What Is The State Of The State, Film Fest?

Due to the financial instability and COVID-19, the short term future of the state and bijou theaters as well as the Traverse City Film Festival 2021 are very doubtful. And while their leader, filmmaker Michael Moore, is proceeding with caution, many in downtown Traverse City want their theaters to be open now – for both symbolic and economic reasons. Expect the final decisions for both the theater openings and the festival by the end of April.

“We hope there will be a version of a festival this year,” Moore told The Ticker, adding that the theaters will reopen “as soon as we are out of debt, have the virus under control and get the flow. ” [persistent flooding] from the [State Theater] Basement, cellar.”

In “normal” years, Moore and a full staff plan the films and the logistics for the week-long summer festival a year in advance. This year, the realities of COVID-19 and indebtedness have resulted in a lack of full-time employees and little in advance planning for the festival. Full-time festival directors Susan Fisher and Meg Weichman have not been employed for a year, while Moore says the festival continues to owe more than $ 150,000 in debt. He adds that most of the planning and work that is being done today will be done by him and a volunteer committee and committees.

Last August, Moore told supporters the organization had lost $ 1 million for not hosting a 2020 festival and not opening theater doors.

In December, its update found that the festival had raised money but continued to owe more than $ 100,000 while experiencing persistent flooding in the basement of the State Theater at an additional cost of $ 100,000 to $ 200,000 could.

Moore now says that the debt “was $ 100,000 at the time, and then our auditor walked in and found a whole bunch of other bills that hadn’t been entered and several other bills that hadn’t even been presented to us.”

The organization received a $ 84,000 Federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan in August that Moore said was spent on payroll, rent, and supplies, even though neither Fisher nor Weichman were brought back to work. Instead, Moore focuses on employees who can contribute directly to funding the festival. Staff doing some work include the fundraiser Debbie Hershey, an accountant, and Joyce Peiffer, former Michigan Treasury Department employee who Moore said was hired to review the festival’s books. According to Moore, the festival is in the process of applying for a second PPP loan.

But how high the debt is and how the festival got there remains largely unclear.

As early as August 2018, Moore said to a festival audience: “From a few months, at the end of 2018, we will start publishing annual reports. We’re actually not just going to post the 990s on the site [nonprofit IRS statements], but also the quarterly financial statements. You can see what the bank has and what we have, and you can see everything. This is how it will be from now on. “

The festival website continues to have links to a 2017 tax return and detailed reports have not been released.

When asked about the promise made 32 months ago, Moore says, “This is exactly what is planned. We had to wait until we had everything together – the right audit, the right CPA, the right people. And we had a pandemic. And so I can tell if we get through this, when we open again, we will do just that. “

And with some worried about the ongoing dangers of COVID and crowds, does Traverse City actually want a Traverse City Film Festival in 2021?

Mayor Jim Carruthers says, “If you had asked me two seasons ago, I’d say bring it up. Unfortunately with the recent surge in Michigan … I can’t say a big gathering would be a wise move at this point … It pains me to say this and I hope we see positive changes in the months to come, but too at this point and until we see significant numbers of people being vaccinated, any large crowd in the area could be counterproductive. “

Jean Derenzy, TC director downtown, says, “I know the festival draws thousands of visitors, but this summer should still be busy.”

“I’ve talked to people in town,” says Moore, “and just asked,” Do you want people to come from all over the world, or would you rather just have people at the local and regional level? “

The result is likely to be a scaled-down festival or hybrid that combines some in-person screenings with virtual films, although Moore insists that “there are multiple options and they are all on the table”. Expect to consider a winter film festival as another option this year.

Moore tells The Ticker that he will make an announcement about the festival schedule for 2021 at the end of April.

With state and Bijou theaters, the problems are simpler: COVID-related closings and concerns, as well as flooding in the state’s basement, have kept theaters closed. Many were frustrated when Moore decided to cover the prominent doors of the State Theater with plywood when the pandemic broke out. But now there are works of art on the front doors and the lights of the marquee are shining.

However, there is no schedule for returning to live screenings. Moore hopes the films will return soon, “but we have to make cinemas COVID-proof and make sure people are safe”. One possibility could be for moviegoers to be required to provide proof of vaccination prior to admission.

Meanwhile, Derenzy says, “We want the theaters to be open now,” and speaks for a lot of businesses in downtown Traverse City. “I talked to Michael about that – how can we open the theater? It just brings a completely different dynamic to the city center. “

And what if Moore decides to keep the theaters closed all summer?

“We have no choice,” replies Derenzy. “We asked what we can do to open the theaters.”

Moore is compassionate and insists that as the state reopens, he will work with nearby companies to offer “dinner and movie advertising,” though he is quick to add that he will not succumb to any outside pressure.

“We are not a business. We don’t need to make a penny to please investors or shareholders. As soon as we have a good plan for safe operation, we will open. I can’t wait to come back. “

Moore adds that while the Bijou Theater won’t be flooded, it may open later than the state as its heating / cooling / air filtering system is actually older and less advanced than that of the state, adding additional health concerns brings itself.

In the meantime, the organization continues to generate revenue from its online film offerings from Virtual State and fundraising continues. Moore added that private theater rentals are another option to help offset the cost.

“We have a $ 12,000 to $ 15,000 nut every month to cover the basics, rent, insurance, and security,” he says. “Our goal was to keep these theaters turnkey and to be able to open the doors immediately. And as soon as we are out of debt, defeat the virus and get the river out of the basement, we will open. “

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