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TOPIC: Small dollar theater

Small dollar theater 12 Feb 2010 19:12 #33352

  • jawj92
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I am a high school senior hoping to start a second-run dollar theater this summer, with the help of a few friends. Our current idea is to use a building owned by an acquaintance of mine that used to be a theater, but is currently almost always empty. It has a working projector, though apparently the audio needs some re-wiring work. I have a friend who says he would be willing to help with that, and is competent. This theater is located downtown in a small town with about 8000 residents. There is another theater, a decent size first-run cinema, that is about 5-10 minutes out of town on a highway. It does not do especially good business, though it's been in town for at least 15 years.

During the school year, there are quite a few college students; however, in the summer they are gone; unfortunately, I do not expect to be able to run this theater in the school year. My expected clientele would be largely students from the local highschool. I would be willing to dip into independent films; however, I expect that there would be a relatively low demand for them in a small town. Though I am not aware of what would be required to make a profit, I intend to try to keep tickets under $4, in order to be legitimately cheaper than the other multiplex (which charges around $7 IIRC). The other intended advantages over the other theater would be cheaper concessions and the location (downtown as opposed to 8 minutes away.)
Disadvantages would be relatively less parking.

Ideas tossed around have been showing (on a given day) two movies; an independent film that didn't make it to multiplex, and then a second-run film obtained cheaply.

I would plan to try to get a competitive edge over other places, as well, by selling concessions with wider variety and cheaper prices. I would intend to sell large packages of candy at a small markup rather than the ridiculous prices of other theaters. If there were no health restrictions, I would also sell hot dogs, nachos with a variety of toppings, et cetera. Attempts would be made to keep them competitively priced. Unless I find that it would completely screw me over, I intend to allow patrons to bring in their own refreshments. My rationale for this is that, since it is extremely easy to get away with sneaking stuff in, I might as well allow it.

The image I would attempt to produce is a friendly, casual theater where you won't have to spend as much as the DVD would cost to see a movie. I plan to advertise at many locations with posters. I expect support from the chamber of commerce, simply because they have put a lot of effort into developing the downtown.

I am looking for information about how much second-run movies would cost, as well as any general ideas you have about the feasibility of a project like this. If you don't have time for a detailed reply, I'd still appreciate links to informative websites (I googled "starting a theater", but got little useful information) Thanks for tolerating my wall of text:unsure:

I appreciate anything you do to help in advance.
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Re:Small dollar theater 12 Feb 2010 21:26 #33355

  • rufusjack
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It is probably my turn to respond.

First thing you should do is to read every post on this website. it may take 30-40 hours, but this is a free site with a great deal of valuable information. Most of your answers have been answered before many times.

bTW, high school students are a very key demographic for most theaters. I would try to stay open all year. I bet their parents probably do not want to drive out of town much to see a movie. Horror movies do well with this crowd and those are pretty easy to get aftert 3 weeks. I doubt independent movies would do very well with this crowd.

What kind of rent do you think you might have to pay?
Last Edit: 16 Feb 2010 14:29 by rufusjack.
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Re:Small dollar theater 12 Feb 2010 23:09 #33356

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I intend to allow patrons to bring in their own refreshments. My rationale for this is that, since it is extremely easy to get away with sneaking stuff in, I might as well allow it.
I'd advise against this policy. I understand what you are trying to do, but if you let folks take the proverbial foot on this one, they will take 5 miles. A buddy of mine used to work in a dollar theatre in Arkansas when he was in high school and tells horror stories of college kids sneaking in full pizzas under their winter jackets. Just post signs at the entrance and make your ushers attentive and you probably won't have much of a problem with this.

On the financial side, concessions are a theater's lifeblood...you will absolutely need the high margin on concessions to keep your cash flow in positive territory, especially if you are planning to operate as a discount/sub-run location. If you want to help poor high school kids out, do some kind of concession promotion ($1 popcorn + $1 sodas) once or twice a week (not on weekends)...don't open up the can of worms related to letting people bring their own food into the auditorium.
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Re:Small dollar theater 14 Feb 2010 02:26 #33357

  • slapintheface
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If you can do this on the cheap--cheap--do it for a summer--you will learn more than any class!
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Re:Small dollar theater 15 Feb 2010 17:30 #33361

  • Mike
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Many cities will help fund this/ talk to your local econ development director in your city. A small town in Texas I know of underwrites 20K per year in costs to have the theatre open. M
Michael Hurley
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Re:Small dollar theater 16 Feb 2010 11:35 #33366

  • jawj92
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Ha, I disagree with cities giving economic help to businesses, but as a taxpayer, if it's going to happen I might as well take advantage of it.

Could anyone direct me to a website that gives prices for the rights to show movies?

About rent, I expect it to be minimal. The building is never used and I am friends with its owner, who is wealthy and bought it for the express purpose of stimulating the town's economy as opposed to making money. Thus I expect to pay very little for it...I must admit to not having any hard numbers at this point.

Thanks a lot for the help so far; I really appreciate it.
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Re:Small dollar theater 16 Feb 2010 14:28 #33370

  • rufusjack
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"Could anyone direct me to a website that gives prices for the rights to show movies?"

Here, you must do your homework. This has been discussed many times on the db.
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Re:Small dollar theater 16 Feb 2010 18:15 #33371

  • revrobor
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Go to the "Directory" of this site, scroll down to "Resources" and click on "Film Distributors". The prices will vary from distributor to distributor and will either be a percentage of the boxoffice gross or a flat rate depending on the age of the film.
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
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Re:Small dollar theater 17 Feb 2010 09:52 #33373

I have been involved in a project very similar to this from the ground up and would love the chance to talk to you. We are located in a small rural community with a population of around 3,000 in the city and 14,000 in the parish.

We began in 2007 with little or no equipment and have now grew to the point where we have DTS sound an average around 150 people per screening.

Where are you located, a good resource for you would be to attend the nearest theatre convention to you. Ours Tri-State is in Tunica every April and this is where I have made many contacts that have be valuable to the operation of our theatre.

You may contact me via our facebook page by looking up Fiske Theatre Facebook on google as I don't know how to send you a private message on here to give you my email address.

I look forward to talking to you.

Adam T. Holland
Director of Theatre Operations
W.C. Chamber of Commerce
Oak Grove, La. 71263
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Re:Small dollar theater 18 Feb 2010 18:50 #33374

  • JWJones
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I understand that your friend is most likely compotent when it comes to home theatre sound or PA sound but Cinema sound is a completely different very specialized animal. It uses it's own set of "rules" inputs and outputs that are not standard to anything else. You also need very expensive and specialized test equipment to set up a cinema sound system. I would reccomend calling a good cinema service tech in your area.
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Re:Small dollar theater 18 Feb 2010 21:25 #33376

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Adam:

Go to the home page of this site, scroll down and click on "Private Messages".

Bob;)
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
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Re:Small dollar theater 18 Feb 2010 21:33 #33377

It depends on what type of sound you are aiming for. If he is going to have mono sound running just one speaker it is just a matter of hooking an xlr cable up a mixing board, or directly to an amp and the one speaker, if he is going stero surround then he needs a tech. My first year in operation prior to getting DTS sound, thats all we had was one big speaker behind the screen and it got us by. Now that I have DTS I can tell the difference bigtime, but prior to that our mono system was adequate.
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Re:Small dollar theater 21 Feb 2010 14:43 #33395

  • Mike
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Cities support and encourage movie theatres very often as a part of redeveloping or supporting a town or district that movie theatre attendance is viewed as critical. Cities do many many things that are proactive in supporting business or critical businesses: parks, lighting, street patrol, parking, loan guarantees, business or industrial parks, highways and exits, rail infrastructure, harbor development, tax increment finance, etc. etc. If you believe that economic development is good for your community and our country government has a serious role to play.
Michael Hurley
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Re:Small dollar theater 22 Feb 2010 10:00 #33399

  • JWJones
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fisk... How do you figure he doesnt need a tech if he's only doing mono? A mono sound system still requires cell/reader alignment, in fact a mono system requires either multiple test films at different frequencies and a multi meter, or pink noise and an RTA, plus skill to focus the optics which is more critical as this ultimately becomes the house EQ. Also, the speaker still requires proper crossover settings (depending on the speaker) and level setting. A mixer is also a poor way to go even with mono. A mixer is going to alter the frequency response of the sound and people get very tempted to play with the mixers on board EQ settings. He also may be able to upgrade to a center + surround system for not a lot of money. There are plenty of used ultra stereo or smart processors that will support a center + surround configuration for cheap. A good tech would be able to point him in the right direction for that.

He is also going to need a tech for the Mechanical/Light Source side of things so it would make no sense not to have a professional do the sound while they are there? Especially if this theatre has been sitting for a while all the mechanics need a good check up, oiling, greasing, and alignment. He will probably need a new lamp, and lamp alignment, as well as lenses aligned, aperture plates checked, etc... etc...

People are going to come to this theatre to see movies first and foremost skimping on any part of the film presentation including qualified service personell is a really really bad idea.
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Re:Small dollar theater 23 Feb 2010 10:00 #33412

Of course he will need a tech. to get things set up at first for him that in no way is what I was saying. However, a mono system is alot cheaper to get started with granted its quality is no way near what a DTS surround system can provide. I just speaking of the hook-up side of the system the mono is just a case of pluging an XLR into a board, the board into an amp and the amp into a speaker.

I strongly recomend the use of a tech to get the sound head on the projector and the projector ready to run. If he can find one close this may not be very expensive.

Plus it is a smart move to attend a local theatre convention to get advice from others in the business, and maybe make contacts with some of the big boys who may help him out if he is a non-profit.
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