Mark O'Meara via Variety

Movie Theater Owner Sells Popcorn To Help Pay Employees: 'I’ll Do What I Can'

Caitlyn Clancey 27 Mar 2020

As health officials continue to encourage social distancing, theaters all across the country have stopped screening films and have temporarily closed their doors to moviegoers.

These necessary closures have resulted in some 150,000 cinema workers being furloughed or let go completely. But one theater owner from Virginia isn't about to sit idly by and let his employees go without paychecks.

So he came up with a clever way to give people at least part of the movie experience they're now missing out on, while also raising money for his staff.

67-year-old Mark O’Meara owns two theaters in Fairfax, so he has plenty of workers to worry about during these closures.

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“I have a lot of kids working here that make a living on a shoestring, and I can’t pay that well,” he told Variety just two days before his theaters were forced to close. “They can’t afford to lose more than one or two shifts a week, and I don’t know what to do.”

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Once he shuttered both his cinemas, O'Meara knew he needed to do whatever he could to help support his staff.

Gettyimages | Karl Tapales

Inspired by a nearby McDonald's location that's now only offering takeout, this theater owner decided to open up a "curbside concession stand", offering people giants tubs of delicious movie popcorn for just $3.

“We have a parking lot the width of a sidewalk and nobody else is open, so there’s plenty of space,” he said. “I’ll do what I can to get these kids paid.”

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And thanks to the power of Facebook and word-of-mouth, O'Meara's curbside popcorn business is making some good money.

Mark O'Meara via Variety

On his first day selling the salty snack, it only took him about 45 minutes to sell $25 worth of popcorn. Now he reports he's averaging anywhere from $300-400 a day.

“Everyone is home, and nobody has anything to do except check Facebook,” he explained. “We’ve gotten tons of likes and comments and they’re all telling people, so it’s spreading.”

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Of course, selling popcorn in a parking lot isn't totally making up for profits lost during the theater closure.

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But O'Meara said he's already seeing the immense the impact his efforts have had on his staff, most of whom are under the age of 30 and who say the extra cash is helping them pay their bills.

“Someone got her paycheck,” he recalled. “I was watching her. She took out her calculator and she said, ‘Yes, I can pay the rent.’ That’s what it’s all about.”

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O'Meara said he's operated these two theaters in Fairfax for nearly three decades.

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His most loyal patrons have been reaching out to show their support during these difficult times, with the theaters making a couple thousand dollars through online gift cards. Some have even personally emailed O'Meara to ask how they can help keep him in business.

“I had tears in my eyes when I read those,” he said. “Customers say, ‘You don’t understand how much this place means to me.'”

h/t: Variety

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