LAFOLLETTE (WATE) – It only holds two screens, but the Carmike movie theater in LaFollette has long been at the center of many people’s Friday nights. The theater is closing next month and a community church will take its place.
Justin Willoughby and his best friend Matthew Minton have lived in LaFollette all their lives. They’re going to miss the Carmike Movies 2.
“It’s kind of a bummer just in a way, because it’s always been here since we were little and it was one of the only things you could really do here,” said Willoughby.
Willoughby remembers experiencing family firsts at the theater.
“I went to my first movie with my mom, and it was actually ‘The Lion King,'” said Willoughby.
His friend Matthew has good memories at the theater too.
“My first date was here in the seventh grade,” said Minton.
The theater will be closing in less than a month after entertaining people in the community for 36 years. It is the only movie theater in town.
“I don’t really like it,” said Minton.
The building won’t remain vacant for long. The Harbor, a community church will be moving in soon. Pastor James Coffey says they needed a bigger place to have service.
“We’ve actually outgrown our facility that we’re at right now. We’ve went through three expansions in the last six months,” said Coffey.
Although the doors of this Carmike cinema are closing down, Pastor Coffey promises that his church will bring new life to the community. He also says people living in this area will still have the opportunity to watch movies.
“We do have a few ideas in mind with opening it up for a family night, showing free movies to the public. We’ve checked into all the necessary licenses to do that,” said Coffey.
Pastor Coffey says he plans to officially open the church at the new location on Easter Sunday. He says even though people are sad to see the theater go, the community is supporting the idea of moving a church in.
The movie theater’s lease is up on February 19. With the doors closing, the nearest movie theaters to LaFollette are in Oak Ridge, Knoxville and Middlesboro, Kentucky.