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Missoula's Roxy reflects on pandemic ahead of reopening green-light

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Posted at 8:40 PM, Mar 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 10:53:15-04

MISSOULA — The minute you step foot onto the Hip Strip, an iconic marquee reminds you of the vibrancy of Missoula and the never ending supply of things to do.

“There's a community aspect, there's a magical aspect, there's an artistic aspect to going to the movies,” said executive director for the Roxy Theater Mike Steinberg.

But that marquee, the theater and the “magic” it represents took a turn last March -- and life for the Roxy hasn’t been the same since.

“It was especially difficult for us because our business model is just getting a lot of people together and in an enclosed space, you know, to watch movies, and the very act of movie-going had to come to an end,” said Steinberg.

Within a matter of months, the Roxy did a complete 180 on all of their typical programming.

An open lot next door quickly transformed into an outdoor screening venue, indoor theaters which seated 100 patrons shrank to private rentals for groups of 12, and all of their annual film festivals went from the big screen to a computer screen.

“That's what it looked like in terms of programming,” said Steinberg, adding, “We kept going.”

Some call it a year of setbacks, but Steinberg considered it a year of discovery.

The Roxy’s newfound partnership with the Missoula Paddleheads is the perfect example of just that.

“All last summer and into the fall, we did films at the Paddlehead’s stadium, and at its height, we were bringing in 600, 700, sometimes 800 people to watch movies on the field, and it was awesome social distancing there.”

With revenue down 70% and no clue as to when cinema will see “normal” times again, the Roxy will continue with their pandemic programming, relying on donations, grants, and relief funding.

“I miss the Roxy on a Friday night and I miss this sense of energy that was there and that will very much be there again, and I want to be part of that,” said Steinberg, “I just am anxious to be there for the community because that means, you know, we have gotten through this.”

The Roxy will soon reopen their outdoor theater and they’ll be announcing films for another summer of “Centerfield Cinema” at Ogren Park.

You can keep up with the Roxy happenings by signing up for their newsletter here.

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