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Theater Struggles To Keep Rolling

Michael Packett and his wife had $12 left in the bank after buying Forest City's Retro Cinema four years ago. 

"I wanted my kids to have somewhere to go, something to do," said Packett of the decision to invest.

Over the years, the family painstakingly built the business with Michael working longing hours to improve the theater and its reputation.

"In comparison to what we did the first year, we are up about 400 percent," says Packett from behind the Retro Cinema counter.

The business lost money at first but as word got out and more tickets sold, last year it turned a profit and this year - if it stays open - Packett says it's set to turn another.

"I guess that what hurts the most is, if it was something we had done wrong as business owners ... but that is not the situation ... our business is growing," said Packett.

Hollywood film distributors have chosen to switch to a digital format, and that decision means that packett - and thousands of small theater owners nationwide - will have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy digital-compatible projectors if they want to keep playing movies.

"The position of the banks is that the business is profitable, but it doesn't make enough to support a $300,000 debt," said Packett.

For packett, the idea of letting the business go is devastating.

"Since he found out everything that's happening, and he got turned down three different times for the loans, it's really tore him up inside," said Packett's daughter Ciara, who has worked at the theater since it opened.

Packett says it's not about him, it's about the community. The theater draws business to restaurants locally, and draws people from out of town, and he says he'll fight to stay open.

To find out about fundraising events planned for Retro Cinema, or hear how to help, you can visit their Facebook page

Follow Ashlea Surles on Twitter @AshleaSurles


 



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