August 4, 2013
The Vinegar Hill Theatre, a Charlottesville landmark for nearly four decades, showed its final films Sunday evening before dropping the curtain for good.
A steady stream of people attended the final weekend of shows at the theater this weekend, some of whom say they've been there when the theater first opened its doors nearly 40 years ago.
"At least a dozen people this week have told me that they came to their first date at Vinegar Hill 30 years ago," said manager James Ford.
Vinegar Hill Theatre has been bringing films to Charlottesville since 1976. It was the last locally-owned, independent theater in town.
It wasn't until recently the theater hit some major bumps in the cinematic road.
"We've been facing tough times for a number of reasons," said Ford. "Partly for the changing nature of the film business and film distribution."
Ford says the biggest challenge has been booking films when competing with powerhouse Regal Cinemas.
"We're one tiny screen competing against the biggest chain in America, and it's just like when a Walmart opens and shuts down all the mom and pop stores," Ford said. "It's the same thing happening in every industry in every town in America, unfortunately."
The landmark is selling all T-shirts, tote bags and movie posters so people can take a little piece of the theater as it closes its doors.
The final two showings at the theater on Sunday evening were Much Ado About Nothing and Frances Ha.
Ford says Visulite Cinemas, which owned Vinegar Hill, still owns two theaters in Staunton which are both doing "quite well."