Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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May 21, 2013

W.Va. theater offers free popcorn, drink refills

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Larry Miller topped his movie theater popcorn with butter, filled his drink cup with Sierra Mist and started back for seconds before his 2:40 p.m. showing.

The 27-year-old planned to add more of the buttery, salty snack and a mixture of the lemon-lime soda with Tropicana juice on round two.

He asked why wouldn't he? All the refills are free.

Park Place Stadium Cinemas downtown recently introduced its complete self-serve concession system.

Moviegoers have been able to buy a $3.25 small or $3.75 large drink and refill it for free with another Pepsi product, ICEE frozen drink or tea for the past couple of weeks, said Greg Pauley, vice president of the Greater Huntington Theatre Corp., which owns the Charleston cinema.

Free chili and cheese refills for nachos have also been an option since May 3, he said.

But four large, brand new warmers with "popcorn" in bright red lights and the neon yellow snack packed inside stood across from the concession stand recently.

After customers buy a $4 small bag, $5 large bag, or $6 tub of popcorn they walk over to the self-serve stand and pull the handle to release the popped kernels. If they want to add butter before the bag is full, they'll just have to push a button in the center of the stand.

Then, they can go back to filling the bag with more popcorn, adding more butter or — if salt alone isn't enough — patrons can choose one of five seasonings to sprinkle on top.

Park Place pops its own kernels and tosses nearly 90 gallons of popcorn into each dispensing unit.

The four self-serve popcorn stands cost $36,000 combined, Pauley said. While that's expensive, he said it's all part of the change Park Place must go through to continue today.

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