Former Gateway Cinema transformed into renovated RCE Theaters

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RCE Theaters operators Blaine (left) and Janelle Given pose inside one of their two renovated theaters following the installation of new seating, Friday. RCE Theaters is the new name of what formerly was Gateway Cinema at the new Southgate Park shopping center in Elizabeth City.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Patrons who showed up this weekend for RCE Theaters’ showings of “Mile 22” and “Ant Man and the Wasp” were as likely to be as interested in what they saw off-screen as on-screen.

The movie theater, formerly known as Gateway Cinema, reopened last week at Southgate Park following completion of what its new operators described as a top-to-bottom renovation.  

Blaine Given and his wife, Janelle, began the renovations six months ago after taking over the theater from its former tenant. They promptly renamed the moviehouse RCE Theaters — the RCE stands for Red Carpet Entertainment, the name of their company — and installed a new concession stand.

The couple recently shut down the theater for about a week so work crews could replace the theater’s seating and revamp its flooring. The Givens reopened RCE Theaters late last week.

"We've done a lot," Blaine said of the transformation. "We've invested probably over $100,000 into the property since February."

Janelle noted the changes include not only a new name outside and a new look inside, but also a more professional appearance. She noted all RCE Theaters employees sport new uniforms.

"You also can expect great customer service and you can expect the best popcorn that you've ever tasted," she said.

Blaine said RCE Theaters employs about 10 people and includes a mix of former Gateway Cinema workers and new hires. He noted Gateway’s previous manager agreed to stay on.

Because of the upgrades, each of RCE’s two theaters is smaller than Gateway’s two theaters. While each of the former theaters held 200 people, one now holds 166 and the other only 157.

Blaine said the size of a theater doesn’t matter as much as the quality of the customer’s movie-going experience. And he and Janelle plan to offer plenty of that, he said.

"The bulk of our screens will be first-run (movies)," he said, adding that tickets are priced at $4.50.

He noted RCE Theaters also screened classic movies from different film eras over the summer. He said the theater plans to continue showing classic films to coincide with special events and holidays.

The RCE Theaters at Southgate Park isn’t the Givens’ first venture in the film theater business.

For the past five years, the Givens have owned Roanoke Cinemas in Roanoke Rapids, where the couple live. The Givens say they got into the film theater business because their hometown theater was facing closure.

The Givens got interested in expanding their business to Elizabeth City after getting a call from Gateway Cinema’s landlords. The landlords’ contract with their previous tenant was up and they were looking for a new theater operator, Blaine said.  

"We came across and took a look at it — and it was definitely something that we wanted to take on," Blaine said. "We saw the potential and the opportunity. And so we came to terms and we took it over."

Blaine said the theater’s being located next door to Southgate Park shopping center, which was then under renovation, was a big plus. He noted more lighting was added outside the theater to make the site more inviting for customers.

"It's a lot brighter than it was previously," he said.

The Givens, who have four children, are hoping the Elizabeth City theater will be only the second of many theaters operated by their company. Janelle in fact says “it’s pretty neat” to operate a movie theater in a small community.

"We love having things to do with our family. So, we think it's only fair to help others have that same kind of experience," she said.

And although the couple reside in Roanoke Rapids, Blaine said he and Janelle have fallen in love with Elizabeth City.

"We have been here quite a bit during this renovation," he said. "And we'll continue to make lots of appearances. We won't be absentee owners."

RCE Theaters can be reached by phone at 338-3937. It also has a Facebook page.

For information about what's playing and the times and dates, visit: http://www.rcetheaters.com/