GoFundMe fundraiser helps historic Raleigh theater struggling during COVID-19 pandemic

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The marquee changes every week at the Rialto Theater on Glenwood Avenue, even though there hasn't been a showing since March 18.

Staff switch out the message to remind folks of some of the flicks once played here.

The Rialto has been around since the 1940s. It survived the financial hardships of World War II and now Raleighites are rallying to save it from the crippling COVID-19 crisis.

A GoFundMe has raised $21,000 to help with overhead costs and it's having a big impact.

AMC Theatres delays reopening until July 30

"We were able to pay all expenses," said Bill Peebles, who has owned the Rialto for more than 30 years.

He understands the Governor's decision to keep extending Phase 2, but is unsure what business will look like during the next step.

According to a Reuters poll, only 27 percent of people would return to a movie theater when venues are allowed to reopen.

Peebles says that's one issue.

Another concern is there aren't any new flicks to light up the silver screen.

Tinseltown is tightening release dates and that could put a squeeze on sales.

"A lot of the film distributors have pushed out or slipped dates into 4th quarter of this year. They've pulled product out of 2020 and put it into next year," said Peebles.

His small business is prepared for whenever the show can go on. Rows are blocked off in the theater for social distancing and there are safety precautions in place at the concession stand, like sneeze guards.

The takeaway: Theaters are also struggling much like bars and gyms.

The Rialto is finding a way to bring in a little bit of revenue during the shutdown. Staff is selling candy and popcorn curbside on Friday and Saturday nights.
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