Clemson Community Battles To Save the Astro Theater

August 6, 2008

By Julie Belschner

As of Wednesday night, nearly 2,500 had signed on to a page on an Internet social networking site called Facebook.

The page is entitled “Save the Astro III.” The number rises hourly.

The Carmike Cinema Astro Triple Theatre is a small, three-screen discount theater in downtown Clemson, offering — for the low cost of $2.50 a ticket — movies that have left first-run theaters. Management of the theater received an e-mail Sunday from owners Carmike Cinemas, based in Columbus, Ga. The e-mail indicated the Astro’s last day of operation will be Thursday, Aug. 7. The short four-day notice shocked employees.

Assistant manager Jonathan Walker said Wednesday night he’s giving out resumes to anyone who will take one from him. He’s worked at the Astro for eight years and is now fielding questions from dozens of patrons while he tries to find work.

“It’s what everyone that walks in asks – ‘Why is it closing?’” he said. “They’re all very sad. We got a letter from an 11-year-old girl. She said her grandmother met someone here and begged us not to close it. It was so touching. We’re going to write her back.”

Dale Hurst, director of marketing for Carmike, did not return calls to the Independent-Mail. But in interviews earlier this week, he said it’s been difficult to maintain attendance and keep the Astro profitable. Astro management said it doesn’t understand that statement.

“We were sold out last night for Kung Fu Panda,” Walker said. “It’s about this time of year, when we get the summer blockbuster movies, that we’d be making a lot of money. But this summer has been good, too. We’ve been making a profit.

“I think our lease came to an end – it was a long-term lease. I’d guess this property is worth a lot more than it was 20 years ago.”


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