Pot Belly’s Cinema – a reminisce about the good/bad ole days

**Update 10/2014: Corazon Cinemas & Cafe is open in the theater-formerly-known-as-Pot-Belly’s. It’s clean and classy, not creepy and sticky. Click through ^that link to read the review but don’t miss this reminisce:**

Pot Belly’s Cinema served downtown St. Augustine for-e-ver {Sandlot reference for all my 80s peeps}. Sometimes being a staple of a city for decades is a good thing- like the Columbia Restaurant, the Castillo de San Marcos and DeNoel Pastry {now closed}.  Other times, forever = bad as in Santa Maria Restaurant.  Some would easily group Potbellies with the latter. I’m on the fence… the scary, barbed wire fence, right next to the crows… and Freddy Crouger.

Yeah, Pot Belly’s is a little scary but there is a time & place for everything…

This place could be the best tour in town.  The lobby is filled with vintage toys, lunchboxes, Barbies in their boxes and movie collectables.  Two and a half decades ago, I would have been thrilled to find most of these goodies wrapped under my tinseled Christmas tree!  If the lobby weren’t so dark, dusty and… well… creepy, it’d be awesome!

Walking down the hallway to our cinema, I found myself tensing up… waiting for the boogie man to jump out at me.  If you haven’t been, you cannot possibly grasp how serious I am when I say that!  Let me try to capture the feeling…

All the confidence I’d felt when moments before I sent the guys ahead of me vanished as I stepped out of the dimly lit restroom.  Dirty, threadbare carpet was the most welcoming part of the narrow hallway leading to “our” cinema.  The constant chatter of the two gold-laden men in the lobby was strangely out of place.  Was their laughter strained?  Was their friendship a farce? 

Torn carpeting reached around my sandal and grabbed my bare skin molesting my senses and causing me to stumble blindly against the wall.  My eyes fell on more collectibles.  Chuckie laughed at my fearful response from inside his “sealed” box behind glass.

Gather your senses, Simply!

Jittery laughter forced its way from my chest as I breathed deeply to settle my pounding nerves.  Looking away from Chuckie, I was shocked to see the huge, metal door of a walk-in freezer.  It was a door to another theater. The taped-on poster advertised a horror flick and pictured a lone cabin in a foggy bayou.

“You.have.got.to.be.kidding.me.” I blurted out to the empty hallway.

My eyes searched for my respite- the theater with my hubby and friend inside. Instead they met with more horror.  Looking further down the passage I realized these stainless crypts lined both sides of the hallway.  {Sure they’re the doors to the theaters… sure. How disturbingly fitting!}

Turning into the theatre showing our flick, “Searching for Sugarman”, relief flooded me as I lunged for my seat safe between Chris & David.  Huddling together from invisible evil, we all shared nervous laughter as creaking fans slowly marched in endless circles causing lights above to “strobe.” Another addition to the chilling setting.  We considered leaving, but what about the hit men in the lobby?  Instead, we resigned to bow our heads together and entrust our souls to the only One who protects.   

Deliver us from evil. 

Bwa ha ha!  Okay, it wasn’t that bad.  {Mostly because I’m writing this 8 months after our visit.  It was pretty scary, but the people in the lobby were friendly. Honestly.} We *did* decide not to order anything off this menu:

If the public spaces were as sticky & dusty as they certainly were, we decided the kitchen must be worse.  The Sundance Film we chose told an interesting story {not scary}.  And we left having shared an evening we will never forget.  {understatement of a lifetime}

Pot Belly’s sold in June, 2013.  Truth be told, there’s a part of me that’s sad for anyone who didn’t get to experience St. Augustine’s 1980s time warp- Pot Belly’s Cinema.

**Update 10/2014: Corazon Cinemas & Cafe is open in the theater-formerly-known-as-Pot-Belly’s! **


  1. says

    We are now open! I am the new owner and would like to invite you to come down and experience the great atmosphere and wonderful ambiance that we offer. We are open daily beginning at 11:00 am and show films nightly. I think you will be pleased to update your website!!!

    Karla Wagner
    The Corazon Cinema and Cafe

    • says

      Congrats on your opening! I look forward to checking out the new {not creepy} Corazon! Though part of me will miss the crazy experience we had at Pot Belly’s. 😉 ~Allie O

  2. says

    I hope you and your husband enjoyed the movie and food experience at The Corazon when you came!


    • says

      We absolutely did! Can’t wait to link to the new piece after Christmas craziness calms down! ~Allie

  3. Patrick Hill says

    In my humble opinion, the old Pot Belly’s had a sort of “cult” charm about it, which I enjoy more than the current Corazon theatre. Still, I’m glad the new owner didn’t change it into something other than a movie theatre!

    • says

      Patrick – It had *something*! LOL! I am glad I was able to experience it. I love Corazon’s clean look, though, and the way it’s classier now. 🙂 ~Allie O

  4. BILL PRYOR says

    We shall Renee and family, always go to see them when in Florida.
    We run a small movie theatre in England.
    Best wishes to the new owners, hope to meet you.sometime.

    044 1598 753397

    • says

      Bill- you’ll love meeting Karla Wagner! She’s an engaged owner and brings a lot of culture to St. Augustine! Hope you get to visit soon! ~Allie O.

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