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27small.jpgAre you considering buying a theatre? Looking at New markets? Is your community ready to re-open a closed theatre? How many screens should you add to your theatre? What can your market area support? How many screens is too many or too few for your area? We need a booking service. What does it cost to build and equip a movie theatre? Should we go digital? We are ready to sell our theatre: how do we go about it? Getting the answer to these questions wrong will cost you dearly.

temple_front.jpgEntering, expanding, operating, or exiting the movie theatre exhibition industry is serious business.

Making momentous decisions that you can take to the bank or break your bank should not be done lightly or based on poor information.

For the last fifteen years I have owned and operated a small town Maine movie theatre expanding it into a successful 3 screen, I took over another Maine theatre and brought it back, Along the way I started and have had the honor of hosting and participating in helping theatre owners since 1999. I have privately consulted with theatre owners, communities, potential theatre owners, and organizations throughout the USA on the many aspects , possibilities and potential of theatre development or operations.

If you need advice and information on demographics, potential grossing, assessing the competition, determining costs for build outs, assisting with construction, bidding, and contracts then let’s plan to talk. I can also assist with establishing new theatre relationships with the film distributors, film booking, and more.


  • 16 years of owning renovating and operating two movie theatres
  • 10 years of publishing and editing
  • featured in Box Office magazine
  • monthly columnist for Screen Trade magazine
  • consultant for start ups, renovations, feasibility studies for new or expanding theatres
  • assisting with equipping new installs, design reviews, site reviews, and alternative content
  • Booking films as an independent booker for movie theatres from Florida to Maine
  • attending industry trade shows Show East and Show West yearly
  • member of  National Theatre Owners Association
  • subscribing to Variety, Film Journal, Box Office, Screen Trade, Independent Marketing Edge
  • speaking and meeting constantly with exhibitors, manufacturers, distributors,  film companies, tech,  and concession representatives

Whether you are building new, expanding, looking at a older theatre, need assistance with booking or any aspect of running or starting a movie theatre: I’ll be happy to be of help. Before you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars you must think long and hard and do it with informed good advice. For more information please call or write me at any time.

Mike Hurley 207-338-1975 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Mike Hurley is a columnist for ScreenTrade Magazine.  View some of his past columns here.

August 2007

aug.pngO.M.S, I.A.S.S.T.D.O.C.P. – or Oh my stars, I am so sick to death of cell phones. Have cell phones gone from minor convenience to major annoyance? And at the speed of sound and light combined? One evening, I watched as a group of 50-odd teen-girls massed near our theatre entry. Over half of them were talking on cell phones or else madly texting away. I knew we were in for it so I preceded the show with a reminder to “please turn cell phones off”. Not that it helped. With intensified ushering we finally brought it under control.

A few weeks later I was watching a popular morning TV show and the host was talking about Regal Cinemas’ program where they hand out three-button pagers to known guests who can then page the staff from the theatre if there are problems with either sound, film or fellow theatre-goers. The host of the show laughed, saying: “The reason we don’t have problems on our show is because the live audience is sitting in a cell phone-blocked environment.” We should all be so lucky.

February 2008

aug.pngI was in civilian gear watching No Country for Old Men in one of my theatres when a young man answered his cell phone, put his feet up on the seat in front and talked loudly into his Bluetooth earpiece while waving his brightly lit cell phone. I walked over and said quietly: “I’m sorry, but if you need to use the phone you’ll have to take it out into the lobby.” He looked at me and said, “And who the **** are you?”. I retorted: “I’m the ******* theatre owner”. Enough said.

Every day, in movie theatres everywhere, we face this and other behavior that requires the situation to be managed. There’s an old saying in the movie theatre business: “The show starts on the sidewalk.” It was coined to convey that your theatre should be spectacular, making patrons feel like they’re somewhere distinctly different from home. Exhibitors spend millions making their theatres stand out and establishing and enforcing a tone is every bit as important as sconces, carpet, and lighting.

August 2008

aug.pngI own two early 1900’s-built theatres. One of them – a three-story building with offices and meeting hall on the upper floors – comprises 19,000 sq.ft. to heat, cool and light. Last year, while my heating oil usage went down, my costs actually doubled over the previous year. This year, the estimate is for the costs to double again. Five years ago, it cost $6,000 to heat the building. Now, the estimate is $35,000. We are all in this one together; theatre owners and patrons are learning the exact same math.

So, what are we to do? I know this much: My theatre can neither absorb nor offset energy prices that double in one year. Just as we assure ourselves of print deliveries so that “the show must go on,” theatres need to examine energy usage and what we can do to lower demand, conserve, and use renewable or alternative energy sources.

February 2009

aug.pngOwning and running a movie theatre can be a lonely business. Few know the troubles we’ve seen. People spend hours at movie theatres, and think they know a lot about movies and movie theatres even though they primarily know what they read about movie stars. People who go to the movies are very helpful with suggestions. “When are you going to get ..?,” etc. This is usually offered after you closed a disappointing run of exactly that movie or when you can’t get a print of the film for blood nor money. Either way, you feel a bit like sobbing.

After the film, in the lobby we hear, “There were people talking during the whole show.” Well, thanks for telling us when we can do nothing about the problem. Or, “The sound was too high, too low; the theatre was too cold, too hot.” And so it goes (sigh). Theatre-goers also talk about weekend grosses like it was the stock market. $100m! [Mwhahhh, Mwahhhh!]. Knowing I have my 1/20,000 of that $100m helps keep me warm at night.

August 2009

aug.pngI’m a 2D kinda guy in a world apparently gone mad for 3D. The films come at us like a factory popping out like toasters and all are advertised wildly as: “In 3D..!” – the posters inferring that the whole thing is in 3D. Theatre-goers excitedly ask “Is it in 3D?” and we patiently explain: “Not around here, it’s not.” All the smartest people in the room: Spielberg, Cameron, Katzenberg; and all my other closest friends opine that it’s just a matter of time before every theatre will host 3D. Maybe so. But will it actually mean much when they do?

The latest news is that Ice Age in 2D grossed more in the first three days of a March release than the first five days of Ice Age 2 with 1,620 3D screens to help pump up the love. That does not infer a great big everlasting bump for 3D. If we were tracking this on a chart, installations would be up at a nice slant while the grosses would be starting to flatline.

November 2007

aug.pngAs today’s booth and equipment morph into the electronic age, we need to be ready for the change. In the late 70’s I schlepped around the U.S. building tall grain elevators and my company vehicle was a vintage 1955 Ford pick-up truck. The engine compartment I could climb in and work on. I can still point out every part of the engine, transmission, electrical, and suspension and explain to anyone, with reasonable accuracy, what each part did and how it made the truck go. Today, I’d not even attempt an oil-change as I’d be sure to get it wrong – assuming, that is, I could even find the oil drain. No-one can work on their car today: it’s more complicated than the Millennium Falcon.

May 2008

aug.pngAt ShoWest 2008, I was struck by how much in common we industry members have yet how different we are. Ours is an unusual fraternity crossing a wide, and wild, group of players. In my 14 industry years, I’ve come to know a great many fellow members and can tell you the pack of theatre owners covers the spectrum. So, what is it that attracts people to Exhibition? Often, members of a niche group seem cut from the same cloth. I once was a courier working in the diamond district in New York City. While diamond dealing shares with Exhibition a reliance on verbal contracts, it lacks in diversity while our cup runneth over.

November 2008

aug.pngLast 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.

May 2009

aug.pngWatching State Of Play in my theatre recently, I noticed the trailers were playing far too low, so I went into the booth and rousted the projectionist who duly turned it up to ‘9.5’. Settling back into my seat, and now the sound is too low. Back to the booth. No projectionist is present so I crank it up to ‘10’ but this barely reaches acceptable. Thankfully, the movie took me over and all was good until the credits began to roll and our clean-up crew turned on the house lights and barged in. After an admonishment to wait until the credits were done before klieg lights are illuminated, all is again well.

In one brief visit to my theatre I discovered much about my operation. No one told me the sound system was out of adjustment and needed attention. Four projectionists and none of them could pass the word until I tripped over the problem, plus that of the clean-up crew adding their own, impromptu lighting effects.


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