September, 2020

Dear Colonial Theatre Patron,

I hope that you and your dear ones are doing okay during these difficult times.  I’m writing to briefly update you — one of our much-appreciated supporters — on what is happening at the Colonial. We again thank you for helping to keep us afloat in the choppy waters of the past six months.

  • The pandemic has upended our business model. In a typical year, about 70% of the Colonial’s revenue comes from ticket sales, sponsorships, concessions, and facilities rentals. Without daily in-person programming, we have become almost 100% reliant on donations, memberships, and grants.
  • We’ve added virtual, on-demand programs to entertain you in the comfort of your home – indefinitely. The pandemic started with a marquee message contest that got national attention, including from Vanity Fair. At-home streaming of documentary films, virtual Happy Hours, and Curbside Concessions were added to the line-up. Then, we applied the lessons learned to the first ever ‘At Home’ edition of Blobfest.   We were thrilled that hundreds of Blob fans participated virtually.  Still, this virtual version of Blobfest generated less than one-quarter of what the Colonial earned through last year’s festival.
  • We’ve re-opened on a limited basis. In early July we reopened our two largest theatres for small audiences of 23 and dedicated our third and smallest theater to private screenings.  This has provided us with some much-needed cash flow, has enabled members to exercise benefits, and, most importantly, has  allowed us to keep our knowledgeable, long-time staff employed. Despite being open, attendance is 10% of the typical total at this time of year.
  • An array of exciting new programs we launched in the last year are paused. Edible Cinema, Fanci Fridays, the Sparks Project, and author appearances in partnership with Reads & Company were promising, attracting grants and large audiences.  Alas, these programs have been deferred.
  • The future remains uncertain. Our financial projections do not currently extend beyond February 2021 because we’re unsure when venues such as ours can completely reopen. And even when they do . . .
      • The film industry’s response to the pandemic may have a lasting impact on film exhibition. Most new feature films have had release dates delayed until at least 2021 and most production has ceased during the pandemic. Some film distributors have bypassed theaters altogether, going straight to on-demand home viewing platforms like Netflix and Hulu.
      • Live concerts and the concessions, drink sales, and ticketing fees they generate are unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels until fall of 2021 based on current knowledge.

(Some of the above was described in this recent Philadelphia Inquirer article that you may find interesting.)

September 2020 marks the start of the Colonial Theatre’s 21st year of operation as a nonprofit and its 117th year of existence. We trust in your continued participation in our modified programs, and hope we can also rely on your support to navigate an unpredictable Fall. If you’re inclined to visit the theatre, where we are following strict CDC-compliant, safety procedures, we would be thrilled to see you. Thank you again!

Gratefully yours,

Ken Metzner

Executive Director

P.S. Can you help share the news that the Colonial is open with your friends and family? We’re also offering virtual on-demand movies AND private rentals of the Berry Theatre for your ‘quarantine bubble’. Forwarding this message or re-posting our social media content are easy ways to help!