Incline Cinema open for movies, popcorn pickup
Tahoe Daily Tribune
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The phrase “going to the movies” has changed a bit this summer as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the movie industry, and a few local movie theaters are up in the air as to whether they will be able to reopen in the next few months and in what capacity.
On the Nevada side of North Lake Tahoe, the Incline Village Cinema closed on St. Patrick’s Day and recently reopened, currently showing Bloodshot and Trolls World Tour the week of June 5-11.
The Bloomhuff family manages Incline Village Cinema and The Village Cinemas at Northstar, it’s California cinema reopening date yet to be determined.
An additional hiccup with trying to open the Northstar cinema is that it’s located within the ski resort, an area that attracts a large number of tourists. Currently, the only businesses open within Northstar are primarily serving residents.
However, the Incline Village Cinema didn’t experience a complete loss of business during the month-and-a-half shutdown.
“We started our “Popcorn Pickup” in early April,” said owner of the two theaters Tiffany Bloomhuff. “We’ve been in business for 19 years and had a lot of customers requesting if they could come and at least get popcorn. My son McKellen (Bloomhuff) helps run the theater and it’s just him and I, so we thought we could easily do it. Even now that we’re open, we’ll continue it.”
The Popcorn Pickup features 170-ounce tubs that come with a lid for $8.50. She says that the requests to sell to-go popcorn came from a combination of locals who wanted the movie theater-style as well as people who wanted to support small businesses.
“I make really good popcorn that you can’t make at home,” she said.
During the nonessential business closure period, Incline Village Cinema sold around 10 tubs of popcorn a day and while sales were obviously down from not selling movie tickets, Bloomhuff said anything was helpful in supporting the family-owned movie theater.
The new Popcorn Pickup promotion has helped keep the small-town movie theater alive, but new releases that have been going straight to home streaming services may also threaten the movie theater industry if that continues after cinemas fully reopen.
“It’s part of things changing, people watching movies at home when they’d normally come here to get popcorn and spend more on a family movie experience,” she said. “I believe that movies being streamed at home will hurt theaters drastically if you can rent a movie for two days instead of spending it on a family night out.”
However, she also sees the pros of new releases being available immediately on home stream, mainly for people who can’t afford to go out to the movies more than a few times a year.
The biggest challenge of running a movie theater in times of COVID-19, Bloomhuff said, “Is realizing that the business you run and worked very hard for many years is all of the sudden nonessential. It’s surprising. When you open a business, you don’t think about something like a pandemic coming along and shutting it down.”
However, the pandemic has forced Bloomhuff to think of creative ways for keeping the movie theater alive like offering the Popcorn Pickup.
“The silver lining of this is that we realized how we could change and pivot our business to adjust to this new situation,” Bloomhuff said. “We would’ve never considered something like the Popcorn Pickup before and now we’re even thinking about offering popcorn delivery. We started asking ourselves, ‘what can we provide in the new normal and make it work for the community?’”
Along with being able to make new decisions on the fly, being a small cinema has helped them adapt more quickly to new health protocols.
“We don’t have the flow and number of customers coming through as say the 16-plex theater in Reno,” she said. “Since it’s just my family and I, we’re more hands-on. That provides a different element than what others have. I think customers feel like it’s good to see a friendly face that they haven’t seen in a while.”
Bloomhuff said that to comply with new health standards for moviegoers, the Incline cinema marked off every other row in the theater and added a divider in the center so that it makes it easier to exit to go to the bathroom during a movie without having to climb over strangers.
Along with its general cleaning procedure of sweeping up popcorn and cleaning the seats after every showing, staff also wipes down the seats and armrests.
“We clean, restock, and wipe everything down during the show, too,” she said.
While it’s good news that things are starting to pick up at the cinema, Bloomhuff is concerned that this summer’s blockbuster season has already been lost.
“May 5 is when blockbuster season starts and it runs through Labor Day, so business is completely different then it was this time last year,” Bloomhuff said. “Most movies have been pushed to home streaming or delayed until the end of the year.”
In looking at the schedule of new releases, she sees that the next soonest film to come out is Mulan on July 24 and is hoping that the cinema at Northstar will be open by then.
“Our main goal is to create a wonderful movie night experience for customers, so our family is here to help keep that movie experience going from ticket sale to the showing,” she said. “As the movie industry changes, we’ll adapt and change with them to keep this small-town cinema alive.”
Incline Village Cinema is showing Trolls at 5 p.m. and Bloodshot at 7:15 p.m. Fridays through Thursdays. Its Popcorn Pickup service is available 6-9 p.m. daily.
For more information, visit the website.
Heavenly Village Cinema in South Lake Tahoe could not be reached for comment. A statement on its website as of Thursday said, “Due to government orders, we will be closed until further notice.”
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