North Alabama movie theaters grapple with future beyond coronavirus

The industry is facing the challenge of losing about a third of its revenue, since movie studios have pushed back large, new releases until July.

Posted: Apr 16, 2020 3:30 AM
Updated: Apr 16, 2020 3:19 PM

The parking lots of many movie theaters across Madison County and Limestone County were fairly sparse Wednesday afternoon. However, the empty movie poster frames that line the outside of some of them were more indicative of where the industry stood.

Across the country, movie theaters shut their doors in an effort to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

Ralph Freehauf, the owner of independent theater Cinemagic in Athens, said it is eerie to see his multiplex so quiet. 

"People have left notes on our door, 'Please, please, don't close up. I know you're closed right now, but please don't stay closed,'" said Freehauf.

It's unclear when the movie theaters will reopen. They were among the first types of businesses to be deemed "non-essential" in March. Freehauf said his industry is facing the challenge of losing about a third of its revenue, since movie studios have pushed back large, new releases until July.

"And two weeks later is going to be school starting. And so that's going to kill our summer. Movie theaters traditionally make most of their money, two thirds of their money, during the summer months, during Thanksgiving holidays and Christmas holidays," said Freehauf.

When he shut his six-screen auditorium, he hoped there might be a way to keep the adjacent drive-in theater open. But he said the Alabama Department of Public Health would not allow him to do that.

Freehauf is still optimistic despite the difficult and uncertain times. He said when they are able to reopen, they will have plenty of patrons.

"We're keeping everything ready to go so that we're ready the moment we can open," said Freehauf. 

However, some people who spoke with WAAY 31 said they're not sure they would rush to the theater as soon as the opportunity arises.

"A theater is a place where there's a lot of people that come to watch movies, so I think people will be scared because it's a crowded place," said fifth-grader, Liza Slobogska.

Freehauf said it's incumbent upon the movie theaters to find ways to make the public feel safe at the movies in order to encourage them to return.

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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 159439

Reported Deaths: 2699
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23443377
Mobile16934315
Tuscaloosa10414140
Montgomery10298197
Madison939496
Shelby743663
Baldwin669469
Lee655065
Calhoun462161
Marshall441150
Etowah431251
Morgan418235
Houston418034
DeKalb346129
Elmore322753
St. Clair299942
Limestone289330
Walker282392
Talladega267435
Cullman250824
Lauderdale231342
Jackson217515
Autauga207431
Franklin206131
Colbert204132
Russell19533
Blount194225
Chilton189332
Dallas187227
Coffee179511
Dale177251
Covington175529
Escambia173030
Clarke135317
Chambers135244
Pike134413
Tallapoosa133087
Marion109729
Barbour10339
Marengo102522
Butler101340
Winston93713
Geneva9167
Lawrence86132
Pickens86018
Bibb84314
Randolph82916
Hale77730
Clay74912
Washington74912
Cherokee74514
Henry7196
Lowndes71428
Bullock64917
Monroe64810
Crenshaw60930
Perry5936
Fayette58413
Cleburne5738
Wilcox57012
Conecuh56113
Macon53720
Lamar5065
Sumter47321
Choctaw39212
Greene34616
Coosa2053
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 249866

Reported Deaths: 3163
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby36685565
Davidson31975343
Knox1284891
Rutherford12017115
Hamilton11867109
Williamson718756
Sumner6184112
Wilson473159
Putnam445657
Montgomery424057
Out of TN415136
Sullivan381946
Madison381479
Bradley361923
Washington356951
Maury338938
Blount337436
Sevier336423
Robertson262842
Hamblen247548
Tipton238123
Unassigned22615
Dyer224732
Gibson217244
Coffee192325
Hardeman190533
Greene181252
Obion179522
Trousdale17768
Bedford174520
Dickson170719
Fayette169825
Anderson169713
McMinn165937
Lawrence164520
Loudon164311
Cumberland161327
Wayne16047
Carter158334
Weakley157326
Jefferson156421
Monroe147228
Warren144910
Lauderdale144117
Henderson142126
Hardin140420
Macon134825
Roane13217
Franklin130220
Haywood129728
Overton122917
Hawkins122625
White119414
Johnson11577
Marshall115710
Carroll115326
McNairy113427
Rhea112418
Cocke108014
Cheatham106911
Campbell103512
Bledsoe10264
Smith99413
Lake9873
Giles98336
Fentress91811
Lincoln9173
Crockett87020
Hickman81015
Henry80211
Marion7839
DeKalb73717
Chester73314
Decatur66311
Grainger6124
Grundy57511
Union5463
Claiborne5286
Polk51713
Humphreys4584
Jackson4535
Morgan4437
Unicoi4333
Houston42317
Benton4219
Cannon4212
Lewis4185
Clay40615
Scott3865
Sequatchie3472
Stewart33611
Meigs3296
Perry3082
Pickett2748
Moore2722
Van Buren2081
Hancock1213

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