Rialto Cinemas in Sebastopol is one of many local movie houses that have remained empty since March due to Covid-19.
A month ago, there was hope in the North Bay that public gatherings could re-open this summer; yet things are looking bleak for many venues and businesses that rely on socializing as the summer moves into August with restrictions on hosting events still in place to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Five months into the shutdown, movie houses in Sonoma County and elsewhere in the North Bay are especially feeling the effects financially. As the film industry continues to push back opening release dates for major films like Christopher Nolan's Tenet
, local theaters are joining a national movement to call upon Congress to "Save Your Cinema."
The online campaign is asking for the public's help to urge Congress to keep movie theaters alive until they can fully reopen. Specifically, the "Save Your Cinema" campaign is gathering letters from the public demanding that Congress support the RESTART Act, which will provide seven-year loans covering six months of
expenses for theaters, and to press the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to implement more relief measures for cinemas of all sizes.
"The moviegoing experience is at the heart of everything we do as we work with lawmakers and film distributors to protect, innovate, and improve the movie theater experience for audiences everywhere," the National Association of Theatre Owners, who represent theaters in all 50 states, writes on the "Save Your Cinema" website.
Local theaters participating in the campaign includes Sebastopol's popular Rialto Cinemas, which recently celebrated its 20th year of screening films in the North Bay. Located adjacent to Sebastopol's Barlow Center near downtown, Rialto Cinemas has established itself as an anchor of the community, bringing world-class films to West Sonoma County, and updating its accommodations to include a full kitchen, beer and wine service and other modern comforts.
Now, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing shelter-in-place orders in Sonoma County, Rialto Cinemas fears not only for its own survival, but for the survival of the entire industry.
In a recent release, Rialto Cinemas writes that, "We closed for the sake of public health and are abiding by strict safety restrictions and guidelines as we plan our reopening. But even when we are able to reopen, it will be very difficult to sustain our business with limited capacity. We need more relief so that we can survive this crisis."
Without the relief offered by the RESTART Act and the loans that come with it, Rialto Cinemas and other local theaters fear that they will be forced to permanently close their doors. To take action and join the letter-writing campaign, visit SaveYourCinema.com
Sonoma International Film Festival Opens Virtual Program
Last March, the Sonoma International Film Festival became one of the first North Bay events to cancel in the wake of a shelter-in-place order that made social gatherings impossible.
Now, the festival is turning to the Internet to turn it's globe-trotting party into an online affair for the SIFF 2.0 Virtual Film Festival
, running Thursday, July 30, through Sunday, August 2.
The online event features over a hundred films streaming over the weekend, running the gamut from documentaries to short films, and representing 26 countries.
SIFF is also hoping to include socially distant offerings and plans to host up to 16 select film screenings at various outdoor venues, including local drive-ins. All in-place health orders and guidelines including social distancing, face coverings and hygiene requirements will be implemented.
Other highlights of the virtual festival include a showcase of student films from the Sonoma Valley High School media arts program, a program of short films by women filmmakers presented by the traveling Lunafest, video conversations with filmmakers, and more.
Those who purchased tickets and passes to last March's planned SIFF will have access to the virtual festival, and anyone can purchase streaming access per film, based on availability, or through a SIFF 2.0 Virtual Pass available at SonomaFilmFest.org