Last December, I got a call asking if I would assess the potential of an historic movie theatre in Florida. The Five Points Theatre, built in 1927, is the oldest movie theatre in Jacksonville. It was also one of the premier theatres there for decades; having sold-out shows, it packed the sidewalks in the Five Points commercial area and was reportedly home for the 1972 run of The Godfather which enjoyed the longest run of any US theatre.
The multiplex age, interstate highways and easy travel left the theatre with dwindling attendance over the past many years. The building had several iterations and was sadly neglected until car dealer Mike Shad – along with sons Jack and Bill – purchased the building intent upon its rebirth. It is large, more associated with live theatre and, at the point of purchase by the Shads, the theatre itself was in fine condition. It needed some cosmetic upgrades and equipment that would make it a movie theatre once again.
The city already has a few national ’plexes and one single-screen theatre, so could Jacksonville support yet another cinema? My job was to estimate the Five Star’s business capabilities and answer that question. After the Hurley investigation, the answer was: yes, it could do the business. Time passed quickly as we worked toward Mike’s aggressive goal.
My first word to anyone thinking of starting a new theatre is: No matter how many screens you have you will always want more. A single-screen begs for more and its owner better have a crystal vision, a dynamic location and a plan for success. The Five Points has it all. A fantastic location surrounded by restaurants, a sharpened plan, and a facility to expand and adjust.
Planning included our providing for: comfortable movable seats, tables, a new screen, moving tabs, masking, 35mm projection, a good video projector, Dolby 5.1 surround sound, a complete new concession stand, walk-in cooler, beer and wine, food service, an ice-machine, a new wall to create a rear lobby, poster case restoration, hiring and training staff, also marketing and every detail of getting a theatre up and running that many of us know so well. The pace was fast and Mike Shad Company had a simple schedule: to be open as soon as possible.
We’re down to the wire as I write. The theatre has been gestating for 66 days and will reopen to the public 70 days after the owner said: “Let’s do it.” Anyone who has ever done this knows how much goes into it; how much planning, how many discussions.
In a time when classic theatres are often abandoned, it’s been exhilarating to play even a small part in helping redeliver such a fine one. And by the time you read this, it will be the newest theatre in Jacksonville. And, you know what? It’s just great having her back showing movies again.