WILLITS, 4/3/21 — Many Mendocino County businesses and industries have remained operational during the last year, or have found creative ways to adapt their services, but the pandemic has hit particular portions of the local economy harder than others. In particular, many arts, culture, and community performance spaces have suffered or struggled to provide ways to offer socially distanced events, and are now exploring safe ways to re-open as COVID-19 case numbers drop and restrictions are lifted.
For most of 2020, the Noyo Theater in Willits, like Coast Cinemas in Fort Bragg, has offered popcorn and concessions for sale while the big screens have remained largely dark due to public health requirements. Now, the Noyo is planning a re-opening event in time for the theater’s 81st birthday, including a showing of the first movie to play there in 1940, “Dark Command.” The theater has also started a GoFundMe campaign to raise $50,000 for re-opening.
Coming back May 4th, our 81st birthday. We are showing the first movie to play at the Noyo, “Dark Command”. Check out the Willits news from May 4th, 1940. This will be a fundraiser to help us keep this beautiful cinema alive. Admission as a donation is up to you. The movie has been restored & digitized to perfection. Hope you come see it. We will run it at least a week.
Here is information about the screening from the Noyo’s Facebook post:
Coming back May 4th, our 81st birthday. We are showing the first movie to play at the Noyo, “Dark Command”. Check out the Willits news from May 4th, 1940. This will be a fundraiser to help us keep this beautiful cinema alive. Admission as a donation is up to you. The movie has been restored & digitized to perfection. Hope you come see it. We will run it at least a week.Noyo Theater via Facebook
The beautiful historic Noyo Theatre opened on May 4th, (Star Wars day!) 1940 in Willits, California. It is one of very few cinema treasures from that era that still exists. Through the decades, the theater has gone from pristine to dilapidated in 20 year cycles. Now, in it’s 81st year, with a pandemic under its belt, the Noyo Theatre is not only out of money, but in serious need of repair and updating.
Jeff & Lois Hoover bought the building and business in 2012, and have put their hearts and souls into keeping it going. But in a year without income, keeping a shuttered cinema alive cost more than $5,000 per month. Projectors, which were new, state-of-the-art digital technology in 2012 are now failing due to deferred maintenance and regular use. Two out of four furnaces are ready to die. The carpeting is worn, stretched and hazardous.
The Hoovers applied for and received grant money, but that is mostly gone. The PPP Loan allowed them to reopen and rehire most of their furloughed employees in May and June of 2020, but when the Covid numbers peaked in July, they were forced to close again. The result was devastating, racking up more bills, wasted inventory and causing discouraged employees to seek more reliable work elsewhere.
We will be applying for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant on April 8th. There is no guarantee that we will be funded. Even with the grant money, there are restrictions on its use. The film studios continue to delay big budget feature releases, many of our customers will be shy about returning to indoor venues, and it will be a long time before the theater shows any profit at all. If you love your local theater, and would like to help save one of the few sources of family entertainment left in Northern California, please consider donating even a few dollars to help keep our lovely landmark alive. We love Willits and the wonderful family of neighbors and friends we’ve made throughout this journey. This is your movie theater, Willits! Every penny of donations and grant money will go into making the Noyo Theatre a place each and every one of us will be proud to call their own.