Despite being featured on Thrillist’s 12 most beautiful theaters in the world, entrepreneur J Moses Ceaser maintains that he sees the New Parkway more as a community center than a movie theater. Since its opening in December 2012, the New Parkway has joined prestigious theaters like the Paramount Theater in Oakland’s Theater District.
On the surface, the New Parkway seems like a classic dinner theater. They cater to both the entertainment and the dietary needs of a plethora of customers from teenagers on their first dates to hardcore movie buffs, from retirees to parents of newborns who find particular solace in the twice a week “Baby Brigade” shows. Beneath the surface is a movie theater that has a passion for giving back to the community. From $5 tickets on Monday nights to their famous “Karma Wednesdays” where the clients pay as much (or little) as they want for tickets and 20% of the proceeds go to a local charity, the New Parkway is indeed more than a theater.
J Moses was one of many customers of the old Parkway Theater on East Lake and found himself lacking suitable alternatives when the theater closed in 2009. His vision led him to conceive the New Parkway, a modern, even more community-oriented reincarnation of the old Parkway. The project was worth almost $1.5 million, $245,000 of which was loaned to Moses by Main Street Launch. “I remember I was injured really badly just prior to meeting with Main Street Launch. When I apologized to Jacob (Singer, CEO of Main Street Launch), he told me ‘the fact that this meeting is happening despite your condition shows me you are committed to the business idea’”. The money loaned from Main Street Launch was used primarily to purchase equipment, improve the façade of the building and complete construction on the theater itself. “I don’t think we could have started the business without the funding from Main Street Launch. I had really looked for and exhausted all the other sources of funding before they gave me a loan.”
Four years since its inception, the New Parkway employs 40 people, has an excellent kitchen, and hosts various events outside of movies such as game nights and sports broadcasts. Customers flock to see the daily changing shows including reruns of classics, anime, and indie movies. J Moses explains the secret to the New Parkway’s success: “I think that what really stands out to me is how consistently phenomenal our staff is. The sense of community is very much present in our staff and that is translated to our customers. I want to use the New Parkway Theater as a model to show that mission-driven for-profit businesses can be successful. My business strives to show that if you make your values and your principles your bottom line, you can still achieve financial success.”