The Englewood Cinema that has been closed since 2015 has reopened.
The theater’s new owners George Rand and Luke Sowers first looked at the vacant theater in July. About $15,000, in addition to the mechanical fixes the landlord contributed, and three months later, the theater held its grand opening on Friday, Oct. 25.
“We always knew we wanted to start a business,” Sowers said. “We’re both really into movies, so when we first found it, we knew that it needed to be saved. We knew that there was life left in it, that the community once loved it.”
When the pair first walked into the 320 National Road space with the Realtor, it was in rough shape, Sowers said. It didn’t have carpet, cobwebs hung all around and it smelled like it had been closed for more than four years. Two months of cleaning resulted in new carpet, new paint on the entire interior, new equipment, electrical work, plumbing updates and HVAC fixes, he said.
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“We know a few people around town who have lived here a long time and who have had events here,” Rand said. “The nostalgia they had for it. It was almost like you could see the excitement in their eyes, us even talking about the idea of potentially buying it.”
The grand opening featured a lineup of classical movies like Back to the Future and Indiana Jones, along with second-run movies that show after their first appearances in other theaters.
Initially closed on Monday and Tuesday, hours will include 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Thursday, noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
All tickets the first two weeks will be $1. After that tickets will be $4 with a $2 deal day on Wednesday.
By the end of the year, Rand and Sowers hope to buy a first-run projector, which will then be primarily what the 308-seat, one-screen theater will show. The schedule will also likely be expanded to six days once first-runs begin, Sowers said.
Rand will handle the marketing and scheduling side, Sower’s will take care of day-to-day operations and Sower’s wife Alyssa will be in charge of accounting and booking movies.
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“In this time of strong globalization, you’re hard-pressed to find a local business nowadays,” Sowers said. “I’m a local guy, I want to do local business with local businesses and I think that’s how the citizen of Engelwood is and just the Dayton area in general.”
Now in their mid-20s, Sowers and Rand have known each other since about fifth grade. The Riverside-raised friends have always been interested in doing something for the community, Rand said.
“Obviously the reopening will definitely provide another avenue for our residents for entertainment locally,” said Bill Singer, economic development director of Englewood. “It’s hard to fit use when you have a cinema. I don’t know that there’s another good redevelopment use other than a cinema…hopefully it provides some synergy for that shopping center.”
Other small, downtown theaters have seen some new life over the last few years as towns rally to reinvigorate their historic theaters.
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Miamisburg’s Historic Plaza Theatre reopened on Christmas Day 2015 after closing in 1960 and sitting vacant since 2002. The 100-year-old theater drew tens of thousands of customers last year, many from outside of the city.
Combined with 2016 and 2017, the theater surpassed its 42,000 three-year goal in 2018.
The long-vacant downtown Fairborn Theater also saw new life earlier this month when it screened for the first time a documentary called Hero in Ohio by Fairborn graduate Jordan Terrell. Terrell will enter the documentary to a couple of different film festivals, said assistant city manager Michael Gebhart.
The Fairborn Development Corporation, an economic development arm of the city, owns the theater, which attracted about 300 people to the two showing of Hero in Ohio.
“They had some hurdles to overcome because that theater hasn’t been open in over two decades,” Gebhart said. “It went really really well. We hope it generates additional interest in reactivating the theater.”
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