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Business popping at movie theater

The popcorn is popping; the soda is flowing, and Cinema 5 in Detroit Lakes is back in full swing after a December cliffhanger.

The city's only movie theater closed briefly last month after the previous owners were evicted for failing to pay rent since July.

But new owners, Cinemagic, took over and had it re-opened in only a week -- just in time for the holiday rush.

Since then, the scene has changed at Cinema 5.

"We're happy," said Mara Avila, who was re-hired as the manager of the theater, "I didn't always have somebody backing me with the previous ownership, and now I do. I feel like if I have a problem I can call and he (Cinemagic owner Steve Tripp) will have it fixed. I feel more at ease."

Avila says when the Cinema was shut down, it was a bit surprising, but not completely.

"I knew our company was slowly getting rid of our other theaters around, and we were the last to go," said Avila, "I think they really wanted to keep us open, but,..." (She shrugged).

Avila wasn't out of a job for long, though, as she received a phone call from Tripp, who had served as the general manager for a different company back when it opened in the mall in 1986.

Tripp had been the one to hire Avila as a cashier then, and he'd be the one to hire her as manager now.

"That felt really good," said Avila.

And as the theater is once again buzzing, moviegoers might also notice that it's a bit cleaner these days.

That's due to a couple of things.

"The new company has a mandatory half hour between shows, so that gives us time to go in and clean up," said Avila, who says before the movies were scheduled only 5 to 10 minutes apart, "but now we can get in there and actually mop and sweep and clean it so well that it looks like nobody was in there."

She also adds that she no longer has tight budget restraints, which will allow her to schedule additional help during the busy times.

"We did a total cleaning everywhere and put new bulbs in -- we were missing quite a few bulbs," said Avila, "I had stipulations; there were certain things I couldn't do (before)."

The price of tickets also went down a bit, with regular tickets dropping from $8 to $7.75 and tickets for seniors and children under 11 dropping from $6.50 to $6.

There are also now weekday specials for the concession items.

Another big change moviegoers might notice is their new ability to use credit/debit cards -- a luxury they were not privy to before, as the theater only took cash and checks.

And not only are the theaters shined up, so is the staff.

Casual blue T-shirts were traded in for sharper, more formal vests and ties to add to the theater experience.

But just because the uniforms are new, doesn't mean the staff is.

Avila says all employees had to re-apply when the new owners came in, and almost all were re-hired.

"Which is good because we're all kind of like a family here -- all the kids, I've known them all for so many years," said Avila as she talked about how the "kids" who worked there surprised her by painting her office on one of her days off last year.

"In a small town you get that," she said, adding that she believes her employees are happier as well with more structure in place.

"Every place you work needs an outline," Avila said.

She says since re-opening, theater employees have heard a lot of positive feedback from customers, and that's been reflected in movie attendance.

"I've seen the figures are going up, and I've seen everybody just so happy," said Avila, "Like the kids and the uniforms they're wearing, I've hear a lot of people say, 'oh, it looks so nice in here,' so I've heard many positive comments."

And the changes will continue to roll out.

In the works are plans for a new digital system, which is expected sometime in March or April.

Throughout the year the theaters are also expected to see remodeling with new carpet, seats and the concession area.

"And I know they plan to put in one 3-D system, too," said Avila.

The theater also has new phone numbers.

The movie line is now 218-844-5220, and there is now have a direct number to the theater employees (which didn't exist before) and that is 218-844-5229.

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