Panic set in at the beginning of November, when all of the sudden the marquee at Gulf Breeze Cinema 4 had no movies posted for the first time in years—it was gone with the wind. Many panicked patrons of the little theater (as the locals call it) checked its website and were foiled again: “check back with us soon.”
Furrowed brows and looks of confusion ensued.
Then on Jan. 16 word was sent via e-mail that the theater was reopening, they were back under new ownership. The e-mail touted that they are the same theater with the same great movies. The theater has a new name, Movies 4 at Gulf Breeze, and a familiar face—manager Neale Winker was still in place. A huge sigh of relief.
The question you may be asking yourself is: what is the big deal about this theater? Anyone that has been there more than once can tell you, it is a cinema paradiso for so many in the area. It is truly the place where you fall in love with movies. Nowhere else can you walk in, get popcorn, know the ushers by name, place requests for movies you want to see (and actually get them), have guaranteed movie times at 1 p.m., 4 p.m., and 7 p.m. and get top-notch quality movies that other theaters in this area do not carry.
Winker previously owned a theater in Wisconsin. He’s been involved in movie theater management for about 10 years.
“It took some time to reopen with the new owner because we were signing all new contracts with the film distributors,” Winker said. “The Monday return crowd was good, they were really happy it was back open. We were all pleased to have it back open too and to have movies listed on the marquee again. We will have the same kind of movies.”
Throughout his years in the movie theater business, Winker has learned that choosing movies is an important decision.
“You can have all the bells and whistles you want,” Winker said. “In the end what really matters is a good movie.”
The new owner, Larry Entrekin, who also owns the Live Oaks Shopping Center where the theater is located, said they are keeping the same format for the operation and what movies they carry.
Tom Roush, Escambia County Film Commissioner said he knew some of the details, but really felt that he should not disclose what was going on. He would leave that up to Jim Norton, the former owner. As of press time, Norton had yet to reply.
“Norton had really good taste in films and was able to get them when no one else could,” Roush said. “I organized the Pensacola Bay International Film Festival and used the theater for screening films; I could not have done it without him.
He helped me get a copy of “The Machinist”—not just a digital copy of it, he was able to make a call and get a theater print, which is 80 pounds and 100,000 frames. Norton and I would sit around and talk about films all the time. It is a labor of love and business.”
Even if the Monday opening was modest, cinema lovers are happy to see movie titles back on the marquee.
“My husband and I are so glad to have them back open,” said one theater aficionado. “Having a place to see independent films, high quality documentaries and other creative art films is very important to us.”
Currently the theater is showing “The Big Year,” “The Whistleblower” and “Martha Marcy May Marlene.” They still feature $5 Wednesdays for all movie times, matinees on all other days are still $6, evening showings are $8. Leave the plastic at home, the theater only accepts cash or check.
MOVIES 4 AT GULF BREEZE
WHERE: 1175 Gulf Breeze Pkwy., Gulf Breeze
MORE INFORMATION: movies4gulfbreeze.com