Movie theater has been closed for majority of past six months

PASO ROBLES — “Hell” is how Park Cinemas patriarch John Roush described their current business status.

“We are just waiting,” Roush said. “We are in limbo, no we are in hell actually.”

Roush sat in the Park Cinemas lobby at 1100 Pine St. as people walked by, seemingly oblivious to his family’s plight due to the state’s COVID-19 pandemic guidelines.

Roush and his adult daughters Catherine and Jennifer are fighting to save the iconic Downtown movie theater. Roush and his wife built Park Cinemas from the ground up. It opened in December of 1997. Catherine and Jennifer are now its co-owners and John remains on as CEO and mentor.

“We had nothing when we first got married, absolutely nothing and have spent 52 years building up to where we own this,” John said. “Building up so our family can have something for the future. And I face the possibility of losing it. I just can’t fathom that. Honest to God. I won’t.

In an effort to save the movie theater, John and his daughters created a GoFundMe campaign to help pay its bills with a lofty goal of $250,000. As of Monday, Sept. 14, it has raised nearly $13,000.

Asking for help via GoFundMe was a difficult decision for the Roushs.

“When you ask me, it’s like throwing my pride out the window,” John said. “We need help. If we can keep the rent paid, our theater will be here when we are ready to open.”

Over the past six months, Park Cinemas was only able to open for a couple of days in mid-July.

On July 10, Park Cinemas reopened and three days later, all movie theaters in California were shuttered again by Gov. Gavin Newsom as COVID-19 cases and deaths spiked across the state.

In early May, Park Cinemas began preparing to reopen in July as the state moved through the phases. They secured a Paycheck Protection Program loan and an Economic Injury Disaster loan that allowed them to bring staff back, prepare for the reopening and pay some bills. But that money has run out, and the bills are once again piling up.

“Never expected it to go this long,” John said. “I think America was fine closing down the first couple months. We all understood. It was kind of panic on everybody’s part. But this is now beyond repair, in my opinion.”

According to the Roushs, the GoFundMe money will go toward operating expenses, mainly their lease.

“What people don’t understand is they may not be paying rent today, but they are going to owe their landlords the money,” John said. “Many landlords, and ours included, ours is one of the most wonderful people I have met in my life, and he has been very understanding, very helpful, very patient, but he has pressures too, and the patience is running out.”

The Roushs aren’t relying solely on GoFundMe for their survival. People can purchase gift cards and concessions in the Park Cinemas lobby daily from 2 to 7:30 p.m. Screening rooms can be rented for private family and friends screenings of a DVD movie of their choice or to play video games on the big screen.

All of the COVID-19 safety precautions from July are still in place at Park Cinemas. Every other row of seats was blocked off and seating was limited in the open rows. Plexiglass was placed along the concession stand. A supply of masks was available for moviegoers who did not have one.

SLO County needs its new cases per day rate to drop for movie theaters to reopen again inside. 

“No matter what happens, we are going to reopen no matter what actions I have to take,” John said. “If people can understand that we can use the help now and that puts us in decent shape again, then we’ll get through this, and there’ll be a theater here in the future. Otherwise, I just don’t know.”

To contribute to the GoFundMe campaign, visit www.gofundme.com and search Save the Park Cinemas. For more information on purchasing gift cards, concessions or renting a screening room, visit www.parkcinemas.com.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles