Contactless F&B Service at Fridley Theatres during lockdown

Fridley Theatres adapted to the changing world as cinema doors closed, and brought popcorn to the people—staying in business and keeping up with their community, with the help of their Vista Mobile app.


On March 17, Iowa closed all movie theatres in response to the danger COVID-19 poses to public health. On April 1, just two weeks into the lockdown, Fridley Theatres (‘Fridley’) announced the launch of their Curbside Popcorn to Go initiative under the support local business movement.

Fridley, who operate 19 cinema sites across the United States, found overwhelming support from their local communities when they launched their curbside pickup service. At most of their sites, they ran these orders entirely through phone calls and immediately found their phone lines were always busy.

But at their Copper Creek and Waukee sites—both of which use Vista—more than half their sales were made via their Vista Mobile developed app. In a single day, Fridley’s Waukee site sold 500 large popcorn orders with significant help from the app's usage to handle such sales volumes.

Russell Vannorsdel, Vice President at Fridley Theatres, was stunned by the degree of support from their community. “IOWA’s not a gigantic place,” he explained, “there are about three million people in the entire state, and yet with just a single social media post for each location, we were finding over half a million views. There were so many orders at times that people couldn’t get through because all the phone lines were busy. We’re very humbled by the support from the community.”

Over the Friday and Saturday of Easter weekend, Fridley managed to bring in $40,000 from popcorn sales.

While it might not be much compared to our usual full operations, it’s making a huge difference to be able to bring in revenue. Because of this initiative, we’ve already been able to cover payroll for the next six weeks.

Russell Vannorsdel, Vice President at Fridley Theatres

Fridley is planning to expand its menu options as well, and their Vista-developed app is the key to enabling this at their Copper Creek and Waukee locations. The time difference between an order placed over the phone for popcorn and one placed via the app can be as much as 2 minutes. “When you add in further options, drinks, combos, that time will start to balloon out further,” Vannorsdel explained. “But with the app, that frees the customer to make the order just the same.” Because the application can handle this difference, Fridley is looking to offer different combos at Copper Creek and to reopen advanced food and beverage at their Waukee site. Without the app, trying to move these items would be a far greater challenge.


In the first week of the initiative, app sales represented 54% of Fridley's total sales—slightly over half their sales—with the rest being sold in-store. But by the fourth week, this increased to app sales representing 74% of their total sales. Customers quickly picked up on the usage of their mobile app, and as the app's adoption continues to pick up, Fridley's further options for more complex ordering open up as well.


“There are other possibilities we’re looking at that the mobile app enables us to do at these sites as well" Vannorsdel continued. "We’re looking at possibilities for selling gift cards and vouchers via the app, and other items that we can sell now for later use by our customers. They’ve made it loud and clear they want to support us, and if we can give them reasons to come back when we reopen while we’re at it, that could make our return that much stronger.”

Mobile app-powered curbside pickups are helping cinemas stay in business, providing them with a much-needed revenue source. Not only this, but the mobile app also offers an open communication channel with moviegoers and allows exhibitors to keep in contact with their audience, maintaining an active link even while their screens are dark.

When cinemas reopen, mobile apps will play an essential role in reducing physical contact when they purchase concessions. Booking tickets in advance, too, is expected to be an increasingly common practice—especially among those moviegoers who are growing accustomed to mobile ordering right now.

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About Fridley Theatres:

R.L. Fridley Theatres, Inc. was formed as an Iowa corporation in 1974 and is headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa. Founder Robert L. Fridley has been a prominent leader in the Motion Picture Exhibition business for over 75 years.

An Iowa, family-owned business, Fridley Theatres prides itself on Midwestern service and exceptional presentation. It strives to provide guests with great entertainment at reasonable prices.

The company currently operates 19 locations and 86 screens, including a new 15-plex with IMAX in Waukee. For more information visit

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