Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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May 21, 2013

W.Va. theater offers free popcorn, drink refills

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Movie theater employees have been handing popcorn across the counter for years.

"That's how it's always been done," he said.

But sometimes, a business has to try something different. In this case, the customers really like it, he said.

"It's all about allowing customers to really make everything the way that they like it and it gives them a lot more flexibility," Pauley said. "We've been selling concessions in theaters for 75 years now and sometimes it's time to make a change."

Park Place has made other changes in the past year to attract more movie watchers to its theater, he said.

Pauley said the company has spent $100,000 to remodel the theater's lobby by adding new tiling, concession stand counters, paint, the popcorn units and other updates.

The theater spent $800,000 last year to add digital projectors with digital sound.

Pauley said the self-serve concession stand, however, is the "most drastic" change Park Place has seen since it opened in 1980.

"With the digital projectors, some people may not know the difference between projectors and film, but when people walk into the theater now, they're going to say, 'Wow, this is different,'" Pauley said.

Park Place Manager Michael Tawney said the self-serve popcorn machines intimidated some customers when they made their debut.

One woman, who purchased a drink and a bag for popcorn, accidentally filled her drink cup with popcorn.

"Everything has gone smoothly today but we're all learning," Tawney said. "It's not just the customers learning, it's a learning experience for all of us."

Pauley said the self-serve stations wouldn't replace any of Park Place's 35 employees, who will still run the popcorn machine, take orders at the concession counter, and keep the stations full and clean.

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