MOUNT VERNON — Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Lincoln Theatre's DVD collection seemed destined for a new home.
Over the years, the Mount Vernon theater has built a library of about 2,500 titles. Some are movies that had been shown at the theater, some were donated.
But with DVDs less popular in the era of online streaming, the theater's management was thinking of donating the movies and had even talked to potential recipients.
"We didn't have the space. They weren't renting. Everyone's streaming now," said Lincoln Theatre Executive Director Roger Gietzen. "Then COVID hit and everything changed."
Except for a short period, the theater has had to shut its doors because of state safety restrictions, sticking with streaming movies to customers.
But appropriately enough for a business with a history that goes back almost a century, it's embraced a (slightly) older medium. The theater has kept its DVD-rental business rolling, and it's been a small bright spot in a difficult time.
"I wouldn't say we're competing with Netflix or Amazon Prime, but we've been renting more videos than we ever had," Gietzen said. "It used to be (only) for members but now anyone can come in. It's $2 for a week ... it's a good deal and good way to support theater."
Gietzen said before COVID, one customer donated about 700 titles, including some that are obscure.
Gietzen said some of the more popular rentals include TV series, both American and British. The theater even explored the idea of renting by mail but has been unable to do so because of cost.
The Lincoln rents about 50 titles a week, Gietzen said. It also offers a "popcorn pop-up" the opportunity to order popcorn, chocolate bars or other concessions and pick them up curbside along with rented movies or on their own if only a snack is desired.
The movies have turned into an unexpected boon, he said.
"It's kind of ironic. We were going to figure out what to do with them and now it's one of our main sources of revenue," Gietzen said.