Gympie Cinemas face grim future as coronavirus tightens grip
SWEEPING social changes enforced by the global coronavirus crisis have brought businesses everywhere to their knees, and all Gympie Cinemas manager Paul McKeown can do is put on a brave face.
The man who helped build the Monkland St theatre in 1990, returned in 2009 and stepped in yet again in late 2018 now faces the inevitable as the pandemic takes hold – a forced curtain call.
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Federal Government rulings on social distancing and indoor gatherings brought on by the spread of COVID-19 has resulted in a huge customer downturn, while nearly all upcoming school holiday blockbusters have been pulled from their intended release dates.
Mr McKeown said he had never seen conditions quite like those faced by the box office now.
“We noticed it a couple of weeks ago, things started to get very quiet in mid-February and every week it’s just got worse and worse,” Mr McKeown said.
“As each week went past and they pulled the pin on new release movies coming out, I think there are about 19 so far.
“The GFC was a bit of a blow for a little while, but that wasn’t stopping people coming into the cinema or the product.
“We got 11 or 12 paying customers yesterday, we might get a few people tonight, but the majority of the time we have no one going into a movie.”
Mr McKeown said continued customer drops would see the cinemas running at just five per cent of its “normal operations” by the Easter school holidays.
He said while the cinemas remain open for now, the grim prospect of shutting up shop was fast approaching.
“The damage is done for the cinema industry. I hate to say it but we could be closed for three or four months, easily,” he said.
“I’m feeling that if we can get through the school holidays and still be open we’ve done well, but there’s a very high percentage chance that not only us but every other cinema in Australia will be closed.
“I can’t see any real positives coming out of it.
“I have a feeling that all the independent cinemas, anywhere from a third to half of them probably won’t re-open if they close. I hope I’m wrong.
“We’re in the hands of the government right now.”
Mr McKeown said he had so far been unable to secure government assistance in determining whether the cinemas would be eligible for financial support during the crisis.