GRANITE CITY — Five years ago, Kayla Whitford got a new job.
She was hired as one of the concession workers for the new $4.6 million Granite City Cinema at 1243 Niedringhaus Ave.
“I’m actually related to (Granite City Mayor) Ed Hagnauer and we go to his Halloween parties every single year and he kept telling us all about it,” Whitford said. “I worked in City Hall the summer before, and he told me to go in and put in an application. I’ve been here ever since then.”
Whitford and the Granite City Cinema will celebrate their five-year anniversary on Aug. 20. Whitford has been working at the movie theater from the first day it opened.
“I can’t believe it’s been five years, and I still love it here,” Whitford said. “I have a bunch of regulars that I love, so they make it a lot easier to come in. They make it joyful to come in. Lately, you’re seeing a lot more people that are having better attitudes and completely understand where we’re coming from, and they know when we’re busy. It’s always fun.”
The cinema is owned by the city. Hagnauer said the movie theater is enjoying its best year financially in 2015.
“We had an awesome year and a lot of it is because of the movies,” the Granite City mayor said. “We had some good movies this year and we’ve had good crowds. We’re really happy with everything.”
Five years ago, the first movies at the cinema were “Nanny McPhee Returns,” “The Other Guys” and “Piranha 3D.” On Aug. 20, the cinema will celebrate its five-year anniversary by showing “Vacation,” “Fantastic Four” and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”
“Things are fine,” Granite City Cinema manager Lanny Mann said. “We’re doing better now than we have at first. It’s been a fast five years and they went by really quick.”
Mann and assistant manager Travis Cape also have been working at the Granite City Cinema since it opened five years ago.
“The time has flown pretty fast,” Cape said. “We’ve been doing very well and we’re having a very good year this year.”
Mann and Cape have plenty of experience working in movie theaters. Mann has managed numerous Metro East theaters for 28 years and Cape has worked in the business for more than 20 years.
Mann said the cinema’s first year in 2010 was a successful one.
“It was good,” the manager said. “We never had a year that we lost money.”
The cinema is in a revitalized Granite City downtown area that includes a coffee house, Kool Beanz Café; and a pizzeria, Aiello’s Pizzeria.
“You get that homey feel to it being down here,” Whitford said. “So it’s fun; I like it and it’s nice to have a change down here.”
Whitford graduated from Granite City High School in 2009. She attends Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, majoring in psychology and minoring in history.
“Lanny and Travis are pretty fantastic,” said 24-year-old Whitford, who works at the cinema one day a week. “When things are slow, they let us do our homework behind the scenes so we can stay focused on school and do our job at the same time.”
Whitford had never worked in a movie theater before she was hired at the cinema five years ago. Her first job was at Mr. Twist Ice Cream.
“Every job you start, you’re nervous because you don’t know what you’re doing,” Whitford said. “But thankfully we’ve been lucky to have the people that we have and that have continually worked here, and we try to make it better.”
Whitford said she’s optimistic the cinema will continue to be successful.
“I’m hoping one day that we’ll be able to extend it and add another cinema into the three that we have,” Whitford said. “Maybe that will bring more people in. I think we’ll be doing good. I think the more popular we get and the more noticeable, we’ll do good. We still get people that say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that you’re here.’ They’re still surprised. But hey, we’re surprised when we come in every day.”
For information on movie listings and schedules, contact the Granite City Cinema at (618) 512-9000 or at www.granitecitycinema.com.