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'The reel has run out' at Hagerstown Cinema 10

January 16, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

LEITERSBURG - Few of the family movies playing at Hagerstown Cinema 10 were billed as tear-jerkers, but Sunday, theater owner Kenny Ridenour said he would leave crying.

"This represents my father ... Other than his grave site, this is who my father was, primarily," Ridenour said during an interview at the Leitersburg Pike theater his father built.

A theater business started by J. Kenneth Ridenour decades ago on Sunday saw its final run. As paper signs taped to doors and an empty popcorn machine explained, "The reel has run out." Ridenour and his wife, Tanya Ridenour, who has managed the theater for about three years, said they have entertained some interest from prospective buyers.

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"I will tell you right now, I will cry when I walk out of here tonight, I have to control myself right now," Kenny Ridenour said. He and two brothers and a sister are partners in the company that owns the theater, he said.

Behind the concession counter with a group of young employees, 20-year-old Jocelyn Hulse said she has learned a lot about customer service and business since starting work at her first job.

"We're all very sad. I've been here four years now. This is like our second home, basically. Everybody just comes and hangs out. Everyone's real close here," Hulse said.

A theater manager for about 3 1/2 years, Hulse is a senior at Salisbury (Md.) University.

"I go to school there. I just came for the last day here," said Hulse, of Hagerstown.

As the projectors rolled during matinee showings of "Cheaper by the Dozen 2" and "The Chronicles of Narnia," Tanya Ridenour said she decided to leave the movie business to have more time to herself.

She said she plans to return to Hagemeyer North America, where she worked before taking over operations at the theater.

As an independent theater operator, Tanya Ridenour said the quality of recent movies has hurt ticket sales at Hagerstown Cinema 10. She said she has relied on concession sales to make money.

"With independent theaters, we obviously don't have the backing of a big corporate bank account to put the money behind all the latest equipment," said Ridenour, who explained the theater has had to upgrade its systems to play new soundtracks.

While "The Passion of the Christ" and "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy drew audiences in droves, Ridenour said recent flicks have not fared so well.

Hollywood has to do better, Ridenour said.

"Their imagination, I think, has run dry - maybe that's it - or maybe it has just gotten too far out," Ridenour said.

The marquee north of the cinema promoted the movie "Pride and Prejudice," and displayed the theatrical masks of tragedy and comedy.

Patron Greg Elliott, of Greencastle, Pa., said the theater's prices have allowed him and his wife, Melissa Elliott, to take their five children to the movies.

Sunday, the couple planned to take in "King Kong."

"When we were dating, many times this was where we'd end up, many, many years ago," Greg Elliott said.

Tanya and Kenny Ridenour of Hagerstown said they hope the theater remains a community asset.

According to Tanya Ridenour, an independent theater still can be profitable in the area.

"There are several interested parties," she said.

While Ridenour said she looks forward to stepping away from the continuous demands of the theater business, she and her husband said they were sad about the prospect of closing the doors.

"She has a wonderful (staff), and they love her to death, and I love them to death. It's a very sad day for us. It's truly a split face, like you see - the masks ," Kenny Ridenour said.

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