By Matthew Goodman | email@example.com
Nestled among rustic Victorian houses and neighboring the historic Lightner Museum, The Corazon Cinema and Café is becoming a mainstay of St. Augustine culture.
The building, located at 36 Grenada St., used to be home to Pot Belly’s Cinema, as well as numerous other businesses, spanning across decades. After the owners of Pot Belly’s put the building on the market and auctioned off years of movie memorabilia in early 2014, Karla Wagner and her husband Bob purchased the property and began to make changes.
Growing up in the Orlando area, she was involved in art houses for most of her life at venues like the Enzian and the Aloma Drafthouse. Although always passionate about film, life changes compelled her to pursue it.
“Once your kids go to college and your dog dies, you all of a sudden have that freedom, not just to go to work every day, but to follow your passion as well,” Wagner said.
Wagner has a history with St. Augustine. She and her husband were married in St. Augustine 27 years ago and were frequent visitors in the years after. The Wagners finally moved to the city four years ago and enjoyed walking down to Pot Belly’s as a local place in the community to see films that weren’t playing at big multiplexes.
When longtime owner Kenny Pierce chose to sell the property, it made Wagner think.
“I got the idea of possibly reopening it and making it something grander than it was, but also keeping that small community,” Wagner said.
She wanted to build a business she would enjoy visiting every day; a place she would’ve enjoyed hanging out in her youth and still would enjoy today.
“It wasn’t something I had planned,” Wagner says. “It wasn’t on my bucket list.”
But it was an opportunity she’s fully taking advantage of, with a variety of features, the primary being film. Wagner works with manager and Flagler alum Sina Eslami, as well as others, in deciding what films to show.
Classics like Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” and Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” were played around Halloween. Corozon also shows modern hits like “Nightcrawler” and “The Hobbit” trilogy. Indie hits like “Babadook” have also found a home at the Corazon.
Many of these films attract an older demographic, but Wagner hopes that more Flagler students will catch on. She gave out hundreds of “buy-one get-one” coupons at the Flagler Bookstore, but was surprised when few were cashed in.
The Corazon is, however, getting their name out there. When the theater hosted part of the St. Augustine Film Festival, word spread across Flagler’s campus. Wagner hosted several films at the theater and talked to student filmmakers in the solarium.
Wagner isn’t the only one with a love for movies.
Manager Eslami is a local filmmaker in addition to his job at the Corazon. He likes being in the environment and working with likeminded people.
“Karla is always looking to help local filmmakers,” Eslami said.
Special events like a season premiere of the “Walking Dead”, the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards, have provided Wagner with opportunities to have viewing parties.
“The Academy Award party has probably been my top party so far, even topping the Super Bowl party,” Wagner said. “Everybody loved it.”
Wagner can show these events for free – and make a profit from food and drink sales. When playing a movie at a small theater, there are plenty of costs involved, including a portion of ticket sales going back to the movie. While larger movie theaters can charge more for concessions, smaller theaters are limited.
Their food service is, however, more extensive than most larger movie theaters. The Corazon hosts lunch daily, with meals named after movie stars like Kevin Spacey and Jim Carey. Wagner came up with the names and tried to correlate them with the actual food in the meals.
“Jim Carey is a big ham so obviously we named the ham sandwich after him,” Wagner said.
The staff serves lunch starting at 11 a.m., closes at 3 p.m., then reopens at 6 p.m. for the movie showings and food service. They serve a variety of beer and wine, with some seasonal offerings that come and go.
Wagner has plans in the future to keep the community – and Flagler’s campus – engaged, including more viewing parties and maybe a Harry Potter night. Wagner is also willing to listen to suggestions for what films to play.
A full schedule of events, movies and show times is available online at their website, www.corazoncinemaandcafe.com.