By Dan McDermott
Warren/Frederick County Report
Early on in the great economic shutdown that has accompanied the arrival of the COVID-19 virus from Wuhan, China, Royal Cinemas of Front Royal owner Rick Novak posted a motivational sign atop his theater, saying “We’ll get through this together but apart.”
The sign changed last Friday.
“We meant that but now things are getting a little dire six or seven weeks later. We closed on March 17th or 19th so it’s been seven weeks I guess. We agreed to and went along with sheltering in place so we could flatten the curve so hospitals and medical systems wouldn’t be overwhelmed. If that’s the reason we were asked to shelter in place we achieved that goal. Since hospitals are laying people off and considering bankruptcies of their own I’m pretty sure we achived that goal. So now it is time to start reopening so we changed our messaging,” he said.
In a message aimed squarely at Virginia’s Governor, the marquee now reads, “TIME IS RUNNING OUT RALPH NORTHAM…WE NEED TO REOPEN OR BE CLOSED FOREVER.”
This isn’t Novak’s only sign.
“The same day, we started putting a post at the bowling center [also owned by Novak] telling how much we have lost. At the bowling alley we’ve lost $107,000 in total revenue so far. My rent is $12,000 a month at the bowling center. The theater has lost about $101,000 in revenue and rent is $5,000 a month,” he said.
“I’m a pretty determined person. I’ve never asked for help before. I’ve never made an appeal. Being slow is one thing but going to zero is very different.
“Things were looking pretty good for us coming out of the winter, especially with a Marvel movie coming up. But zero is zero.
“At the bowling center I think we’ll get out of this by late May or early June. We’ll probably use half our lanes. But I’ll take less revenue over zero any day of the week.
“At the theater we can probably open on that same timeline but the studios aren’t going to release any national movies until about mid July so that’s about two months.”
“We hope to reopen on the 22nd of May with Scoob!, Trolls World Tour and I Still Believe. But we’ll take requests. There is a whole generation that hasn’t seen Titanic or E.T. We have a lot of flexibility until July. Our admission prices will be reduced while we are offering previously released titles,” he said.
In the meantime, the theater will offer curbside concessions. “Starting today from 5:30 to 8:30 we will have our staff outside offering curbside concessions and gift cards. Popcorn, soda, nachos, pretzels, Siberian Chills, Crispy Critters and all our usual candy fare. We have details on our facebook page,” he said.
Novak moved to Front Royal around 1990 and he and his wife were partners with her parents running the Blue Ridge Motel. He delivered pizza for Domino’s to make ends meet.
They got into the movie theater business in 1994.
If you are in the area of Main Street in Front Royal this evening, the popcorn smells great.