By Hank Tester

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The nonprofit Coral Gables Art Cinema has been showing the best quality American independent and international features, in addition to classic films, since 2010.

Then the pandemic hit and the challenge was to survive.

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“The movies are better than ever on the silver screen,” said the theater’s Co-Executive Director Brenda Moe. “So pivoting meant thinking on our feet and using all the resources available to us to make things easier and better.”

The theater closed on March 18th, 2020, which resulted in a loss of almost half a million dollars in revenue. It reopened in September and required patrons to wear masks while watching movies.

That’s wasn’t the only safety precaution they implemented

“When people buy a movie ticket, the ticket system automatically blocks the seats adjacent to that seat,” said Moe.

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During the pandemic, the cinema had to keep their product top of mind with their supporters and patrons. Moe said they usually see about 55,000 customers a year. So without being able to show films in-house for a number of months, they had to think outside the box to meet demand. So, they came up with online screenings.

“For us, pivoting meant taking our films online, as fast as possible, a virtual screening room,” said Moe. “We found license-free films, public domain films, high quality, and we embedded them on our website and made them available for people to watch for free because there are a lot of people who don’t have screen services.”

The staff also hustled to get grants, PPP loans were available to help tide the organization through the deepest challenges of the pandemic. They also took movies outside of the theater to local parks, serving families and expanding audience reach. Moe said during this time, theater individual memberships actually increased.

“The membership base, we have 1,600 members, they have been invaluable to us and the community at large, coming to support us when they had a chance,” she said.

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These days, the cinema is operating at 50 percent capacity, about 70 seats, and patrons must still wear masks while watching movies.