Need to modernize closes Ambridge theater doors ... for now
Behind tall, black doors awaits an empty lobby covered in a red and white wallpaper design with a small glass display counter showcasing an array of candy.
Posters from two Disney films — “Planes” and “Maleficent” — hang on nearby walls.
On a back wall, behind the counter filled with candy and not far from a sign displaying popcorn and soft drink prices — a large popcorn is $2.75, as is a large soft drink — is a “One for the Money” movie poster from the 2012 film starring Katherine Heigl — which premiered at the Ambridge Family Theatre not far from where scenes were filmed.
For now, though, the closest anyone can get to the candy counter is by peeking through windows in the doors along Merchant Street.
Broken equipment that would necessitate a too-costly switch to digital equipment forced owners Rick and Glenda Cockrum to close the 47-year-old theater with little notice to patrons earlier this month.
Community organizer Felicia Mycyk said she hopes that one day soon, moviegoers once again will be able to grab some popcorn and a drink to watch a movie, though. But before that can happen, Mycyk is hoping those same patrons and others will open their wallets to help keep the longtime Ambridge business operating.
“It means community,” Mycyk said. “I don't have a bar where everybody knows my name. This is the theater where everyone knows you. (Glenda) knows everyone who comes in, everyone walking by.”
Mycyk is attempting to raise $80,000 through a GoFundMe account to help support the reopening of the theater. But the money she raises won't support the Cockrums.
Owners since the 1990s, the Cockrums say their time with the theater is over, and they are seeking a buyer for the building and business.
“We've been quietly seeking a new buyer for about six months,” Glenda Cockrum, 58, said. “This kicked it into high gear.”
Now, the Cockrums play the waiting game and hoping someone with community interest and money comes forward to keep the theater going.
“It's hard to explain that this is not a big business that's going to be pulling in a lot of money,” Glenda Cockrum said. “It never was about that. It's about keeping the community alive and vital.”
The theater had displayed movies on 35mm film, and the Cockrums knew it was only a matter of time before the equipment failed, Glenda Cockrum said.
A switch to digital equipment, plus roof repairs and building maintenance, could cost more than $60,000, Glenda Cockrum said — money she and her husband aren't willing to borrow. Money from the GoFundMe account could be used by new owners to offset those costs.
Health issues among the two and a desire to spend more time with family weighed on the couple's decision to look for a buyer, Glenda Cockrum said.
“I don't want it to close,” she said.
Mycyk, of Baden, said the loss of the theater is troubling for Ambridge, a community she wants to see improve and prosper.
“This is home. This is where you raise your kids at. People come back home because this is comfortable,” said Mycyk, who is a Quaker Valley graduate. “I have four kids. I want them to take pride in where they're from. I don't want this town to die.”
Fires last month destroyed Rooks Cantina 505 and a bridal consignment shop. In 2012, a fire destroyed the former Charles Men's Store.
“We're a couple more stories away from being a bad place,” Mycyk said. “But we have a decision to make. We can choose to change the area.
“We're not Sewickley and we're not Aliquippa. So no one gives a damn about us.”
Bobby Cherry is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach himat firstname.lastname@example.org.