The Parkway Theatre faces an uncertain future as financial hardship stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic threatens to permanently close its doors, Mary Carole McCauley reports for the Baltimore Sun. Theater officials announced on Friday the layoffs of three of its six full-time employees and all eight of its part time employees in early 2023, as well as the cancellation of all film screenings, events, and space rentals after Jan. 1.
How did the theater get to this point?
Like other movie theaters across the globe, Parkway has faced a sharp decline in its earnings since the pandemic. This year, paid attendance dropped by 71% compared to 2019, and revenue decreased by about 52%, according to executive director, Sandra Gibson. The theater’s 990 federal tax form also shows a nearly $290,000 shortfall in its budget.
Parkway was able to stay afloat during the height of the pandemic by offering virtual film screenings and through donations and federal funds awarded through the U.S. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Though the theater reopened in the summer of 2021, moviegoers have not yet returned in high enough numbers to replace the dwindling supplemental dollars.
“It’s obvious to everyone in the arts community that there has been this seismic shift in habits because of the pandemic,” said Scot Spencer, chairman of the board of directors. “I don’t think anyone in the industry has figured out yet what brings people out and what keeps them home.”
Anything else I should know?
Despite its current economic situation, Gibson and Spencer said they are working to build a business model that will save the theater and allow it to thrive in the future.
“Our vision is that someday soon, there will be lights on the street, people on the street, eyes on the Parkway,” Spencer said. “People will be telling their friends about something that they came and saw at our theater with neighbors and with people they didn’t even know were neighbors that became part of their experience of Baltimore. That is our aspiration and our hope.”
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