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COVID casualty: Sonoma loses its multiplex cinema

Reaction from the community

Within 24 hours, this article posted on the Index-Tribune Facebook page garnered 183 comments from the community. While some readers debated the federal and county COVID health guidelines that caused the theater to remain closed for more than 7 months, most generally bemoaned the loss to the community.

“This is very sad. A massive loss for Sonoma. We have many great memories going there with our children as they were growing up.”

“This is horrible news for all of us. My heart breaks for the owner, the staff and our community.”

“A huge loss for our community. I’ve missed going to the movies here so much during the pandemic!”

“Noooo! I will miss driving down the street to watch a movie.”

“This really breaks my heart and my families hearts. We will miss the tradition of watching a new Star Wars film in December (then taking pics in front of the movie posters) and all of the other special memories. Thank you to all of the staff who gave so much to our small community. What a tragic loss.”

“Oohhh Nooooo! Where r us old ladies supposed to go??”

“How very disappointing. What a loss for them, and for the community.“

“It was fun working there.”

“Being a long time resident, now we go back to like it was before. When there was only Sebastiani in the Valley. And if you wanted to watch a blockbuster movie you went to Santa Rosa. Maybe we will get lucky, and some other movie chain will take it over. “

“There goes another date night in Sonoma.“

“This is so sad. Many happy memories at that theater.”

Sonoma 9 Cinema in the Fiesta Plaza in Sonoma has closed permanently, according to Dave Corkill, owner of the theater’s parent company, Cinema West.

“We find ourselves forced to close and out of business because of a virus no one could have predicted and the irresponsible conduct of those that are spreading it,” Corkill told the Index-Tribune. “We regret that we will no longer be able to serve the Sonoma community and we thank everyone that supported our business, including our great staff and many guests.”

In mid-Sept., Corkill announced that the Tiburon Playhouse was closing its doors permanently due to the pandemic. Corkill had owned the playhouse for 30 years.

Corkill worked with Peter Sonnen and local architect Dan Nichols to bring the first multiplex to the Sonoma Valley in 1994. Sonoma Cinema started with four screens and additional screens were added in 1998 and 2009, bringing the total from four to nine.

Corkill told the Index-Tribune in 2017 that he planned further renovations to the property, including larger reclining seats with built-in tables.

Sonoma Cinemas began offering beer and wine at its concession stand in May 2018. But the Sonoma location still struggled to fill seats in the months that followed. The theater announced in October 2019 that is was reducing its adult ticket prices to $8 for adult tickets, down from $9.50 previously. Every Tuesday, the theater offered all tickets at $4.75. The Sonoma location was the only site in the chain advertising new lower prices.

The Sonoma location showed its last film in March, 2020 and has been shuttered since then. The most recent Facebook post by the Sonoma location on July 31 promoted a #SaveYourCinema campaign and noted that “movie theaters have lost 93 percent of the box office compared to last year.”

Corkill said that all movie passes, tickets and gift cards will be accepted at the Boulevard Cinemas in Petaluma when it eventually reopens.

Fiesta Plaza has been owned by a limited liability corporation associated with the Dwares Group since 2016.

Reached by phone on Oct. 23, CEO Peter Dwares was unaware of Corkill’s decision.

“I know that our management company has been talking to Dave [Corkill] and I didn’t know what has been decided,” he said. “If Cinema West goes, we’ll try hard to find another theater operator.”

But Dwares said that a new operator would only succeed with better community support. “Ask the community what would make twice as many customers come,” he said.

Roger Rhoten, executive director of Sonoma’s downtown Sebastiani Theatre, was unaware of the news.

“I feel badly for anybody who goes out of business,” he said. “This is such a tough time for movie theaters and if it wasn’t for the generosity of the community, the Sebastiani Theatre would be in the same boat.”

Contact Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.

Reaction from the community

Within 24 hours, this article posted on the Index-Tribune Facebook page garnered 183 comments from the community. While some readers debated the federal and county COVID health guidelines that caused the theater to remain closed for more than 7 months, most generally bemoaned the loss to the community.

“This is very sad. A massive loss for Sonoma. We have many great memories going there with our children as they were growing up.”

“This is horrible news for all of us. My heart breaks for the owner, the staff and our community.”

“A huge loss for our community. I’ve missed going to the movies here so much during the pandemic!”

“Noooo! I will miss driving down the street to watch a movie.”

“This really breaks my heart and my families hearts. We will miss the tradition of watching a new Star Wars film in December (then taking pics in front of the movie posters) and all of the other special memories. Thank you to all of the staff who gave so much to our small community. What a tragic loss.”

“Oohhh Nooooo! Where r us old ladies supposed to go??”

“How very disappointing. What a loss for them, and for the community.“

“It was fun working there.”

“Being a long time resident, now we go back to like it was before. When there was only Sebastiani in the Valley. And if you wanted to watch a blockbuster movie you went to Santa Rosa. Maybe we will get lucky, and some other movie chain will take it over. “

“There goes another date night in Sonoma.“

“This is so sad. Many happy memories at that theater.”

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