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Landmark Hamburg movie theater using 'curbside concessions' to survive Covid-19

94-year-old cinema treasure hopes for community support
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Posted at 7:06 PM, May 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-01 19:17:57-04

VILLAGE OF HAMBURG, N.Y. (WKBW) — The covid-19 public health emergency has been hard on many businesses - especially movie theaters. With seats empty and big screens dark, the cinemas have been forced to come up with creative ways to generate cash flow.

One of the ideas being tried is 'curbside concessions.'

"It is really encouraging to see people come out for curbside concessions because most of them have something really nice to say to encourage us. And that is really helpful," said Jay Ruof, owner of the Hamburg Palace Theatre in the Village of Hamburg.

The Hamburg Palace Theatre was one of the first to try curbside concessions starting back in mid-March. It was a suggestion made by his nephew, said Rouf, who thought it was worth a try.

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Customers can place orders online, or by walk up, for typical movie theater snacks such as drinks, candy and popcorn. The popcorn is one of the most popular items as people are now home watching a lot of movies during the government stay-at-home requirement.

Plus, many think movie theater popcorn tastes better. "That's what we've been told," laughed Ruof.

Workers wear masks and gloves to prepare the orders which are then taken outside for pickup. The theater accepts Venmo and cash for payment.

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So far, the response has been good and Ruof hopes the community will continue to support the theater's efforts going forward.

The Hamburg Palace Theatre offers curbside concessions Friday thru Sunday. You can text orders to (716) 725-1412 and specify your desired pickup time between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.. Orders need to be placed before 6 p.m.

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"It means everything to us. It goes way back. It is a true gem for the community," added Village Mayor Thomas Moses.

The Hamburg Palace Theatre opened in 1926 and was considered state-of-the-art at a time when America was fascinated by Hollywood and motion pictures with sound ("Talkies").

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Ruoff bought the theatre in 2008 after working there previously. With a 25-year history connected to the historic landmark, he is determined to see it survive the virus crisis to continue its movie house legacy.

Before the coronavirus situation, the Palace Theatre was scheduled to get a $225,000 NYS grant for repairs and improvements. The catch was Ruof needed to raise $75,000 in matching funds. A GoFundMe account was underway to help the theater. However, it is unknown, at this point, how the virus crisis will impact that state money.

Ruof said he is already planning for social-distancing seating in the theater for when it can reopen. That way people will feel comfortable coming to watch a show. Once he does get the approval to reopen, Ruof said he would like to show some classic "Three Stooges" films on the big screen (among more modern offerings).

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Other movie theaters have also taken-on the idea of using curbside concessions to keep some money flowing, including the Aurora Theater in East Aurora (another legacy movie theater that opened in the 1920's) and Dipson Theaters. You can find more information about their curbside concessions by going to the theaters' websites.

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