Regent Theatre Te Awamutu employee Brooke Adler has set up a month long Givealittle page for Allan Webb and the cinema in hopes of keeping it running.
"Allan Webb is one of the most generous, giving and down to earth people I have ever met. He has given myself and the community so much so I felt as though this was the least I could to for him in order to lay off a bit of the pressure.
"During the Covid pandemic, a lot of businesses have suffered, including Allan's, and I want to do my best to keep this place running with the help of our community.
"Allan has worked hard to make sure our community has the best cinema experience and I would hate for future generations to not experience this. Any bit helps and will be greatly appreciated," says Brooke on the Givealittle page description.
Tomorrow, March 12, marks the 89th birthday of the iconic theatre which Allan has run since January 11, 1974.
"Brooke approached me saying that she wanted to set up a Givealittle page for the theatre and I told her I would look into it and found out what she would have to be responsible for," says Allan.
"I had been asked if we did have one or similar by several people but felt I should not be asking our dedicated patrons to help with the theatre's struggles."
However, Allan thought the theatre might not make it to Easter when the line-up of bigger titles start to improve.
"I mentioned this to Brooke and said that it was obvious she had considered the task and was prepared to action it. I was prepared to accept anything from any philanthropist as I do not want the theatre to close after 89 years of service."
He has done a lot for the community over the years and was surprised with the response thus far to the Givealittle page.
"I'm just absolutely overwhelmed and humbled by that," he says.
Before Covid-19, Allan was subsidising each patron at about $2 per admission.
The closure due to alert level 4 cost them $33,000, with the intention of reopening when level 4 ended and there were sufficient good films to screen.
"I had to give thousands of dollars of candy, drinks and popcorn away because we weren't able to sell it."
Since reopening, with the exception of The Croods, there have been no roadshows to show as the cinema world kept moving their 'big' films back.
Some will never be released to cinema and some will be eventually released at the same time as streaming, with others almost two years after their original scheduled dates.
The film companies are also hurting so they have not reduced their hireage, with the average percentage the theatre has to pay from every ticket sold being about 46.5 per cent.
"We were running basically a third of what we used to take."
Equipment has to be replaced frequently as the providers discontinue servicing their product. Those costs are massive and ongoing.
The building is old and requires a lot of maintenance plus upkeep from the staff to make it attractive to patrons.
"I have used up all of the savings I kept from my wage subsidy and superannuation to pay the staff wages and have been running on mortgages and loans, which continue to mount up. We received the only handout [$3900] recently from the Government and that went overnight. It was obvious that this could not continue," says Allan.
"How long do you wait until crunch time happens? I experienced the post-video period (as well as many others over the 47 years I have been here) and know that if you stall too long, you won't get over it. I was working every day during the closure and it is over nine years since I had one weekend off work.
"That has never worried me as it is part of the deal, but it is soul destroying when so few people come through the doors. My aim has always to give the best possible outing and for patrons to leave feeling they have spent their money well."
Allan considered closing another night but has delayed this, anticipating a lift when the product changes for the better.
He says the films they have are very good and liked but are not supported enough by the film distributors as they know the takings will be limited.
"The period of extreme uncertainty that we have been going through means we do not get trailers and posters in sufficient time to advertise them ahead and dates for the films have been changing every single week, with up to nine in a day. Planning more than a week or two ahead is impossible," he says.
Although Weta did the costumes for Mulan and it was directed by a New Zealander, Disney released it on Disney+ and would not release in New Zealand theatres, even though the taxpayers helped to subsidise the production.
Major chain theatre operations are all performed in Australia; the booking and buying of films, the film programming, the accounts, the advertising and policies.
In small towns, everything is on the manager, no matter what the financial figures are.
Basically, small town theatres either have to be owned by the council and/or run by a trust, enabling them to access grants and run by volunteers with a manager. Theatres around the world, particularly with restrictions, are closing at an alarming rate and many will never reopen.
On March 7, Brooks Barnes of The New York Times put out an article saying "After pandemic, film industry's Hollywood ending may have to wait - Studios pushing toward a streaming future remain locked in a battle with theatre owners eager for moviegoers to return in droves."
Embassy Cinemas Thames is set to close next week and some new ventures are grappling to be completed.
In Australia, even with the government subsidy for cinemas, many are wondering if they can continue especially once that ceases shortly. The mounting costs and limitations during various lockdowns diminish business levels every change.
After each one, cinemas and theatres seem to be considerably adversely affected. People have changed their habits and staying at home seems to be popular at this stage of the pandemic.
Until the US and UK open completely and film supply returns to some sort of normality and the population becomes inoculated, we will be in a period of flux.
"I personally am wondering, when that happens, if there won't be too many roadshows all at once and people won't have the time or the money to be able to see all of them even though they will want to," he says.
After 60 years working in theatres, 47 at Te Awamutu, Allan is still passionate about it.
"It's that thrill to have people coming to the movies and going home really pleased, sometimes with big smiles on their faces - to give to the community an experience that they won't be able to ever get anywhere else."
The Regent Theatre Te Awamutu Givealittle page will run until April 6.
•To donate to Te Awamutu's Regent Theatre head to givealittle.co.nz/cause/regent-theatre-te-awamutu.
•Session times can be found at teawamutu.nz/regent/sessions.html or outside the theatre at 235 Alexandra St.