Innovation guides Cosmo Theatre in weathering COVID-19 impact
Innovation, improvisation, or in some cases both, have arguably been the staples of success for most any small business in weathering the dynamic tide of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those in the entertainment industry.
Harnessing those principles have especially proven key for the Cosmo Theatre, and owners Shelby and Trevor Dzwonkowski. While the Cosmo has yet to completely re-open and once again be the one-stop shop for the latest in movie entertainment, the Dzwonkowski ‘s have improvised.
Although visitors may not have the luxury of enjoying a bucket of popcorn while viewing their latest new release of choice on the big screen, popcorn is now readily available for pick-up. More recently, the Cosmo has also begun offering private movie showings.
Like most small business owners in the Merrill area, the Safer at Home order issued by the Governor’s Office and state Department of Health Services in March led to large-scale changes in operations. For the Dzwonkowski’s however, necessary changes perhaps tipped the scale a bit further compared to others.
“Prior to the order being issued, for the welfare of our visitors and staff, we had already taken steps to minimize the number of visitors to the theatre,” Shelby explains.
“But when the stipulation of 10 people or less was mandated, we had no choice but to close our doors. It was a very hard decision for us, the Cosmo has been a fixture in the community for so long. We are the only theatre in town and the one place community members depended on to enjoy the latest movie releases. But we had to do what was best for everyone.”
The couple hoped the hiatus would be temporary. But due to the nature of the theatre business and typically hosting a large number of people, the hiatus has proven to be a bit longer for the Cosmo.
“The initial plan, once we were able to re-open, was to wait a few weeks and see how the numbers were in terms of COVID-19 positives in the county,” Shelby adds.
“Unfortunately, the numbers didn’t make us comfortable enough to completely open and to date, we still don’t feel comfortable. While the numbers are rather low, we just aren’t willing to risk anyone’s safety. We’re hoping the numbers will drop or something will change, where we can feel comfortable opening up again.”
As Shelby explains further, the most profound factor keeping the Cosmo in a holding pattern of sorts, is that of production studios also being in a holding pattern in regard to releasing movies.
“As a matter of fact, the movies that were due to be released next week, have been pushed back at least a month or so. Even if we wanted to open now, we could only do second-runs and older movies, which would still be expensive for us to do.”
Despite not yet being fully operational, the pick-up popcorn endeavor has proven successful for the Cosmo.
“The initial response was unbelievable!” Shelby adds.
“From the very start we had so many people call or stop in just to grab some popcorn, my daughter Olivia and I were kept quite busy for the first few weeks. The interest has remained pretty steady since.”
As of late-June, the Cosmo began offering private movie showings.
Following an idea from friends who own another local theatre, the Dzwonkowski’s latest innovation is the closest they can come at this point, to offering in-house movie entertainment.
Gatherings for private showings are limited to 25 people or less. Concessions are open during showings and movie entertainment must be provided by the organizer. DVD’s are accepted or movies can be played from a streaming service.
The Cosmo Theatre’s pick-up popcorn service is available Fridays and Saturdays between the hours of 5-7 p.m. Cosmo popcorn is also available at the Grand Stand (501 Grand Ave.) during regular business hours of 11-9 p.m. M-F and Sundays, 9-9 p.m on Saturdays.
For more information on private movie showings or popcorn pick-up at the Cosmo Theatre, please contact the Cosmo at 813 E. Main Street or call (715) 536-4473. Callers and encouraged to leave a message.
“We’re very fortunate to own the building,” Shelby explains.
“We know the theatre as a whole is going to be OK, but there is still that aspect as business owners; we have a responsibility to ourselves and our customers to do what we can with what we have. There’s of course the financial aspect for us, but most of all it really comes down to maintaining that relationship with our customers. Our customers want to come back to the Cosmo and we want to keep them coming back any way we can . Of course we hope the day will come sooner than later, we can be open completely and fully operational.”
“The number of people we meet in the community every day, asking when we will re-open completely, is very humbling. To know your business matters to so many people is really an amazing feeling,” she adds with a smile.