Cinema Grill owners cite pandemic restrictions, film industry impact on decision to close

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — A Fort Wayne movie theatre has permanently closed as a result of restrictions related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as well as how the pandemic has affected the film industry.

Cinema Grill, in the Northwood Plaza at Stellhorn and Maplecrest roads, announced in a Facebook post Tuesday that it is closing after 22 years in business.

The post said the theatre, which offered a full dinner menu to guests taking in movies, struggled with capacity restrictions put in place by health officials in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The movie industry’s low number of new releases also negatively impacted the theatre, the post said.

“You have all brought so much joy to our family’s lives and allowed us to grow a very successful business for many years,” the post said.

Below is the post:

“It is with a heavy heart that we are announcing the permanent closing of Northwood Cinema Grill. When we opened in November of 1998 we never could have imagined we would meet as many wonderful people, both customers and staff, that we have. You have all brought so much joy to our family’s lives and allowed us to grow a very successful business for many years. Unfortunately, the restrictions on restaurants still in place combined with the movie studies either delaying numerous releases to later in 2021 or releasing them to streaming platforms directly make our current business model unstable. We were fortunate to have been able to open on and off during the last 9 months so that we could see many of you again, but we wish we would have gotten a chance to say a proper goodbye. Hopefully our paths will cross in some way in the future. Until then, we can not say THANK YOU enough, from our family to yours, for all of your support the last 22 years! We will miss you!”

The theater has been owned by Jody and Lori Wiedenhoft since it opened in November 1998 as a discount theater. They added digital projects in 2010 and began showing first-run movies at that point.

Jody Wiedenhoft said that in 2020 they were only able to open for eight weeks due to the state’s pandemic restrictions, and when they were open they were stuck at 50 percent capacity. However, what hit their business harder was the lack of films coming out.

“If it takes another 4 to six months for movies to get released to theaters, we just figured that was just too long for us to wait and we were going to close at this time,” said Wiedenhoft.

He also cited changes made to the film premier process that would allow people to stream the movies online the same day they are released to theaters.

“With them going online streaming the same day that it went to theaters, we thought that was really going to hurt theaters, especially small theaters like us,” said Wiedenhoft. “That was a big factor in our decision.”

While he thinks we may see more theaters closed, he does not believe this is the end for the movie-going experience.

“In my opinion, the movie business is going to change forever in this pandemic,” said Wiedenhoft. “I think the megaplexes could be okay, but for the smaller theaters, especially in big towns where there are megaplexes also, I think it’s going to be extremely hard for small theaters like ourselves to survive.”

Wiedenhoeft added that while closing was a difficult decision, his family has appreciated all of the support and well-wishes they’ve seen from the community since the announcement.

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