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TOPIC: Looking For Advice

Looking For Advice 08 Sep 2011 20:56 #36929

Hello All,

I ran across this forum while doing research on movie theaters. We are a community of about 17,000 population. Within our small town we have a university and an Air Force base. Over the past 15 years we have made strong efforts to revitilize our downtown with much success. Of course, this is an ongoing effort.

For the past seven years we (Mainstreet Revitilization Organization) have been busy restoring a historic art deco movie theater and have recently completed the construction. We are a 501 C 3 organization. We have the property and construction completely paid for.

Our intention with the theater is to have it available for multi-purpose use. The theater portion can occupy 140 and is designed with a level floor. Our idea is to offer movies two or three nights per week and have a "dinner and a movie" type situation. We would provide round table seating and offer special dinners or concessions. It will be somewhat different than a traditional theater but it can/will also be used for other purposes on other days.

This is where we are looking for help. What equipment do we need and where do we go to rent movies to play?

We would like an affordable system that requires little maintenance and is dependable. I have done some research on digital projectors. Can any of you offer advice?

Oh, by the way, we currently do not have a movie theater in our community. I don't know that we want to go into the movie theater business full time, but we feel that we might can offer some movie entertainment a few nights per week.

Many thanks in advance,

Orlando
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Re: Looking For Advice 08 Sep 2011 21:25 #36930

A population of 17,000 should be able to support a full time movie theater - you should consider a full schedule.
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Re: Looking For Advice 08 Sep 2011 22:33 #36931

  • revrobor
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You're either going to be a movie theatre or you're not. Movie theatres running full time help revitalize downtown areas. The only way you will get current product is to be a full time movie theatre. Otherwise you will play older product unless you choose to run movies three or four days in a row. There is a list of film distributors in the "Directory" section of this forum. A new hard drive digital projector will cost you $60,000 plus. For excellent digital projectors that allow you to play movies from DVDs contact these folks (www.digitalprojection.com). Whatever way you choose to go you need to be open seven days a week and be consistent with your programming. You should hire a manager who has experience in the theatre business. If you need more advise feel free to pm me.
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
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Re: Looking For Advice 09 Sep 2011 18:02 #36934

  • JPRM
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I think revrobor makes a great point. If the market conditions are good for a theater, (that's always a big "if")why not make it a theater?

You see this happen quite a bit, actually. A poorly managed theater shuts down...a developer (or community) has it refurbished...everyone's excited about it...and then? Well, it pretty much sits there, a part of what I like to call The Community Concert Graveyard. I know that that's unavoidable in many cases, but not always.

Please keep in mind, I LOVE it when people restore an old theater. LOVE, I tell ya! But theaters help keep a downtown vibrant by giving folks a reason to attend night after night after night - not just on occasion.

Mind you, I'm not a theater owner yet and that "if" in my first paragraph is the most important part of what I'm yakking about here.
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Re: Looking For Advice 09 Sep 2011 19:46 #36935

Thanks All,

The idea of a full time theater is great, but unfortunately when we raised the funds to restore the historic theater it was with the goal that it be multi-purpose.

We hope to be able to provide movies, live theatre and special events.
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Re: Looking For Advice 09 Sep 2011 20:18 #36936

  • BusyBee
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Why did you spend all that money without a plan in mind? Man, what I wouldn't give to have our downtown district throw some cash at my theater without any sort of expectation. You should either do movies with the occasional event, or events with the occasional specialty film screening. Either way, you're going to need a good manager and not just a committee of half-interested people. If you do movies, you have to run a full schedule to show new releases. If you want to show new releases (even second run), you're going to need to have someone who knows what they are doing. And you are going to have to spend money on equipment. And if you hire someone and spend money on equipment then you're going to want to do movies full time. You could show the occasional DVD, but don't count on great attendance or great profit. You still have to pay the distributor to show the DVD, usually at least $250.00. Events, on the other hand, require a lot of work (man-hours and money) to organize and promote.

Your demographics sound perfect for a full-time, first-run cinema. Maybe the best thing you could do for your community would be to sell the theater to someone who can actually run it like a business.
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Re: Looking For Advice 09 Sep 2011 21:28 #36937

Busy Bee,

Money wasn't just thrown at us for this project. We have worked for years to plan, raise money and restore. It has literally been a labor of love.

The building is used for many useful things now and is an asset to the community. It wasn't before.

We would like to add movies to our menu if possible. We don't want to have a full time movies theater.

This forum doesn't seem to want to offer any help or advice. Maybe you all are here to criticize and turn people away. I'm sorry I even posted.
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Re: Looking For Advice 09 Sep 2011 21:48 #36938

  • leeler
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I think the advice they're offering is that you should do it full time. Is that not a valuable opinion?

I know of several community run theaters that have the occasional play run there and I know of some that double as a church as well. All are valuable pieces to the community and all are barely able to hang on. Just know that's possible with what you are proposing.

I have found that the tone of the advice is oftentimes lost on these forums or basically anywhere written unless they are written very well. Othertimes the ideas are misinterpreted and then what is meant as a friendly piece of advice is misconstrued. It can be frustrating sometimes but this really is the best place to float ideas about movie theater projects. You just have to be patient and make sure you understand what the other forumgoers are trying to say and not jump to conclusions. And it goes both ways. Oftentimes the questions get misinterpreted too.

Best of luck
"What a crazy business"
Last Edit: 09 Sep 2011 23:29 by leeler.
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Re: Looking For Advice 10 Sep 2011 12:57 #36941

  • revrobor
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Hometown Theater wrote:
Thanks All,

The idea of a full time theater is great, but unfortunately when we raised the funds to restore the historic theater it was with the goal that it be multi-purpose.

We hope to be able to provide movies, live theatre and special events.

I managed a theatre exactly like the one you have. It is primarily a movie theatre but has a full stage and was equipped with dressing rooms. It had a roll-up screen. Twice a year the local theatre group produced and performed plays there. There were no movies during those two weeks to allow rehearsal time. The theatre ran full time and was very popular with everyone within a 30 mile radius. That theatre had been rescued from the trash heap by a group such as yours. The financial success of your theatre will be in the movies you run. You could also bring in an occasional band or other performer but it's the films that will support it. Does the Air Force have a theatre on the base?
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
Last Edit: 10 Sep 2011 12:59 by revrobor.
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Re: Looking For Advice 10 Sep 2011 19:50 #36942

  • BusyBee
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I am not intending to be rude at all, just give you honest advice. A lot of people think the cinema business is a lot more flexible than it is. It really isn't. I think Bob's advice to you is good, and you should listen to that, but even Bob is saying that his theater ran primarily films, with the occasional live production.

Okay, to answer your questions specifically:

What equipment do we need:

If you want to run new (or newish) films you need to install a digital system. It will cost you no less than $60k, probably much more because I'm sure your auditorium is fairly large. Showing newer films (not on DVD yet) will provide a fairly stable basis for your business, but it requires some commitment and more rigid scheduling.

If you want to show DVDs occasionally, you'll need to invest 5-10k on a decent media projector. This projector will not be able to play new films. The link Bob gave earlier is a good place to start. You'll still have to pay a rental on them, and from my experience people aren't that interested in coming to the theater to see something they can rent on Netflix, or that doesn't have mass appeal. We show art films on DVD once per month. We have a very loyal and enthusiastic following of about 50 people. You could totally make this work, but it is kind of a hard sell.

where do we go to rent movies to play?
We use a booker, which is right for us. There are a lot of people on here who book films themselves. However, as a non-profit, I think you can rent older films through Swank or Criterion. If you google them, you'll find contact information. Either way, even on DVD's you have to pay a rental and the minimum you can expect to pay on any film rental for a theatrical presentation would be $250.

I truly wish you good luck. I love historic theaters, and it is awesome that your group has rallied to keep your theater open. I hope that your group will strive to make good business choices so that you can afford to keep the facility maintained and the doors open.

:)
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Re: Looking For Advice 10 Sep 2011 22:28 #36943

Busy Bee and All,

I do appreciate your comments. We're just like you, trying to make things work for the sake of our community. There's been a few of us working on this project as volunteers since the beginning. We do it because we care about our community.

I have already talked with some of the contacts you have provided. That, along with your input and advice, and the research I've done will allow me to meet with the group and offer scenarios and options such as digital vs 35 mm, new releases vs classics and independents.

We know for sure that if we want to operate three or four days a week and still include the facility for live theatre, music concerts and such we will need to plan a schedule where it all can work without conflict.

And most important will be to hire someone to manage and operate the movie theater portion of it.

Once again, I appreciate the input and hope that you will continue to communicate with me as I do need your help and advice.

Orlando
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Re: Looking For Advice 11 Sep 2011 03:10 #36944

  • Ken Layton
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Please remember that many of us on these forums have been in the business for a long time. I'm only 56, but I have been repairing, operating, and installing projectors since 1969. I started while I was in high school. I learned alot from the union projectionists. I've grown up in small towns. The most successful single screen theaters were the ones running first run movies every day. I have seen some that also had an occasional play or stage show, but primarily movies is what the people wanted.

You mentioned a flat floor is what you have. That must be uncomfortable for the patrons watching a movie plus it probably affects the movie sound.
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Re: Looking For Advice 11 Sep 2011 23:01 #36945

  • rufusjack
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If your 17,000 people are at least 30 mins away from a bigger city, you should try to lure a full-time operator. That is a good size town if you have no competition.

As far as being multi-purpose with a 3-4 days a week being movies; sounds litk to much going on because the only 3 days in this matter on fri-sun. Which probably the same time you want to do all of the other stuff. I agree with the others that this need to be 90% movies to make it worth your while.
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Re: Looking For Advice 12 Sep 2011 06:14 #36946

  • JPRM
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I think leeler makes a great point. People may not give you the advice you expected, but they are, indeed, giving you advice. One thing I've learned here is that folks on this forum are VERY careful about telling anyone that they SHOULD run a movie theater, so the fact that they're responding this way really means something.

I don't even own a theater yet, so please take anything I say with a grain of salt. A very large grain, preferably.

If I lived in your area, I'd be practically begging you to let me lease this theater. I'd work with you to find a way to schedule concerts and events. But I'd try - I would try my best - to show you why your community and downtown would benefit most by having a venue open 7 days a week, primarily as a movie theater. I'd work with retirement homes to offer special, private 'movie days' for their residents. I'd offer scrip to schools to sell for fundraising. I'd work with businesses and civic groups that want to host events or give presentations.

Now, that's just me. If I had a theater right now, I'd want to do all of the above. I really think those are great things a theater can do for a town, but I don't see how I could do it if I didn't have something drawing customers to my venue day in and day out.

The bottom line, I guess is whether you're truly serving your community better by having a theater that draws people only occasionally or draws people on a regular, reliable basis. I really do mean this in a nice way, but have you asked restaurant owners and other businesses downtown what they think?
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Re: Looking For Advice 12 Sep 2011 16:28 #36947

JPRM,

You make good points. Yes, we have and do talk to downtown business owners. We have been working on all aspects of revitilization for over 15 years. We've rebuilt infrastructure and recruited business to the downtown.

The theater is a great venue to draw people downtown and the downtown businesses want that.

JPRM, would you be interested in running this theater for us?
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