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TOPIC: Re-opening a Theatre that has converted into a bookstore.

Re-opening a Theatre that has converted into a bookstore. 17 Dec 2008 13:14 #30556

  • Nordic
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Hello...this is my first post. I've read the FAQS and I realize that each situation is unique, but I believe this is a situation where I really need to speak with some theater owners in order to get their perspective on this situation - and whether or not I'd be making a bad decision.

My hometown (population 19,000, not including the college) once had three theaters back in 1992: A 2-screen downtown named the "Delft", a single screen downtown called the "Nordic", and a single screen mall-cinema called "Cinema". None of these theaters were first-run - and were ALL owned by the same people.

In late 1993, a developer who had lived in the area decided to construct a first-run, 9-screen, GKC theatre in our town. This resulted in "Cinema" closing it's doors first, then the "Nordic" downtown (which was sadly converted into a bookstore). The Delft shut it's doors briefly and was bought by Carmike who subdivided the Delft from a 2 screen to a 5 screen in order to compete with the GKC Theatre.

The Delft ownership has switched from Carmike in 1994, to GKC in 2000, and now back to Carmike in 2006. The GKC is now a Carmike as well.

This brings me to back to subject of this post. I always loved the Nordic, which was directly across the street from Delft.

Current Photo of Delft: http://www.flickr.com/photos/23222810@N07/2594309710/
Old Photo of Nordic: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bernierosendahl/3104139480/
Current Photo of Nordic/Book World: http://www.bookworldstores.com/images/marquette-out1.jpg

There have been some rumors and some hearsay about the state of Book World - with the possibility of it being up for sale and moving to a different location in town. Naturally, a dream of mine would be to buy this bookstore and convert it back to the Nordic - a one-screen downtown theater.

I think I might have a shot at making it successful. It could serve as a small movie house - with 7:00pm & 9:00pm showings - but it could also serve as a small auditorium for afternoon recitals/plays (which our community does not have). In addition, the multiplex that originally put the Nordic out of business is now in lousy condition: poor seating, murky picture, dirty lobby, and it looks like a giant garage from the outside. It's a guaranteed awful movie-going experience - no magic to be found.

But my first concern is not about business model, but whether or not it's structurally possible. Book World completely gutted this building and disposed of the marquee, making it a two story building (obviously, the first floor has no slope to speak of). I'd like to restore it to what is once was, but I'm afraid the costs of resurrecting it would be astronomical. I know the community would love to have it back - but that support only takes you so far.

Has anyone had any experience renovating an old building back into a theater? Am I crazy for wanting to pursue this in such harsh economic times? I feel the need to pursue my dream...but I'm new to all of this and really don't no where to begin.

Thanks for your time.
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Re:Re-opening a Theatre that has converted into a bookstore. 21 Dec 2008 12:24 #30572

  • Mike
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Hi Nordic/ a very comlicated set of questions and possibilities. I would strongly urge you not to proceed with the idea as presented. The theatre is too small and with one screen and the small population you'll struggle. Also the building has been completely renovated so you'll be gutting and investing to make it a theatre and how do you pay for that with a one screen? What about taking over the multi plex? Sounds like it could use a loving touch. The Delft is in business? Then buy that if you can. Best/of/luck,Mike
Michael Hurley
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Re:Re-opening a Theatre that has converted into a bookstore. 03 Jan 2009 03:45 #30642

  • revrobor
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Hello Nordic: Named yourself after the theatre huh? If I had the money I would restore it and could make it profitable as a single screener. Pursuing your dream is never crazy. But you don't want to go head-to-head with the chains for new product as the Hollywood distributors are only impressed by the number of screens they can get their product on regardless of the condition of the place. Survey your community and get a handle on your demographic to see what type of product will succeed. Is there an audience for classic, foreign, independent, "family friendly", inspirational or sub-run films? The success of a theatre has not so much to do with the number of screens you have but the type of product you offer and you'll need to know your community in order to do that successfully. Corporate owned multiplexes basically serve the 14-34 year old action fan which leaves a huge section of the population out of the "theatre experience". (I could go into a tirade here about poor screen performance, lack of crowd control, rediculously high prices, missing ambiance and things you've mentioned that keep much of the rest of the population from returning on any regular basis but that's for another thread.) You need to install the most modern equipment you can afford in order to give your audience the best possible enjoyment of what you offer. That equipment does not have to be new but should include stereo surround sound and the brightest picture possible. I believe you can pursue your dream successfully if you keep in mind what I've said. But to be honest I seem to be in the minority ( maybe that's because most posters on theatre forums are involved with multiplexes) but single screeners are operating successfully in large metro areas and in small and rural towns. Regarding the lack of sloped floor in that building you'll probably find they have built a level floor over the sloped floor and it could be easily restored. I started in this business as a young teen in 1946 following in my father's footsteps. I have owned three single screeners over the years and in the last couple of years have managed for Regal and CineMark in their multiplexes. Like you, I have a passion for the business and would like to one day return to owning or managing. Best of luck.
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
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