By Ashley Duong, The Union
MT. PLEASANT — Main Street Cinemas has begun yet another chapter after being sold to Eisentraut Theatres by Scott and Amy Lowe. The Eisentraut Theatre is a company that owns and runs nine small town theaters throughout Illinois and Southeast Iowa. After being handed off to new ownership, the 95-year-old two-screen theater reopened under its original name, Temple Theatre, on Aug. 30.
The theater’s new run was met with some backlash from local community members after news that longtime theater manager, Kelly Miyoshi, had been let go. In a Facebook statement, Miyoshi’s son, Jordan Miyoshi said, “My father has devoted over thirty two years of his life to that theatre. It’s really REALLY frustrating to me to see this happen. He [is] someone that everyone in Mt. Pleasant loves and respects. He’s done a lot for the community and it just freaking sucks.”
News of Miyoshi’s termination sparked a small social media movement, which included community members posting messages of support for Miyoshi with the hashtag #bringbackkelly. Former Mt. Pleasant resident Sara Gray, who lived with her family in the town until very recently and often frequented the local theater, penned a Facebook post about the impact Miyoshi’s presence in the community had on her family. The post garnered over 500 reactions and 73 comments, and has been shared 98 times to date.
In addition to her post, Gray also said, “We loved the theater for all 13 years we lived there as a family, and my husband experienced the theater with Kelly at the helm for many years growing up.”
In response to the social media movement, the theater released a statement on Facebook explaining their reasoning for letting Miyoshi go. The statement has since been taken down following further backlash from the community.
But while many community members expressed an intent to boycott the theater in social media posts, others were also sympathetic to the new theater owners and their attempt to keep the local theater open.
Chris Swed and Maddy Eisentraut, the son-in-law and daughter of Jeff Eisentraut, owner of Eisentraut Theatres, moved from Illinois to Iowa to help run the three local theaters that the company owns, which includes the Fox Theatre in Ft. Madison and The Plaza 3 Cinema in Keokuk. Chris, Maddy and local family members run the day-to-day operations of Temple Theatre.
Eisentraut Theatres was initially approached by the Lowes a little over two years ago about taking over the theater. According to Swed, “money and time didn’t line up,” but the company was approached again several months ago.
Swed said the reason their company decided to take over the theater is because Mt. Pleasant it is “a great market.” Eisentraut Theatres works specifically to keep small town theaters alive.
“Our heart is to make sure that gems in these small towns don’t close because that’s the bitter truth about it. All across the United States small town theaters are dying. We love these small communities … we think it’s an important cornerstone of the community,” Swed said.
Chris continued to say that the company hopes to “make movies affordable,” so that “people can come to the movies more than once every six months. We want families to be able to afford to come to the movies, that’s why we do our $8 deal.”
The Eisentraut Theatre is known for their $8 movie deal, which includes the price of a ticket, popcorn and drink for a person.
“We want people to understand that we’re not a big corporate company. We are invested in these communities and we want to be a part of these communities. We believe that the movie theater itself is the foundation of a town … and forget the distractions of life. We know that in these small towns, the theater is valuable,” Swed concluded.