maximum of 75 people. (Usually, three of the ten auditoriums can hold 200 people or more.) Customers must purchase discounts before the movie is released, and cannot leave the auditorium unless they use the restroom. Masks are required throughout the building, unless customers sit in their seats to eat or drink.

Edelmann said the complex has also upgraded its HVAC system and installed line dividers and protective covers at ticket offices and concession counters. The staff even used a smoke machine to disinfect the theater between movie screenings.

Edelman sighed: "We are losing money every day, so I have to cut time and only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday."

Before the pandemic, about 60% of Essex cinema's revenue came from children, teenagers and people in their twenties. When the Essex Westford School District reopened in late August using a mixed in-person and online model, Edman heard that hundreds of local families did not have childcare, so he opened a theater for them.

Over the past few weeks, Essex Cinemas has enrolled 400 to 500 students from kindergarten to eighth grade, showing them movies, and providing them with a safe, comfortable and familiar environment while their parents are working. As of October 5, K-5 students in Essex returned to school all day.

Edelman pointed out: "It doesn't help your bottom line, but I feel good about it."

Despite this, the future of Essex Cinemas is still uncertain, especially when entering the usually lucrative holidays. As

Research and accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers pointed out last month that due to the closure of many theaters, major Hollywood releases will be postponed to 2021, and global cinema revenue will fall by nearly 66% by 2020.

For Edelman, state and federal COVID-19 assistance has eased the pain to some extent. In the spring, Essex Cinemas received a $89,000 "Salary Protection Program" loan and a $50,000 grant from the Vermont Department of Commerce and Community Development.

He said: "This sounds like a lot... but you have a mortgage, 200 euros in property tax-the town cannot be exempt from these mortgage taxes-plus all maintenance and utility costs." "This is not a good time to start a film business. ."

Despite the various challenges facing the epidemic, Edman said that he is still an optimist by nature.

He said: "I do believe people will come back, and I believe people will go to the movies again." "We are a herd, which is why people like to go to festivals, concerts and movies-because we love this community. I I hope [this pandemic] doesn’t break our psychological part too deeply. But I don’t think so."

The bottom line is a series of articles about business performance in Vermont during the pandemic. Is there a tip? e-mail


The original print version of this article is titled "Reel Challenge | Despite the constraints of the pandemic, the owner project of Essex Cinemas remains optimistic"



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