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Get Reel Cinema receives state funding boost

Gov. Evers announces $14 million in COVID-19 relief funding for theaters, summer camps and minor league sports

By John McCracken

Get Reel Cinemas in De Pere switched to first-run showings in July 2021. The cinema had to adapt and make business changes to stay afloat through the COVID-19 pandemic. MMC file photo

Last year was supposed to be a big year for Vicki and Mike Radue.

As the owners of Get Reel Cinema (417 George St) in De Pere, the married couple were preparing to celebrate 20 years of operating the cinema.

“We were kind of planning some fun things and then of course the pandemic hit,” Vicki Radue said.

The COVID-19 pandemic stymied the cinema’s growth, but this week, the Radues received a welcome boost to their bottom line.

Radue Cinemas Inc—the parent company that operates Get Reel Cinema as well as other independent film houses in Chilton and Manitowoc—received $60,000 in funding from Gov. Tony Evers’ recently announced $10 million Movie Theater Assistance Grant Program.

The funding was part of $14 million in grants awarded to movie theaters, summer camps and minor league sports teams across the state as an ongoing effort to support Wisconsin rebounding tourism industry.

“From Wautoma to Spooner, summer camps, movie theaters and minor league sports teams are important parts of our communities and our state’s economy,” said Gov. Evers in a statement. “Unfortunately, like many businesses in our tourism industry, these folks have been hit particularly hard by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This investment will continue to help fuel our state’s recovery and ensure a strong rebound for our local communities.”

This is the second installment of grants awarded to movie theaters since the pandemic hit, bringing the total investment into the big screen to $20 million.

In 2020, Radue Cinemas received just under $60,000. The Tarlton Theatre, another area cinema and theater-house, received $15,000 in 2020 while Marcus Cinemas, a publicly-traded national film conglomerate with numerous locations across the state and Northeast Wisconsin, received over $4 million in both 2020 and 2021.

Radue said that they had to innovate, like many area businesses, to survive being shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in indoor spaces where people tend to congregate, such as a movie theater.

“Any business that puts a number of people in one place kind of changed people’s perception,” Radue said.

Radue said Get Reel offered curbside pickup while they were shuttered, but she said people loved ordering large bags of popcorn and iconic theater treats.

“I can’t say enough about the De Pere community,” Radue said. “They really supported (curbside meals) and kept us busy during the times that we were willing to provide that service.”

Radue said early on in the pandemic she remembered a gentleman and his young children purchasing 20 large bags of popcorn. The group then took the pounds of kernels and dropped them off on people’s doorsteps, a buttery surprise for people stuck at home.

Since Get Reel reopened, the cinema has switched from a second-run movie theater to a first-run theater. Radue said that an increase of in-home streaming options during the pandemic was a factor in the decision.

“I think we’re fortunate in that way that we only have one screen to fill up so we can choose the best thing,” Radue said.

With the grant funding influx, Radue said they plan to increase employee wages, recruitment efforts and other options to maintain competitiveness in a currently volatile labor market. She also said the grant funding will go towards equipment improvements for the multiple cinemas they own, such as heating for the old De Pere auditorium. She also said the grant funding will help the cinema navigate supply chain issues and rising costs.

“Everything’s gone up,” Radue said. “Getting supplies is more difficult. So, it just helps us to continue to provide a good movie experience for our customers, keep our prices reasonable, on concessions and food and that’s ultimately what we look for.”

Radue said the cinema is looking into live entertainment, as well as screenings of independent films and classic films not played at multiplexes.

“We have to adapt to the changing (times),” Radue said. “It’s not the same as it was prior to the pandemic.”

John McCracken is the Editor of Green Bay City Pages. You can reach him via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @jmcjmc451.

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