It’s going to be a Tarantino night at the reopening of the Regent Theater, 114 W. Lincoln
The one-night only movie to be shown that evening - the classic “Pulp Fiction” at 7 p.m. June 4. All seats that night at the reduced price of $5.
“We’re still gathering information on what is required,” theater owner Jerry Fike said. “Right now everything is a suggestion.”
He does know the 225 seat capacity Regent will have to operate at 50% capacity for a while with no clusters of people larger than 15.
The auditorium’s big enough, you could have 80 or 90 people and still a lot of room,” Fike said. “There’s plenty of places to go so you don’t have to sit by people.”
The handful of high school kids working at the theater have been taking “safe serve” training to keep customers safe and healthy.
Of course, the Regent hasn’t entirely closed this summer. Fike and his crew have been serving fountain drinks and snacks curbside for the past couple of months, and he said the support from the community has been “amazing.”
For the first two weeks of the Regent’s reopening, Fike plans to show movies seven days a week. He expects - and is hoping for - small crowds spread over a long period. People “sticking their toes in the water,” he said. Fike doesn’t expect a return to normal crowd size until around the beginning of fall.
“It’s trial and error,” he said. “It really has been feast or famine for us.”
For around the next six weeks, Fike will have to be creative in the movies he shows. The definite plans are to show “Goonies,” the 1976 version of “A Star is Born” and “Smokey and the Bandit.”
The studios aren’t releasing movies in this pandemic time of closed movie theaters and 50% capacity theaters.
“It’s kind of a catch-22, chicken or the egg,” Fike said. “The studios don’t wanna release a $200 million project when not all the theaters are open.”
Fike would like to show a black and white John Wayne western and a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western. He’s currently taking suggestions from people on the Regent’s Facebook page. In the past, he has shown “throwback movies” like “North by Northwest,” “Rear Window,” “Singing in the Rain” and “Mary Poppins.”
“I’ve done ‘The Breakfast Club”, I've done “Animal House”, I've done “Caddyshack,” he said.
“Pulp Fiction was one of the first movies Fike showed when he bought the Regent in 1994. “It has a special place in my heart,” he said.
Fike has a soft place in his heart for the movie theater business. Although he’s worked a few other jobs along the way, Fike has pretty consistently stayed with movie theaters since he got his first job as a teenager in El Dorado.
“I love it,” he said. “You know how carnies say it’s in their blood? I’ve been in the theater business since i was 16-yrs-old. I love it.”
Back in the ‘70s, Ken Brown, owner of the movie theater in Eureka, bought a movie theater in El Dorado that had sat vacant for about 10 years.
“My first job was scraping gum off the floor so we could repaint it,” he said. “When I was in high school, this - it was a hell of a lot better than flipping burgers. For a high school kid it was a fun job. I've been fortunate I've had - not jobs that paid a lot but jobs that were really, really fun. I was a professional brat. I got paid to be a brat.”
Brown also bought the Regent in Wellington and in 1981, he asked Fike to manage it. He stayed there until the late ‘80s when Bill Warren opened his first Wichita movie theater, The Palace, in west Wichita.
In 1994, Brown was down to one theater, The Regent, and he was ready to retire. He offered to sell it to Fike. “I always wanted to work for myself,” Fike said.
A self-described “rebel,” Fike plans to show a lighthearted documentary, traditionally the way the Kansas Wheat Festival is kicked off. He also plans to have the annual sidewalk chalk drawing contest for kids - another traditional KWF activity - even though the festival has been canceled for this year.
Fike, something of an overgrown kid who likes to walk barefoot when he can, is approaching 60. And he has no plans to retire any time soon.
“I can do the theater when I'm an old man,” he said. “I really, seriously enjoy it.”