CONWAY VILLAGE — Is there another movie theater in the United States that will sell you a meatloaf dinner at 6:30 a.m. before the 8 a.m. showing, or a full breakfast at 7 p.m. before the 9 p.m. show?
Residents of this little town can combine dinner with a movie at the only theater in town — and take a slice of apple pie and a cup of Starbucks coffee into the hall with them.
Known since its opening in 1931 as the “Majestic,” this independent theater with its Art Deco design and red velvet curtain had 450 seats until an electrical fire on April Fools’ Day in 2005 burned it down. Owner Joe Quirk (who was town fire commissioner at the time) did not have the money to restore and rebuild it, so he bought the small store next door and turned it into a considerably smaller Majestic: 48 seats and a restaurant-cafe included.
Now for moviegoers, and anyone else, he cooks three meals a day from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., with a special roast beef-pork loin-turkey buffet on Saturdays and Wednesdays. The place is open 361 “and one-half” days a year “and on Wednesday nights we offer live music,” Quirk, 60, says proudly.
Movie tickets are $8, and with the first-run film, you get a brief introduction from Quirk before the lights go down. When “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” was playing, he told the audience the movie was so compelling that “you won’t want to go to the bathroom during the middle of it and miss part of the story. We won’t start if you want to go now.” One woman did, and the audience waited patiently until she returned.
A self-described movie freak since childhood, Quirk researches studio information and previews film outtakes on his iPad, perched on the restaurant counter near the pie cabinet, and often bids for films three years before release.
“Films that are going to be successful have an aura,” he says. “I usually can tell what’s going to be big.” During the week he showed “Star Wars,” the Majestic was the highest grossing of US theaters playing that movie. He takes special pleasure in selecting films and showing them before they arrive at the large chains.
A film occasionally brings in local moviegoers with personal stories. When “Saving Private Ryan” was showing, Conway resident John Hancock, whose father had been shot down in World War II, brought his dad’s flag. He watched the film with a friend who had landed on Omaha Beach on D-day.
The Majestic used to present free movies for children at Christmastime, but Quirk can no longer afford that gift to the town. Since the fire, he says, “we’ve lost less money every year,” but he still doesn’t have enough to completely rebuild the burned-out theater.
Economic problems aside, Quirk summarizes his Majestic career, saying, “I haven’t gone to work in 20 years.”
Majestic Theatre 36 Main St., and Conway Café 32 Main St., 603-447-5030, hometowntheatre.com