Movies and a beer

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Arlington, Va., has a cinema pub. So does Tampa, Fla. Even Salt Lake City has one.

And now, tiny West Hazelton in upstate Pennsylvania has one.

Opened in March, the Cinema & Drafthouse serves cold brews, a full dinner menu and second-run movies. Showing this weekend: “Phone Booth,” with an afternoon matinee of “Holes.”

Admission: $3.

“It’s been fantastic so far,” said Sybil Hillman, the 24-year-old owner who quit her job as a high school English teacher to open the theater.

Located in a former vaudeville theater (circa 1914), the movie house has been completely renovated and outfitted with a kitchen and bar. There’s seating for 230 and full waitress service.

There’s even a smoking section.

The project had its skeptics at first, especially among those who wondered about the wisdom of serving booze in a darkened theater.

“That was one of my major concerns, too,” Hillman said. “What would I do to control things?”

Everyone gets carded at the door before they buy their ticket. Those under 21 must be accompanied by a parent.

The bar doesn’t serve shots of hard liquor, and Hillman noted, “You’re only in there for two hours – it’s not as if you’re sitting down there pounding down beers. You’re not here to drink. You’re here to be entertained.”

Instead of a raucous crowd, she said, “It’s a very laid-back atmosphere. We get families, people on dates, and we’re surprisingly popular among the elderly population. We get 75-year-olders coming back every week.

“I think it’s because we don’t get a lot of high school kids being loud and making a ruckus. It’s a place for adults or families.

“People were really happy to see something like this in, of all places, Hazelton. We’re definitely a coal-mining town, but we’re also a town where people are trying to do things differently.

“I figured that if I can make a go of it here, anywhere else will be easy.”

Maybe, someday, even in Philadelphia.


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