Vali Twin Cinema

Brandon and Diedre Asay, owners of the Vali Twin Cinema, sought help to save the downtown movie theater through a sponsorship program. Within 24 hours, they had enough sponsors for movies through October. (Photo by Kevin Killough. Powell Tribune) 

POWELL — The Vali Twin Cinema in downtown Powell has stood for over a century. It has survived more than a dozen recessions — including the Great Depression, two world wars and the Spanish and Asian flu pandemics. 

The novel coronavirus pandemic has posed a particular challenge to the business, putting it in danger of closing. 

But with true Wyoming grit — along with help from Powell community spirit — owners Brandon and Diedre Asay are weathering COVID-19 with a new sponsorship program that will allow them to show movies for free.

Like most theaters across the country, public health orders closed down the Vali Twin in April and May. 

The Asays brought in a bit of revenue through concession sales during those months, but mostly they held on until they could open again. 

State orders were lifted in June, and the theater reopened. Unfortunately, people were still reluctant to gather in crowded places, and business at Vali Twin was “at record low levels,” said Diedre Asay. 

“Every indoor theater across the country is in the same situation,” she said. 

To save money, the Asays shut down again in July, anticipating that Hollywood studios would begin offering new releases in August, which would boost ticket sales. 

But the last week of July, the studios announced all new releases have been pushed back — some indefinitely. The situation was looking pretty grim. 

Brandon Asay discussed the situation with his friend, Dustin Short, owner of Everlast Metal and DSE Fireworks. Short believes the downtown theater plays a vital role in the small community, and he really didn’t want to see Vali Twin fail. 

“It’s one of the few things left in Powell to do as a family. I love going to our hometown theater,” Short said. 

He said going to the theater provides a kind of fellowship for people. Back in the day, the town had street dances, harvest festivals and get-togethers in the parks. The theater is one of the few ongoing community activities remaining, Short said. He really wanted to find a way to help the Asays out, so he put his thinking cap on. 

Normally, studios charge theaters a percentage of ticket sales to show their movies. With new releases on hold possibly until next year, the studios began charging flat rates for older movies. 

This overhead is hard for Vali Twin to manage without any revenue stream. 

So Short proposed a sponsorship program in which businesses and individuals buy sponsorships to cover the studio’s fee. 

For their support, the theater will give shout-outs to the sponsors on social media and newspaper ads and post the company’s logos in on-screen ads before showtime. 

Vali Twin will not charge admission, but donations are appreciated. Also, the concession stand will be open, which goes a long way to help support the theater. 

The Asays posted an ad for the new sponsorship program on social media, and within 24 hours, they had enough sponsors for showings through the beginning of October. They also have several more potential sponsors expressing interest. 

“So far, we’ve had a tremendous response from the community. Brandon and I have literally been moved to tears by it,” Diedre Asay said. “We have so many generous people who don’t want to see the community theater close. It means a lot to us.” 

She extended a lot of gratitude to Short for coming up with the idea and helping them make it happen. 

“He’s a really generous person who loves to give back to our community,” she said. 

On Friday, Vali Twin is showing The Empire Strikes Back and Inside Out, sponsored by Everlast Metal. 

“Nobody wants to see the community theater close,” Short said. “They have memories tied to the place. I remember as a kid how excited we were when it became a double plex.” 

 

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