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TOPIC: New Kid with Questions

New Kid with Questions 28 Mar 2001 23:16 #1451

  • James
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This is my first post to this forum and I wanted to start by saying thank you to everyone who takes the time to offer encouragement and to share their knowledge with those of us who are venturing into this business. Your insight and advice has been invaluable. I currently work on the production side of this business as a Key Grip and I had some limited projection experience when I was in high school, so I’m not completely starting from scratch. I have spent hours reading posts at this site and many others. The information that is available is amazing. However, I do have a few questions I was hoping you could help me with.

I am considering purchasing a theater in a small town (population 12,000) that was originally a single auditorium. The theater was divided back in the 1980’s leaving two equal size auditoriums that are 22 feet wide and 70 feet from the back wall to the screen. The floor in both auditoriums is a conventional slope and the current seats, which need to be replaced, are arranged in a traditional aligned layout with one isle down the middle. These seats are 19 inches wide and are set in straight rows which are 36 inches on center.

My plan is to replace the old seats with newer style seats (with cupholders) arranged in a staggered continental layout with a 3 foot isles on each side of the auditorium. The newer seats would be at least 21 inches wide and set in slightly curved rows 36 to 42 inches on center significantly improving the customer’s comfort and view. Each auditorium currently has 225 seats. The new layout would reduce that number by 50 to 60 seats per auditorium depending on the row spacing.

So, here are my questions. . .

1. How would this reduction in available seats effect my house allowance and my ability to book films? Is the house allowance calculated per seat or per auditorium and are distributors more likely to give you a print if you have a larger house / seat count?

2. I’m planning to make other improvements to the theater including upgrading the sound system which is currently analog and mono. These improvements would increase the operating costs of the theater. How difficult is it to get the house allowance reassessed after making these significant improvements.

3. The current owner has an in house booker. We plan to use a booking service. Will distributors reassess our house allowance when we purchase the theater or change booking services?

4. What is the minimum distance from the screen to the front row? The screen is 20 feet wide by 15 feet high. It is about 6 feet from the floor to the bottom of the screen depending on which format it is masked for. I saw one post which said that having all those seats down front helps to increase your house allowance. Is that true?

5. Does the sound system you have effect your ability to book films? ( i.e. Do distributors generally make more prints in certain sound formats?)

6. Given the long and narrow shape of these auditoriums, what suggestions do you have for my new sound system. The side walls are flat and currently covered with pleated burlap which needs to be replaced. The ceiling is suspended 2x4 acoustical tile and the floor is painted wood under the seating areas and carpeting everywhere else.

Thanks in advance for your help.

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Re: New Kid with Questions 29 Mar 2001 16:35 #1452

  • RoxyVaudeville
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James:

House Expense: I've touched on this question in some earlier posts, but you may not have seen them.

I am a theatre owner and a booker for independent theatres in the mid-atlantic part of the nation. It has been my experience that unless you are opening a brand new theatre or reopening one that has been closed for an extended period of time, you will inherit the house expense of the former operator reguardless of what you do to the theatre. I have never been successful, nor have I known anyone who has been successful at getting an ajustment for any improvements that they have made to their theatre. The most that any distributor seems willing to make in any one year is an increase of 10%.

New theatres are allowed to use a formula based upon the number of seats. I have heard the figure of $15.00 per seat, but can not confirm that with firsthand knowledge.

I have been trying to get mine adjusted up for years now, as in many cases it is at least 40% lower then the actual cost of running the theatre. Very unfair, but they don't seem to care.

I too, would like to hear from anyone that has been able to get an adjustment because they have made improvements to their theatre.

As far as seating goes... why do you want to curve your seating when 1. you have such narrow auditoriums to begin with, and 2. you are putting isles on each side that will put everyone in front of the screen already? In such narrow rooms there shouldn't be a need to do that.

As far as distance from screen to the first row: The minimum distance between the first row and the screen is determined by the maximum allowable angle between the sightline from the first row to the top of the screen and the perpendicular to the screen at that point. A maximum angle of 30 to 35 degrees is recommended. How having said that... nobody goes by that anyway. If you used that you would probably end up with the front third of your theatre empty. Put seats there anyway for those times when you will need them. When they are not needed, people will just not sit there.

Good luck.
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Re: New Kid with Questions 30 Mar 2001 15:18 #1453

  • John Pytlak
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For 35mm screening rooms, standard SMPTE 196M specifies a viewing distance of 3 times the height of the screen, with an allowed range of 2 to 4 heights. So your 2.39:1 "scope" image will be 20' x 8'4", and most people will prefer to sit between 17 and 34 feet from the screen. You can put seats closer, but they only serve as "overflow". It's a shame your auditoriums are so long and narrow, but you probably don't want to go back to a single wide auditorium by taking down the dividing wall, do you?

Having worked on film productions, I'm sure you appreciate the need to maintain the composition of the film, and not crop any image. Because of the long auditoriums you have, I would show scope at 20' x 8'4" and 1.85:1 flat at 20' x 10'9". If you plan to show older films, get the lenses and apertures for showing a 20' x 14'7" "Academy" image:
http://www.kodak.com/US/en/motion/newsletters/notes/

I agree with your decision to go for wider and more comfortable seats with lots of spacing for extra legroom. Don't forget cupholders. Using side aisles to have more seats on the centerline of the theatre is also a good idea. Hope you can negotiate better contract terms that recognize you are giving up seat count for audience comfort.

John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
EI Worldwide Technical Services
Research Labs, Building 69
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Telephone: 716-477-5325 Cell: 716-781-4036 Fax: 716-722-7243
E-Mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Website: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion

[This message has been edited by John Pytlak (edited March 30, 2001).]
John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Customer Technical Services
Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Telephone: +1 585-477-5325 Fax: +1 585-722-7243
E-Mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Website: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion
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Re: New Kid with Questions 30 Mar 2001 18:59 #1454

  • Mike
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Hello James and welcome. Thanks for good questions.

House allowance? In 6 years it's never affected us. We're in a town of 7,000 with a 3 screen. We sell out good movies and do so rarely. It's my experience that the house allowance applies when you're selling out a lot. Generally we end up paying a percentage and that's decided when booking usually though I hardly even discuss it much (I do my own booking) as I never have a very tough time settling the film rental......... I find the distribs to be fair more often than not and they save their high %'s for the big grossers of which I am not one.

I agree: replace the seats. The config sounds like you're putting too much into the two aisles. One center aisle will use less of your already narrow rooms.

The worst seats sell out last. They don't hurt to have them but they get used 10% of the time. If that. When you're selling out though they are great to have! Put in the extra 20 or so seats for sure. When a hot movie is in people will sit anywhere.

Ratios for screens and etc? Work with experienced good installers and they'll know exactly what you need.

Ditto sound.

Experienced theatre architects would do some very simple design work for a small consult fee on a job like this one.

Is there any space behind the screens that was abandoned in twinning the theatre?

Sounds like fun! Don't forget that The Show Starts On The Sidewalk!



Mike Hurley
www.bigscreenbiz.com
Michael Hurley
Impresario
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Re: New Kid with Questions 03 Apr 2001 07:21 #1455

  • John Pytlak
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If at all possible, avoid putting an aisle down the center of the theatre --- those are the best seats in the house. Seats up against the side walls view a distorted picture and see poor illumination uniformity, and also have poor sound coverage.
John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Customer Technical Services
Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Telephone: +1 585-477-5325 Fax: +1 585-722-7243
E-Mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Website: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion
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Re: New Kid with Questions 03 Apr 2001 22:20 #1456

  • James
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Mike, I completely agree, the show does start on the sidewalk. I just spent a few hours at the library looking for photos of old theater marquees. Found some great stuff. I’ll try scanning and posting a few of them when I get some time. Appearantely, the marquee on this theater blew off some years back and was never replaced. I’m hoping to find photos of the original and maybe reproduce it. And yes, the original stage is still behind the current screens. Some of the old rigging is still there so I’m thinking of cleaning it up, making it into a private party room and calling it something catchy like “The Back Stage Club”.
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Re: New Kid with Questions 03 Apr 2001 22:47 #1457

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Roxy, I think you’re right. Curved seating does seem unnecessary in these narrow auditoriums. However, I go back and forth on the one isle vs two isle question. While I know that a single isle will add one or two more seats per row, I tend to agree with John, it just seems wrong to have an isle down the middle where the best seats in the house should be. Even though I give up about 20 seats with the two isle plan, every seat I do have is a good seat. It also works better for a staggered layout and ADA compliant seating. Finally, it eliminates seats next walls and partially behind pillars where most people won’t sit anyway and little hands with pocket knives and markers can make the walls look like a bathroom stall. My plan was to set Rows 1-5 at 38 inches on center and Rows 6-18 at 42 inches on center. Maybe I could reduce the row spacing in the first few rows a little and add one more row down front.

Question: What do you think about new seats vs used seats? Ive been told it’s sometimes hard to find used seats that match the slope of the auditorium your putting them in and you may spend more time and money fixing used seats than you would have buying new.

PS: Congratulations on your Oscar John and thanks for all the great techinical advice.
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Re: New Kid with Questions 04 Apr 2001 22:34 #1458

  • RoxyVaudeville
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I always prefer side aisles on narrow theatres in order to get everyone in front of the screen. I really don't think center aisles should be used anywhere.

As to seating. There should be a ton of used but like new seats out there. It's now a buyers market. This could be the time to get great seats for almost nothing, and in some cases for NOTHING! Theatres are closing everywhere.
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Re: New Kid with Questions 05 Apr 2001 17:05 #1459

  • RoxyVaudeville
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I just got back from an auction of all the contents of a closed General Cinema 10 plex in Mercer NJ. The seats were in very good condition with cupholders... the first several hundred went for $15.00 each and then someone took all the rest for $12.50 a piece. I think there were about 3,500 total. Cinemacanica console projectors with lense turrets and Schnieder lenses went for around $2,500 a piece. It's just beginning... the bargains are out there, and there's a lot more theatre equipment to be sold as thousands of screens are closed.
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Re: New Kid with Questions 05 Apr 2001 23:32 #1460

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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, helvetica">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by RoxyVaudeville:
I just got back from an auction of all the contents of a closed General Cinema 10 plex in Mercer NJ. The seats were in very good condition with cupholders... the first several hundred went for $15.00 each and then someone took all the rest for $12.50 a piece. I think there were about 3,500 total. Cinemacanica console projectors with lense turrets and Schnieder lenses went for around $2,500 a piece. It's just beginning... the bargains are out there, and there's a lot more theatre equipment to be sold as thousands of screens are closed.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>


How did you hear about the auction? Is there anywhere these auctions are being announced?
Usually a movie theatre isn't the type of business to be sold at auction. Not too many people can use that specific equipment. But, I would love to find some in my area.
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