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TOPIC: Needing some start up help

Needing some start up help 26 Nov 2006 17:12 #13754

  • juise15
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Hi, this is my first post and I just came across this site as I was trying to find info on budget theaters.

In my city (population about 200,000) we have 2 theaters (United Artist 10 and Cinemark 14) both offering first run movies at first run prices. Recently, the local budget theater shut down. Apparently the person who was leasing the theater was either running people out or doing nothing to keep the building up. For years this place has been falling apart. The actual owner of the theater is an older gentleman who was not worried about the image.

Now here is my questions and concerns. The theater has been operating since the early 1990's as a budget theater, originally it was part of United Artist. Since its close this month, I have been toying with the idea of opening the place back up.

I have many ideas for what to do to possibly get more business. For one I want to take down all carpet in the theater houses as it is very nasty and smells like it is 100 years old. Midway up the wall curtains take over and goes up the rest of the way. I want to leave those and just remove that carpet. If I am unable to replace the carpet, I will paint the walls black until I can afford black carpeting. Another issue is the brightness of the projectors. Last time I saw a movie there, it was so dark that I had to move up very close to the screen. How can that be fixed?

I am unsure if they have any surround sound capabilities in the room. Is there a cheap way of getting "good enough" sound? Finally in the lobby area there are 2 concession stands. The lobby is divided into 2 movie houses, and a seperate lobby for the 3rd (largest) theater house. I am going to cut a hole in the wall to allow for all the lobbys to be joined, making the other lobby a semi game room. Additionally I want the option to hold concerts at this place. The theater is located right on the main road of the town and the biggest room seats around 500 people with enough room for a stage. I am sure the sound will not travel.

I also am planning on charing $1.50 per show at all times, once a month I will possibly do a .50 cent weekend. I also want to create an area in the lobby to show off some old cameras and such from the early years of film. Finally I am also looking into rental of a theater house for special events or for a friendly game of XBOX of Playstation.

What are your thoughts on this. What can I do to secure a steady flow of money and make sure I dont go into debt and lose everything over this? I really feel if we lose this theater we will lose a piece of history for the city.
Justin Toney
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Re: Needing some start up help 26 Nov 2006 18:30 #13755

  • slapintheface
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does the theater have the seats and all projection equipment...thats first and formost........what state are you in
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Re: Needing some start up help 26 Nov 2006 18:55 #13756

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Louisiana. As far as I know it has 35mm projectors. I am calling the owner of the theater tomorrow as it has been a holiday week last week.

Oh and it does have all reclining seats (old school kinda). some of them need repair or replacement.

[This message has been edited by juise15 (edited November 26, 2006).]
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Re: Needing some start up help 26 Nov 2006 21:49 #13757

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This sounds like the theater I am working on it has to be pretty much gutted and started all over again. If you can get at a good price and have a few 100,000 to redo go for it.
People want a friendly homey clean type of theater. Comfortable seats, sound and picture are key!
Checkout and survey the people in your area of trade and see what they want!
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Re: Needing some start up help 26 Nov 2006 22:41 #13758

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well that isn't an option on my budget. There is nothing really wrong with the theater. Mainly what I think the problem is, lies in the 40 year old nasty carpet.

The guy who owns the place didnt care what happened so nothing was kept up. The previous tenant started on the project of cleaning but never finished.
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Re: Needing some start up help 26 Nov 2006 23:27 #13759

  • rodeojack
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I wish I understood why most new people here think that all you need to do is throw open the doors and give the product away to make a theatre (or any other business, for that matter) successful. The prices are only a small part of the problem out there. Cheap (folding) seats and going half-way on things like sound, picture and amenities is really wrong-headed thinking (my opinion). The public is just not desperately anticipating new theatres, and it takes going the extra mile to impress them these days.

In any case, the $1.50 idea is a huge red flag for me.

Deep discounting was popular in our area for about a year... and at that, it was some time ago. The low prices attracted huge crowds... for a while. Unfortunately, I've learned that the human animal will usually respect a product in direct proportion to what he spent to purchase it. In the cases of our local discounters, the low prices attracted a crowd that otherwise would probably not attend a mainstream cinema. Their attitude, overall disrespect and lack of manners did a pretty good job of chasing out the people who had money to spend. The crowds eventually died down to about what the theatres were attracting before they went discount... except these customers were spending LESS and were not much fun to serve.

We now have NO discount houses left.

The shorter "release-to-video" window makes a venture like this even more challenging.... and nobody's going to give you a title as long as other theatres in your area are charging market rates for admission.

Seems to me that if you have to drop your prices down to a buck or so to get people in the door, they probably aren't going to make up the difference at your candy counter.

Yes, there are some exceptions... and a couple of them are here on this board. However, they've been doing this for a long, long time. If you're undercapitalized (no money), you're going to have to hit the ground running... and my guess is this will be a tough sell.
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Re: Needing some start up help 26 Nov 2006 23:47 #13760

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First off I never never said I was going to cut corners, and do this half you know what. There are a number of things that have been neglected in the past and that will be resolved. I dont believe the entire story has been brought out so judgement has been made on little information (as I dont want to type all my vision). Oh and let me say I am not doing this to get rich but just to have something to pay bills and a little left over.

So with that said, the cost of living in this area has gone up especially since hurricane Rita and Katrina impacted us last year. In just a couple of months regular movie prices have went from 6 dollars to $7.50. One regular theater is located at the mall, and the other is located in what the city calls the POWER CENTER (supposed to be the major business area of town).

The little Cinema that could is located on the main road of the town right next to a college campus.

I have had so many people comment this week (since this is the first week I have started working on this project) that they would rather wait and see a bargain show (because of the high costs and family size). Not only is it affordable, but it supports local business.

In this city almost everything for entertainment has closed. And with this avenue available I am going to upgrade equipment, make sound better and projectors clearer, and give something to the community that they can be satisfied to goto. We are even planning a day at the mall to survey and see what people want.

[This message has been edited by juise15 (edited November 26, 2006).]
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Re: Needing some start up help 27 Nov 2006 06:04 #13761

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OK, well, I'm not trying to rain on your parade... just trying to see if you are ready for what it looks like you're up against. There are serious realities involved, and nobody here likes to see a newcomer lose his life's savings over a noble ambition.

First of all, at the admission you're looking at, you'll be making a little under $1 for each person that walks in (after you pay the film company and shipping). Have you figured what your cost of operation will be yet? Once it's all laid out, that's a whole lot of people. Given the challenges that second-run theatres are having right now, that's a concern. Your economy might allow you to operate on a low budget, but a 6 screen building can easily cost upwards of $50k to rent, heat/ac, light/phone staff, insure, maintain, advertise... and maybe pay off some startup loans(?) and leave something for you. To make that money at $1.50 a head, you'd need an average of 70 people in each of your 6 auditoriums, 4 times a day, 7 days a week. I don't know what the average concessions income might be for a discount operation, but whatever you make there would obviously lower the required attendance. In any case, there are a lot of reasons why that's not easy to do these days.

I would really want to know why the last owner failed, before I jumped in and followed him. Most operators wouldn't let a profitable business die over nasty carpet and dim pictures. If it was a matter of fixing the problem or going under, most would probably fix the problem... at least to a point. It would also be a very good idea to have a booker give you a realistic picture of the market.... what you're facing as far as getting film is concerned, and how the present theatres are doing. If the economy is really at the root of the industry's problems right now, it's a realistic question to ask why the other theatres aren't trying what you're thinking of doing.

Do surrounding businesses compliment the kind of customers you want to attract, or will they chase them away? It can be tough to attract a family crowd if your theatre is surrounded by problem bars, liquor stores, payday check cashers and the like.

Your question about the quality of the image indicates you might just need new bulbs... but maybe reflectors and other lamphouse parts. Perhaps the lamphouses just aren't big enough.

There might be other serious problems in the booth. If uniformly ignored over past years, those problems could exist in all 5 or 6 machines. You'll need a good tech to come in and evaluate all that for you.

Regarding a "cheap way to get good enough sound"... no, there is no cheap way to do anything right in that area. The question can't really be answered, because we don't know what is there now. Most stereo configurations include surround speakers, though it certainly would not be required in order to at least have the proper noise reduction equipment. If you don't have stereo, you're looking at speakers, wiring, sound processors and installation costs. You could forego digital sound and settle for SR, but less than that would probably make your sound noticeably worse than the first-run houses in your area. In any case, once you multiply your needs by 5 or 6 screens, you've got some real money there.

How are your screens, masking, HVAC equipment? What shape is the building in as it sits? Will you have to make/pay for any major repairs before you can open?

It's possible those seats might be obsolete, and parts could be hard, if not impossible to come by. You might be looking at around $50/60 or so for used chairs, up to over $100 for new ones, plus the cost of removal/installation.

Be careful about removing wall coverings. Carpeting is frequently used as an acoustic treatment. You could make your rooms overly live by pulling carpet and painting a hard wall.

Finally... take a day or two and search through the archives here. Much of what you're asking has been covered. You might get some good ideas by doing that first.
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Re: Needing some start up help 27 Nov 2006 08:17 #13762

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My thoughts are that you have to try to do a deal with the Lessor otherwise you won't get the venture off the ground.
Myself I don't think there is any money in budget films and/or $1.50 admissions.
The cheapest I would go would be $5.
The higher you go the more likely you are to get a better quality movie and take more $$$$. It's the $$$$ that you need to take to keep you going.
With the carpet I would ask the Lessor to provide that and also any equipment. Find out a cinema technician and get his thoughts on the equipment, the availability of parts, the age and likelyhood of a break down. He can also check the amount of light on the cinema screen.

Basically I would ask for an upfront payment from the Lessor to get the cinema in good working order and then give him say 15% of turnover.
He then owns the building and a share of the business takings which gives him an incentive to improve business.

I would also try for the best possible movies each week that you can get your hands on. And a film booker would be a good idea to start off with.

I wouldn't change the cinewmas around because you need as many screens as possible to compete but you could have concerts on slower nights if you wanted to put in the extra work.

The 200,000 people for 24 screens is already close to maximum. And I would say that part of the reason why the previous owner shut down is because they could not offer the variety to compete with the 10 and 14 screens.

Anyway the cinema industry is alot of work with alot of hours. You kind of have to be prepared to give up alot to work in it.

I think you should go in with a few partners and share the workload. That if it is just a bit of fun and not a career you can all have a hobby.

Thats my thoughts anyway.

Anyway that's my thoughts so far.
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Re: Needing some start up help 27 Nov 2006 10:38 #13763

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Before I go any further, here are the terms of the lease: rent $2900 taxes $560 insurance $7500. I might can get him a little lower on the rent, we will see. Updates with pictures tomorrow!

I have not had the opportunity yet to view the building from a business aspect. By the way, this is only a 3 screen cinema.

Can I just start over in my explanations? Here is the low down with as much info as I can shell out:

This cinema has been opened since the 1970's showing first run movie to the area. As time went on and conglomerates started buying everything up the theater decided to become a discount cinema. The owner of the place had no interest in keeping the place up or putting any money into renovations or state of the art equipment.

Now that theater is in awesome shape compared to what was at the mall. They had a 3 screen first run theater but the place was so run down (ceiling tiles missing, duct taped carpets and chair, and a smell you could smell for miles) that no one would go. Can I just mention in passing that this place was the only movie house to get the Star Wars Special Edition Trilogy which they messed the print up on all of the features? This place was finally closed down when the mall expanded and Cinemark came in (June 2004).

Now as I child I can remember many times going to this theater and watching movies for cheap. It was almost always semi filled with folks and never had a problem with operating costs or anything. But as time went on, neglect of management, owners, and employees paid their tolls. Almost all of the sudden people started not to go to this place. I believe when they stopped working with the community (they were doing a lot of Kids shows, Midnight Madness with the local radio station - where they packed every seat in all three rooms) they started losing interest. Many folks commented that it was nasty to go into (people around here dont like nasty things).

In Feb of 2005, a new owner took over. His idea was a cleaner, brighter theater, but with one catch - he didnt want to put any money into cleaning or fixing much of anything. The guy took a little paint to the concession stand, and one wall to make his claim. Nothing was done to any of the theater houses. The last movie that I saw there was Star Wars III on a dimly lit screen. That was the worse that I have ever viewed something over there. They have never -ever had a problem with lighting so possibly this is a bulb issue (will find out soon).

Now here is the deal of what I want and am inspired to do. I am going to look at ALL options before getting into anything including video and pictures of the place. All the business men and financial advisers I have spoke to, tell me this is a goldmine needing some TLC and is needed for the community. The cinema3 is located next to a KMART, Albertsons grocery, and about 5 different restaurants. The cinema is located on the heaviest traveled road in the city and is located in the heart of Mardi Gras celebration here.

Lets talk competition. There are 2 first run theaters, United Artist 10 and Cinemark 14. At one time UA was working with the Cinema3 with some kind of deal I am unsure of (Just a little side note before UA10 was here there was just a UA6 which was later sold to a church that I attend. Most of the building is still under construction since it was closed as a theater in 2002. I can still go up to the old projection room and see much of what was going on as well as look into 2 of the main theater rooms).

The idea: A clean, contemporary feel that is give people satisfaction for their money. Why dont you suggest a good ticket price? I want to fix the problem (my father and friends are general contractors so I dont have to pay anyone for repair just materials) and make the place workable. Maybe pictures of the place would help and I will get those ASAP.

The major drawback of the previous tenenat and where he failed was the fact that he was running costomers and employees off. He also would not pay his employees on time. I have friends who used to work for the place but none of them remember much about the technology side of it. There is surround sound in each room, but not completely in working order. I want to get that running because it is needed. I have years of experience working with audio equipment as I have been doing live sound for almost 10 years.

Finally I am going to an advertising blitz. I have a Bachelors of Communications so not only do I know how to advertise but I can makke all the advertisements myself. I am also going to take a few days and goto the mall to get reactions and suggestions from the people of the city. I will be working with the university on getting more events over at the cinema. I am also going to work with television and radio and see what we can do.

Question on tickets, how low can you go and not lose yourself? Lets say I want to open up and show Star Tre VI, Chronicles of Narnia, or some other great shows how much is it going to cost?

Thanks!!

[This message has been edited by juise15 (edited November 27, 2006).]
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Re: Needing some start up help 27 Nov 2006 12:03 #13764

  • Mike Spaeth
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The $7,500 for insurance is ridiculous. Negotiate that down.
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Re: Needing some start up help 27 Nov 2006 15:58 #13765

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Thats what the previous guy was paying. I intend to talk him down a lot on everything. The owner also told me that some equipment and interior items were repaired including a new roof. This was part of Hurricane Rita and Katrina which devistated Louisiana
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Re: Needing some start up help 28 Nov 2006 00:58 #13766

  • Ken Layton
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By all means it would certainly be helpful to know exact makes/models of all the projection & sound equipment there and it's present condition. Some repairs might be simple like repairing a bad amplifier or replacing blown (or missing!) speakers. Granted it may be likely that the sound system may need re-aligning/adjustments too.

As to the smell problem alot of times it's because the carpets were left dirty and have lots of pop spills. Replacing carpet will help, but there are also other sources of bad smells in the auditoriums like the seat fabrics and wall drapes.
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Re: Needing some start up help 28 Nov 2006 17:55 #13767

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Went today to the theater. Much to my surprise a number of things have been repaired. For one the carpet on floor needs to just be cleaned as it is pretty new. On the other hand, ALL carpet on walls is to be removed and replaced. Please goto http://s129.photobucket.com/albums/p227/cheapcinema/ to see some of the pictures.
The biggest room seats about 700 people. The other 2 rooms seat about 500 a piece.


Equipment from what I could see is:

2 Christie Xenolite Model H20 Projectors with PAS2000 dual sound system (I dont know too much about what is needed but I dont like the sound of this). 1 Strong x-60B projector with SR130 Optical stereo Surround (just a 5 speaker setup). Each projector has an older metal looking platter system.

So what do you think of this?
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Re: Needing some start up help 29 Nov 2006 02:06 #13768

  • Ken Layton
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Well, from what I see from the photos:

Simplex XL projector heads (good)

Simplex soundhead (good)

Speco platters (ok)

Eprad Co-operator projector automation unit. OK for basic control of projector, lamphouse, and houselight dimmer. I'm an expert with these units and have a small inventory of parts for them.

Christie H-20 lamphouse (not good). These are notorius for poor light output. There is a retrofit kit to boost light output tremendously for this model.

You mentioned a Strong X60b lamphouse. These are excellent and should give plenty of light provided the reflector is in good shape.

Also mentioned was a Smart SR130 stereo processor (mediocre at best, try to find something better).

[This message has been edited by Ken Layton (edited November 29, 2006).]
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