Eventual Reopening of the Downing Film Center

As guidelines around the COVID-19 crisis continue to evolve, we wanted to update you what’s on our minds as we work toward the eventual reopening of the Downing. Earlier this summer, New York State issued guidelines regarding which businesses would be eligible for the fourth (and final) phase of reopening. Unexpectedly, movie theaters weren’t among the businesses given the green light to resume operations. The state hasn’t made it clear when we can anticipate additional guidelines. To reopen, we must consider the following issues:

  • Specific government guidelines
  • Safe operating conditions
  • Financial barriers

We’re confident that we’ll be able to enact policies to ensure a healthy viewing experience as soon as the state allows us to reopen. We’re less certain about whether we can overcome the financial barriers to reopening. Even though we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, we rely on having a certain number of patrons per week to meet our financial obligations. Because of our small size and limited seating capacity, social distancing will present a challenge. Reopening guidelines based on limiting occupancy to a percentage of available seats could limit our capacity so much that we would be unable to sustain our operation. In addition, because of the uncertainty of the current situation, many film distributors have delayed the release of their best titles into the fall or winter, and even into next year. By opening too early, with inferior movies and at reduced capacity, we risk losing more money than we would if we remained closed. Since we closed in March, we’ve been busy considering options for reopening—exploring changes in the number of screenings per week, expanding the variety of films we offer, and so on.

We’re humbled, gratified, and inspired by the support of our patrons during this difficult time. Your memberships, donations, and participation in our virtual cinema program are sustaining us through this extended closure. Thank you! Stay healthy and safe!