Free Daily Headlines


Set your text size: A A A

Friends help save Flat Rock Cinema

Howard and Barb Molton run Flat Rock Cinema Howard and Barb Molton run Flat Rock Cinema

FLAT ROCK — Howard Molton was relieved and happy recently as he stood beside a large box in the small lobby of his theater, Flat Rock Cinema.

In the box was the salvation of the theater and an upgrade in the quality of the movie experience in Flat Rock.


Because all film producers are converting to digital film, movie houses that have the old reel-to-reel projectors face the future of the phone booths and VCR players. Molton did not know how he could come up with the $55,000 he needed to buy the digital projector. When word got out, the cinema's loyal fan base responded in a way that stunned Molton and his wife, Barb, who helps run the theater.

"This community is just amazing," he said. "We didn't really ask for it but people just started coming up to us and handing us checks."

Even so, the donations from film buffs would not have been enough. Molton then got a call from state Sen. Tom Apodaca. Molton leases space for a title insurance business from the state senator.

"He called and said what's going on with this," he said. "What he did was got us connected with the North Carolina Rural Center for Economic Development." The agency agreed to guarantee the loan "because they know what a large impact it would have if we went away from Flat Rock, with the traffic we have."

Flat Rock mayor Bob Staton helped out, too, by contacting the rural development agency and offering the village's help in securing a grant. As it turned out, Molton got a loan instead.

"The Flat Rock Cinema is a real asset to this community," he said. "My wife and I love it. It helps the economy too. He brings a lot of people here."

When the new projector was still in the box, Molton was asked whether the movie patron would be able to tell a difference. "The average person may not but I will." Three days later, when technicians had finished setting it up, he gushed over the change.

"I swear I never thought the picture would look that good," he said. "When I told people that the average person would not be able to tell a difference I was wrong. When that thing lit up the screen for the first time, I could not believe the brightness and the clarity and the sound. There's speakers in there I didn't even know worked. It's fantastic. I wish I had done it a long time ago."

To celebrate the cinema is offering free popcorn of any size through Thursday (May 10).

With a better picture than ever, patrons will still be able to enjoy the intimate feeling that the neighborhood cinema is known for. "You'll still have that feeling of not being in a big box," he said.