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Our opinion: Loss of theaters a loss for Austin

Last week’s announcement by Odyssey Entertainment that it was closing the CineMagic  7 Theatre here in Austin was a devastating blow to the community and movie-lovers alike.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, Odyssey President Steve Tripp said, “Austin has been a great community to do business in. We have incurred substantial losses there in the last year alone and just simply can not continue to do so.”

Just two days later, CineMagic 7 closed its doors, leaving Austin without a business that has been so valuable over the years for lovers of movies.

Movie theaters are an iconic part of Americana. For years, theaters have been a source of entertainment for many communities, like Austin, across the nation. They are the source of fond memories, ranging from seeing classic and blockbuster movies to that first date.

A community with a movie theater was a destination not only for the people that live in the community, but the small towns near Austin.

We understand the difficult decision Odyssey has been placed in though. COVID-19 has taken a bite out of all business and movie theaters, who are reliant on people coming to enjoy a flick to maintain a successful business, have been devastated during the pandemic. It’s made worse by movie companies, who are in their own fight, choosing to stream movies online, which in many cases leaves theaters out to dry.

To be frank, it’s a no-win situation and Odyssey had to make an unpopular choice, but that doesn’t take away from how this closure will hurt the community.

This past Friday, on the same day Odyssey made their unfortunate announcement, the Associated Press reported that Americans applying for unemployment rose to 861,000 as the pandemic continues its hold on the nation.

As businesses fight for survival, workers are generally the first to feel the pinch as these businesses turn to layoffs to continue staying afloat.

While some of these workers may be able to find work, it doesn’t take away the uncertainty for CineMagic employees who may struggle to find a job that keeps their own lives afloat in such difficult times.

It also takes away from money spent in Austin. Families could make an evening of going to the movies and then maybe heading out to a restaurant to grab a meal. Now this money will be taken out of the community, either to Albert Lea, Owatonna or Rochester and it’s massive stadium theaters.

That’s no longer money staying in Austin.

On the surface, these are memories people in Austin are losing, but there are ripple effects and we can only hope that sometime in the future some theater company will take an interest in Austin and bring films back to our community.

We want our happy ending.