A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

City of Princeton shows support for longtime movie theatre with purchases of popcorn and soft drinks

By Chip Hutchson
Kentucky Today

In the midst of stay-at-home orders in Kentucky, one community found a safe way to support a local business Sunday.

Cars lined up along Main Street and circled around to a parallel street — all for the purpose of pulling in front of a long-time movie theatre downtown to buy popcorn and a soft drink while showing its support of a small, locally-owned business.

“Capitol Cinemas is a bona fide institution in Princeton,” said Mayor Kota Young. “It’s also a well-known fact that you go the Capitol for the popcorn and stay for the movie,” he said in a Facebook post.

Cars lined up in front of Capitol Cinemas in Princeton Sunday afternoon for the opportunity to buy popcorn and other concessions. (Photo by Chip Hutcheson, Kentucky Today)

Many Caldwell County residents applauded the effort, posting Facebook messages and pictures of long lines of cars waiting for the opportunity to buy popcorn. The “Pop-Up Popcorn Sale lasted from 2-7 p.m. Sunday and featured concession prices based on the price list from 1996.

Young pointed out that the effort was a “safety conscious, drive-through popcorn sale.” Patrons waited in their cars for as long as two hours, and when they arrived at the theatre, employees wearing masks and donning personal protective equipment delivered popcorn, candy bars and soft drinks to eagerly-awaiting townspeople.

The theatre dates back to the early 1900s when it was known as the Savoy Theatre. That building was destroyed by fire in 1937, but construction for a new theatre was completed in early 1939 and renamed the Capitol Theatre. It had one screen and remained in business until the summer of 1986.

It art deco building remained closed for 10 years, gradually becoming an eyesore on Main Street as its facade deteriorated and the interior was vandalized on several occasions.

Former State Rep. Mike Cherry became instrumental in starting a “Save the Capitol” campaign in 1995. He teamed up with an Illinois theater operator and by December 1996, Capitol Cinemas opened — now having three screens.

Heidi Boyd worked alongside Cherry at the Capitol Cinemas, then in 2008 she and her husband bought the business.

Although having to close because of COVID-19, Boyd received a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program to continue paying employees.

“In a way this business runs on prayers,” Boyd said. “During this time my heart has been so full. This could have been an extremely difficult month for me if I had allowed fear to take over.

“This has been the best week in a long time so I’m out of my mind about this,” Boyd said. “I miss my local businesses — personally I can’t wait for when I can enter these places again and return my appreciation.”

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