by Mark Van Streefkerk
When COVID-19 forced Columbia City’s Ark Lodge Cinemas to shutter their doorways in March, the sudden decline in earnings dealt a staggering blow to the South End’s few unbiased motion picture theaters. Owner David McRae swiftly introduced several fundraising tactics, and now new handling director Justin Pritchett delivers Popcorn Weekends to the Ark. Pulling from his experience in movie theater meals and beverage functions, Pritchett has major programs for preserving the Ark afloat, now and lengthy just after the pandemic.
Pritchett became managing director of the Ark Lodge at the finish of October, doing work carefully with McRae on both short time period and extensive time period survival strategies for the Ark. In September when the landlords set the building on the marketplace for $2.5 million, McRae started off an formidable capital marketing campaign and GoFundMe with the aim of elevating $3 million to get the setting up. Securing the nearly 100-12 months-old Masonic developing will make certain Columbia Town and the South End have an independent theater for yrs to come. As element of the increased fundraising aim, this month McRae and Pritchett started out Popcorn Weekends on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pritchett sets up a pop-up at the entrance to the theater, shielded by a plastic divider, and sells bags of flavored popcorn alongside with other theater candies and tender drinks. This weekend Pritchett will debut a mini donut generating machine with quite a few flavor possibilities. Luggage (130 oz) of butter flavor popcorn market for $5, and special flavors like chocolate or caramel popcorn are $6.
“The most important target is to really raise awareness with the neighborhood, to permit them know what we’re carrying out, what we have in retail outlet and prepared,” Pritchett stated. “We do have a program. And we have a strategy to diversify.”
For the foreseeable potential, Pritchett will go on the Popcorn Weekends, as properly as increasing to bulk popcorn gross sales with several taste kinds for the duration of the 7 days. He will also work with McRae to revamp and expand the Ark’s virtual cinema offerings. Pritchett is optimistic that in January, or each time COVID-19 limits rest, the Ark will be equipped to provide non-public rentals, in compliance with rigid basic safety steps.
Immediately after it is risk-free to resume considerably-standard cinema operations, Pritchett states the Ark is “not likely to be just a film theater heading ahead, it is likely to be a motion picture theater and neighborhood-form heart.” Pritchett and McRae intend to repurpose the Ruby Space, previously recognized as The Prestige Area, as a multi-reason area. “People can have business meetings, be able to buy catering for it. If they are getting a birthday get together, a marriage, truly anything at all you can think about. If they want to provide their Xbox and hook it up so they can enjoy video clip games, they can actually make it their living area.”
Pritchett also imagines the Ark being readily available for use for movie classes, or a location in which youth filmmakers can display screen their possess motion pictures. He also would like to establish a ghost kitchen area on the 2nd flooring, a move particularly effective in the wave of pandemic-inspired pop-ups. As effectively as staying readily available to lease for regional chefs, Pritchett wants to spotlight certain places to eat or cuisines, particularly in coordination with particular films or situations. “If there is My Major Unwanted fat Greek Marriage 3, we can locate a Greek kitchen area and have them occur in and provide Greek meals,” he spelled out. “Food is 1 of my passions.”
A great deal of Pritchett’s very own everyday living has revolved all over film theaters. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Pritchett’s family members moved to the Shoreline area when he was 2. “When I was a kid in the initial and second quality, I lived right down the road from the Crest Cinemas,” he remembered. “That’s exactly where I genuinely started off acquiring the joy of likely to the flicks, conference my pals at the 7-Eleven and sneaking in snacks to the Crest and heading to view a $2 movie.”
Pritchett commenced doing work at the Metro Cinema (now the AMC Seattle 10) in the University District in 2005 as a ground employees employee. In simple fact, it was at the Metro in which he fulfilled his spouse Cedar. Due to the fact the Metro was portion of the Landmark theater chain, Pritchett also helped out at other Landmark theaters like the Varsity, Guild 45, Egyptian, Harvard Exit, and Seven Gables. He innovative to change guide, assistant manager, and later meals and beverage supervisor as Metro changed above to Sundance Cinemas, which was afterwards obtained by AMC.
In 2017, Pritchett and his spouse and children moved to California where he labored as food stuff and beverage director for Korean-dependent film theater organization CGB Cinemas. He highly developed to director of operations at CGB, in advance of the loved ones made a decision to shift again to Seattle this calendar year to be closer to Cedar’s grandmother. Pritchett was introduced to McRae via a mutual projectionist friend. Pritchett and McRae strike it off after an preliminary two-and-a-50 percent-hour phone dialogue about the Ark Lodge and cinema operations. Shortly soon after, McRae offered Pritchett the place of managing director.
“[The Ark] reminds me so substantially of a theater that could have been element of the Landmark chain,” Pritchett claimed. “It’s like a mixture of the Varsity, Harvard Exit, and the Guild all-in-a person. It felt like I was coming into a theater I experienced been performing in for several years.”
In a Facebook post, McRae proudly announced Pritchett and his family would be the eventual new entrepreneurs of the cinema with the passing of the Golden Reel. “His relatives has been in the film theater organization business for all of his existence,” Pritchett mentioned. “I can see the joy that it delivers when he watches my 6-year-previous Khaleesi run all around in the theater.”
If McRae and Pritchett get the funding and help they want, the Ark Lodge could carry on to be a household-operate neighborhood hub for a long time to arrive.
Pritchett urges supporters to invest in popcorn at Popcorn Weekends, add to the GoFundMe, and allow legislators know that “small theaters are enterprises as well” when it arrives to getting support.
Mark Van Streefkerk is a South Seattle-primarily based journalist dwelling in the Beacon Hill community.
Showcased picture: Picture by Clare McGrane
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