It’s been a tough few months for the West Mall 7 Theatres in Sioux Falls. The business was closed for a few days this past September when a tornado hit the Western Mall. Now its been closed for more than a week after a fire in a rooftop heating unit above the lobby.
“It looked like a car fell through our ceiling,” owner Todd Frager said.
While it certainly looked bad from the start, Frager said he initially thought the damage was fairly contained to a small area near the front of the lobby.
“What happened was, we had a motor fail, it got hot, fire was created inside the rooftop unit, then some of it melted through, hit our ceiling tile, fell to the carpet and then those embers damaged our carpet in about a five foot by five foot area,” Frager said.
Surveying the damage, he initially hoped to open the theater after a few days of essential repairs.
“Originally what I saw and what we talked about was, okay, we’re going to temporarily patch things up, we’re going to get the theater open, and then we’re going to do all the repairs and changes as we’re open, because in the theater business that’s what we do because we want to be open,” Frager said.
But he quickly learned the unseen damage would keep him closed much longer.
“The snag was with the ventilation in the lobby,” Frager said. “When they tested it they found they couldn’t clean it, it has to get replaced, so that meant the ceilings got to come down, all the ventilation has to come down and all new ventilation put in.”
That price tag adds up quickly. With all of those repairs and the new rooftop heating unit, Frager says the damage adds up to a few hundred thousand dollars. That’s not including the continued loss of business.
“We average 5,000 to 10,000 people through here a week,” he said. “Our product perishes… if we’re down for a month, some of those movies are going to get old and we won’t be able to play them.”
Frager says his insurance company is working with him to help cover the cost of the damage and some of the lost business, but he recommends all business owners meet with their insurance agents to make sure they have enough coverage in their policy for loss of business.
But while he’s forced to close for a few weeks of repairs, Frager is also hoping to check a few theater improvements off his to-do list
“We’re going to do some painting, we’re going to do some carpet and we’re going to upgrade some things [in the lobby] that are normally difficult to do when you’re under operation,” Frager said.
While the lobby will have a big face lift once he’s able to reopen, Frager also tells fans of the West Mall 7 popcorn not to worry, nothing in the concessions stands was damaged in the fire.
“An electrical engineer came in and they actual went through the popcorn machines, the butter machines and everything but its all fine and the popcorn machine will still be as good as everyone remembers,” he said.
Frager also says he’s incredibly grateful no one was inside or hurt when the lobby was damaged. He hopes enough of the major repairs will be completed to re-open the theater by early February.