With Friday the 13th's (naturally) announcement of another statewide closure in Oregon, we (the owners, Michael Falter and Susan Tive) are nearing the end of our ability to keep City Lights open for the Florence area community. We've been running as fast as we can to stay solvent and pay our fixed costs: but with no government help on the horizon, we must turn to you for help. That's 65 clams. 65 Clevelands. 650 Benjamins.
That covers the theatre's fixed costs, with current minimal staffing, for 4-5 months.
Here's the backstory.
Rollercoaster: City Lights Edition
When I was in Middle School, our nuclear family vacationed from Washington to California -- this would be in the early 80's--which culminated as all good vacations for young teens should, at Disneyland. I had a great time, but I learned quickly that if the ride had a warning for people with pacemakers, I was going to take a hard pass and head to the gift shop.
Well, I can safely say that 2020 has been my personal Return to Space Mountain. The roller coaster that we've experienced has twisted my head and turned my stomach more than once. We closed in March along with many other businesses. Months passed but in June we felt we saw an opening -- and spent $20k to remodel the theatre to go beyond government guidelines for entertainment venues. This includes replacing every other row of seats with tables.
(Photo: A view of Theatre 1 with new tables installed).
We reopened for less than a month when we had to shut down, a 2nd time, due to lease issues. This closure lasted another month and came at great expense. We reopened again at the end of August, in time to experience a 3rd (and brief) closure when Oregon experienced devastating fires and suddenly I was vacuuming ash out of the projection booth.
In September and October, though we had very few studio films to play, we steadily increased our small but appreciative audiences. With continued support from the sale of memberships and the occasional donation, we could almost dream of breaking even. With Friday's news, all momentum was lost; as a consequence of the mushrooming virus levels, even more films are moving beyond 1st quarter 2021 to next Summer or Fall, and we're looking at imminent closure.
Boy, That's a LOT of Popcorn:
$65k sounds like a lot of money, but if all 9,103 Florence residents donated less that the cost of a matinee ticket (or $7.14), we'd make it.
The pandemic has taken a toll on businesses far and wide. The film industry is perhaps even more uniquely challenged because it is so interconnected. Hollywood will only release films to the world if New York and LA are open--they drive huge numbers and the media markets are critical for national exposure. It's unlikely that either location will be reopening anytime soon. Thus, even if Oregon allows counties to reopen again within a month or two, we're not going to have a functional industry until April or May or June, even with a promising vaccine or two in the coming months.
Our fixed costs are pretty fixed. We were able to temporarily reduce our rent through March, but with rent, payroll, taxes, utilities, and monthly fees, we are at roughly $15k a month in operating costs.
Our goal is to remain in Florence for years to come. We need help to make it until business can resume, hopefully by April or May of next year.
(Photo: A RAIN event. Look ma, no masks! -- This was several years ago.)
We Turned 6 in August
Florence residents already know what it's like to be without a theatre. We, my wife Susan Tive and myself, vacationed in Florence in 2013 and noticed the vacant Florence Cinemas, sitting lonely at the end of the mall. Our collective experience in working with non-profit art houses made it feel like we were duty-bound to resurrect the town's cinematic meeting place. And so we did. Little did I know that rehabbing a theatre in July in Coastal Oregon would necessitate pitching a tent in the lobby.
(Photo: Here's the lobby before much painting and renovation. Note tent in the background. Apologies to any city ordinances forbidding such use.)
We dedicated ourselves to making the best theatre experience we could, right here in Florence. With the help of Mister, Art, Alex, Jared, Evan, Paul, and more, we turned the place into the community's living room, complete with craft beer and Oregon's best popcorn with all the fixins.
(Photo: Jared and Alex with HAL9000 during our 2001: A Space Odyssey event).
We've had so much magic happen in City Lights Cinemas. We have had the great pleasure of befriending a true gentleman and a genius of film sound editing -- Steven Spielberg's regular and John Williams's right hand man, Ken Wannberg. Well into retirement, he wrote and performed a new score for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and was a guest of honor at our 2017 Anniversary celebration where we screened Raiders of the Lost Ark and listened to his stories about the making of.
(Photo: Ken Wannberg enjoying a well-deserved drink after his Q&A, with Michael Falter)
It took five years, but we finally paid off the $200k in Digital Projection upgrades in August of 2019. It felt like a giant weight had lifted--and all we had to worry about was Netflix and Amazon taking over the movie business. A pandemic wasn't even in the Top 20 of our threat assessment worksheet.
In our six years of operating as City Lights Cinemas, we've come to know so many of you in our community and beyond. We have regulars who drive from Yachats and Newport from the North, and Coos Bay and Bandon from the south. We regularly provide our space for non-profits for fundraisers or meetings. We love hosting young audiences, like our summer visits from the Boys and Girls Club.
(Photo: Boys & Girls Club with Michael)
We have donated thousands of tickets to fundraisers of all persuasions and we look forward to supporting our community for a long time to come.
We still believe in happy endings and can't wait for this movie to be over.
(Photo: Yes, I have climbed on the roof to see if there was a pot of gold.)
Thank you for reading and considering a gift at this critical time. We won't be able to do this without you!
- Delores Dixon
- Pamela J Farnsworth
- Kathryn , and James Waterman
- Stephen Skidmore
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