As one of the longest operating movie theaters in the country, the Strand Theatre has survived its fair share of challenges since 1916 by adapting to the times and relying on the community’s support.
Amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic that has forced theaters throughout the county to turn their movie protectors off for the time being, the Strand has once again found itself looking for creative ways to generate revenue while its three theaters remain silent.
This past weekend, the Strand rolled out a “drive-thru” concession service and on-demand movies.
“It went really well,” Managing Director Tracey Peyton said. “People loved the idea. Everyone was happy we were doing it, and we were happy to be doing it. Everyone just kept saying, ‘We can’t wait for you guys to be back.’”
Having been closed since March 17, the Strand reopened for a few hours Friday and Saturday to sell popcorn and other concessions. Peyton said the theater got the idea after it started offering at-home streaming for new movies last week.
“Nothing goes better with movies than great popcorn,” she said.
The Strand currently has three movies available on demand. Peyton said the Strand gets 50% of the ticket sales from the movies.
“It came together very quickly,” she said. “We noticed some other theaters were doing it and a lot of these independent studios were reaching out to us to do the streaming.”
Peyton said she doesn’t have the numbers for two of the three films, but the theater sold about 100 tickets to “Phoenix, Oregon” during the past week.
The streaming-at-home option, Peyton added, is good for audiencegoers because it exposes them to films that wouldn’t traditionally have big theater runs.
“We’re focusing on streaming now, and what’s great about it is that we can pick what movies we want and they are all independent films,” she said. “So, we’re giving the audience something a little bit different than what we’d usually show.”
Along with concession sales and the on-demand movie revenue, the community also showed its support this past weekend through monetary donations made directly to the Strand.
“The amount of donations that we made in one night would typically takes us three to four weeks when we’re open every day,” Peyton said.
The Strand is hoping to reopen at the start of June, Peyton added, but she stressed the movie landscape will be very different because many films have been delayed.
“When the theaters come back, you aren’t going to see a blockbuster straight out the gate because theaters need time to ramp up,” she said.
As for theater employees, Peyton said the board overseeing the Strand has made arrangements to ensure that everyone is paid during the theater’s closure.
“I have the best board in the city,” she said. “We do expect to reopen better than before. We’re allowed to do this because the industry is making changes to make sure the product is still viable. The fact that our board is paying out entire time, I think it says a lot about our operation and board. A lot of theaters are not as fortunate.”
Peyton added the Strand will continue to offer weekend concessions and will continue streaming movies on its website.
“We’re excited, and we hope to do this during the weekends for the foreseeable future,” Peyton said.“I think it says the Delaware community has missed the Strand. We heard it a million times. It’s so heartwarming to hear that and know that everybody loves your place. They missed the popcorn, and they missed us.”
More information about the theater’s streaming program can be found at www.thestrandtheatre.net/theatrical-at-home.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.