After nearly 100 years, Edmonds Theater confident it can survive latest challenge

Edmonds Theater Manager Chris Mayes installing an inspirational message on the marquee recently. (Photo by Bob Sears)

A fixture on Main Street for 97 years, the Edmonds Theater has seen its share of both prosperity and hardship. Now the effects of COVID-19 and the push to contain its spread has forced the theater to close until at least April 1 and contemplate its future.

Absorbing a financial hit in the tens of thousands of dollars that his closure brings won’t be easy, but Edmonds Theater manager Chris Mayes is confident that the independent theater will persevere through the challenge.

“The bottom line is that I know the theater will survive,” Mayes said.

Ticket and concession sales at the one-screen, 235-seat theater bring in between $5,000 and $7,000 each week, Mayes said. Couple that on top of losses of more than $10,000 earlier this month and the picture gets a little dimmer. 

But the biggest blow to the theater has been the cancellation of numerous rentals of the facility.

“Rick Steves canceled his seminars starting on March 1,” Mayes said. “The Saturday morning seminars were held at the Edmonds Theater and the rental income was a big boost.”

Other recent rentals that had been booked at the theater but have since been canceled include birthday parties, a wedding proposal and the first screening of an independent movie, “all of which (would have) contributed to the bottom line,” Mayes noted.

Even if a statewide closure of entertainment venues issued by Gov. Jay Inslee on March 16 does expire at the end of the month, Mayes sees trouble ahead for the theater due to a possible slowdown in the number of big-ticket movies that will be released in the near future.

“The theater can survive, but the bigger question is how long will it take the movie industry to recover,” Mayes explained. “Productions are shut down, new releases are being pulled; and even if the USA recovers quickly, Asia is the top movie market in the world and if they are staying home then film companies will hold back on releasing new product.”

In addition, movie theaters are closed right now throughout the country, not just in Washington state. The two largest theater chains in America, AMC and Regal, have shuttered all their theaters, even in states that don’t have government-directed closures, due to COVID-19 concerns. These closures may continue to scare off Hollywood studios from releasing their most-anticipated movies until later in the year as MGM/Universal has done with the upcoming James Bond film No Time to Die and Disney with its live-action version of Mulan.

While the odds seem stacked against the Edmonds Theater, Mayes is confident that some reshaping of the business model there can bring financial stability.

“The question will be what adaptations do we need to make to survive in the months and possibly years of unpredictability ahead to get to the 100th anniversary in 2023 and beyond,” Mayes said.

“In the short-term we will definitely need to rely on community support and find alternatives to some of the bigger movies we’ve been accustomed to,” he added.

The theater is currently raising money with a “Golden Ticket” campaign that gets a limited number of buyers 10 admissions for $65 or 20 admissions for $125. “These passes help provide some immediate income for the theater and our staff so we can continue to maintain the building and equipment properly during the inactivity,” Mayes said. “It also allows us to help provide meals for local kids while school is shut down.”

For more information on the Edmonds Theater and its “Golden Ticket” campaign, go to its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/theedmondstheater.

— By Doug Petrowski

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