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.
This is incredibly sad and we hope that the Johnsons re-consider and include in their plans something geared to family entertainment rather than just a mere expansion of a shopping venue.
Given the overwhelming interest, and fully understanding that the Bailey family would not want to run a business that is not profitable, it would seem, however, that someplace like the Community House or Big Arts might be able to step into this opportunity and maybe make something work.
The Johnson/Bailey family has made millions of dollars in profits to fund its current expansion plan, yet decided they cannot afford to operate the Island Cinema at a loss. They have taken away an island institution, a place where families could go. Some films need to be viewed on a big screen and viewers benefit from being with others. Plus, there was popcorn. Don’t think Sam and Francis would approve.
Well, this is truly sad.
Couldn’t some kind of creativity have gone into fund raising, or some kind of support/ assistance, what have you, to keep this one ‘nice little bit of entertainment’ on our lovely Island’?
Is it really too late to come up with a plan to preserve the theater?
******Would love to know how other residents and visitors in general, feel about this, as well as the ‘powers to be’!!!! We have heard ‘how the Johnson family’ feels!******
Look forward to seeing what all are thinking about my comment!
Thank you for some thoughtful insight into this matter!
We do understand. Though very sad, time keeps marching on. Things, places, people all change; it’s life. Happy that Baileys is still going strong; you are a necessary staple for sure.
Sanibel needs a cinema. Enjoyed it for many years. Understand the business decision.
Since the ’80s, my family has enjoyed many films screened at the Island Cinema. We’re curious why it does not warrant historical landmark status and why no other alternatives were considered such as selling the building to other interested parties? Surely there must be some way to preserve this piece of island history and continue offering feature films on the island?
We need the cinema. So much history and so many families spent time there over the years. We do not need a larger shopping center. Please save the cinema.