ITHACA, N.Y. –– In mid-March Cinemapolis, Ithaca’s independent movie theater, closed their doors to the public following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order to shut down all bars, gyms and theaters due to the spread of COVID-19.

This week, the governor extended state-wide closures of all non-essential businesses through April 29.

In response, Cinemapolis has created at-home viewing options to keep the public entertained while they practice social distancing. On Friday, April 10, Cinemapolis will begin offering a weekly slate of new films for patrons to view at home.

The cinema is collaborating with independent film distributors like Film Movement, Kino Lorber, Magnolia Films, and Oscilloscope Laboratories to sell patrons “virtual tickets” for online rentals of current first-run releases.

Prices will vary slightly depending on the studio, but in all cases, a portion of the proceeds come back to support operations at Cinemapolis while the theater is closed.

The first week of new, virtual releases features four films: BacurauCorpus ChristiOnce Were Brothers, and Saint Frances. Just like regularly scheduled film screenings, titles will only be available for a limited duration, and new titles will be added each Friday to the cinema’s website.

The shift to in-home cinema marks a temporary change in operations for the theater, but, according to Executive Director Brett Bossard, “what has not changed is our mission—encouraging central New York residents to explore the power of film to entertain, educate, and to celebrate the human experience. We may have to self-isolate, but we needn’t be isolated from great cinema.”

All virtual cinema titles available to rent can be screened online using a laptop or mobile device. Other options such as Roku, Chromecast or Apple TV may be available depending on the platforms being used by each studio. Detailed instructions are available at the time of purchase.

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival (FLEFF), which was scheduled for March but was ultimately canceled over coronavirus concerns, is also now benefiting from the reimagined movie-going experience.

Bacurau is one of more than 50 films originally scheduled to be part of the annual festival.

“Our partnership with Cinemapolis has insured FLEFF and Ithaca College can present groundbreaking international art cinema to our community. And this vital partnership has meant continually innovating and adapting to community needs, whether embodied or now virtual, to create space for cinemas that change how we see and think about the globe,” observed Patricia Zimmermann, co-director with Tom Shevory of FLEFF.

In the coming weeks, additional virtual FLEFF titles will join the offerings at Cinemapolis, including The WhistlersAnd Then We Danced, and A White, White Day.

The purchase of virtual screening tickets, gift cards, and theater memberships all help support Cinemapolis’ commitment to providing their employees a living wage. During their temporary closure, all Cinemapolis employees, including hourly staff whose schedules have been affected, are continuing to receive full pay.

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com