Senior finds new life behind silver screen
by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer
After several health issues including a heart attack, stroke and a multiple sclerosis diagnosis, Martin Evans’ doctors term him a “walking miracle.”
So at age 63 it shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise that the man with a background in food service, construction and ministry has combined all three and opened up Norman’s newest discount theatre.
Three months and bucket fulls of sweat equity later, Evans wouldn’t trade the experience for the world and movie goers continue to line up day after day for a unique entertainment experience.
“It’s a family-oriented business,” Evans says. “Our prices are reflective of value.”
The theatre features $1 tickets on Tuesdays. All other days shows before 4 p.m. are $2. After 4 p.m. the price goes to $3.
The value continues at the concession stand where you can get a large popcorn, large drink and candy for less than $10. Soda refills are just a quarter.
Evans admits he couldn’t do it without his wife of nearly 35 years, Pam.
Three sons and a daughter – nearly half of the Evans family – plus a nephew all work at the theatre.
Evans has nine children.
“Everyone of them rolled up their sleeves when it was still building in progress and my brother-in-law came out for a couple months and did most of the painting for us,” Evans said. “(Having a family business) most days it’s great. Some days we’re on opposite ends of the building so we don’t scream at each other.”
Evans has a long history in customer service.
He managed Sambo’s restaurants years ago as well as a string of fast-food restaurants in California and Southern Oregon.
A few years back, son Josh opened a theatre with partners in Waterbury, Connecticut. Hurricane Sandy struck and three months later a major nor’easter all but deflated Josh’s chances at operating a successful movie theatre.
“Things kept piling up so they closed it but he always wanted to get back in,” Evans said.
So it was no surprise that Josh came to his parents for a serious talk.
“He said he really wanted to do something with us,” Martin said. “He told us we weren’t going to make a living on Social Security and he wanted to get us in a position where we could make a living and not have to work.”
There’s been plenty of work lately, but Evans has a vision of duplicating his theatre success in other markets.
“I’m 63 and for the first time in my life I was able to go to a car lot and buy a brand new car,” Evans said. “A week later I went back and bought another one for the company.”
The public has responded.
“We’re having a ball. We love it and we love the community,” Evans said. “I can’t think of a better place to live and start your business than Norman.”
Before the front doors were even unlocked Christmas Eve 2015 more than 5,000 people had liked the theatre’s Facebook page.
A crowdfunding campaign yielded nearly $30,000 with people purchasing discount admission cards and on-screen advertising.
Schools from as far away as Paul’s Valley are bringing 200 students at a time for reward days.
Movies like Goonies, Back to the Future, Gone with the Wind, Sound of Music, Singing in the Rain, Indiana Jones and Jaws are back up on the big screen for those who
“A lot of kids will get to see a movie that they’ve maybe seen on TV but not on the big screen,” Evans said. “We cater to the kids and cater to the families. We see everything from grandparents bringing their kids for their first movie experience to large families on a tight budget. We’re starting to see more college kids.
“Really we’re widespread but we have a lot of seniors.”
The Red Hat ladies come once a week to enjoy the newly-renovated digs. Upgraded sound, seating and carpet await theatre goers with a new 3D experience coming later this summer.
A family of five can come to the theatre and spend less than $50 including tickets and food.
Evans even offers a special line of all-beef hot dogs.
The nacho dog has cheese, chips and jalapenos. The namesake Marty Dog weighs in with white queso, bacon, guacamole and pico de gallo.
Fresh-baked pizza and boneless wings make an appearance after noon.
Evans credits a very aggressive film booker in getting the theatre its releases.
“It’s the same process. We have a booker who negotiates the film and the studio tells us the special things we have to do,” Evans said.
When you walk into Evans Theatres you can tell it’s a different type of theatre.
Pam Evans knows why.
“We believe everyone that walks through that door is family – family that we like,” Pam says with a chuckle.
Evans Theatres Robinson Crossing 6 is located at 1300 N Interstate Drive in Norman and opens at opens at 10:00 AM.