Shannon Davis, manager at Sidney’s Star Cinema, holds up the largest available bag of popcorn available for sale at the theatre. It also also sells four smaller sizes in generating revenue following its closure last fall because of COVID-19. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Shannon Davis, manager at Sidney’s Star Cinema, holds up the largest available bag of popcorn available for sale at the theatre. It also also sells four smaller sizes in generating revenue following its closure last fall because of COVID-19. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Vancouver Island theatre can’t give you movies, but it can serve popcorn

Sidney’s Star Cinema using popcorn sales to prop up COVID-plagued bottom line

Every kernel of popcorn counts.

That is the attitude of Sidney’s Star Cinema as it remains closed against the backdrop of public health measures designed to contain the continuous COVID-19 pandemic.

The iconic cinema with its current temporary location in the 9800-block of Fifth Street has not opened to the public since November 2020, but continues to reel in customers through twice-weekly popcorn sales on Friday and Saturday nights in continuing a long-running practice.

General manager Lindsey Pomper said the business would rather be open, but the sales do make a difference.

“It’s pretty much the only revenue we were able to take in,” she said. “We have applied for different government supports that they have offered to small businesses as well as some grants. We are holding on and we are hopeful that we can be open soon. It has been very challenging.”

RELATED: Sidney’s Star Cinema looks to reel in audience with reopening

Pomper said the sales have gone well and help maintain the theatre’s connection with the community. “It’s nice to see people come out,” said Pomper. “We hear folks saying that they want to support us in any way they can. They miss us being open and they miss our popcorn. That definitely helps tide us over, but it would be way better to be open.”

It is not clear when that moment will come, but Pomper sounded a note of optimism when she pointed to plans in other places around North America to re-open screens. It is not clear what sort of impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on audiences increasingly accustomed to accessing streaming services crammed with television services and cinematic features — including current releases — from the comfort of their living rooms.

Pomper said it is hard to assess the impact.

“Part of me feels that people have a desire to go see movies outside of their homes,” she said. “But I think streaming services have transformed a bit how people are consuming entertainment now.”

RELATED: Sidney’s Star Cinema raises curtain on temporary location Friday

Another factor shaping the future of the industry is the pace and progress of vaccinations and personal comfort levels.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a quick recovery,” she said. “The industry is a bit scared about releasing movies and not making any money off them. Regardless of how this year looks, it is going to be bit of a challenging year.”

Star Cinema continues to seek additional revenue streams.

“We are in the process of applying for a variance through the provincial health office to return to doing our household-only private rentals,” she said.

RELATED: Sidney’s Star Cinema reduced to rubble

The business can also take some comfort in the fact that construction of its new, permanent home as part of the Cameo Condo project, a mixed commercial-residential development at the corner of Sidney Avenue and Third Street, the theatre’s historic location prior to its demolition, remains on track.

“Construction was listed as an essential service, so that didn’t really lose a beat during this past year, so things are on track,” said Pomper. “We still have another year, year-and-a-half to go. There is still time and hopefully we can re-open at the temporary theatre and actually use it.”


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