Sierra Theaters meets fundraising goal, looks toward alternatives as theaters remain closed | TheUnion.com
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Sierra Theaters meets fundraising goal, looks toward alternatives as theaters remain closed

Victoria Penate
Staff Writer
A bag of freshly popped popcorn awaited Grass Valley’s Zoe Toffaleti in this May file photo from the Del Oro Theater’s snack bar. “Literally the thing I’ve been craving the most is theater popcorn,” Toffaleti said.
Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com

Over 1,000 people have donated to a GoFundMe campaign in support of Sierra Theaters, totaling $78,358 in community contributions as of Monday morning.

“We were really shocked, overwhelmed, and just grateful. I really hope this is something the community can feel proud of,” said Azriel LaMarca, who co-manages Sierra Theaters alongside her husband, Michael LaMarca.

LaMarca on July 17 created the GoFundMe page titled “Keep the Lights On at Sierra Theaters,” sharing on the page that the 41-year-old family-run business was in danger of not making it through the fall after months of closures due to COVID-19.

The Del Oro Theatre reopened June 26, but was shut back down July 13 following a statewide order to close all movie theaters. Sierra Cinemas and Sutton Cinemas have remained closed since March.

Sierra Theaters received a Paycheck Protection Program loan in May, which covered two months of payroll expenses. The Nevada County Relief Fund also granted it $5,000 so it could pay summer electric bills.

The fundraiser was set up with the goal of raising $75,850, which was met by donors in 12 days.

“It feels like a testament to the fact that this community really cares about our quality of life in Nevada County, which includes so many wonderful things such as art, activities, and culture, which is so rich here,” said LaMarca.

According to LaMarca, a large part of the fundraiser’s success can be attributed to the fond memories many Nevada County residents have made while working at a Sierra Theaters’ location for their first job. She said many former employees offered their support during this fundraiser.

LOOKING AHEAD

While celebrating the community’s support, Sierra Theaters continues to look toward creative ways to ensure the business survives until its theaters are able to reopen. The fundraiser’s goal represents half of $151,700, the amount the business estimates it needs to make it through 2020. According to LaMarca, this estimated cost would cover the theaters’ rent, utilities, insurance, and the payroll cost of a skeleton crew.

At Del Oro, regular and kettle popcorn is on sale from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

“We’re selling a big bag of popcorn for $10, and it’s a lot of popcorn, so you can take it home and share it with your family,” said LaMarca, adding that quite a few people have been coming in.

Sierra Theaters has also begun using a virtual cinema platform to screen new releases through its website. In this format, viewers purchase a “ticket” — generally priced around $12 — which will offer 30 days of online access to view a film. According to LaMarca, the ticket price is split evenly between the theater and filmmaker.

Currently, Sierra Cinemas is using this platform to offer two films — a Ron Howard documentary on the aftermath of the Camp Fire titled “Rebuilding Paradise,” and a speculative documentary on the planet’s possible future titled “2040.”

LaMarca said Sierra Theaters is exploring the option of hosting outdoor movies, although this would require a significant amount of logistical work still to be determined.

“We’re definitely investigating all the options, and hope to have something to announce in the next couple of weeks. And, I would say the money we’ve raised from the fundraiser will certainly go into helping us develop any alternative to get through this period we have to be closed,” she said.

Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at vpenate@theunion.com.


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