PENINSULA — It was mid-October in Rochester, New York. The color of the leaves hadn’t yet changed and the autumn air was a comfortable 70 degrees. But the winds of change were well in motion for Katie Licata, 27, and DJ McLaughlin, 28. Beset by a spirit of adventure, they decided to sell their belongings, pack up their four pets and drive more than 2,800 miles to their destination in Long Beach as the new managers of Neptune Theatre, a two-screen theatre in a town of fewer than 2,000.
Neither Licata, a former marketing manager nor, McLaughlin, a former sous chef, could anticipate what running a theater would entail, only that the opportunity was there after a series of serendipitous introductions. The owner of the Neptune Theatre, Keith Riexinger, had been seeking two steady employees to manage the business when, during a visit to New York, he became acquainted with Licata and McLaughlin.
“My boss there is the brother of the owner (of the theater),” Licata said.
“He came to New York for a visit and let me know that he was looking for someone to run the theater, so we decided to pack up and come,” she said. The cross-country trip took six days. They brought basic necessities and alternated between sleeping in the car and camping.
“We sold everything we had,” Licata said. “We loaded up the trailer with boxes, packed up the car with basic necessities, three cats and a dog.”
Living on the coast was the biggest draw for Katie and DJ, who formerly had to drive 7 hours to reach the shore from Rochester. But relocating from a city of more than 200,000 to a small Pacific Northwest town left them missing some of the comforts and conveniences of the city. Wegmans, a regional supermarket chain headquartered near Rochester, was chief among the familiar comforts they miss most. In turn, even the smallest nuances don’t go unnoticed.
“The sticks of butter are different,” McLaughlin said. “On the East Coast they’re long and slender and here they’re short and stubby. It’s just one of those weird things you wouldn’t expect.”
Other things have simply exceeded expectations.
“Coffee here is incredible,” Licata said. The ice, snow and traffic are also things they haven’t missed.
“It’s January and I’m wearing a T-shirt,” McLaughlin said.
“It’s so different,” Licata said. “As far as the culture goes, it’s totally different, it’s way slower paced here.”
Business has been solid since the start, with moviegoers coming in steadily in spite of what’s considered the slow season in both the film and local tourism industry.
“It’s been great,” Licata said. “Business has been better than we thought it would be this time of year.” Among the first run, or recently released movies, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” released in December, and “Fantastic Beasts,” released in November, were among their hottest ticket sellers so far. While both movies ranked in the top 10 for box office earnings in 2016, peculiar circumstances on the Peninsula can directly influence sales.
“Somebody in Ocean Park hit a telephone pole and it brought a huge crowd in here,” Licata said.
“You would think bad weather would bring people in, but people stay inside,” McLaughlin said. “Except that one time when the power went out and everyone showed up.”
For more information and showing times, visit www.neptunetwin.com.