While the seats are empty and the screens blank at Yellowknife’s only cinema, its marquee is trying to provide some cheer during the Covid-19 public health crisis.
Instead of movie titles and show times, a sign outside the Capitol Theatre displays a line from Simple Minds’ 1980s hit Don’t You (Forget About Me) – popularized by screen classic The Breakfast Club.
It’s a plea to support the cinema once it reopens.
“When this is all over, we want to make sure [people] remember there’s a movie theatre they can come see the latest blockbusters at,” said general manager Chris Wood.
“Don’t forget we’re here, don’t forget we play the movies you want to see.”
The theatre temporarily closed its doors on March 18 in compliance with a request from the NWT’s chief public health officer that all gatherings be cancelled.
That’s a challenge for Wood: the theatre isn’t making money but still has “quite considerable” overheads, he said.
Part-time staff have been laid off. Wood said many are high-school students who he hoped were “not in desperate straits.”
Theatres across North America are closed but, at home, people are finding they can watch many films that were reserved for the big screen not so long ago. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, studios like Universal, Disney, and Warner Bros have fast-tracked the online release of films for streaming and download.
That worries Wood. If it continues after the global health pandemic, he expects theatres to lose business. (The theatre he is employed to manage is Yellowknifers’ only choice. It isn’t owned locally.)
That said, he expects a slew of new movies for cinematic release once theatres do eventually re-open. Those include latest Fast and Furious outing F9 and Disney’s live-acton Mulan, both of which have postponed their release dates.
A bigger question is what happens when the flow of new releases simply stops, Wood said. TV and film productions worldwide are on hold during the pandemic.
“It’s just like when people bought all the toilet paper,” he said.
“Eventually this’ll be over and then they’ll go, ‘Oh, look at all this toilet paper I have,’ and they won’t have to buy toilet paper for three or four months.
“So the toilet-paper industry will go back into a slump before business picks up again for them.”