When did the coronavirus first disrupt your plans to open?
We were aware of the situation in early March, but no one brought it up as possibly affecting us. We were supposed to have a soft open on March 12 and March 13. We didn't start talking about the possibility of closing until March 16, so things ramped up very quickly.
What changed? Did everyone at the Kan-Kan agree to postpone the opening?
A couple of us were reading more about [the pandemic] and were kind of more aware. But by Thursday and Friday of that week, I think everyone was on the same page because you started seeing things getting canceled around town.
Liability was a huge issue. We have insurance, but no one knows how a pandemic affects it, because no one's really dealt with this. We asked our insurance agent, and learned we're definitely not covered for a pandemic. It just made sense for us to make the call.
How did you feel when you had to make that decision?
All of March was building up to the opening. There was a lot of anxiety, but we'd been working on this for years; we were so excited.
It was a weird feeling when we had to postpone. There was a lot of disappointment. But at the same time, you could see the whole community and the whole world kind of changing their ideas on how we socialize.
We'd read about Seattle and New York having a huge influx of [COVID-19] cases, so the idea of getting 800 members through the door in the course of one weekend sounded like a scary thing to do. And so there was a weird sense of relief.
Then, once it sank in that opening was going to take a lot longer, there was a lot of disappointment. But there was also a pivot — the recognition that that we needed to make the most of this. We weren't open yet, so people didn't have any expectations. We could now pivot easily and be more flexible, so we've tried to do that since.
What are some things you've been doing to stay engaged with your members?
We're lucky to be in a field where things are streamed online. A lot of independent distributors have given cinemas the option to host films directly through their websites; the cinemas that host those films actually get the revenue.
Since the shutdown, we've been able to switch digitally: We have a Kan-Kan On-Demand page where you can rent films, and it's the only place you can watch them. We've actually received some proceeds on top of that.
We've also been hosting free content. We know this is a tough time for a lot of individuals, so we want to offer that. We've been doing an "at-home cinema" on Friday nights, where everyone presses "play" on a Netflix or Amazon Prime film at the same time, then everyone logs onto a Slack channel, and we have a conversation about the film.
We've also been posting a "short of the week" to highlight local filmmakers and the work they've composed, particularly during the shutdown.