Cinemas are among the many industries that have been hit hard by the novel coronavirus pandemic. With officials urging people to avoid crowds, the only options left for movie fans are streaming services, home collections, and drive-in theaters. University Mall and Cinema Arts in Fairfax, Virginia, are no longer screening films, but in an effort to continue paying employees, their owner is offering another unique movie theater experience: popcorn.
As Variety reports, Mark O’Meara, the 67-year-old owner of both cinemas, has taken his concessions to the curb. Now, customers can drive to the parking lot of the Cinema Arts Theatre and get a large tub of popcorn to go for $3. After rolling out the promotion on March 18, O'Meara made $25 in 45 minutes. Today he's selling roughly $300-to-$400 worth of product a day outside his business.
Money from the popcorn sales is going to the staff members who lost their shifts when University Mall and Cinema Arts were forced to close earlier in March. As O'Meara tells Variety, most of his employees are under 30, and the extra cash is helping them pay their bills at a time when it's unclear when they'll be able to work again.
O'Meara has operated cinemas in Fairfax, Virgina, for nearly three decades. Even though the theaters themselves are closed, loyal patrons are finding other ways to show their support. O'Meara says he's brought in close to a couple thousand dollars in online gift cards since the crisis started. Many independent theaters across the country are depending on this source of income to stay afloat.