MOUNT POCONO — For practically the first time since she was a young teenager, Karen Struckle can visit with family and enjoy playing tennis on a pleasant fall afternoon.
“It’s bittersweet,” Karen told us a week after her father, George Litz, completed the sale of the Casino Theatre and Village Malt Shoppe.
Her family’s two-generation long tenure with the downtown Mount Pocono mainstay is bookended by the destruction of the original 1920-era building soon after Litz bought the property in 1975, and a once a century pandemic temporarily shuttering the movie business 45 years later.
The Struckles, who have been operating the theater under a lease from Karen’s father, reinvented the business along the way.
Innovations include serving food to patrons while they watched their movies, the old-fashioned soda and ice cream shop, miniature golf, and, during the pandemic, inventing the concept of renting the screens to small groups of gamers and families for private video parties. In an era when independent first-run movie theaters all but disappeared, the Casino survived, and even thrived.
Karen said the new owners, Pocono Township’s Steve Tran and his wife, Lihn Thuc Lu, “couldn’t be nicer. They are family-oriented and it is still going to be a family-friendly business. That makes us happy.”
She said Tran does not plan any major changes. He has kept on the entire staff and the business will continue to be run by the Struckle’s manager.
For their part Karen and Don have agreed to stay on as consultants to the business. They will be booking the movies and helping Tran learn the movie trade and all of the other aspects of the Casino family entertainment venue.
Tran is a successful local businessman. He and his wife own several nail salons in the area, including Nail Trax and PA Nails. More recently he opened the popular Pho Saigon II restaurant in Bartonsville. Eventually, Karen told us, Tran plans to offer some of the popular Vietnamese food available at his Bartonsville restaurant at the theatre complex.
According to documents filed with the Monroe County Recorder of Deeds, Tran and his wife paid $790,000 for the property. Don told us the transaction closed so quickly, Tran had to close the business while he arranged for a sales tax license, insurance, and went through the process of approval by the movie studios.
As of press time, the sign on the theater still reads “Closed for Vacation”. Don said that Tran hopes to be open “very soon.”
Tran was not available to speak with us in time for publication.