Q&A: Big screen still attracts crowd in digital age
The River Cinema movie theater in East Grand Forks is a hot spot on Valentine's Day—and many other days.
Manager Penny Stai said that the theater stays busy, even in the age of internet streaming. Stai's father, Bob Moore, has owned movie theaters for nearly 40 years, when the competition wasn't streaming, but VHS movies.
The first theater he bought was in Blackduck, Minn. Soon after, he purchased theaters in Fosston, Minn., Crookston and finally East Grand Forks.
"This is our biggest venture yet," Stai said.
The River Cinema has 15 screens and sees about 400,000 customers a year. There is something about the experience of sitting with family and friends in a theater that just doesn't happen when watching Netflix on the couch, Stai said.
Q: What is your position with the movie theater and how long have you worked there?
A: I've worked at and managed the River Cinema since we opened it in December of 2007. My brothers manage the theaters in Fosston and Crookston.
Q: Is Valentine's Day historically a busy night for you?
A: It depends on what day Valentine's Day falls on. This year, since Valentine's Day is on a Thursday, business will be spread out over Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Four years ago when Valentine's Day fell on a Saturday we had over 4,500 customers in the theater just on that day. It is actually easier for us when it's more spread out, but we will definitely have a very good weekend.
Q: What is your favorite Valentine's Day movie? What seems to be a popular movie showing now?
A: I like sweet, romantic movies like "Dear John," "Sleepless in Seattle," "When Harry Met Sally" etc. Sometimes they'll show the classics around Valentine's Day. We just have normal ones this year, "Happy Death Day 2 U," "Isn't it Romantic" and "Cold Pursuit"—which that one is not really a date night movie, but it's really popular, maybe people coming out for Liam Neeson.
Q: What is your favorite thing about working at the theater?
A: I love running the theater and taking care of everything. I've been doing this since I was 12, my whole life I've been in the entertainment and theater business. And our whole family is involved, it's really fun. They understand when I have to work on Valentine's Day or Christmas and it's nice to have a family-owned, family-run business here. There's not too many of them these days.
Q: Do you feel that movie streaming services have hurt movie theaters? Why do you feel that people still come out to see movies on the big screen when they can get them directly on their technology?
A: To me, it's like you can go buy groceries and eat them at home or you can get together with your friends and family at the Blue Moose. It's that you like to get out of the house and see your family. If you can buy groceries, why would you ever go out to eat? It's social. You can watch the hockey game on TV, or you can actually go and hear the roar of the crowd and have a beer with your friends. It's become something people like to do. We're social creatures.