Cinemagic Theatre set to close after 25 years

WAFF's Kellie Miller reporting
Published: Jul. 8, 2022 at 10:11 AM CDT

ATHENS, Ala. (WAFF) - Ralph Freehauf is closing the curtains of the place he called home for 25 years. After a long, successful career in the movie industry, Freehauf is closing Cinemagic Theatre in Athens.

The local hotspot has been a community staple since 1997, when the drive-in portion opened. The indoor theater opened in 2006. Over the years, Freehauf has adapted to changing market trends, competed against at-home streaming services, and even overcame the struggles of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In October, Freehauf decided it was time to roll the credits on his career, and put the theater on the market. Freehauf was hoping he could sell it to somebody who would keep the theater alive. However, the current buyers have different plans. Freehauf said they are likely going to turn the theater into a church, but plan to keep at least two projectors for movie nights.

Freehauf said he is thankful for the offer he was given. He hopes community members can find another special theater to make great memories.

“We did our best over the 25 years that we’ve had the drive-in, and 15 years that we’ve had the indoor to give them a pleasurable experience watching a movie,” Freehauf said. “We hope the citizens don’t have to drive too far to go see a movie.”

Freehauf said he’s proud of the hundreds of young individuals, including Megan Emerson, who worked at Cinemagic Theatre. Emerson has been the manager for almost three years.

“I love watching everybody come in...they are so happy when they leave,” Emerson said. “That is the best part about it all.”

Emerson believes the theater played a significant role in the Athens community, and thanks their guests for supporting the local spot.

“Thank you to everybody for all the support,” Emerson said. “We love all of our regular people that come in, and everybody in general that comes in so thank you for supporting us throughout this entire covid situation and everything else.”

Athens local Janice Wood is also reminiscing on her experience working at Cinemagic Theatre. While in high school, Wood worked at the theater for many years. She said she learned how to manage her money, and even gained valuable people skills.

WAFF's Kellie Miller reporting

“I started working there when I was 16,” Wood said. “It was honestly the best first job ever, and it was also a lot of fun.”

Cinemagic Theatre is the only theater in Athens. Wood said she’s sad to see it go, but is hopeful the city will gain another one soon.

If you want to create one more memory at Cinemagic Theatre, you have until the end of July to do so. Freehauf said their last day in business will be Sunday, July 31.

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