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East County Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 2 months ago

Will Lakewood Ranch get big screen back?

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Save Our Cinemas fundraiser aims to reopen Lakewood Ranch Cinema.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

Before the pandemic, Bridgewater’s Christina Amato would go to Lakewood Ranch Cinema at least twice per month.

She loved going to At the Movies with Gus Mollasis on Saturday mornings where Mollasis would show a film and host a discussion of it afterward.

“I looked forward to that every month,” Amato said. “He would have the whole place filled on Saturday morning for those movies, and he would show some foreign movies or just some old-time movies, and we would discuss it. It was an active, engaged crowd, and he had lot of real movie buffs there.” 

Amato hasn’t been able to attend an At the Movies with Gus Mollasis or go to the theater on a Friday afternoon with friends in months because the theater closed due to the pandemic.

On Feb. 27, Amato will have the opportunity to return to the place that has brought her so much joy over the past eight years during the Sarasota Film Society’s Save Our Cinemas fundraiser.

The Sarasota Film Society is a nonprofit that runs Lakewood Ranch Cinema on Main Street at Lakewood Ranch and Burns Court Cinema in downtown Sarasota.

Trisha Calandra, the vice president of the Sarasota Film Society, hopes the society can raise $20,000 at the fundraiser in hopes of being able to reopen the theaters April 1.

“There’s definitely going to be a future with Burns Court and Lakewood Ranch,” Calandra said. “We’re not sure how long it’s going to take us to get back to business as usual, but it will. 

“People love the movies. They love to see the stuff on the big screen. They love the camaraderie of going into the movie theater and everybody crying together or everybody laughing together. We know people are out there, and we know they love it. That’s why we’re trying to save it.”

The Sarasota Film Society's Save Our Cinemas fundraiser will be at Lakewood Ranch Cinema. Only 150 tickets will be sold to the fundraiser. File photo.

Both theaters have been closed since Dec. 1 due to the Sarasota Film Society losing 90%, or more than $1 million, in revenue because new movies weren’t being released, and the theaters were struggling with ticket sales. The society had to lay off all employees.

“I’m excited about being able to open and be able to get our employees back to work,” Calandra said.

Amato said she was crushed when the theater closed its doors. She tried to go with a friend to the Lakewood Ranch Cinema on Friday afternoons during the pandemic to support the theater and the society, but she and her friend would sometimes be the only people in the theater.

“It was heartbreaking [when the theater closed],” Amato said. “The worst things about the pandemic, for me, were losing my book club and losing the movie theater.”

Calandra said the support from the community for the fundraiser has been overwhelming.

“As soon as the community found out we were doing fundraising, they started sending in donations,” Calandra said. “We’re thankful for the community and local business owners who have donated so much already.”

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