Former Blacksburg 'CineBowl' reopens under new operators, Paragon Theaters

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) -- There's no arguing the venue offers a unique opportunity.

"It's modern," said James Oliver, a managing partner with the restaurant McClain's. "It's lots of parking, which in Blacksburg is always hard."

But the establishment formerly known as the Frank Theatres CineBowl and Grille had its share of issues, even closing briefly amid disputes over unpaid rent.

"Getting people to come to the facility when they're hearing negative things is a challenge," Oliver said, "and so, over time, you have to counter that with really great service and providing a great product to get people back in the door."

That's exactly what Paragon Theaters is hoping to bring, after taking over the movie operations in May.

The Florida-based group hopes to use a local approach to compete with the Regal Cinemas in Christiansburg.

"We're local," said Paragon C.E.O. and owner Michael Whalen. "You know, our competitor up the block is owned and operated in Europe. They are not local by far. They are not even here, and so we think we have a competitive advantage in doing partnerships and marketing things with local businesses and charities and so forth to differentiate ourselves."

The rest of the building, including a bowling alley and restaurant, will continue to be operated by McClain's.

"One of our things that we were most concerned about is, 'Hey, is the group that's going to come in be professional? Are they going to be good to work with? Are we going to be able to get along?' and the answer to all three of those things has been, 'Yes,'" Oliver said.

With bankruptcy woes from previous operators in the rearview mirror, Whalen saw Thursday's ribbon cutting as a new beginning.

"There's been a lot of publicity of this theater and box in the past and all we say is, 'Look, just come down and give us a try,'" he said.

The theater is offering student tickets for seven dollars and recently installed reclining seats.