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TOPIC: Closing one day a week, good idea or bad?

Closing one day a week, good idea or bad? 13 Apr 2011 02:05 #35726

  • rufusjack
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I hate being closed when my competition is open. So we run at least 3 shows a day when kids are in school and 5 the rest of the time. In our market, the largest employer by far is the state of missouri. So we are slowwwww weekdays.

So I am flirting with the idea of closing 1 day a week (probably Tuesdays) for the sole reason to escape. This would only be when kids are in school. Like many of you I work the theater about 355 days a year. Most are very easy. Average 15 tickets sold.

I do not want to confuse my customers. No matter what you do, most do not pay attention and you need to keep it simple. So bad idea?
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Re: Closing one day a week, good idea or bad? 13 Apr 2011 02:23 #35727

  • revrobor
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I never favor closing. To me it says either the theatre operator is struggling (so why is he struggling?) or is running the place as a hobby for his own enjoyment not mine. I would suggest a "buck" night. Better to get a buck a ticket plus the concessions revenue than nothing.
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
Last Edit: 13 Apr 2011 02:24 by revrobor.
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Re: Closing one day a week, good idea or bad? 13 Apr 2011 12:40 #35728

  • leeler
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I'm with Bob on this. Have a bargain night instead. If a customer pulls on your door and it's locked they may come back or they may go elsewhere.....
"What a crazy business"
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Re: Closing one day a week, good idea or bad? 13 Apr 2011 12:59 #35732

  • lionheart
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I don't think closing one night a week is such a bad idea. Rufusjack isn't saying he's closing one night a week because there isn't enough business, but rather that he works almost every day and night of the year and would like a break. He points out that weekdays and weeknights are slow and therefore would be the best time to take one day off.

When I was operating my theater, I was closed one night a week. I was still able to book the same films, although occasionally the booker seemed to frown on being closed the one day, saying the studios preferred 7 day operations for big movies. I never gave in, and it didn't seem to stop me getting the same films I would have gotten had I been open 7 days.

I closed on Sundays. One reason was religious, and the other was to take a break. The first few weeks we were open, we had two matinees on Sunday and no evening show, so as not to conflict with local church's evening services. These were very poorly attended... the worst of the week. I can't say how business would have been on a Sunday evening, but I suspect it would have been very poor as well. We had just opened and business was good or decent every day except Sunday. We had popular films, but it didn't matter. Sunday was just dead. So, it was easy to follow my religious beliefs and be closed on Sunday. I never had a complaint. A new operator could bring a 7 day operation back to see if it improves the bottom line.

So, if Rufusjack sees Tuesday as his worst day, then it might not be bad to close that day and miss out on the handful of people who would show up. The only problem as he mentioned is that some people aren't easily re-trained. Some will not pay attention and then show up when the place is closed, and possibly be upset.

Another thing to think about is if you have a hot movie playing, will you open back up on Tuesday during those runs? If you are open sometimes on Tuesday for the hot movies, and not on others, your customers may indeed be confused. It's important to be consistent, no matter what you choose. We never opened on Sunday after the decision was made. The only shows I would have done on Sunday would have been private parties, or non-movie events if you have any of those.

As for a buck night, that could indeed turn a traditionally slow night into a very busy one. I never tried anything like that, just because I thought that I would actually be taking money away from myself. People who would pay regular price on other nights will wait for buck night. In the end, you could make less money. Maybe I'm wrong, but that was my thinking.

These days, the distribs have minimum ticket prices anyway. You can charge less, but you will end up paying them a bigger chunk of your box office for those "buck nights". I remember when Harry Potter was playing, Warner Bros. sent me a letter to remind me that my minimum was $4.25. If I charged less than that, I would eat the difference. So, if Harry Potter had buck nights with his 61% all weeks terms (if I remember right), I would have paid something like $2.59 minimum per ticket sold. That means that I would lose $1.59 per customer. If I had a concession per cap of $2.59 to make the math easy, I would end up earning $1.00 per customer when the two revenue streams are combined.

Now compare that to the regular amount I would keep from selling tickets at the regular price with fewer people showing up. If 15 people showed up on a Tuesday for Harry Potter, and I had the same per cap, I would end up keeping close to $83 (based on an average ticket price of $7.50). So, you need to have more than 83 people to make a buck night more profitable than having 15 show up at regular price. Of course, numbers will vary based on terms and ticket pricing.

Sometimes, buck night could make more since. But, it will be hard to be consistent if you only have it when it makes since. And, don't forget the impact on the other regular priced days. Will you be lowering your overall income with a buck night?

Oh, and I know that "buck night" could be more than a buck, but you would need to do similar analysis to decide if such a thing is worthwhile.

So, how much is a day off worth to you? How much income would you give up to be off one night every week?

Just my two cents worth.

lionheart
owner - Gentry Cinema
Checotah, OK
(for sale)
Last Edit: 13 Apr 2011 13:07 by lionheart.
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Re: Closing one day a week, good idea or bad? 13 Apr 2011 14:52 #35733

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I turn over operations to staff on Mondays through Wednesdays. We don't have matinees those days so the payroll is fairly minimal. We're open 7 days a week and and still get days off.

As far as discount nights go, we have matinee pricing on Mondays. It's not a big deal but it turns our slowest day of the week into something not terrible at any rate. It's still our slowest day of the week, though.
"What a crazy business"
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Re: Closing one day a week, good idea or bad? 13 Apr 2011 22:40 #35736

  • slapintheface
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I WOULD NEVER EVER CLOSE 1 DAY----
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Re: Closing one day a week, good idea or bad? 14 Apr 2011 10:56 #35738

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The best option is to pay someone to cover a day for you, such as an asst manager... if you make enough money on those days to justify it. You can still choose to be open even if you have negative cash flow on those days just to have a constant presence in the marketplace, but speaking as someone who was in that position, I would not. I would rather work the day myself than pay someone to cover it for me, in that situation. I figured that my time was essentially free, since I didn't get paid by the hour. The problem is that I would never have had a day off using that logic, if I didn't make a decision to close one day a week.

I see that others don't share my opinion, but each theater owner has to do what makes sense for him or her. Maybe you could close on Tuesday and have bargain night on the next slowest day of the week to make up for it.

lionheart
owner - Gentry Cinema
Checotah, Oklahoma
(for sale)
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Re: Closing one day a week, good idea or bad? 14 Apr 2011 17:15 #35739

  • genedo
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When a theater that considers itself a first run theater closes for one day it sends a message.
Each person or entity that receives that message evaluates it for themselves.

There is an old adage in the entertainment business that 'the show must go on'...no matter what.
Rain, Hail, Sleet or Snow.

Even when it is snowing and hard for people to get to the theater we still open.
It is not about profits, because as we know profits are not daily, they are annually.

The only day that our theater shut down was this past winter when snow was four feet high.
Other than that, even in the snow, we open.

It comes from a long history of 'show business' in my blood. However, times change and people change as we know.
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Re: Closing one day a week, good idea or bad? 14 Apr 2011 18:38 #35741

  • Mike
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My two theatres are both closed Mon and Tues. One / Temple Theatre/ we do this year round: our numbers are at the exact same as before we went to 5 days except we saved a lot of money on ops and payroll. Two: the Colonial Theatre... after a long look at the numbers we're in our 2nd year of closed M-Tues during Labor Day to Memorial day. We go 7 days for 3 weeks around Xmas and everyone figures it out no problem...It was a smart move: saves money, etc. etc. And it has certainly helped in my wife's sanity department. :) Granted: these are in small towns. The heat-elec-labor-etc. etc. is not worth being open for a very few people and the head count was not hurt in the least. If I was going to close for one day I'd just close on Monday.
Michael Hurley
Impresario
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Re: Closing one day a week, good idea or bad? 15 Apr 2011 01:41 #35747

  • rufusjack
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So is it a sign of weakness to only run 1 show a weekday since other theaters run many more? 2 shows? We all have chosen when it does not make economic sense to run shows. I am not sure this example is any different.

We run more shows a day than any other theater in our grossing category (I made that up but let us assume I mean theaters that gross up to 25% more than we do). We run 3 shows on weekdays when kids are in school. My competitor runs 5 shows when I run 3. Does that show signs that my theater is weak? Well yea, I guess it does.

We have on two occasions closed for extended periods of time. Twice to take family vacations (7 days and 10 days) in January starting on Monday that kids go back to school. Usually not a huge deal as business is pretty damn slow. This year did suck as we were asked to play Green Hornet and The Dilemna while we were closed. Oh well, we had a great time and the kids have long-lasting memories.

I feel pretty good that we take care of our customers in all of our businesses. For example, in our video stores, we have a “5 minute rule” which means that we do not turn the lights off, lock the doors until 5 minutes after our stated closing time. We have no fast clocks. I do believe karma is on our side.

We pay our staff well. So in order for me to have a day off and to have our normal operations, I would have to pay my designated theater operator for approx. 7 hours of work at $15 per hour. I could cut down to just one show, but can you imagine the confusion that might cause? Plus what show of the three would I run? Each one of the three sets has shown strengths.

I am also not a big fan of cheap nights. Going to a movie involves at least a 2 hour time commitment from someone. I believe a super majority of people do not have that much flexibility in their schedules. So you end up collecting less from people.

We only do approx. 8% of our weekly gross on Mon-Thurs. The big chain theaters in the urban areas do approx. 15-23%. The more rural theaters in the area that I track do 8-13%. Our main competitor does 13%. Our core group of customers is families with children. So they have no desire to go to a theater on a work night/school night.
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Re: Closing one day a week, good idea or bad? 18 Apr 2011 19:53 #35772

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I tried closing for two days per week a few years ago. Some people assumed we were closed all the time, others were confused as to when we were open. Even the weekend business was off...so I stay open every day and run one show at 7PM Mon.-Thurs. Tuesday is free popcorn night if you bring a bowl...our locals know that and it's their reward for being regular enough to know about it!!! So, Tuesday nights are usually busy. Per cap is down a little but everyone buys drinks and candy. And the bonus is, if Tuesday is busy, Wed. business also picks up. Word of mouth...
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Re: Closing one day a week, good idea or bad? 18 Apr 2011 20:00 #35773

  • CGM
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A basic decision needs to be made: you are a real theatre or you are a hobby theatre.
Real theatres are open 365.
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Re: Closing one day a week, good idea or bad? 18 Apr 2011 20:04 #35774

  • Mike
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CGM wrote:
A basic decision needs to be made: you are a real theatre or you are a hobby theatre.
Real theatres are open 365.
that's a nice insulting way to make a first impression. It strikes me as hot ignorant air.
Michael Hurley
Impresario
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The following user(s) said Thank You: BECKWITH1, sals

Re: Closing one day a week, good idea or bad? 18 Apr 2011 20:39 #35777

  • rufusjack
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Whatever I decide to do, I believe we are a real theater. I have not decided yet. I might close on 4/26 and 5/3 only to see.

CGM, I would love to know about your operations. What theater(s) do you operate? Please tell us a little about yourself.
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Re: Closing one day a week, good idea or bad? 18 Apr 2011 23:24 #35780

  • BECKWITH1
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We work our theater 365 days per year so I feel entitled to weigh in with an opinion. We don't do it because we want to. We do it because we are big enough (8 screens) to need all the film we can get and have literally lost film when we have asked for permission to close on 2 specific days of the week at the end of summer for a rest. We obviously picked the slowest days of the year when the kids are back at school and no one is interested in film while they get back into the groove. I have learned the hard lesson that truth will get you nowhere with the film companies.

So in our particular case we have found that we must work every single day of the year to ensure that we can stay in business. We work quietly under the skirts of our bigger competition who run way more shows than we do. We can't compete on the number of shows per day. It is not humanly possible for us to work from 8:00 a.m. - 1:00 a.m. as our competition does regularly. When the kids are in school they start late (noon) and then they add midnight shows most of the summer. It just isn't possible. So we find our little niche of this market and do the best that we can. We run 3 shows on Friday (1 matinee, 2 evening), 5 on Saturday, 4 on Sunday (3 matinee, 1 evening) and 2 on Monday- Thursday (1 matinee, 1 evening)when school is in sessin. We never close for vacation and the only night of the year that I don't work is Christmas Eve.
We've tried to train staff to take over but the job of running an 8 plex is significantly more complicated than our single screen or even our 4 screen. We think that we might be able to take a few hours off this summer while our staff opens the theater and gets the first matinee or two off on Tuesday or Wednesday, but we will still be there later in the day. I'm not sure I can make it through another 90+ days without a break from 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 a.m. I live for the day that the kids go back to school. So I think I know what I'm talking about. I think that closing one day a week is a perfectly respectable and decent thing to do as long as you are comfortable with it in your particular theater and can communicate with your customers about what you are doing. You will never make everyone happy and there will always be people who are trying your doors and finding them locked. But then you may find that they are trying yours doors now at whatever times you are not open. That is just the way it is and the nature of people. I have to contend with that constantly - people are quite likely to get showtimes for another theater and then come to your theater thinking that they have your showtimes. (Mike will be thrilled to know that there is a Regal theater in Maine which quite regularly is given as where they got the showtimes for my theater - mistaking my town for the one in Maine). We hand out refrigerator magnets like candy with our showtime phone numbers and website information, but people still get most of their showtimes from sources I cannot control and there is nothing I can do about my competitors being listed first in ticketing systems like Fandango. I am only bringing up this point so that you can evaluate how this works in your marketplace. If you have people who come at the wrong times now it is not going to be really any different if you pick a day that works best for your theater and close. Do the best you can to educate them and use the time off to keep yourself going so that you can continue to run the theater.

We have a Bargain Monday in which all shows are $5.00 all day. This is the best price in our market by far. Then on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we give out one free popcorn to each ticketholder buying tickets at the regular price. So people get to pick which is more important to them. This has helped us to compete and gives people a reason to find out what our showtimes are. We don't have a huge increase in business on school days but it sure works well in the summer and on Christmas break, Spring break, etc. In fact, our summer last year was our best on record. People still show up on whatever day is not a free popcorn day and ask if it is a free popcorn day. That just comes with the territory. Pick up whatever ideas that you think will work for your business and go with them. Different things work in different places. I've mentioned our circumstances which are suburban and very competitive and are probably far different from yours, but that gives a different perspective because we can't compete with our competition. We have to choose which things are important to us and our business and let them do things differently. As long as we can still make a living we are still here.
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