The Reel Deal Theater at 2551 Central Ave. has closed after 16 years entertaining Los Alamos. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
By KIRSTEN LASKEY
Los Alamos Daily Post
Through tears Jim O’Donnell, of the Reel Deal Theater, announced Tuesday that the movie theater was closing permanently. The news, in turn, produced a lot of tearful emotions in the community.
“On behalf of the Chamber we are very disappointed to lose the asset of the Reel Deal in our community, but we understand the painful decision that they made,” Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce Director Ryn Herrmann said. “And we want to thank them for all they did for our community over the past 16 years.”
O’Donnell said the community’s response to the closure is really heart felt.
“First of all, myself and the whole family, we are sad beyond belief that we are closed … the community has been so supportive the whole time,” he said. “It’s been unbelievable. I can’t remember getting a bad word from anybody. It’s just amazing … the outpouring of support has been tremendous … it helps to heal the wound a lot from having to close.”
The Reel Deal Theater provided local entertainment for 16 years. O’Donnell said the movie theater opened in December 2003 and premiered with the “Lord of the Rings” Trilogy.
“I remember looking down from the projection booth to a packed theater, praying everything would work,” O’Donnell said. “We had just finished installation and testing the previous day. Then, downstairs at the concession stand I saw the line for the next showing snake down the sidewalk spilling onto Central Avenue.”
O’Donnell said that the theater was built by his father-in-law Bill Deal, who is approaching his 95th birthday. O’Donnell said Deal built the movie theater for the community. Ever since it first opened its doors, the Reel Deal played an invaluable role in Los Alamos.
The theater hosted free summer movies, sponsored by Los Alamos National Bank and Enterprise Bank & Trust, was the venue for Pajarito Environmental Education Center’s (PEEC) Backcountry Film Festival as well as other PEEC events and screened late-night movies for graduating seniors during Senior Appreciation Night.
Students from the San Juan Pueblo would take field trips to the Reel Deal and O’Donnell recalls how chaperones and teachers were treated to free films as well as refreshments. When Hollywood came to the area to shoot ‘Only the Brave,’ and ‘Brothers’ the Reel Deal rolled out the red carpet and held special premieres for the films. Drew Goddard, former Los Alamos resident and screenwriter of the blockbuster movie, “The Martian,” spoke about the film in one of the Reel Deal’s auditoriums.
“Everybody was always so nice,” O’Donnell said. “It’s the best place to do business.”
O’Donnell said that there are many factors that contributed to the Reel Deal’s closing. Streaming services such as Netflix compete highly with movie theaters. Then the pandemic hit, and the Reel Deal had to shut its doors.
Even when movie theaters open again, O’Donnell pointed out it will only be at 25 percent capacity. The Reel Deal was put up for sale, but O’Donnell said the entire industry is being hit hard. Even AMC, the biggest theater company in the world, has filed for bankruptcy.
The Reel Deal Theater was a family affair, O’Donnell said. He said his wife Katie worked with PAC8 Executive Director Jean Gindreau-Davison to create the pre-shows. His sister-in-law Mary Anne Beard was the LLC managing partner, she also updated the website and scheduled special events.
In addition, O’Donnell said the movie theater had several long-time employees, some worked more than 10 years at the Reel Deal Theater.
A lot of relationships originated from that place, he added, at least three led to marriages. Clara Lucido, Maria Dominquez, Cy Jakubowski and David Moss were a major part of the Reel Deal family, he said.
O’Donnell said Lucido would greet everyone at the ticket counter and give them a hug.
If she missed someone, he said, Lucido would run them down for a hug.
“One of the things that always stands out in my mind is I let kids do their homework after the rush … I never really had to stay on those kids,” O’Donnell said. “It was quite the opposite. They did what was expected of them without having to tell them every day. It was a big family. I never felt like the boss. We were all in it together.”