Toronto independent theatre aided by community support amid COVID-19

5 July 2021 / by Daniel Centeno
A concession table with a film projector and cash register in a half-lit room.

Throughout the pandemic when Ontario’s movie theatres were forced to close completely, Toronto’s Fox Theatre generated revenue through strong support from its community of dedicated moviegoers and neighbourhood patrons.

“We have a really loyal audience in this area, so they have been behind us 100 per cent,” said Kristal Cooper, the theatre’s general manager.

To help generate revenue without movie screenings, Cooper and the management team introduced new initiatives and appealed to its community on social media.

“The first major thing that we did was we sold off naming rights to all of the seats in the theatre — we have 250 seats, [and] those sold out in a few days,” said Cooper.

Other initiatives include merchandise commemorating the theatre’s history, raffles and weekend popcorn sales.

The theatre was forced to close immediately following the province-wide lockdown in March 2020. Apart from a limited opening last summer, the theatre has remained closed throughout the pandemic.

Situated in the city’s east end beaches neighbourhood, the theatre been a central community hub for decades.

“A lot of the people that live in the beaches stay in the beaches, and they love this area,” Cooper said. “So, it [the theatre] became a fixture in their lives, and they keep coming here because it reminds them of being young and fun.”

Ontario entered Step 3 of reopening on July 16, five days earlier than the expected July 21 date, according to the provincial government. This eased indoor restrictions and allows movie theatres to re-open with limited capacity.

The Fox is planning to re-open on Aug. 6. Customers can rent the theatre for private screenings until Aug. 4.

“It is sort of strange that we are talking about re-opening, and we don’t know what it is going to be like for theatres,” said Cooper. “I just hope people are excited to come back to theatres because we are so excited to open.”

The Fox Theatre was built in 1914, with early names including the Past Time Theatre before becoming the Fox in the 1930s.

The theatre is known for playing a mix of popular, independent and classic movies, as well as special themed events for the Academy Awards and Halloween.

Listen to the CJRU interview with Kristal Cooper, general manager of the Fox Theatre: