Episode#9 The Theatre Operator...An Interview with Tina and Marc Molenaar of the Circle Theatre #tnt
Antonio Leal 0:28
TNT weekly, and here I am in a cozy, cozy, empty theater with a very well known Christina and Mark Molnar of the circle theatre. How you doing?
Good. How are you?
Antonio Leal 0:45
Yeah, yeah, very good. Very good. Really thanks for your time and everything and you know just been having fun with this podcast and I've had so many great evenings here at the theater and seeing you closed is really hard. Right, so I just wanted to reach out and have a chat with you guys. And, and, you know, maybe you could share your story with us.
Yeah, for sure. We appreciate you, including us in this, like everyone else, you know, this whole COVID experience that we're living through is been particularly tough on our industry to say the least.
Antonio Leal 1:25
Yeah, it's brutal. It's really it's really, really brutal all the way around. So I know Yeah, you're in your industry. You're, you're on the last cusp of of the stages for opening right? Mm hmm. Yeah,
I think we're Yeah, we are we are not further down the road. And I know that they're going to be cautious with movie theaters in general because we are large gathering spaces and Yeah, um, you know, we are going to put as many safety precautions in place that we can once we do open but I do know that we are waiting for that government approval before anything precedes
super super. Boys don't want to ask how did you guys meet like you We know each other from hockey and do the same thing hockey and here at the theater and think ball hockey. I remember way way back. Right. But how did you guys meet?
So we met in 2004 at summer camp, okay. Yeah. So we went to the same camp. I was a counselor. She was a camper, I guess, or volunteer. And that's when we met, we became friends. And unfortunately, she was dating somebody at the time. And later had William, which is our he's 14. He just turned 14 in June. He plays on TNT and he's going to Banting next year. But yeah, we met at camp and then stayed friends, good friends for a long time. Until I guess, we were I was ready to step into that role because I knew I was stepping into a role of you know, not only you relationship with Tina, but also with a relationship with William as a as a father. So we started dating in 2012. And we got married in 2013. Very, very soon after starting dating. I think we were three months into dating when I engaged Yeah, I actually used the circle theater mat. marquee to propose. Oh, Charlie. Yeah, we went to be 077 for dinner. Yeah, I forgot my wallet. Tina paid for the meal. And we walked we walked over to the theater and my sister in law now put on the same Tina Will you marry me and me?
Antonio Leal 3:40
Yeah. Oh my god. What a great story. Yeah, I love you guys. Ever since I got to know you a bit closer and you know, just from our hockey and locally, I, to me your class act. I just remember one night specifically a yuck yuck coming in here and I'll never forget it. My wife and I still talk about it today. And we were half tanked while we were preparing, we're getting all fuzzy and everything coming in and coming into the entrance there. Steena taking tickets and your young, beautiful baby. Right in a saddle in front of you was that?
Yeah, probably like three weeks, three weeks. And like I just google it right?
Antonio Leal 4:23
You know, I don't even think we listen to the comedian. 20 minutes my wife couldn't stop talking about the cutest little baby. Oh my god. And to me, I mean, you're what this community is all about. I just love that. Right, that spirit that you guys have. It's just amazing.
I know, Tina, that you know, you come fro some really solid, amazing historical roots. I mean, I've only been in Alice 1010 years and every time I come across someone talking the vendors ag family
Potato royalty yeah yeah
Antonio Leal 5:01
I this is what I get from it I get vegetable vendors eggs I get hard work. I get respect and I get generosity right can you tell our listeners a bit more that don't know you and the vendors ag family you know about your roots here I know there's so well entrenched in it I I think it must be I can't wait.
Yeah so our family I'm third generation Allison my grandparents moved here from Holland not to Allison specifically but after my grandfather my opa and his brother. Were here for a bit they found some land up here and moved up here to farm potatoes. You know, my my opas brother found a wife and got married and lived with them for a few years and then he met my oma and they got married and moved to the farm right beside so my oppa and his brother, farm side by side And if you're if you're heading north and county road 15 there's a few vanners egg farms there. And it's because that's how it started. They lived in the one farm and they bought the farm from their neighbors on the one side, and the farm from their neighbors on the other side, and then a farm from, you know, a neighbor across the road. And that's sort of how the family started. And so it was a real really cool that even my dad grew up, you know, a quick walk from his cousins. And so then their kids and myself, I grew up with my second cousins right across the road. So we are, you know, a big you know, super connected family really close because close proximity. Um, but yeah, I mean, our hard work and generosity is is thanks to my grandparents and their hard work and the foundation of starting the family farm. Farmers are notorious for being you know, how you work until the work is done. There's no other choice. That's how you make your livelihood. And that's been passed on to all of us through the generations and You know, their generosity stems from their faith. They're they're Christians, my whole family's Christian. We're Christians as well. And our generosity is just that just stems from that. And that's how you've established ourselves in this community.
Antonio Leal 7:12
Yeah, beautiful. No great to hear a bit of the history. Like I said, Your name is like gold plated in this community.
You're making me blush.
Antonio Leal 7:22
Um, you know, again, so you came in, you know, how did the circle theatre sort of come about, you know, from the roots of potato? industry? For sure. Yeah. Parallel right there data chips made on that aspect. How did the circle theater come about in your vision for coming into this business ofmovie?
Yeah, for sure. So it was actually all thanks to my mom, Kate. He is a legend in this community. I am one of six kids and the circle theater being the heart of this downtown community week. Came here growing up, this was our movie theater. And it was affordable. It was local, it was, you know, six kids, you're not going up to Cineplex too often. And it just is where all these memories and I say again and again, when we were really young, as far back as you know, early elementary school, I can remember my mom always said, you know, if I won the lottery, I would love to buy the circle theater and just just fix it up. I would just love to do that. And then we're gonna have the smoke stains. Yeah, you were I don't know if you were here pre No, no. Yeah, so So I mean, I have so many stories about this building. It's ridiculous. And so I'm, you know, paranoid. So that was always it was always a spot in her heart to just give it life again. And then my uncle passed away in 2007. And sort of in response to that my mom and my aunt always had a night here at the circle at once a week they saw every movie no matter what movie was higher good, no matter how bad most horrible movies Put out there, they saw the movie. And then Scott McDonald, the previous owner, he got cancer and passed away. And so when that happened, his widow, Linda approached my mom and said, you know, you've always been good. And I think it was something, you know, conversation had happened prior to them, but then they kind of reached out and said, You know, this is for sale and I love my mom, my mom at first but she really just kind of said, I'm gonna take this leap of faith and really invest in this community, because it would be a shame for it to be turned into anything other than what it is. Because it has it's been used since 1938. Yeah, so it's just a standing gem on our main street and so then for it to not that we don't trust anyone else, but just I think Linda and my mom both knew that we could keep it running as a movie theater and we wanted to respect that and do it justice and and give the town what it deserved.
Antonio Leal 9:49
Wonderful. I remember it when it opened very well. And yeah, place to bring young Diego and you know, we come in as a family and we just like that small theater You know, historic feel about the circle. Right? So, you know, here you are in the town opening up, I think. I think maybe you assume that the big ticket boys, you know, might come into town one day soon. I mean, I think, you know, looking back, it's easy to say it's inevitable because the town continued to grow and then the market became probably more interesting, right. So, you know, again, this is what I love about you and what you guys do here we are cruising along. Imagine theatres comes into town, right? Yeah. And boom, you introduce jazz knights, Yuk Yuks, you know, oh my god, we're rockin now we're rockin in town now. Yeah. Things to do now in the evening that weren't present before. Here. You are bringing a different level of entertainment. And Allison is so creative like it was it was just awesome. Like, what did you know? Again? Your vision for that was amazing. How did that come about?
Well, interestingly enough, I think that was our vision all along to be a multi use facility and and some of the choices that we made when we renovated the space. So for example, we have a stage, most movie theaters don't have a stage, we've had a stage since we renovated it back in 2012. And then our screen is retractable, so it can, it can roll up and down. And once again, most movie theaters don't have that. So when we invested in the renovations, we our full intention was for it to be as multipurpose as possible. But then serving the community with films we sort of got on a roll with that and like you said, inevitably a big player came in and so then we just had to go, okay, we need to shift but then also like, this is sort of what we were thinking all along. And so it was in a way it was like oh, now we are opened up to do the more things and it's unfortunate COVID happened because this year, I had three and four live events planned for this spring that all had to get canceled. And I was really looking forward to sort of making that a you know, every other month, every eight weeks we do a live performance, do some talks, all these sort of things as incorporation, like in conjunction with our Comedy Nights, just trying to expand and see, you know, what, like you said, what level of entertainment our community could really use in need right here instead of having to drive outside of Yeah, new tech to to get that.
Antonio Leal 12:23
So I remember that. And I mentioned it to mark and you I remember seeing you at Starbucks, and we were both, you know, when they're working away and I wasn't a man, you know, you're Yuk Yuks, you know, when's it coming back? We had so much fun. I think the whole town had sold out night every time you know, they were brought in, you know, what do you you know, doing this again, and you were planning more of a regular Yuk Yuks routine, like once a month or twice a month and I'm gonna hold that would be awesome. That'd be awesome. And as you had brought up, you're rolling along your vision, your ideas, your creative You know, for the circle theatre, boom, Coleman comes, right? I don't have to tell anyone what, you know, is happening in your industry. But, you know, how are you getting through this? How have you guys gotten through this? It's
I think people didn't realize but like, all of Hollywood shut down when COVID happened because no one was making movies. So the entire new release has been pushed off and still being pushed off. Yeah. There's no movies coming out this summer due to the fact that theaters can't open. So I guess like you're you're talking Do you want to talk about the drive in or?
Antonio Leal 13:44
Yeah, yeah. So um, like you mentioned, like, the whole industry has been sort of stalled and like us, we are unable to open and same thing no new releases and every time like they were hoping for you know, in July, a few you know, There's some of the students were sticking to some dates and really pushing for it. And then, you know, we just keep getting weekly emails of, you know, change dates, and you kind of just do a big sigh. But we hadn't been accessing too much too many Hollywood movies aren't released to begin with, but it just means that everything, whether it's new or old, everything's getting pushed further and further back. So, you know, obviously the first few months of COVID I know we're still like a month three or something. But I, you know, March and April, were very hard on for us. You know, when you're told you can't operate in there's nothing you can do about it and your small town and small business and, you know, it's it's a hard one to navigate. It wasn't fun. But yeah, then the spring and summer comes around. I think like with everyone thinks CERN open up in the better weather, you kind of get your juices flowing again. You know what I mean? Like you're like, Okay, we can, we can do this and we can see a way forward. And so with that, I've been You know, very lucky that we have some amazing friends in this community that we're hoping to open an outdoor theater for the rest of the summer and show retro films tear community. That's really cool. Yeah. So we're really excited that we're going to be able to go forward with that we're still fine tuning, you know, details and getting things forward. But you know, I have to do a huge shout out to Stevenson bed and breakfast. And Steve, because he sort of helped propel this. He pulled this dream out of me, so to speak, and we're just excited that like everyone, the key word with COVID, I think with a lot of businesses, especially retail businesses, or storefront businesses is you pivot, you have to pivot your business model. You have to be as creative as you can, whether you're switching to online, whether you're switching you know, to different things. I know with Murphy's farms, she's doing a few like online cooking classes, or Yeah, cooking classes and just everyone like all our creativity, we've been entrepreneur, you are a creative person. It's and I feel like sometimes you're tivities spark the beginning of your business, and you kind of get everything in place and the balls rolling and your business is just turning away. And COVID as you know, after a few months of, for me a few months of reflection, it sparking that creativity again to think okay, how can we work within the parameters that are available to us? And how can we serve our community still? What are we about? Who are we for, and just kind of being able to offer that again?
So yeah, survival instincts, right? The entrepreneur, right. The life of an entrepreneur, survival instinct, so yeah, you just amaze me with that, and and, you know, to have the bore to do the move forward. Right. I mean, during probably one of the most difficult economic times in history, obviously since the Spanish Flu era, and and that wave but I think this is unprecedented what's happened. Yeah. And, you know, I hope the vaccine comes in and everything will get back to normal and up to that Then, you know, we'll have to evolve like you were saying shift right and pivot your business, right? Yeah. So, is there anything you'd like to say to our listeners and everything? I know you have a meeting coming up shortly and I don't want to take you too long.
You know? No, we just appreciate our audiences. We miss everyone we miss being open. Tony and I are talking right I think at this stage, we are one of the only businesses on the main street that's still closed and as someone who you know, spends countless hours here I I feel it I miss it, I miss being able to serve the community. We think our you know, you our listeners, and we think that people who just have circle theater, you know, that soft spot in your heart, we thank you for following us for listening. And for you know, just keep your eyes and ears open for what we have going forward. And, and we look forward to seeing you again because, you know, and who knows when that's gonna be hopefully, at this editor driving. We'll see some are a friendly faces again that idea, but outdoor theater at our outdoor theater, but then also, you know, when it's safe to have everyone back in here we're really looking forward to being able to bring the community feel to it. And I think that I people know this by how we run our business community has always been the forefront of our business. And like I said earlier, like why Kate purchased this, this building and why we renovated is is to establish and maintain community and a safe space for community and for people to come. And you know, her goal for the theaters was to be able to come as kids you know what I mean? Like if your kids are in town, it's a place your kids can bike to and you know where they are and they can go you know, watch the movie and come home and so then when we open up we hope that we can provide that again for everyone that we feel like that safe space so that they can, you know, come with their kids or just come out for a date night and just have some fun and enjoy each other's company.
Antonio Leal 18:55
I know all of us that have attended here, you know, we miss you too. And You know, I like the point you were saying about community and I and you know, one of the reasons of this podcast is you know, I've only been here 10 years, me and my family, right, but this town rocks man, like this community around New Tech friggin rocks. Right. And I, you know, for me it's like a privilege to be here, right? It's, we've done amazing things in here we have an amazing community of great, great, you know, infrastructure of community support and businesses. Many, many, many generations of solid solid understanding of what it is to thread a community together right. So it's really an incredible place and I just hope that we get the message out there and and let everybody know you know, that was a message I you know, we should go to our council and there should be attacks for those that want to come in. Yeah, like attacks for newcomers come in. That's not what's gonna happen because Don't want to just emphasize what a great, great community we live in. Right? So
Well, I'm just it's amazing that people that are invested and I know I've mentioned a few businesses, but I could keep going on and on total of the businesses and on like downtown's downtown core you know, across the street from us on the road from a lot of good rest a lot of good rest like there's just so many businesses that have just been so creative
Sandra, who was Williams across the road, she's been wicked podcast, just like yeah, just blowing my mind on what she's doing to stay positive. And so it's one thing to have the idea and get out of bed and do it you know, it's not sorry, it's one thing to have the idea it's another thing during something like this so devastating, yeah, to get out of bed and do it without being down on on it. So you're playing with your psyche and motivating yourself to be that person and fire right. Yeah. So I also wanted to play I had a little note on here, but I know That, you know, you're running along with circle that you know last it was last year you picked up the was the ice cream the cool moose, you know, right.
Yeah, it was last May last May What a great compliment like, you know movie theater ice cream and all that stuff and and I thought it was phenomenal for you to get into that. It really helped us when we had to adapt, especially with imagine coming in. Yeah, obviously our numbers came down because imagine is able to play the big releases. Yeah. And because they are playing it, we can't. So that's why we're getting the second run movies in this in this theater. Yeah. So with the lower numbers in the theater, we needed less staff. But we also wanted to keep those staff that we had employed. So that's why we thought let's get the cool moose because we probably went to the ice cream shop once a week anyway. And so we, we bought it so that we can have the staff work there or even to staff at the theater and once the movie started one staff could go to the ice cream shop during the busy times and help scale great. Yeah. And it's it's been fun it's been challenging
Antonio Leal 22:18
I've seen your truck like your cool moose jack Vance and all that stuff you that's your eye that that come with the business you bought her with? All right, yeah. What a great idea.
The previous the previous owner of cool moose wood. It all stemmed from talking to the previous owner about potato Fest, right because the previous owners would set up tents and haul out chest freezers out to the fairgrounds. Under and like serve ice cream and under those 10 labor intensive, very labor intensive I sat and said what's a better way to do this? Yeah, we were looking at campers to renovate and all that kind of stuff. And then we found this beautiful, old Great idea. It looks like a old FedEx or mail truck. Yeah, it was a camper already. And I renovated it with like, just nice features. And we were able to put two freezers, a serving counter bunch of storage. And if you come to our outdoor theater, you will see Yeah, the ice cream truck parked there.
Antonio Leal 23:22
Oh my god, you know, it just ended. I'm laughing because just a flash mind when I was thinking of this podcast and you know, and talking to my wife Lisa about it. She thinks I'm crazy. You know, I just didn't know. What are you doing? How are you sure you want to do this? I want to do that. And I and I said to her one night as a baby. I know what I'm going to since I'm going around interviewing people. I know what I need. An old Airstream or a Winnebago? Yeah, and peanut like really really psychedelic colors and park it in downtown Allison belt. podcast is in. There's a like, right? You're insane man. But that made me join the club so join the club. So listen I really great great time with you. Thank you so much for your time We miss you Allison loves you I know that it's great to see the moose, cool moose up and running and lineups there and and I pray and hope that you know the movie theater business comes back Yeah, to the stability that it needs. And you can continue to pry to provide that amazing level of entertainment in our community.
Thank you. Thanks for having me,
Antonio Leal 24:38
man over now guys. Bye bye