Alexandria's Old Town Theater closing

Old Town Theater (Photo courtesy of Old Town Theater)

Those who've come to Old Town Theater describe it as a nice surprise.

To walk inside, they say, is to travel back in time.

“The inside is marvelous and it's too bad that we can't hold on to some of the history,” says Alexandria resident Dottie Reed.

But after this weekend, it will close.

“It's just a beautiful place don’t you think?” asks owner Roger Fons. “Worst thing I ever did in my life though was open this place up. Pretty hard to make a dollar off of a nine dollar ticket.

Fons cites the economy, and a year of crummy movies, as the main reasons his sales dropped 50 percent from 2010. The theater also suffered from employee theft. And he says operating the place seven days a week just drained him.

“Something breaks every day, at least one thing, ok?” he says. “So pretty much, a pain in the rear end, Ok?”

Fons never planned to run the theater. But once he bought it, he couldn't find someone else to do the job.

The cinema was built in 1914 as the first permanent movie theater in Alexandria. It is also one of the few theaters that serves alcohol.

Its new owner, the president of PMA Properties, will likely rent it out as retail space, restoring the facade and removing the box office and overhang. And as Fons prepares for his next adventure - which will take him back to his home state of Michigan, but which he can't yet discuss - he will auction off every last piece of equipment.

For some, it’s a sad end to an era.

For Fons...

“It's still just a business,” he says. “You have to run it like a business.”