Stadium Cinemas in Payson held a celebration to mark 20 years in business on May 2. There was popcorn, candy, and rows of smiling faces — but no movies.
Due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, movie theaters around the state and country are closed. But because 20 years is such a landmark occasion, theater owner Kris Phillips wanted to do something special to thank the community that has supported her family-owned business. So, she along with Stadium Cinemas employees and a handful of businesses, held a curbside popcorn and treats pick-up event.
“For the past several weeks since we’ve been shut down, we have had free popcorn events for people to drive up and pick up curbside,” Phillips said. “We’ve been giving out the first bag free and charging five dollars per bag after that. The community has loved it, so we decided that we would hold one more event and invite other businesses to come and join. We held a curbside drive through from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday and had a steady stream of cars the entire time. It was wonderful.”
Phillips spoke about her time as a theater owner in Payson — a time she says has been filled with learning and growing.
“My family is originally from Alaska, and my dad decided to open up a theater here in Payson,” she said. “We broke ground in October of 1999, and then my dad passed away in January of 2000, so it kind of fell in my lap. The location has been a bit of a detriment, since we are kind of tucked in the back corner of nowhere, but the community has been so supportive. We have seen many changes in the industry, particularly when all theaters were supposed to convert to digital projectors. That was half a million dollars we didn’t have, but we were thankfully able to get through that, and have experienced steady growth as the years have gone on.”
Phillips said nobody in the industry was prepared for everything to shut down, but she is grateful for the people in the community for being so supportive.
“Payson is a great town filled with wonderful people,” she said. “I just love the small town feel. We have our regulars who we know by name, and we have so many great kids who come. We really have the best kids here in Payson.”
While the governor has not yet given the “yellow” light for theaters to open up yet, Phillips says that when he does, they will be ready.
“We may not have been showing movies the past couple of months, but we have been working hard,” Philips said. “We have been cleaning a lot and collaborating with other theaters on ways to hinder the spread of the virus when we do open back up — things like limiting the things that people touch, and keeping people separated. It’s all been very new and hard, but we’ll do what we need to in order to keep the public safe.”
Phillips said that there is a chance that theaters may open up mid-May, but even if they do, new movies won’t be released until July. Even so, Phillips said that the theater will have older movies playing on the big screen.
“If we are able to open up in May, we will play some of the classics,” Philips said. “There are some movies that are just better in the theaters. We hope people will come and watch with us.”
Stadium Cinemas is located at 633 South 950 West in Payson. To stay updated on happenings and when the theater will open up, go to the company’s Facebook page. (Brown is a Serve Daily contributor.)