Apollo Cinemas awaits Hollywood's recovery

Even with permission from Cabinet to reopen its doors, Apollo Cinemas would be unable to resume screening films until the world of international filmmaking recovers from the coronavirus. 

The Cinema's Manager, Auree Westerlund, said until the box office provides Apollo with new releases, the iconic landmark in town will remain closed, even if Cabinet allows the cinema to reopen under state of emergency conditions.

Luckily for the staff, they have been reemployed across other parts of the family’s businesses, such as at Lucky Foodtown. But there is much uncertainty on when they can go back to selling tickets and popcorn.

“We are a totally different business. Our control keys are overseas,” Ms. Westerlund explained.

In the meantime, the cinema's owner and family patriarch Leali’ie’e Rudy Ott is ensuring the machinery remains in working order by running the projector and air conditioning units.

He says keeping Apollo going is about giving the community something special and that it has never generated substantial profits. Ms. Westerlund does not expect that to change. 

“There is no other cinema in Samoa,” Leali’ie’e tells his family. “Where else will people go if they want to see a nice movie?”

While some cinemas around the region are keeping seats filled by screening old movies, or using social media to poll audiences for their favourites, Ms. Westerlund said that is not affordable for the cinema.

Between the cost of leasing and screening a film and the competition the cinema has with online streaming, she doesn’t anticipate selling enough tickets to justify the expense of displaying a feature film.

They need new releases, and the slowdown associated with the global pandemic means they are not coming frequently or quickly enough. Film production, distribution and sales have ground to a halt. 

And without cinemas to make their money from, film studios are going straight to viewers' home screens, by putting new releases online. Disney, Universal and even indie filmmakers are among those turning to streaming services.

Cabinet will decide this week whether to extend and adjust the current state of emergency, which is set to expire on June 2. 

So far throughout the state of emergency the cinema has not been permitted to open, with or without social distancing measures afforded to other parts of the hospitality and entertainment sector, making them among the last businesses still closed to the public alongside nightclubs. 

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