The curtain won't be closing on Mineral Wells' movie theater, thanks to Austin-based Hometown Cinemas and owner Randy Hester.
With its Brazos Mall lease expiring and Foothills Cinema owner Byron Berkley looking to sell or close, Hester stepped in and purchased Brazos Cinema III while also renegotiating the lease. As of Friday, the local three-screen theater will be known as Hometown Brazos Cinema, the fifth movie theater in Hester's possession.
"Mineral Wells is the kind of market we like," said Hester during a midday interview Thursday inside his new acquisition. "We like small-town communities. A movie theater is an important part of the community."
Hester said the local theater will be active and engaged in the community.
A couple of things played in Hester's favor that led to his purchasing the local theater. One is his 30-year friendship with Berkley. Another is the local connection between the wife of Rhett Warren and Hester's oldest son. They, and their families, grew up together and are close friends.
Warren, president of the Mineral Wells Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, reached out to Hester when he learned of Berkley's interest in either selling or potentially closing the theater. With all of the positives taking place in the city, Warren said he did not want to see Mineral Wells lose its movie theater.
"The chamber is working to bring and keep businesses in Mineral Wells, especially one we consider important like our movie theater," Warren said.
Hester said Warren sold him on Mineral Wells.
"He started telling me about what Mineral Wells has going on and it got me interested," said Hester. "One thing led to another, and here we are and we are glad to be here."
Hometown Brazos Cinema will be the company's smallest property – the other four are located in Lockhart, Seguin, Gun Barrel City and Terrell and range in size from five to nine screens. The local theater and its offerings will be added to the company's website at http://www.hometowncinemas.com/.
Hester said the local theater will maintain a family feel and atmosphere, and several changes are in the works. The first is that ticket prices will be reduced. Adult tickets will drop to $6 each, while children's price will be cut a dollar to $4 per child.
"That's pretty substantial, for the better because we think going to a movie should be affordable," said Hester. "I've seen a lot of changes over the years, but one thing I know is going to movies is a time for families to come together and it shouldn't break the bank to do that."
He said movie patrons should also enjoy the experience through comfort and a friendly and courteous staff, which he said the local theater promises.
"People come to a movie theater and leave with a memory and hopefully a full stomach," Hester said.
Another change will be earlier show times. Movies will begin around 11 a.m. or 11:30 a.m., rather than early afternoon. Hester said that is good for both families with young children and for senior adults, especially during the summer.
He said there will be changes in some concession offerings, and the theater will offer more promotional items. They already have available child "Toy Story" popcorn holders, oned patterned after Buzz Lightyear and the little green men, to go with the current and immensely popular "Toy Story 4" movie.
Also, Hometown Brazos Cinema will be one of a limited number of theaters nationwide to offer what is called "The Chalis," promoting next Tuesday's local much-anticipated debut of the latest release from Marvel Studios, "Spider-Man: Far From Home."
For $15, the take-home souvenir holds 88 ounces of popcorn on top and 44 ounces of ice cold drink at the bottom, which is enjoyed through a straw rising from the lower cup through the popcorn and through a domed top complete with a retractable opening. A neck strap helps make sure nothing is spilled or lost while watching the movie. The theater has just 60 to sell beginning Friday.
Hester said he understands movie-goers have other options such as the large complex in Weatherford. He thinks there are plenty of people who want to stay in town and don't need all the trappings, and expense, of a larger theater and entertainment venue.
"I think there's room for a local option that is affordable, and I can tell you the movies are exactly the same," Hester said.