Cinema Theater operators closing the movie house

Feb 18, 2021

Cinema Theater at the corner of South Clinton Ave. and Goodman St. in Rochester
Credit Max Schulte/WXXI News

A longtime Rochester tradition is ending, at least for now.

The operators of the Cinema Theater, which dates back to 1914, say they are closing up shop. Audrey Kramer and Alex Chernavsky note that due to the pandemic restrictions, they have not been able to generate much income over the last year.

Chernavsky said that when their lease came up for renewal in January, they couldn’t commit to another term, not only because of pandemic, but because of changes going on in the movie industry, with more films going direct to streaming.

“We did a lot of events that we’re very proud of and we got to meet a number of great people who were very supportive of us, so it was hard to step away from it, but the reality was just staring us in the face, couldn’t deny it,” Chernavsky said.

The operators are still hopeful someone else may come along and take over the theater, but there’s nothing definite right now.

"I sincerely hope that someone steps up and takes it over and if they do, my wife and I will be the first people in line to get a ticket," Chernavsky said. "We live near the Cinema, we’ve been customers for years before we owned it and we’ll be happy to continue supporting it. I just hope that somebody can make it happen."

Chernavsky and his wife got married at the theater in 2009.

The Little Theatre, another independent theater that dates back to the early 20th century, has been using a combination of virtual screenings and also renting out the theater to small groups of people for private screenings. Publicity coordinator Scott Pukos says those screenings have sold out.

“These rentals have been so popular which really shows how much this community has been going to the theater and capturing that movie magic,” Pukos said.

The Little, which is operated by WXXI, has been able to keep going with a combination of income from the private and virtual screenings, donations, and some grants, according to Pukos. He says the theater is looking forward to the day they can fully reopen.