GREENFIELD – The city’s movie theater has a new owner, ending a decades-long run for the local family that built the business.
Legacy Cinema at 2347 W. Main St. has changed hands from Northgate Cinema, Inc. and Allen Strahl to Lafayette-based VIP Cinemas.
A story in yesterday’s Fortville-McCordsville Reporter was incorrect in its reporting of the cinema’s new ownership.
Jake McSparin, vice president of operations for VIP Cinemas, said the family-owned-and-operated company has 16 theaters in small and medium markets primarily in Illinois, Missouri and Kansas, and that Legacy Cinema is the firm’s first Indiana location. The company is also closely affiliated with GQT Movies, which has 23 locations primarily in Michigan and Indiana, with others as far as Pittsburgh and Montgomery.
“We’re always on the search for the next opportunity, and sometimes they just fall in your lap a bit,” McSparin said, adding that an Indianapolis-based real estate professional contacted VIP Cinemas “out of the blue” about Legacy Cinema. “My understanding is there was potential for another operator to come in previous to us and for whatever reason that fell through.”
The real estate professional contacted VIP Cinemas on a Monday, and a deal was worked out by the following Wednesday, McSparin continued.
“It was a very quick turnaround for us, but it was something we’ve done several times before,” he said.
The theater has been closed amid the transition and is slated to reopen Nov. 10 just in time for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”
McSparin said the theater’s name will change to VIP Legacy 9. Having formerly operated Thursday through Sunday, the theater will be open daily, with shows starting around 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday for the first couple weeks under the new ownership.
“And then hopefully as we get some experience under our belt and get some staffing lined up, we’ll be open for full days of movies, even during the week on the go forward,” he said. “That’s probably our biggest change – is expanding our hours and our movie selections.”
Pricing will change slightly as well.
“The model that currently exists here was actually pretty similar to the model that we use in most of our locations, so some items are going up and some are going down,” McSparin said. “It’s going to be very hard to determine that difference for the end guest, but just getting this place aligned with some of our things that we’ve used that have worked in other places in terms of pricing schemes. One of the things that I think guests will enjoy on the initial forefront is we have some very competitive combo prices, so when they go and have that popcorn and drink they’re going to save a significant amount of money.”
VIP Cinemas is excited to be in the community, McSparin said, adding the Strahls took excellent care of the facility.
“I’ve never been able to walk in an operation that’s this clean, and I’ve been in a lot of theaters and the cleanliness and the standards they were holding here were exceptional,” he said. “…We’re going to continue to try to do the things that they were doing well and then continue to be a part of the community, and active, and I know that this theater’s important to the community and they come out in droves to support it.”
The ownership change marks the end of Legacy Cinema’s 24 years under the Strahl family, who started the theater after owning and managing other local entertainment venues for decades.
“Allen is looking forward to full retirement, and we are happy that Legacy Cinema will still be running as a theater for our community,” a news release from Legacy Cinema states. “The Strahl family wanted the community to keep a movie theater when deciding to retire from the business, so they found a new owner and operator who will continue to run Legacy Cinema going forward.”
H.J. Ricks, a local businessman who developed the Northgate Shopping Center in Greenfield, built and operated the Jerry Lewis Cinema there in 1971. Allen and Linda Strahl managed the theater, and the first movie shown there was “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” starring Gene Wilder.
The cinema’s name changed to Northgate Cinema in 1981 after the Jerry Lewis franchise dissolved, and the Strahls purchased the theater.
The family also bought the Village Theater downtown in the mid-1980s, renovated it and eventually installed two auditoriums in the historical building. They closed Northgate Cinema in 1998 and donated to the city the Village Theater, now called the H.J. Ricks Center for the Arts. The Strahls then built a new six-screen theater farther west on Main Street – the Legacy 6 Cinema. Five years later, they added on three more auditoriums, and turned the 6 on the marquee upside down to usher in the Legacy 9 Cinema.
The Strahls’ daughter, Jodi, worked at the family’s theaters in her teens, throughout college and has worked as general manager since Legacy Cinema opened in 1998 just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday crowds and continuously sold-out movies for the business’ first several months.
“She is one of the reasons the business stayed so strong for so many years,” the news release states.
“Twenty-four years have passed, and after countless updates and improvements, multiple generations of employees, an industry conversion from film to digital, and surviving the pandemic shutdown (which forced many independent cinemas out of business) – the time has finally come to pass the baton,” the release continues. “After 51 years in business, the Strahl family will turn over Legacy Cinema to new ownership and new management.
“The Strahl family chose to run theaters in their hometown in a proud and understated way,” the release goes on to state. “They donated time and funds to countless charitable organizations, events, schools and fundraisers over the decades while maintaining a modest attitude about all of it. Being part of their community and supporting people who’ve supported them over the years has always been the core of how they ran their businesses. We wish the new owners many years of continued success.”