East Bay community comes together to help Livermore theater avoid closure amid COVID-19

LIVERMORE, Calif. (KGO) -- After five months in survival mode, the Vine Cinema and Alehouse is turning to the community to avoid permanent closure amid COVID-19. In 48 hours, the cinema came close to their goal of $65,000 with the hopes of surviving till 2021.

The independently-owned art theater has been a fixture in Downtown Livermore since 1964 and is known for hosting community events, showing independent films and "not your big-budget films."

"I think the Vine is incredibly important to the city of Livermore and the Tri-Valley as a whole," said Kenny Way, part owner of the Vine Cinema and Alehouse. "Being around for (almost) sixty-five years, there is just generations of people that tell me that they watched their first movie here, or I went on a date here. It just has so much history."

The Vine Cinema and Alehouse closed their doors on March 16 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"I thought it would be a two to four week closure," said Way. "We thought get everybody healthy to come on back but it hasn't happened yet."

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Owners of Vine Cinema had to adapt quickly during a challenging time for movie theaters and decided to pivot to a curbside concession stand.

"This is the main thing that we were doing to keep the lights on. It was our sole source of income," said Way. "It was out of desperation and we had to get creative to survive. We shifted to fair and carnival-style treats, popcorn, cotton candy, snow cones, all kinds of fun stuff that you are not getting anywhere around here. It was great to see regulars and new people alike that wanted to support us by also getting fun treats."

Expecting a few hundred dollars, the curbside concession stand brought in fifteen-thousand dollars the first weekend and helped the Vine Cinema and Alehouse survive the first four months of the coronavirus shutdown.

Way noticed when kids started going back to school, the weekend sales "started to level out and started to go down."

Entering the fifth month of closure, Way decided to reach out to the community for help.

"We started a GoFundMe campaign when we determined five months into this that we needed help," said Way. "We had many people tell us that we should start a GoFundMe but I held off on that until I really, absolutely felt it was necessary."



Way was overfilled with joy with amount of support he was receiving from his community.

"The response was so overwhelming. We hit $40,000 within 24 hours and within two days we came close to hitting our goal," said Way. "I was just in awe of our supporters and the community in general and just truly, truly humbled."

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In less than a month, the GoFundMe Campaign has raised close to a hundred-thousand dollars.

"At this point we will be able to get through to March without reopening," said Way. "Once we saw how well the GoFundMe was being supported, it just really reinforced how important we are to the city. The overwhelming support has just been astonishing and we are just truly grateful."

To donate to the Vine Cinema and Alehouse, visit their GoFundMe Campaign.

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