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TOPIC: Starting out: Overwhelmed and excited

Starting out: Overwhelmed and excited 13 Jun 2005 21:16 #10559

  • Zod
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I've had an idea to open up a movie theater/lounge for well over a year. I found it impossible to find almost any information. Then, after months of websurfing, I encountered this site.


I've spent the last four days reading the forums, and I've learned a lot. I'll try not to repeat others' questions.

First, I'm in a VERY major market. There are tons of arthouse cinemas in the market, as well as powerful chain theaters everywhere. The location I'm thinking of is urban, but is not currently served by a commercial theater. Unfortunately, I don't think there's any old, empty theaters in the area where I'd like to be. This means I'd have to convert a warehouse-type space for my purposes. Rent will be high.

My original idea was to find a space of around 2500-3000 sq ft and have a single auditorium, with a lounge in front. Right now I think I'm staying away from serving food, just seems like a lot of potential problems. I'll import muffins or whatever if I need to. I'd have couch-type seating, maybe with a mix of regular seating as well. From what I've read here, a one-screen theater is asking for trouble. I've since doubled my space requirements so I can fit two screens (at least). I figure I can do split shows sometimes, too, if that'll protect me from duds.

A few concerns.
Is my market saturated? How do I find the # of screens in my market (if i want to test the 10000:1 ratio)? There are definitely good indie theaters around, but not in the 'hood I'm looking into. I was thinking that I could do second-run art films. I've seen discussions of 2nd-run (moveover), and indie/foreign films, but never combined. I've been to the Parkway Theater in Oakland, and they seem to do this. Does this market exist? I would think that people in the indie world wouldn't be as desperate to see opening weekend films. Is there any money to be made this way?

Also, as far as I can tell, there are no 2nd-run theaters in my market. Should I see this as a niche that can be filled, or as a hint that it can't work? I had planned to set ticket prices at around 50% of what the first-runs and indie theaters were charging ($5?).

Are couches a bad idea? Even mixed in with other seating? I was also planning to get a beer/liquor license (we'll see how easy that is) to bolster profits. With an art-crowd I don't see that as a huge problem.

I've read about film-done-right stuff, and I'll try to do that, but I'll leave state-of-the-art sound, huge screens, and stadium seating to the big boys I think. I can't compete with them in that way (also, I'm sure my ceiling won't be high enough for really big screens).

Think this plan could work? Would it be too expensive to build a theater from a 5000 sq ft space? Is 2nd-run art/foreign not profitable enough, even with smaller auditoriums (say, two of 75 seats or so?). Is there any way a theater of this size could financially support two partners? Should I be thinking smaller, to cater just to the neighborhood? Should I really only expect to fill around 20% of my seats, on average, or does that vary a lot?

Thanks for any help or advice you guys can give.

[This message has been edited by Zod (edited June 13, 2005).]
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Re: Starting out: Overwhelmed and excited 26 Jun 2005 19:40 #10560

  • Mike
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a lot of good questions Zod.

But way too may. Ask one at a time.

Couches can be a good thing. Many places do this but usually as brew/cinemas with food. Depends on your market and your customers. And price and cleanability go a long way too.

Michael Hurley
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