Zephyrhills Cinema 10 is a theater that has entertained local movie buffs for decades.
There was a time, though, that like all movie theaters, its future was uncertain.
The COVID-19 pandemic that nearly bankrupted many theater chains, forced Zephyrhills Cinema 10 owner Larry Rutan to close his theaters for months.
It was a challenging time.
Rutan had to lay off all his employees. To keep the place from closing permanently, he burned through his savings and maxed out his credit cards.
When he was able to reopen, business was slow. He was forced to show classic movies and offer group rates to rent an entire auditorium for close friends or family.
“Once we started getting new movies again, it just started to get a little bit better and better each week,” he said.
“I’m a positive thinker, so I never said that we would close for good,” the theater owner added.
That was good news for longtime manager and Dade City native Karisten Deem. She’s been coming to this movie theater since she was a kid, and now, despite losing her position for a brief time, she considers working at Zephyrhills Cinema 10 her dream job.
“I was meant for this job and I’m lucky to have it,” Deem said. “I just love getting to see what (movies) are coming out and see the audiences react to them. As someone who loves movies and listening to people talking about the movies coming out, it was scary to close down.
“Larry will say movies are basically timeless. That’s why people keep coming back, because movies will never go away.”
Zephyrhills Cinema 10 is a local institution and, of course, the only theater in town.
Rutan, a contractor, built the entertainment venue from the ground up. In the 1990s, he bought the land for the theater, which opened with six auditoriums. Now, it has 10.
Recently, Rutan completed renovations that included adding reclining and stadium seating to the larger auditoriums, and giving the lobby a fresh, new look.
Alex and Rebecca Cruz, who are regular patrons, raved about the updated seating.
The two are wedding photographers from Dade City and they frequently bring their children to see films at Zephyrhills Cinema 10.
“We love watching movies — the seats here are just the best. We have a good experience every time we come here. We like how it’s just nice and quaint,” Alex said.
“The second he went online to get tickets, we were like, it has to be Zephyrhills (Cinema 10), because — it’s the chairs. The chairs are the best and the most comfortable for seeing movies,” said Rebecca, referring to the tickets they bought to bring their children to watch “Fantastic Beasts.”
Ironically, Rutan rarely gets to view films for more than an hour at a time.
“I love movies,” the 75-year-old said. “I just don’t have time for them. People think I sit here all day and watch movies, but I don’t.”
Instead, he’s managing the cinemas — helping his employees and greeting customers.
“I’m one of those people that enjoys meeting people,” Rutan said. “Obviously, weekends are our busiest times, so a lot of people definitely come in on Friday nights. I want this to be ‘the place to be.’”
The fact that the theater owner is too busy to watch a film from start to finish — well, that’s nothing new.
“I can’t even tell you the first movie that was shown here,” he said.
“It was a Friday and I was in work garb, and dirty and messy. I went home to shower, came back, and they had already sold the first ticket.
“I missed the grand opening!”
Zephyrhills Cinema 10
Where: 6848 Gall Blvd., Zephyrhills
When: Movies are screened seven days a week, with most beginning around 4 p.m. Check the website for showtimes.
Cost: Adults $11, Children $8. There are Kiddie Showtimes every Tuesday and Wednesday at 10 a.m. during the summer, which cost just $1.
Details: Local movie theater showing the latest releases from blockbusters to small indie films in the Zephyrhills community going strong for 30 years.
Info: Call 813-782-2222, or visit ZephyrhillsCinema.com for showtimes and to purchase tickets.
Published May 04, 2022
Coming from the perspective of a lifelong Z-hills resident, born and raised, I couldn’t accept anyone but Larry being the movie theater owner. He employed my brother when he was in high school. He was the guy at the old theater on 5th Ave yelling at us kids for making out in the back row 35 years ago. The guy the had the gumption to bring a Cinema 6 to lil ole Z-hills, back when no one wanted to be from here…and let me tell ya, that was a BIG DEAL!!! I’m happy that our community was able to support him wrought to keep our movie theater open and to even make it much nicer for us.
I appreciate all the memories you’ve given me, Larry, throughout the years. From watching Top Gun, to my first kiss, to dropping my own kids off for a movie with friends (and a little bit of freedom). You’ve brought a lot of happiness to so many of us. I wish all the best for you and I’m so glad you were able to sustain through the pandemic. Here’s to many more!!!