by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
A recent SantivaChronicle.com poll showed the Island Cinema at Bailey’s Shopping Center will be missed when it’s demolished as part of an expansion project at Bailey’s General Store. The theater served the island for many decades, but was closed last year at the start of the pandemic and will not reopen.
While 80 percent of the 657 poll respondents said they want a movie theater on the island, these are hard times for the movie theater industry and Sanibel’s little yellow theater is no exception.
The Johnson family, owners of Bailey’s Shopping Center, purchased the Island Cinema because of it’s “a nostalgic piece of island charm,” said Calli Johnson. “We hoped to creatively turn around the business, but the past year has shown us that the already dim future of independent cinemas was quite grim,” she said.
Overall movie ticket sales in the United States were down 80 percent in 2020 to $2.2 billion from a 2019 haul of $11.4 billion, according to Comscore. And Forbes reported in January 2021 that industry leaders are predicting a sustained reduction in movie theater attendance after the pandemic.
The Johnson family can not continue to operate the business at a loss and are as sad as the community to lose the Island Cinema. “It would be unwise and unsustainable (to continue operating at a loss) and we made the hard choice to close it to help improve our community as a whole by better serving our customers,” said Johnson.
Bailey’s General Store will expand to the south, where the Island Cinema currently sits. Johnson said her family are moviegoers, which is part of the reason they purchased the theater and wanted to revive it. “The decision to close was not taken lightly and came after years of effort and improvements,” she said.
So, we must say goodbye to our little theater and look to the future of Bailey’s General Store, a business that has served islanders and visitors for more than a century. There may be changes coming to the shopping center and grocery store, but the Johnson family will make sure the things we know and love about Bailey’s are not going away – mainly the people who are there.