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Historic Norfolk theater creates virtual cinema to keep movies playing, cash flowing

Posted at 2:31 PM, Apr 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-06 17:34:17-04

NORFOLK, Va. - In a time when we all could use a bit of a distraction and a little entertainment, movie theaters - a family-friendly gathering place - have been forced to shut down across the country due to the ban on gatherings.

That includes the Naro Cinema in the Ghent area of Norfolk.

"The theater itself opened in 1936; it was called the Colley Theater. This place means so much to so many people," said Thom Vourlas, owner.

Right now, the lights are off, the curtains are closed and the projector is gaining dust inside the 500-seat theater.

"As cable came around, we were like, 'Oh, we are dead.' Then DVD and videotape, we thought, 'This is it.' Then streaming came along - we thought that would kill us, but somehow we survived," said Vourlas.

But then a script Vourlas didn't see coming: COVID-19 pushing the pause button for movie theaters across the world.

"We average around 10,000 a week in revenue depending on the time of year. Sometimes it's much more, but we still have rent to pay, water, electricity and insurance," he said.

Naro is a cultural landmark that shows unique indie, art and documentary films and is now working with production companies to stream many of them online on their website, Narocinema.com.

"We get a cut and they get a cut, and it's like a virtual cinema. People can watch from the comfort of their own home," said Vourlas.

Just like Netflix and Hulu, hit the play button and for around $6.99 a movie, you can support a local theater.

"It will be a little something to help get us through this," said Vourlas.

There's also a bonus feature: You can still even get Naro's tasty treats every Friday and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. to enjoy with your movie.

"It's called 'Speakeasy at the Naro': We set up a counter at the door, and you can get everything you need. People love our popcorn," he said.

Vourlas hopes to open Naro's doors again once the "stay at home" order is lifted.

"Fear not - some way we will be open again in the future," he said.

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