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One Theater Owner Has Started Selling Popcorn In The Parking Lot To Help Employees

Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel at a movie theater in 500 days of summer
(Image credit: (Fox Searchlight))

Although movie fans can certainly take comfort in enjoying their favorite films in their own homes, it’s a sad season for the livelihood of movie theaters, particularly the estimated 150,000 cinema workers who have been temporarily or completely laid off. And aside from all the major theater chains closing their doors last week, there are a lot more independently-owned cinemas who are at risk to lose a ton of money as the COVID-19 pandemic continues sweeping the globe.

However, one Virginia theater owner is getting creative. For the first time in almost 30 years, Mark O’Meara was forced to shut down operations on his two theaters in Fairfax, Virginia. It’s keeping him up at night – mainly because he’s worried about his workers losing the paychecks they depend on. He’s since decided to sell concessions on the curb of his movie theater and he’s reportedly making $300 to $400 a day.

The business owner runs two movie theaters in the area called University Mall and Cinema Arts. Mark O’Meara decided to sell popcorn for $3 after noticing his local McDonalds was still offering takeout options amidst public health concerns. According to Variety, O’Meara sold $25 worth of concessions in the first 45 minutes of opening his own kind of takeout option.

The independent theater chain has also collected a couple thousand dollars from customers who have bought gift cards online. Mark O’Meara said he has found luck spreading the word on Facebook since so many self-quarantined Virginians are spending more time on social media than usual. He has received a ton of emails from regulars asking how they can help keep his business afloat. In turn, O’Meara has been able to offer his employees another paycheck in the meantime. In his words:

Someone got her paycheck. I was watching her. She took out her calculator and she said, ‘Yes, I can pay the rent.’ That’s what it’s all about.

It’s a touching story from the 67-year-old theater owner as the entire movie industry continues to feel the economic effects of coronavirus. 19 major movies have been delayed from their scheduled dates now creeping all through June, including Wonder Woman 1984 and In The Heights. Trolls World Tour and The Lovebirds will skip a theatrical release altogether and will head to digital and streaming.

Many other movies have eliminated the traditional 90-day window that often goes between a film’s release date and availability on VOD. Said movies that have come early include Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey and Pixar’s Onward, and it was just announced The Call of the Wild and Downhill would be next.

The best way to help your local movie theater at a time like this is to stock up on gift cards or donate to them. Reach out to your local multiplex. Some independent theaters are offering at-home screenings to benefit their businesses as well.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Sarah El-Mahmoud

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.