GQT owns nearly 30 theaters throughout the Midwest and one in Florida. Nine of those theaters are in Indiana. Two are in the Indianapolis area: Noblesville and Brownsburg. Three are in in Greater Lafayette.
“As the public is finding out about this, the employees are finding out about this so it’s an especially stressful time for them,” said former employee Alli Chaney.
Chaney said many employees are left wondering what’s next. The Michigan-based company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after falling nearly $33 million in debt. Chaney worked as a theater manager and a member of the corporate marketing team. Many of her close friends are still employees.
“I’ve met so many of my best friends there. I met my significant other — the person that I’m going to marry someday — I met working at these theaters and at this company and I’m just worried for all these people that I just love dearly,” Chaney said.
GQT plans to keep its theaters open. Filing for Chapter 11 will allow the chain to restructure its debts but Chaney explains what could happen in a worst-case scenario.
“My history of working with the theaters and knowing them, the one kind of at-risk probably looks like Lafayette 7,” said Chaney. “There is a potential, we don’t know yet, but a potential that maybe theaters will get sold off and another company will come into town.”
It’s unclear what has led the company to bankruptcy but Chaney believes it’s a combination of recent company decisions.
“There were a lot of renovations companywide but specifically here in our community — Lafayette 7 getting some new seats, new concessions remodeling; Wabash Landing 9 getting new paint jobs, just kind of a new facelift, but especially Eastside 10 IMAX getting an IMAX theater, that is not cheap,” Chaney said.
This holiday season didn’t do so well either.
“Across the nation, theaters just underperformed for Christmas, which is typically the busiest time for movie theaters and when you have the busiest day of the year and not all of your shows sold out. That’s massive,” Chaney said.
WLFI’s sister station in Michigan reports the theater chain owes IMAX, Pepsi, Sony and Warner Bros, but the one that worries Chaney most is the company’s debt to Disney.
“Disney, they own basically everything at this point. If they’re putting out a lot of movies and the company owes money to Disney, then Disney could cut off the whole chain and say, ‘Hey, you can’t show our movies until you pay us money.’ Well, they can’t make money if they’re not showing these Disney movies,” Chaney said.
Chaney said she and her friends are deciding to stay positive.
“We need to support the people that are there and who are worried about their jobs and their careers but still kind of be calm and realize it’s a long process and there’s a lot to it so not panic just yet,” Chaney said.
Chaney said she loved her experience working with GQT and has left with lifelong lessons. She hopes the community steps up to help save the future of all theaters as streaming services continue growing.
“For moviegoers, if you love movies, just continue to support movie theaters go out there,” Chaney said. “Streaming services are convenient but there’s nothing that can compare to the experience of going to the movies, being surrounded by strangers but having this wonderful shared experience watching movies how directors and filmmakers intended it to be.”
The company’s headquarters in Michigan did not return calls seeking comment.