The Orion

New owner plans revamp for Pageant Theatre

George Johnston

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The Pageant Theatre will offer an alternative to the Chico party scene for students starting this fall. Photo credit: George Johnston

The smell of butter and salt fills the air. The excited murmur of the crowd fades into silence as lights go down and the movie slowly begins projecting at the Pageant Theatre.

The oldest movie theater in downtown Chico, Pageant Theatre, has been showing films since 1975. Located at 351 E. 6th St., the theater originally opened as a paint store before being converted to a movie theater.

Roger Montalban and Tim Giusta became owners of the Pageant Theatre in 1980, turning the semi-commercial theater into the independent art-house theater it is today.

Things looked bleak for the Pageant in 2013 when Hollywood made the switch from film to digital. Luckily, Giusta launched a successful fundraiser on Indiegogo.com to raise the money needed to update the theater for the 21st century.

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New owner of the Pageant Theatre, Miles Montalbano, sees a bright future for his business. Photo credit: George Johnston

Current owner, Miles Montalbano, took over management six months ago when the former owners retried.

“It’s more like curating an art gallery than running a movie theater sometimes,” Montalbano said.

The new owner hopes to reach out to Chico State students this year by hiring an intern for campus publicity and instituting a new discounted price policy for students who bring their Wildcat ID card to the theater.

“I feel like there are kids more interested in alternative stuff,” Montalbano said.

Montalbano is also seeking to create a more upbeat, festive option for those not interested in the traditional Chico State party scene on the weekends by showing movies every Friday night through Monday afternoon. On special occasions, live music groups will play before a movie and KZFR will sell beer.

“We definitely have, you know, a pretty funky, laid-back groove going on here,” Montalbano said, “And people will either like that or not.”

A typical night for the Pageant begins one hour before the first movie showing when Montalbano arrives at the theater to go through his checklist of the equipment. Montalbano then makes sure the movie cue is lined up before making a batch of popcorn and waits for the audience to arrive.

In October, the Pageant will show cult horror movies every weekend leading up to Halloween instead of its usual independent films.

The amount of independent and mainstream films shown at the theater are balanced, Montalbano said.

“We’re less concerned about what’s popular or would make more money than bringing something cool,” he said.

Montalbano plans on filming a no-cellphone PSA to be shown before movies sometime this year. The owner wants to make it clear to all who attend the theater that if you use your cellphone during a movie, you will be asked kindly to leave.

“There is something about going into an auditorium, having the lights go down, being surrounded by the world and sharing that experience with a group pf people,” said Montalbano. “I think there’s something still powerful with people wanting to do that and as long as people want to do that, we’ll that keep doing that.”

Pageant Theatre Ticket Prices

General Admission $7.50

Seniors (Ages 60+) $6.00

Matinee $6.00

Monday Night Cheapskate $4.00

George Johnston can be reached at features [email protected] or @gjohnston786 on Twitter.

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New owner plans revamp for Pageant Theatre