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Summer blockbuster movies could make or break local theaters

Against all odds, movie theaters are coming back
Cinema 6 in Port Richey, Fla.
Posted at 6:44 AM, Jun 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-06 10:21:50-04

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — The Cinema 6 theater in Port Richey did everything they could to stay alive. They made it longer than they thought, and though they're still open, they aren't out of the woods yet.

"We are holding our own right now," the owner of Cinema 6 in Port Richey, Chanel Casteel, said. "We are just trying to measure our costs right now. And, every week, we are steady, and we are breaking even; that's all we can hope for."

ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska first interviewed Casteel in Oct. 2020. At the time, she didn't think they would last through Christmas.

"We've come this far. We really didn't think we would make it through the holidays, but we've gotten this far with some grit and really scaling back and cutting back and keep our expenses low so we can kind of float our way through," Casteel said. "At the end of summer and into the fall, if we are still doing okay and the numbers are kicking and not having to dip into the loan money, and we can keep going, I'll probably breathe a little easier."

Casteel said they were poised to have a record year in sales and turn a profit for the first time in 12-years. Instead, she said they lost more than $165,000 because of the pandemic.

Small business loans helped keep them afloat, but Casteel said if Hollywood doesn't start putting out steady good content, she may not be able to bounce back.

"I need movies to play," Casteel said. "They need to start pushing these movies back out. That's all I need from them. And, stop streaming, stop the online streaming stuff and just put the movies out. You know people want them. Everybody wants the movies. We need content, you know, the last three weekends have been so slow cause we've had the same movies for the last three weeks there's been nothing new to come into the theater."

Major studios continue to release movies simultaneously for theater release and online streaming.

Some of the last year's most highly anticipated films still aren't out. "Top Gun: Maverick" and "James Bond No Time to Die" are tentatively scheduled for release in the fall.

To survive, Casteel said she needs a summer blockbuster season and a fall blockbuster season.

"I'm hoping if they start putting out enough movies and everything that people will start coming in, and we can fill those seats back up," Casteel said. "So much has changed. It's like we're starting all over again, not knowing what we're doing. That's how it was when we first opened the place we had no idea."

With kids out of school for the summer, she hopes to team up with different businesses across the area to sponsor free movies for kids. Casteel sees it as an excellent way to get people in the door, and the companies can advertise at the theater and get some positive exposure for supporting locals.

"We are trying to get our free summer movie schedule rolling where we have Tuesday and Thursday movies at 10 a.m., a free kids movie for the families to come in. We are trying to find some companies that will help us sponsor those because the film costs $300 to play it that goes directly to the film studio a licensing fee," Casteel said. "At least, that way, with people coming in, we can get some money from concession sales."

Update: After this report aired, Chanel told Paluska the studios dropped their fees from $300 to $200 per film for the Summer. She hopes that will help more businesses sponsor their free movies for kids program.

The Cinema 6 is now open seven days a week for the first time since the pandemic began.