Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema asks for help to survive amid COVID-19 | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema asks for help to survive amid COVID-19

Cheyanne Neuffer
Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema is operating at reduced capacity of 35%.

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Movie theaters around the world are suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic hit full swing earlier this year in March, many theaters had to close their doors including the Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema in Tahoe City.

Longtime locals, Steven and Melissa Siig and Mark Gogolewski opened Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema in 2014 and since, the theater has been a Tahoe City staple for feature, ski, environmental and independent films. As a hub for Tahoe City, they also host fundraisers, speakers and dancers. Along with their extensive list of films and annual events, the theater offers a full popcorn spice bar, craft beer and cider on tap.

In March, the pandemic forced the theater to close for six months. It reopened in mid September with limited capacity. In early October, Placer County moved in the orange tier meaning there are less restrictions to operate. While the theater was allowed to open at 50% capacity, the owners have been keeping capacity at 35% to ensure customers feel safe.

The owners also ramped up COVID-19 safety measures, including the installation of an air scrubber in their HVAC system that uses UV light to kill germs and bacteria. The theater seats have also been taken out or blocked off to allow for social distancing. Masks are required at all times in the theater except when eating or drinking. Limited number of people are allowed in the lobby at one time and they increased sanitizing between shows.

Siig said that even with the reduced capacity, they aren’t getting even close to that amount of customers.

With the major release of the film “Tenet,” the theater got an average of 10 people per night while their 100 seat theater would normally be sold out for several nights with a major release.

During the summer, they even opened a drive-in movie theater.

However, the theater needs help staying afloat.

“We held out as long as we could,” Siig said.

Due to no blockbuster films being released, being closed for six months and people’s reluctance to return, the theater is reaching out to the community to try and make it through. Siig says that it’s also been difficult to sustain employees when they keep closing and opening.

Siig recently launched a GoFundMe page to keep the theater alive.

She says that funds raised will go directly to operating expenses which includes rent, utilities, employees and investments in any new equipment that sanitizes the air and surfaces in the theater and lobby.

“We are grateful for the funds raised,” Siig said. “We feel the love and support — we have an awesome community.”

Siig says the community has given them encouragement through these tough times.

In less than 24 hours, the theater raised over $13,000. As of Wednesday morning, the total was at $19,388 from 172 donors. Siig says the money will go to sustaining them for the next six to nine months.

“Movie theaters will not rebound until then,” she said.

Other than going into a person screening, you can support the theater by attending its Virtual Cinema. The cinema also offers private party screenings for up to 35 people.

The cinema now must face Placer County recently moving back into the red tier, meaning they must deal with greater reduced capacity.

“A lot of businesses are going to face tough times this winter,” Siig said. “If people want a business to be here after COVID, we need to support them.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.