OAKLAND — What could be better than a good flick in a nostalgic neighborhood movie theater?

How about free popcorn?

That is what moviegoers will receive at the Grand Lake Theater weekdays, Monday through Thursday, with the price of admission.

Owner Allen Michaan came up with the idea to offer a bucket of fresh popcorn — plus seconds — as a way to battle the mega-movie complexes, such as the UA Emerybay 10 in Emeryville.

"It's getting harder and harder for the old theaters to compete with the megaplexes. They won't survive unless they are supported by the movie-going community," Michaan said.

Michaan launched the popcorn experiment last week at the Grand Lake and the Orinda Theater in Orinda.

Both cinemas are part of the Renaissance Rialto Theaters company, which once ran 19 theaters. Now there are two.

Michaan said attendance at the Grand Lake has dropped in recent years by as much as 60 percent — and profits by as much as 90 percent — because of competition with the UA, the AMC Bay Street 16 in Emeryville and the Regal Cinemas in Jack London Square.

"People have gotten out of the habit of going to the old theaters," Michaan said.

"We're trying to lure them back in to remind them that this is a better place to see a movie. We promote the glamour of the movie palace experience," he added.

The popcorn offer will continue until the end of May, although Michaan said he would consider extending it indefinitely if it proves successful.


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"We'd rather have the seats filled and give away the popcorn," he said.

For more information about the Grand Lake or Orinda theaters, visit http://www.renaissancerialto.com.

Contact staff writer Angela Woodall at awoodall@angnewspapers.com.