Going Local: Survival and Revival of PCT

By Cassandra Stephens

Step back in time, escape the daily hustle, and get comfortable at the Pocono Community Theater

Neighboring a firehouse, church, and local eateries, the Pocono Community Theater (PCT),  which is less than a mile from ESU on South Courtland Street, is a non-profit movie theater that serves as a hub for Pocono locals.  In the 1800s, the PCT location showed vitascope projection films. The theater was the first place in the area to show moving pictures by Thomas Edison. The PCT building was first erected in 1929, on the brink of the Great Depression. After a large fire, which destroyed most of the theater’s original interior, it was reopened in early 1930. “Even during the depression, people still came to the movies. It was a cultural community experience. It gave people hope,” said Kimberly Fisher, PCT’s General Manager.

Its quaint, cozy atmosphere still holds the gumption necessary to survive through depression and disaster, and it is this spirit that continually revives the theater. “My grandmother used to tell me stories about her visits to the theater,” said Fisher, “It really is a huge part of the history and community of this area, and its people who appreciate the local businesses that keep the theater going.”

Upon entering the theater, members and ordinary patrons alike are greeted with sincerity and helpfulness. These rare qualities are just the beginning of the PCT experience that sets this theater apart.

Breathing their motto, PCT guests “experience the difference” at the concession stand, where enchanting selections of hot apple cider and spiced brown sugar lattes are now seasonally available. The full-service café offers coffee, lattes, teas, and specialty cocas, which are all handcrafted and piping hot for maximum enjoyment.  Also available are handcrafted Italian sodas, sunflower oil popcorn with real butter, and plenty of smiles and enthusiasm from the paid and volunteer staff. “We just got a new popcorn machine,” said Fisher. “I call it Albert, or just Bert. The espresso machine is Ernie. Bert and Ernie,” she laughs, demonstrating the independent flair of the theater.

Quirkiness aside, Fisher is very serious about giving the best possible value and service to the PCT patrons.  “When we sell popcorn or a beverage, we give people the value of the cost. If they pay $3.50 for popcorn, we are going to give them every penny of that $3.50. There’s no other theater that even sells popcorn for so little, and we make sure they get the best value,” said Fisher. She explained, “We want [our guests] to be satisfied. If you’re not happy, we’re not happy. We want to give the people what they want, and by doing so, we are doing a service for this community.”

Although PCT is rarely overcrowded, there are approximately 4,000 visitors every month. Fisher is trying to increase that number by offering more free community events, film festivals, and even a Silent Films Series at discounted rates. “It takes a projectionist, two café managers, a manager, a bookkeeper, nine board members, and the entire community to keep the theater active,” explained Fisher.

Currently, the PCT has over 700 members, and these “memberships support the cost of running the theater,” said Fisher.  A lot of benefits come with PCT Membership, such as discounts at many local restaurants, shopping establishments, and services.

At large corporate theaters, its hard to find the dedicated, professional people committed to working at a small, independent theater such as PCT. For example, Michael Sherry, a projectionist at PCT, is also a film director for Hollow Tree Films. On November 4th, the PCT will be showing a feature length film and a few shorts from the Hollow Tree Films LLC Film Production Company, a Pocono Mountain Film Festival 2009 award winning company.

While many staff members are paid, there are volunteer positions that greatly help the theater. The web designer is an ESU student, and there is also a volunteer who works on grants. For those looking to get involved, the PCT is searching to fill the position of marketing volunteer, which “would be a great opportunity for an ESU student,” said Fisher.

ESU students would also be interested in the upcoming events at the theater, which are all very affordable, if not free of charge.  On October 1st at 10PM, the PCT will be showing The Poseidon Adventure as part of its Film Revival Series. Tickets are on sale for $6.75, and the showing is done with blu-ray, making the quality unbeatable.  The PCT is also running a Silent Films Series, and on October 27th, guests can see both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Metropolis, four live bands, and participate in a costume contest for only $5. “This is a really cool experience for students, because they probably have never seen these films before and to experience it on the big screen is fantastic,” said Fisher.

Aside from the various discounted events taking place at the theater, ESU students receive discounted tickets to any show, provided they show their E-Cards at the time of purchase. Many students will be pleased to discover that PCT will host a midnight premiere of Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 on November 18th. Tickets for this event go on sale October 15th, so be sure to reserve a spot.

For those looking to participate in a more formal event, the PCT will be hosting the 3rd Annual Red Carpet Event Fundraiser at the Stroudsmoor Terraview on November 11th at 6PM. This fundraiser features a fashion show, silent auction, entertainment by Bob Dorough, dinner and dancing, and live music by KATO. Tickets are available to the general public for $75 per person.

“Don’t rule us out,” said Fisher, “We are not just an ‘arts’ theater. We are not just independent films. We’re showing the movies you want to see.” And she’s completely right. Right now, the PCT is showing The Help, which has been the theater’s most successfully attended movie to date, Contagion, and Moneyball. This week, 50/50, starring Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, will be added to the lineup.

“The best thing about going to the movie theater is the escape,” explained Fisher. “You can come here and no one will bother you. The worst interruption is someone going to the bathroom. You can turn off your phone, sit in the silence, and become completely immersed in the movie world.”

With the soon-to-open Cinemark Theater at the Stroud Mall, the PCT worries it will crumble under the competition. Be a part of something unique and inspiring by supporting the Pocono Community Theater. Watch movies alongside directors and projectionists. Becoming active in the local community is just a movie away.

For more information about this local gem, visit http://poconocommunitytheater.org, or simply take a stroll to the theater. Contact the box office at  (570) 421-6684, “like” it on Facebook, or follow on Twitter @pocotheater.