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Local movie theaters to benefit from recovery assistance grants

Movie Theaters Return
Posted at 1:22 PM, Dec 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-08 18:29:15-05

At least ten Northeast Wisconsin movie theater companies are set to receive thousands of dollars through a state program designed to support Wisconsin's entertainment industry as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The theater industry as a whole was one of the first industries forced to shut down," said George Rouman, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners of Wisconsin & Upper Michigan. "We ultimately will likely be, if not the last, one of the last industries to get back to some kind of a full recovery.”

Rouman also owns Rouman Cinema in Rhinelander. His theater closed for six months at the beginning of the pandemic. Rouman said they were forced to scale back operations after reopening with limited show times only on the weekends from October 2020 through June of 2021.
Hours expanded this summer. With new releases coming in on a weekly basis, Rouman said October was the best month they've seen since 2019.

Long closures, delays or cancellations in Hollywood film productions and less people at the big screen caused movie companies to go through cash reserves more quickly than designed. Normal maintenance and repairs had to be pushed back.

“The pandemic extended for so long that we burned through all of that and it was really scary. It’s still scary. But there was a period of time there where I didn’t know how long we could make it. I didn’t know what the future of our industry would be," Rouman said. “My company here in Rhinelander, we’ve been operating movie theaters in this area since 1921. So this year is our 100 year anniversary and we weren’t even sure if we were going to get here.”

A state grant program is providing some light at the end of the tunnel. Gov. Tony Evers announced Tuesday the state awarded more than $14 million in grants to movie theaters, summer camps, and minor league sports teams across Wisconsin.

The majority of that money was given to theaters through the Movie Theater Assistance Grant Program, a more than $10 million program that gives around $15,000 per screen to 49 theater companies. It's the second pandemic relief program to help the movie theater industry in Wisconsin, bringing the total investment in Wisconsin’s movie theaters to $20 million, according to a press release.

"I really do think this is going to help a lot of movie theaters in Wisconsin survive," Rouman said. "Theaters are really important to the culture of the community. It’s something that we need to protect and we need to do whatever we can to keep these theater locations going.”

The following theater companies in Northeast Wisconsin received a grant:

  • Marcus Cinemas of Wisconsin, LLC (Green Bay, Oshkosh + several locations) - $4,125,000
  • Sturgeon Bay Cinema Inc. - $165,000
  • Odyssey Entertainment, Inc. in Fond du Lac - $120,000
  • Radue Cinemas Inc. in De Pere - $60,000
  • Mariner Theatre in Marinette - $30,000
  • Field of Scenes LLC in Freedom - $17,763
  • American MultiCinema Inc. (Manitowoc + several locations) - $1,095,000
  • Skyway Drive-In Theatre, L.L.C. in Fish Creek - $15,000
  • Jim Billek (Grand Cinema Theatres in New London + other locations) - $90,000
  • Rogers Cinema Inc. (Waupaca + other locations) - $435,000

A spokesperson with Marcus Theatres sent the following statement to NBC 26 in response to being a grant recipient:

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the movie theatre business across the United States. At Marcus Theatres, the majority of our locations were closed for more than five months. We are especially appreciative of the grant signed by Governor Evers to help stabilize Wisconsin businesses hit the hardest. Under the grant, our Wisconsin theatres will receive support, as we continue to welcome our guests back to the movies.  

More information on the Movie Theater Assistance Grant Program can befound online.