As discount movie theaters become as scarce as rain, one such theater in Tempe not only is thriving but recently underwent $350,000 worth of remodeling.
Pollack Tempe Cinemas at McClintock Drive and Elliot Road is a labor of love for East Valley strip mall mogul Michael Pollack.
He never intended to get into the theater business, but he relishes the opportunity to bring low-cost entertainment to area residents. He frequents the theater several times a week and visits with patrons.
The theater itself, as is the case with most discount theaters, is a money-losing enterprise, but Pollack supports it through his retail redevelopment work.
“The typical sub-run theater would have less than half the employees that we have,” he said. “We truly want to make sure that people have a real experience. I would never do it again because it was a very costly theater to put together.”
Seven years ago, Pollack purchased the shopping center that houses the theater, and at that time the theater was losing $300,000 a year and was slated to close.
“I thought well, OK, I’ll close it, too,” Pollack said. “I’ll retrofit it and put somebody else in. When I unofficially announced I was going to close it, I must have had 1,000, maybe more than 1,000, letters, e-mails and telephone calls from people who loved it so much, and they were going there for years, and they didn’t want me to close it.”
So Pollack decided to keep it open, and earlier this year he chose to renovate the theater with new screens, new sound walls and new wax figurines, including life-size wax figures of the last six U.S. presidents.
“It’s a very unique theater because it’s not just a theater, it’s not just going to the movies,” he said. “I tell people, and I mean it sincerely, it is truly the best entertainment value that you can get for your dollar.”
The theater includes a game room in front and a virtual museum in the lobby with wax figures from Hollywood’s past and present; autographs and autographed pictures; and a collection of lunchboxes from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
“We’re now adding what’s called the starry light, starry night, and basically it’s fiber optics inside portions of the theater that looks like you’re looking up at the twinkling stars,” Pollack said. “We run this theater as if it was a first-run and yet it’s a sub-run.”
Pollack enjoys watching moviegoers marvel at his collection of figures and memorabilia.
“There’s just so many neat things to see and do,” he said. “We don’t really have a wax museum in Arizona, and a lot of people don’t get the opportunity to travel, so they’re able to see all these life-size wax museum figures ... like Al Pacino in ‘Scarface’ and Mel Gibson in ‘The Road Warrior.’ ”
Judith Aguayo and her teenage son, Charles Williams, have been frequenting the theater for as long as they can remember.
“I’m a single parent raising two kids, and it’s reasonably priced and enjoyable,” she said. “You get to look at all the things that have to do with Hollywood and the presidents, and so on. It’s just altogether an entertainment area.”