On March 16, 2020, The Grand Cinema in Tacoma, Washington shut its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Except for three days for the Tacoma Film Festival and a few private rentals, we have been closed since with no re-opening date in sight.
Why a fundraising campaign?
When we shut our doors, we couldn’t have comprehended that it would last this long. To date we’ve been able to cover many expenses with small grants and an SBA loan, but those funds are now exhausted. Revenue is down over $1 million for the year, but fixed expenses continue.
Contributions will directly cover fixed monthly expenses: rent, utilities, phone, internet, property insurance, bookkeeping, health insurance for furloughed employees, plus minimal staff wages to keep virtual films and email updates coming your way. Our goal is to raise $93,520 which covers these fixed expenses for four months.
A brief history of The Grand
What we now call The Merlino Art Center was built in the 1920s as an Odd Fellows Lodge. A portion of the building became a non-profit art house cinema in 1997 and now more than 2.4 million people have watched films at The Grand, establishing us as the go-to home for quality films in the South Sound. As a non-profit, we are built around a small staff, a Board of Directors, and the nearly 200 dedicated volunteers who make your popcorn, take your tickets, and clean the theaters between films.
In addition to our volunteers, we also have our members to thank for being our lifeblood—our agents of word-of-mouth, the community members who share their enthusiasm and love for The Grand far and wide—who sustain us through memberships. Our members number in the thousands and consist of households as far as Seattle...and even Everett, Montesano and Longview.
The Grand Cinema serves as one of the major cultural centers in Tacoma, playing hundreds of independent, international, and classic films each year. We create and host the Tacoma Film Festival, teach youth filmmaking, invite community members to lead post-film discussions, and curate popular programming for the Tuesday Film Series, Weird Elephant, Science on Screen, Exhibition on Screen, among others.
We are more than a movie theater. We hold special events like the 253 Short Film Competition, occasionally invite four-legged friends to catch a movie, and sometimes people leave us poems. We are a community space, with the mission of enriching lives and enhancing the cultural vitality of the Greater Tacoma community through the art of film.
When will The Grand open again?
If virus rates were decreasing rather than increasing, we might have had the opportunity to open for the Christmas holidays. Sadly, infections are going in the wrong direction and cinemas in Washington are ordered closed at least until December 14. Our survey of patrons about six weeks ago showed that at least a third of our audience won’t be coming back until there is a widely available vaccine, so this may push our opening until spring or later. When businesses are more widely opening up and it is safe for both patrons and staff to operate, we’ll be more than ready to welcome you back to the corner of 6th and Fawcett!
The pandemic is teaching us that isolation can be harmful, and that people need somewhere other than work or home in their lives to find refuge—to be inspired by the lives and stories apart from one's own. The Grand is a gathering space that this community needs—not to mention home of the best popcorn in town.
By contributing to (and sharing!) this campaign, you will help ensure the continued presence of The Grand Cinema in Tacoma’s cultural landscape. THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP!
- Terrence Martin
- Alvarita Allen
- Elwood P. Dowd
- Rebecca Long
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