'I have to pay rent': Raleigh theater owner opens space for private showings

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Raleigh small-business owner Bill Peebles is frustrated but willing to fight for survival.

"It's incredibly frustrating to know 'OK, what the heck am I going to do the next day,'" Peebles said.

He has a huge auditorium with the Rialto Theater and figures why not put it to use during the week. He is opening up the historic location for private showings and the invitation is up on social media.

The space can host up to 100 people with COVID-19 restrictions.

"If you and your neighborhood, or you and you household wants to have a product showing on a Wednesday -- we can do it," Peebles said.



He is facing a couple of problems right now after being forced to close for nearly seven months in 2020.

To start, new inventory is low. Not a lot of movies are coming out of Hollywood.

"We've got in eight new films since March of last year. Normally, it would be 40," Peebles said.

Then, there's the financial restrains from the pandemic shutdown.

Theaters weren't allowed to reopen until October.

Fiercely loyal patrons have stepped in to help. They started a GoFundMe page and raised more than $30,000 to save the historic small business.

The theater been a Five Points mainstay since the 1970s.

"There are a lot of sleepless nights where I wake up and write down on a notebook, 'OK, let's try this idea,'" Peebles said.

Even with the private showings, Peebles said he is not expecting to bank a bunch of money but just hoping to break even.

"Oh absolutely. I have to pay power. I have to pay electric bill every day of the week. I have to pay rent every day of the week. I have to do all the other services," he said.

The theater rental costs $200 for two-and-a-half hours. That includes a $50 credit toward the concession stand.

The option is available Monday through Thursday.

The theater will host the general public for regular showings on the weekends.
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