With theaters around the globe in shutdown mode, exhibitors are entering a new phase of operation. The priority has shifted from getting people into the theater to weathering the storm while they’re away. One Baltic chain has addressed the issue of F&B surplus—concession stands stocked, but with no moviegoers to sell to—by donating to local, in-need organizations.
Cinamon operates eight locations across Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Finland, all of which shut down in the second (Estonia) and third (Latvia, Lithuania, Finland) weeks of March. Of those cinemas, Cinamon is notes that four of them—the locations with stocks of concessions—will be donating items to local charities.
Cinamon’s decision to donate their food was made rapidly, “right after the first closure of our cinemas in Estonia” on March 13, says CIO and CTO Andac Bagioglu. “We forecasted that the situation would spread quickly to all locations, and there was no logical or sensible way to continue operations…. The main concern we had after [the] closure was, ‘How can we reach the people to give away what we have in our stocks?’” Cinamon leadership determined that those stocks would go to local charities, specific to each country that the chain operates in. Those charities, in turn, will “distribute the goods to the ones in need. In Baltic countries, these charity organizations have a long history of helping ones in need. Their target groups vary from children’s homes to private families [in need of assistance]. We trust that, with their help, the goods will go to the right people.”
These are not, Bagioglu notes, necessarily people who need help because of the coronavirus; rather, he is conscious that “more than usual, those in need of continuous help… might easily be overlooked or forgotten. Of course, we all have to survive. As corporate companies, as individuals. But the ones that [were in need before the coronavirus pandemic] are probably more than ever in need now, due to the lack of attention from the general public.”
Cinamon’s decision to donate their concessions stocks to charity is one way to address a question that myriad theaters are asking: What do I do with all this food? “Our policy during normal operation has always been [to] provide fresh products to our clients”—so holding onto items and hoping they’ll still be edible by the time theaters open up wasn’t an option. Cinamon is donating just about everything: nachos, candies, chocolate snacks, bottled drinks. Unpopped popcorn and soft drink syrups are the exception. “It may not seem like it, but even the small snacks—nachos and smoothie drinks—can make a difference when they reach the right target,” says Bagioglu.