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Only movie theatre near Fort Frances in danger of closing

The potential cost of repairs to a waterline feeding the sprinkler system at the only movie theatre near Fort Frances, across the border in International Falls, Minn., could force the owner to close it down.
The Cine 5 movie theatre in International Falls, Minn. (Google Streetview)

The only movie theatre in the Rainy Lake area is in danger of shutting its doors.

The costs of repairing a water leak affecting the sprinkler system in the Cine 5 Theatres in International Falls, Minn., could be more than the business can bear.

Complications from the incident forced the movie theatre to close temporarily this week.   

Mason Hanover, president and owner of Cine 5, said since the sprinkler system went down, they needed to put a firewatch into place.

“The fire marshal sent me a note on Monday morning [saying] you’re closed, you can’t open. You got to fix some things,” he said.

Hanover said the theatre is allowed to open on the contingency the water line for the sprinkler system will get fixed. The other changes needed immediately in order to reopen are not a big deal, he said. This includes improved exit lighting and some other electrical work.

“But the issue is the [water line]. I’m just expecting a ridiculous cost to fix it. The city is bringing in a company to find it and to minimize the digging. Chances are it’s not even on my property,” he said. “We have the electrician coming Monday morning to start getting things set. And I’m hoping to open next week.”

He said he is trying to book movies and operate as normal, but it could be short lived.

“When I find out what it’s going to cost probably to repair the pipe, it just could be the end,” he said.

Hanover said this latest setback just another one for an industry that is in trouble.

“COVID has destroyed the theatre industry, and that’s what’s it’s all about. It’s the dwindling attendance,” he said. “I don’t blame people. They don’t want to come out because everything in life now has been politicized, so you have one person says this, pisses off that person and it just keeps going. So you have Hollywood alienating at least 50 percent of the country and they don’t want to go supporting them and it’s just a trickle effect of what happens.”

He said another problem with COVID was that he had to stay open during the pandemic.

“I lost hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Just being open and running because I had to and you know we tried and tried,” he said. “But the Canadian border did not open up until April of last year. So I was cut off from a majority of our customers for two years so.”

He said due to their location, they are limited to how many people they can get. 

“I’m not a suburb of Minneapolis, I can’t draw from far away,”

He also said the movie studios are making the situation more difficult for theatre owners, giving examples of movies being shifted to streaming services so quickly.

“”The Menu,” we just played that and it’s already on HBO. We had “Ticket to Paradise,” and it was doing well. We turned around one weekend, it’s on Amazon, you can buy it.”

“The hard part is, it’s the small business owners, it’s the theatres that are run by individuals and not corporations [that are hurting],” he said. “[The US-based movie chain] AMC doesn’t care if one theatre loses money in one market because they’ve got investors and screens all across the country. I do not.”

When Cine 5 announced the situation on social media, many customers responded with posts of support.

“I’m really touched, It’s good. But it’s tough you know. [This is] a family business my dad built it in 1977,” he said. “I just wanted to tell them the truth. I mean, I’m not going to lie and sugar coat stuff and you know. Life is tough right now.”

“I don’t want handouts or anything like that. Theatre is where people go and people don’t want to, they are scared [of being out in public]. I understand that. I get it. We’re just trying to provide an escape for people to get out and spend two hours of their day and forget about everything. That’s what it’s supposed to be about.”


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