Week of Celebration begins on December 2 through 8
PASO ROBLES — Park Cinemas celebrates 25 years in business this December, and they are ready to celebrate the milestone with the community during their Week of Festivities this Dec. 2 through Dec. 8.
The theater opened its doors in December 1997 with Academy Award-winning film, ‘Titanic.’ It is hard to see it now when you visit the bustling downtown, but back in 1997, all that existed there was the City Park with the Carnegie Library, a newly built City Hall and Library on 11th Street, and a handful of storefronts. In many ways, when the theater opened its doors, it was also the beginning of the Downtown Paso Robles we know today.
With the Fox Theater on Spring Street closing in the 1980s, Paso Robles was in need of more screens. And with downtown Paso needing a people magnet, the city thought, ‘If you build it, they shall come.’ So when City officials and the Paso Robles Main Street Association heard local John Roush planned to open a new theater in Paso Robles, they saw an opportunity.
Executive Director of the Paso Robles Main Street Association, Norma Moye, recalls one day standing at the Paso Robles Inn and looking down 11th Street and saying, “Can’t you see a movie theater at the end of the street?”
John and his growing family originally planned to build the new cinema on the outskirts of town near the newly opened Walmart. But the City and Moye convinced John to build the theater in Downtown Paso by agreeing to provide more than $200,000 for sewer and drainage improvements.
A March 1997 Telegram-Tribune article by Jeff Ballinger paints the picture of how Downtown Paso Robles was viewed then, “Many are counting on the cinema to bring a much-needed boost to an improving but still struggling downtown area.”
Moye explained the downtown’s transition, saying, “We put the theater in, and that’s when all the restaurants started moving in.”
For years, John owned and operated the theater with his sister Wendy McBane who operated as the theater’s general manager. John’s daughters, Jennifer Roush Kloth and Catherine Alyce Roush, entire childhood was filled with memories at the theater. From working the concession stand to making popcorn and operating the projectors, the two knew it all.
Following their mother’s passing, Jennifer and Catherine inherited the Park Cinemas in 2017 — continuing to keep the theater in the family.
“We are very family oriented,” explained Jennifer, “We are very community oriented.”
So while the cinema remains a family affair, it should be known the employees are just as equally a part of the Roush family. Including their General Manager, Miguel Nunez.
Nunez has been happily working for Park Cinemas since he was 18 years old. He was the first to take a credit card payment at the cinema in 2010 and knows the theater inside and out.
“It’s that magic number  where we are doing things on our terms now. That’s what I’m excited about, and it gives me goosebumps every time we talk about it,” says Nunez, “Now we can make an impact and leave another 25 years of legacy here.”
But getting to this milestone has not been easy for the sisters and their staff. Jennifer and Catherine began imagining and planning the renovations shortly after taking over — and then the COVID pandemic hit the world.
A September 2022 New York Times article explains that more than 500 theater screens have permanently closed since the pandemic began in 2020. Unlike their neighboring businesses, the theaters weren’t able to take their business outside during mandated closures.
Jennifer explains they began selling popcorn and drinks in an effort to compensate for being closed along with everything they had to change to keep up with mandates and changing technology.
Unfortunately, theaters across the country have been struggling since before the pandemic. With constantly updating technology to new release movies becoming more available to stream from home, it hasn’t been easy for family-owned or commercial theaters to keep up.
But now, things are looking up for Park Cinemas. In recent months, the theater has undergone an extensive renovation bringing in a beer and wine bar, luxury seating, a remodeled lobby and auditoriums, reserved seating, and a loyalty program — all opening just in time for those Thanksgiving and Christmas Day blockbusters.
During the week of festivities, there will be daily drawings for prizes in partnership with other local businesses and activities to celebrate the theater and downtown.
The family behind Park Cinemas would like you to know that although times have changed, the industry has changed, and we have changed with it. But this time, change is an opportunity to be “Bigger and Better.”
Find the full story on Park Cinemas in the December issue of Paso Robles Press Magazine.
For more information on the Park Cinemas in Downtown Paso Robles, visit parkcinemas.com