PARK CITY, Utah (ABC4) – The lights are on, but no one is home, so to speak.
Due to a labor strike pitting employees at the Redstone 8 Cinemas against the theater’s parent company, Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Theatres Corporation, those who are hoping to catch a flick at the building, which is used to screen Sundance Film Festival selections in non-pandemic years, will have to bear with the beleaguered staff.
According to Zinnia Kenny, who is leading the strike effort, the theater is currently operating a limited lineup of showtimes with just three employees.
“To my knowledge, there have been some significant slowdowns and lines running the theater,” Kenny, an off-and-on employee at the theater since 2016 explains to ABC4.com.
Normally staffed with 13 employees, the theater and its corporate leaders in California have been given a demand to increase pay from $10.50 an hour to a $15 hourly rate. Kenny says she and her fellow disgruntled employees were given a counteroffer of $12.50 from Metropolitan, which was rejected, and negotiations have since stalled.
The strike has been ongoing since last Wednesday.
“We value our employees and regularly evaluate compensation and make adjustments. These adjustments are done to ensure we remain competitive. The current wages are consistent with the local market,” says a spokesperson from Metropolitan Theatres in a statement given to ABC4.com.
While the current pay at the Redstone 8 is above the state’s minimum wage of $7.25, which is the same federal minimum across 15 other states and territories (29 states and territories have a higher wage), Kenny feels the rate is still low for employees who work and live in Park City, a town famous for opulent resorts, outdoor recreation areas, and world-class skiing.
“There are a high number of entry-level jobs in Park City, even immediately adjacent to the theater, that pay even more than $15 an hour, often up to $17, $18, $20 an hour. We’re at a town that has a cost of living that is higher than Los Angeles.”
According to BestPlaces.net’s cost of living calculator, she’s right. The website’s overall index, which rates a score of 100 as the U.S. average, the City of Angels in Southern California has a score of 176.2 Park City comes in at 186.6, 5.9% higher. The real discrepancy comes at the cost of housing. L.A.’s housing score is rated at 298.2, while Park City’s arrives at a whopping 343.3.
Even though she is choosing to forego a paycheck for the time being to work on the labor strike efforts, which have included a couple of days of picketing in front of the theater, Kenny feels the leverage tilts in her group’s direction.
“The stakes are much higher for them than they are for us,” she says. “If this strike doesn’t work out for the employees we can all find higher-paying jobs immediately. Due to the COVID pandemic, there are a number of businesses that are hiring for well over what we get paid the theater.”
As for why she and her co-workers don’t just simply take one of those better-paying jobs, Kenny explains that to her and her colleagues, the movie theater is more than just a workplace with padded seats, projectors, and popcorn. They care about the Redstone 8 and the customers they serve there.
“We could just leave, but we care too much about that place to just ignore it like corporate has been contented to do for all these years,” Kenny states.
The strikers have done a couple of physical picketing demonstrations in front of the building on Market Street, but for the most part, have been trying to gather attention to their cause online. Most of the online community has been emphatic to Kenny’s crew, those who are less active on the internet just want to get back to the movies.
“The feedback over the internet has been overwhelmingly supportive,” Kenny says. “Pretty much anyone under 40 understands that this is important to the identity of Park City, but our senior citizens just want to see the shows and they get a little frustrated that they can’t right now.”