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TOPIC: Starting out - looking at buying a closed theatre

Starting out - looking at buying a closed theatre 09 Sep 2007 13:22 #16172

  • jgleason
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Well, I'm diving in to this slowly but definitely with the intent to buy and operate my own movie theatre. I have found a theatre that has been closed for several years. There was a failed attempt to reopen it in 2003 but has been vacant since then. It is configured for five screens but last I heard there were some code issues and would probably only be able to open with two screens until major renovation work is done.

The building is for sale or lease and appears to have a few tenants - at least two stores and a couple of apartments, all part of the building...at least I think they are.

If anyone could offer some advice on what questions to ask of the current owner, I'd appreciate it.

I am busy reading as much as I can from previous posts in the forums here. This is a great site!

Thanks,
Joe
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Re: Starting out - looking at buying a closed theatre 09 Sep 2007 14:38 #16173

  • slapintheface
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The most important question :WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO BRING IT UP TO FIRE CODE!
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Re: Starting out - looking at buying a closed theatre 09 Sep 2007 18:53 #16174

  • Mike
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Welcome Joe/ the single best thing you are doing is reading everything that is here alreay. In buying an existing site I would say I would want to fist undrstand what the issues are re: configuration for 2 vs. 5. If it's a code issue you need to know what to do to remedy it. You may need to bring in a consulatant who has worked on theatres. Keep us posted.

Michael Hurley
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Michael Hurley
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Re: Starting out - looking at buying a closed theatre 09 Sep 2007 21:00 #16175

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Thanks guys. There is a wealth of information on this site, it takes quite a bit of time to sort though it all and absorb the relevant bits of information.

I have gathered a bunch of news articles on the theatre which describe in some detail the problems regarding the code violations. Most seem easy enough to resolve - replacing questionable burlap wall coverings with proper fire-retardant material, proper separation of egress areas, etc. The largest issue appears to be the lack of a sprinkler systme in the upper theatres which would mean only two of the five spaces would be granted an occupancy permit. Of course, other issues might have arisen in the past couple of years and they will need to be addressed.

I plan on contacting the owner (same owner for many years, they shut down operations when taken ill back in 2001) to get a sense of where things stand with the building today and hopefully to discern how willing they are to part with it at a reasonable price, considering the likely cost of renovations and the fact that it has essentially been shuttered since 2001.

I am not averse to bringing in professional consultants as needed. Although I have not run a movie theatre before I have had a varied career which includes several years of being a union projectionist, everything from carbon arc single reels to platter systems. I've worked in the performing arts for 20 odd years doing just about everything, mainly technical director and facilities management for theatres ranging from 800 to 1800 seats. I've also had several years of commercial construction under my belt including the renovation of three separate performing arts facilities. One of which required a full sprinkler system to be retrofitted.

My pockets aren't as deep as I'd like so I hope to find a way to make this work by possibly phasing in the required renovations. The population is approximately 60,000 and is currently served by two first run complexes. One is a run of the mill 8-plex about 15 miles away and the other is a 6-plex cinema pub approximately 10 miles away.

This theatre used to be a first-run house but I think it will end up as a sub run or art house/performing arts facility. I really need to see the inside before ruling anything out.

I know I have a long way to go and a lot of information to gather before making the hard decisions needed. My deepest appreciation for those of you that have gone before me and are willing to share your experiences. I hope to avoid stupid mistakes, even though I will probably end up making some anyway!

Thanks,
Joe
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Re: Starting out - looking at buying a closed theatre 08 Oct 2007 13:51 #16176

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I met with the owner last week and walked through the building. It is in rough shape. I doubt it will see life again as a movie house, the investment would be too great. It does have potential to be converted back to its orginal glory as a performing arts space. Luckily, when they divided the space up they were careful to leave as much of the original decor intact, albeit hidden under false ceilings, etc.

The 3 building property has 18 apartments, 9 stores and the theatre. I've calculated how much I could afford and stay cash positive. It is far less than the asking price but I will make an offer anyway. There is apparently another interested buyer although I don't know how serious they are. I know how much I think it is worth and will offer and negotiate assuming the owner is willing.
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Re: Starting out - looking at buying a closed theatre 08 Oct 2007 16:39 #16177

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good luck it is nice to have all the rentals...........
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