Estevan’s Orpheum Theatre became one of the three businesses in Saskatchewan and one of 62 from across Canada to receive a grant from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Salesforce, through their Canadian Business Resilience Network Small Business Relief Fund initiative.
Jocelyn Dougherty, who co-owns the theatre along with her husband Alan Dougherty, said that when they were applying for the funding, they thought their chances were “slim to zero,” as there were so many other businesses across Canada that also could use some assistance. So the news was even more surprising.
“I’m very excited and happy about it for sure,” said Dougherty.
They had to put in an essay-type submission, telling about the challenges the Orpheum is facing and about how the grant would help the business recover and support its resilience. They also had to outline the role the business plays in the community, all while keeping it to the limit of so many words.
More than 1,100 small businesses across Canada applied to the relief fund. The funding was designed to help small businesses across the country stay afloat and support their recovery efforts, pay salaries, retrofit their workplaces and acquire technology to adapt their business model.
“Reviewing the applications was inspiring as it was heartbreaking, with so many deserving businesses to choose from. Alongside our heartfelt congratulations to the recipients, we sincerely wish we could have helped all the applicants,” said Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian chamber.
“It has been incredible to see the resilience and innovation coming from Canada’s small business owners over the last few months. We know it hasn’t been easy, and are thrilled that we could help,” said Margaret Stuart, Canada country manager with Salesforce. “The applicants have further demonstrated what we already knew to be true – that Canada is rich with innovative, entrepreneurial talent. We’re hopeful that these grants will provide essential support to small business owners as they get back to work.”
The Orpheum Theatre, along with 61 other successful candidates, received $10,000. Dougherty said that the money will be used to assist with some of their bills. Besides, even though they are not open yet, they are gearing up towards the day when they are able to see their guests again and are ordering some personal protective equipment (PPE). Besides, there will be a lot of new measures that they have to put in place to prepare for reopening, so the money is going to help them out with that as well.
Unfortunately, unless Hollywood gets back to production, Estevan’s movie theatre won’t be able to get back to entertaining the community.
“We are looking into the future and planning towards (re-opening). Unfortunately, the new releases that were set for July were postponed for August and I see that in L.A. and Arizona, they were ordered to close their theatres again, so we have to watch what’s happening in the US to see when Hollywood is going to have all their new releases. Hopefully, they are not continuously postponed.”
The Orpheum Theatre could open with classic movies but going from their library can only work for so long.
“People want to be excited to see new movies again, so we hope that would be sooner than later,” said Dougherty.
She also added that once they are open, the theatre experience will look quite different from what people were used to for safety reasons.
“We will be blocking some rows of seats off and the aisle seats will be blocked off. Every night we’ll alter these rows, so different rows are blocked every night, so the same rows won’t be used for 48 hours basically.”
They’ll also have PPE for their staff and will implement other measures to keep everybody safe.
“One of our issues is that our concession area is small, but we think that we can work it a bit so that we can (have) as much physical distance as possible in the area,” said Dougherty.
They want to make sure that all the proper measures are in place so people do feel safe and comfortable coming back to the theatre.
“Once they see all the measures that are in place, I think they will feel comfortable and hope that they will continue to keep coming back once we do open.”
Dougherty doesn’t foresee selling reserved seating as they don’t have the software, but she believes they have the capacity to keep seating arrangements well organized.
“We think with being a smaller town that we can instruct people that if you are not a family you have to sit so many seats apart and we can monitor that. We are a smaller facility and we don’t have 10 screens to monitor. I think it will be fairly simple to implement it that way.”
And while Hollywood is still dealing with the pandemic, the Orpheum Theatre plans to use the grant to prepare and get everything in place so when the day comes they are ready.
They might look at not being open seven days a week initially and have a slower start for the re-opening. They are also considering a few innovations that could be valuable to the community and also would allow different groups of people to feel more comfortable during their time at the theatre.
“We are looking at possible showtimes for seniors and more vulnerable patrons that might feel more comfortable coming (at a separate time),” said Dougherty.
“We are looking at a variety of things ... Because we do have a liquor licence, we might look at having one night on a regular basis for adults only.”
Once they open, they also will look into the possibility of having private rentals of the theatre for video gaming events or private screenings.