Like all cinema circuits nationwide, Texas’s Santikos Entertainment has been forced to close its doors. But the local nonprofit chain—with nine locations in and around the San Antonio area—has used this period of struggle to step up to the plate.
Last month, the John L. Santikos Charitable Foundation donated $1 million to the COVID-19 Response Fund. “We are the only theater chain to distribute 100% of our profits back into our communities where we operate,” explains Andrew Brooks, executive director of sales and marketing. Since 2015, the San Antonio Area Foundation has donated $61.6M to local causes and non-profits with the distribution of profits received from Santikos Enterprises.
Santikos closed all its locations on Thursday, March 19, placing almost 700 employees on paid leave. Employees were paid for two weeks after closing, through Thursday, April 2. “Currently, for all furloughed employees, Santikos is picking up 100% of their medical expenses and plans to do this moving forward,” Brooks says.
The chain also wants to keep its employees fed. On March 25, they built an “employee food bank” with perishable food they had collected, distributing over 700 free meals to employees and local first responders. They also partnered with a local food distributor to create a curbside “grocery store” where employees can purchase food at cost. “Employees will get to pick from various bundles of food such as hot dogs, burgers, wings, and salads that they can pick up and take home to prep or heat and eat,” Brooks says.
Santikos has also updated its homepage with a section titled “Ways to help our community,” featuring links to donate or volunteer with organizations including San Antonio Food Bank, San Antonio Area Foundation, and South Texas Blood and Tissue Center.
“Typically our website is an aggregator of movies and showtimes. Well, not a lot to choose from,” Brooks says of the current moment. “So our idea was to shift the website to an aggregator of local causes to support [as well as supporting] our Santikos Real Estate division. We have various tenants on our real estate properties deemed essential, and if the community supports them, they’re still supporting our mission.”
CEO Tim Handren said on April 1 that he would put himself on furlough in solidarity with his furloughed employees. “I figure if that’s what I have to do to y’all, then that’s what I have to do,” Handren said in a video announcement to employees.