Couple buys Strand movie theater in Paw Paw; may expand showings
Published: Sunday, November 21, 2010, 9:00 AM
Pregnant with her first child, Amy Sons knew she wouldn’t want to work full time after the baby was born.
And realistically, a part-time position would still require paying for daycare and a 60-mile daily commute.
So she and her husband, Casey Sons, bought the Strand Theatre in downtown Paw Paw, which has been for sale for about a year.
“I’m sure a lot of couples had the same conversation about how fun it would be to run a theater” after learning the 1927 movie house was available,” said Amy Sons, 32. “We asked (owners Brian and Denise Nugteren) if we could spend a couple nights with them to get a better feel of what the job would take. … We took lessons on how to run the projector.”
Neither member of the Paw Paw couple have previous experience running a movie house.
But after a couple of months of research, behind-the-counter training and weighing their options, the Sons put in a bid, which was accepted.
“I guess overall it’s because we’re having a baby” that they bought the theater, said Amy Sons, who declined to state the sale price.
Casey Sons, 33, will keep working at his job at Whirlpool Corp. and help out on the Thursday through Monday evenings the theater is open. Amy has quit her human resources position at Kaiser Aluminum in Kalamazoo.
They took over the 304-seat theater Nov. 11 and showed “Secretariat.” It ran all weekend without a hitch, but that first day was “one of the most nerve racking days of my life,” Amy Sons said, until the film showed up that morning and she knew it was properly loaded on the projector.
“By Sunday we had all the big glitches worked out,” she said. “We learned it was more important to make more popcorn and let the next person wait 15 seconds so we don’t run out for the next 20 people.”
The new owners are thinking about adding show times or possibly even a second movie in the spring or summer, Amy Sons said. Currently, the theater shows one movie five nights per week at 7 p.m.
Admission will remain the same, she said. Prices are $1.50 per person on Thursday, $3 on Friday and Saturday, and $2 on Sunday and Monday.
The Strand is an independent second-run theater, showing movies after they have made their debut a few weeks earlier. Amy Sons said she works with an agent out of Port Huron to secure shows for the theater.
“We’re trying to figure out what does well in Paw Paw at the Strand,” she said. “This is a very family oriented community. (What they choose to show there is) not necessarily what was No. 1 at the box office.”
With the baby due Dec. 13, Amy Sons said she has lined up volunteers to pitch in to help if she goes into labor before the theater closes for two weeks on Dec. 23. Otherwise, she hopes patrons, who have seen her in recent weeks, are understanding if they come for a movie one night and find a note on the door.
“Ultimately we hope that doesn’t happen,” she said. “I’m banking on this baby being late.”
Although Dad plans to watch the new addition while Mom works at the theater, Denise Nugteren has showed her the counter area where her daughter hung out as a baby, Amy Sons said.
“Brian and Denise had the theater for 28 years. The owners before them had the theater for 28 years. There’s a precedent,” Amy Sons said. “We’re here for the long haul.”