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TOPIC: Small Resort Town needs Theater with a Niche!

Small Resort Town needs Theater with a Niche! 17 Jan 2010 18:39 #33132

  • nicoley
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Summer and Winter Tourists turn our 2700 person resort town into a 10,000 person tourist trap. The nearest theater is a real junker, 35 minutes away. The nearest multiplex is 2 hours and 20 minutes away. A theater went bottoms up here 10 years ago... and all the locals talk dreamily about having a theater again one day.

We have a commercial lot in town, perfect for a theater. One, maybe two screens, would be all that is needed. Beer and Wine, with a lite fare, and all the typical concessions, would bring the locals around on a regular basis. There is not a whole lot to do here in town, after a day at the ski resort, or boating on the lake... I would welcome any advise on starting up a theater that would keep the locals coming back on a regular basis, and still attract the tourist element!

- Indie films?
- Warren Miller?
- Free Sports nite, and charge for concessions/beer/wine
- 21 and older nites?
- mommie and me matinees?

Starting from the ground up, should I go digital? Is everything available in Digital now? or would I be limited in trying to get affordable flicks/ oldies/ indie films?

Please advise... we are still in the brainstorming phase. And thank you, in advance.
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Re:Small Resort Town needs Theater with a Niche! 17 Jan 2010 19:47 #33134

  • trackfood
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Why did the theatre go out of business 10 years ago? If that property is still around, it would be easier/less risky to re-open that if possible.
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Re:Small Resort Town needs Theater with a Niche! 18 Jan 2010 19:16 #33152

  • Mike
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in my experience: all of the things you suggest are things that happen on top of normal attendance. If the regular ticket sales are NG then all the "quirky" stuff will not help. It accentuates and flavors: it does not replace. It adds to the base it is not the base. 2700 and 10000 are plenty big enough for a theatre. Is there available existing space? M
Michael Hurley
Impresario
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Re:Small Resort Town needs Theater with a Niche! 18 Jan 2010 20:39 #33153

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Unfortunately the previous theater was turned into a large chain hardware store. There is not an existing building in town that would work for a conversion. We own a commercial parcel in a good location, and feel a theater is the most needed commercial venture for the area. But we are going to have to build.
I realize that there aren't many single screen theaters being built now. Can a base population of 2700 support a single screen theater? What kind of return could we expect in the first year? - five years??
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Re:Small Resort Town needs Theater with a Niche! 18 Jan 2010 21:23 #33154

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Given a base population of 2700 in town, and 4500 within a 15 mile radius, how much seating would I plan for? Since we would be building new -- would it be wise to build 2 screens, or keep it simple with one screen? Is there a way to project your occupancy?

I would suspect that the local population in our area would attend a theater more than the national average of 4.7 times per year, because of the lack of other forms of entertainment in the evenings.

I am trying to estimate an expected profit margin per year based on a standard theater operation (ticket sales and basic concessions). Do you have any advice?
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Re:Small Resort Town needs Theater with a Niche! 19 Jan 2010 00:08 #33155

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nicoley wrote:
Given a base population of 2700 in town, and 4500 within a 15 mile radius, how much seating would I plan for? Since we would be building new -- would it be wise to build 2 screens, or keep it simple with one screen? Is there a way to project your occupancy?

I would suspect that the local population in our area would attend a theater more than the national average of 4.7 times per year, because of the lack of other forms of entertainment in the evenings.

I am trying to estimate an expected profit margin per year based on a standard theater operation (ticket sales and basic concessions). Do you have any advice?

A single screen can succeed as a "mom and pop" operation in a rural area. You won't sustain business year 'round with the kind of gimmicks you're thinking about. You will probably be running general release and family stuff. I doubt if the towns folk were pining for specialty and artsy stuff when they are pining for their theatre back. Other stuff may work occasionally in the summer. How well you will do depends on the makeup of your population base. I wouldn't worry about digital right now as it's very
expensive and film will be with us for a long time. And you can save a bundle by installing reconditioned used film equipment. Where are you located? If I can be of any further assistance feel free to PM or email me.
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
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Re:Small Resort Town needs Theater with a Niche! 19 Jan 2010 11:55 #33158

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Mike has good advice.

Any time a former theatre fails, it's wise to find out why. It's entirely possible that the former owner was not suited for the community... maybe he/she just passed away and nobody stepped up. However, the community might have stopped supporting the place, causing its closure. That information would help determine what pitfalls you might avoid in the future, or if the off-season business wasn't enough to sustain the place.

It's not uncommon for a community to wish they had a closer version of this kind of business or that. The realities of their ongoing support are often quite different.
Last Edit: 19 Jan 2010 11:56 by rodeojack.
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Re:Small Resort Town needs Theater with a Niche! 19 Jan 2010 19:50 #33163

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Thanks for your comments and feedback. We are located in central, Idaho - a very pretty little town next to several lakes, and just minutes to ski resorts. It isn't a typical little town, as it has a very broad spectrum of economic diversity - from trailer home owners to multi million dollar lake-front and golf course 2nd homeowners. There is a very healthy middle class that likes to "play hard" outdoors in the day, and "socialize" in the limited social venues around town at night. The community is more artsy than most - with some type of venue every other month - from ice carving festivals to "Arts in the Park" by the lake. That's one of the aspects that attracted us to McCall. And the tourist season can triple our base population, with nothing to do at night except for a couple of restaurants and bars.

The original theater was forced out of business about 11 years ago. They were leasing a large building owned by a chain hardware store, and the owners wanted to expand and take over the whole building. Apparently the community was really upset - they were just starting to bring in a series of foreign films during the winter, and then they had to close their doors - there wasn't anywhere for the theater to "move" to.

We are seriously considering a pub-style theater with tables and chairs, and a stage so we can have an occasional guest from the comedy circuit. Beer and Wine are big sellers here in McCall, and I very much like the Alamo Drafthouse or McMenemins idea. What do you know about that style of theater, and it's likelyhood for success, given the above information about our "resort town"?

P.S. There are 1.5 million residents in our county - and only 1 old theater 40 minutes away. The neighboring counties North and west of us have as many residents and zero theaters! We would be the closest theater to most of 3 counties.
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Re:Small Resort Town needs Theater with a Niche! 19 Jan 2010 21:13 #33165

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Thanks for your feedback. It sounds like a few of you really know the ropes around the theater business... do you have a favorite broker? Someone who isn't above treating the little theaters right?

I used to be an assistant manager for a two screen theater about 20 years ago, and the boss let me pretty much run the business. But, I can only imagine how much everything has changed. I am actually shocked to learn that the industry hasn't completely converted to digital? What would the benefits be to go digital -vs- stay with film when building from the ground up? Granted, a small town venture may be more risky, and it would be nice to save some money. . .
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Re:Small Resort Town needs Theater with a Niche! 20 Jan 2010 00:50 #33168

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BTW beautiful town.

Are you sure about your popualtion numbers? www.city-data.com has the Valley County population at 8862 and Adams County at less than 4000. www.city-data.com/city/McCall-Idaho.html

Wiki answers has the total population of Idaho at 1.5 million. wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_population_of_Idaho
Last Edit: 20 Jan 2010 00:54 by rufusjack.
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Re:Small Resort Town needs Theater with a Niche! 20 Jan 2010 13:16 #33173

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Thanks - you are absolutely right! I was looking at the Idaho total column, not the county column on the census report. DUH :blush: I was wondering where in the backwoods were they getting those numbers???

Given that new information - how much of the surrounding area should we take into consideration for our numbers?
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Re:Small Resort Town needs Theater with a Niche! 20 Jan 2010 16:00 #33174

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I certainly think that a theater is doable.

The problem comes with the cost of new construction. Steve C. can probably help out here.

As far as number of screens, I know of no operator that wishes they had fewer screens. Your bread and butter will still be the bigger blockbusters. They also like to put those out at the same time and want 3 week committments on many occasions. One or two screens will fill up pretty quickly during the busy time.

The good news with multiple screens (3-5) is that your day to day operating costs will be close to the same as with 1-2 screens. Plus you will not need to have your 3rd, 4th & 5th screens to be as large as the first 2. I would think 150, 150, 80, 80, 60 seats or so would be good in your situation. I have seen 40 seat rooms still look and feel good.
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Re:Small Resort Town needs Theater with a Niche! 21 Jan 2010 00:18 #33176

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Multiple screens make me a bit nervous. And how do I contact Steve C? If we didn't go digital, how much should I plan for per screen just equipment cost alone? Contractors in our area are not very cheap, as we are 2 hours from any major cities, and materials are also marked up.

Do I hire a theater contractor for the whole construction, or someone local for most of the project? I have an architect friend here in town who does beautiful work, and probably for a discount... but feel like he wouldn't know how to properly design a new theater. Any recommendations here?
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Re:Small Resort Town needs Theater with a Niche! 21 Jan 2010 00:38 #33178

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Roadtrip! Take a day or two and go see some different theaters and see what you like.
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Re:Small Resort Town needs Theater with a Niche! 21 Jan 2010 02:39 #33179

  • revrobor
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Steve posts in the "Cinema Construction" thread on the "Cinema Design" forum of this site. There are also architects listed in the "classified" column of this site. Theatre design firms also advertise in Boxoffice magazine. Try their on-line site www.boxoffice.com
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
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