As the owner of ABC Real Estate, Inc and Travel in Decatur, booking Disney vacations, Corey Affolder was accustomed to taking his wife and two sons to Disney World during breaks from school.
But two years ago, there was a change of plans.
Instead of visiting the Magic Kingdom, they ended up going to another small town, Portland, Indiana, where they decided to go to the movies as a family. But after two failed attempts at trying to get into a movie they wanted to see, they went to a Dairy Queen and hashed out an idea on a napkin instead.
What resulted was a way to bring the Disney experience closer to home.
“Within a couple of days, we started construction on a building and turned it into a state-of-the-art movie theater,” Corey says.
The Affolder family, from left, is Carter, Corey, Barb, and Tyler.
Today, their family business, ABCinema Inc. hosts first-run movies in the Decatur community of about 10,000 people. But that’s not all.
They built the theater to give audiences a 4D movie experience without the 3D glasses, outfitting it with surround sound and putting the seats on a hollow wood floor so they rumble with the film. On top of that, it’s all available at an affordable price. Open Wednesday through Sunday, all movie tickets cost only $5.
“We knew that a lot of theaters are struggling to make it, but most charge a lot to get in,” Corey says. “Our model was only $5 to make it affordable and get them to come.”
Movie tickets at ABCinema are all $5.
So far, this model seems to be working. The theater has been able to break even every month, Corey says. It is a hobby for him and his wife, Barb Affolder, who runs an insurance office. He works a number of jobs around town, from booking vacations to selling real estate, serving as the township Trustee, driving a school bus, and managing rental properties.
The theater's building at 130 W. Monroe St. in downtown Decatur was once used for karate training, Corey says, but it has been vacant for a while. The Affolders purchased it from the owner who supported their plans.
Even so, while they sourced materials and volunteers from the Decatur community on Facebook, they kept their end goal a secret from the public while the theater was under construction, Corey says.
“We wanted it to be a wow factor,” he explains.
ABCinema hosts a sold-out premier of the latest "Incredibles" movie.
A day prior to opening, the Affolders held a media event, in which they made their big announcement, and they were covered on every news outlet in Indiana.
“When people walked in, we blew them away,” Corey says. “We had an artist come in and paint our walls. It is a cool-looking theater all around.”
Since opening, ABCinema has been overwhelmed with support from the Decatur community and beyond. When they went live on Facebook in June 2017, they got 11,000 hits. On November 2, 2017, they held a soft opening playing “Thor: Ragnarok.”
In ABCinema’s first 14 months of being open to the public, more than 29,000 people have come through its doors.
With business taking off, the Affolders have been sure to not lose ties to their roots. All of the food they serve at ABCinema is locally sourced, with popcorn from Amish Country Popcorn in Berne, which is grown in the local area and cooked in Bunge oil made in Decatur.
“We want to support the local farmers,” Corey says. “That is how we wanted everything to be. The only thing that came from out of town was the lighting and theater equipment; everything else was received locally.”
ABCinema has surround sound and seats that rumble on a hollow wood floor.
Ken Meyer, Mayor of Decatur, watched the transformation of the dilapidated building into a busy movie theatre from his office nearby.
In 2018, Corey and Barb received the City of Decatur’s award for Small Business of the Year.
Meyer applauds their bravery and investment.
“They took a chance, and it ended up working out,” Meyer says. “They’re risk-takers, and they’re making it work.”
ABCinema is inspired by Walt Disney in some ways.
Looking to the future, Corey says he and his family will be reflecting on Walt Disney’s legacy for more business inspiration.
They encourage other entrepreneurs to heed Disney’s words: “Give the public everything you can give them, keep the place as clean as you can keep it, and keep it friendly.”