The theater spent $800,000 last year to add digital projectors with digital sound.
Pauley said the self-serve concession stand, however, is the "most drastic" change Park Place has seen since it opened in 1980.
"With the digital projectors, some people may not know the difference between projectors and film, but when people walk into the theater now, they're going to say, 'Wow, this is different,'" Pauley said.
Park Place Manager Michael Tawney said the self-serve popcorn machines intimidated some customers when they made their debut.
One woman, who purchased a drink and a bag for popcorn, accidentally filled her drink cup with popcorn.
"Everything has gone smoothly today but we're all learning," Tawney said. "It's not just the customers learning, it's a learning experience for all of us."
Pauley said the self-serve stations wouldn't replace any of Park Place's 35 employees, who will still run the popcorn machine, take orders at the concession counter, and keep the stations full and clean.
For customers who typically avoid the concession stand, he said they might be inclined to take advantage of the free refill offer now.
"We anticipate we're going to get more customers coming into our theater because of this system," Pauley said. "It will make more people come downtown and go to our theater as opposed to ... others."
Pauley said he wants to encourage others that "you can make more money by charging less and selling more."
Park Place's large popcorn, for example, dropped from $5.75 to $5 with the self-serve switch. He got the idea after spending time at a movie theater in New Mexico that offered the same model.
Pauley said he was "in awe of the reaction of customers," so he brought it to his Charleston theater.
He sees it as a positive move for the movie theater.
"It is a little out of the norm, isn't it? I've been in this business for 38 years and if you told me I was going to be doing all-you-can eat popcorn and all-you-can drink Pepsi and slushies, I would have said 'no,'" he said. "We've put a lot of money into the theater and we have a lot of good feelings about being in Charleston and downtown."
Park Place has 11 screens and is located at 600 Washington St. E. For information call 304-345-6540.
Reach Megan Workman at megan.work...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.