Banner
Home Forums Movie Theaters The Lobby Small town cinemas disappearing?
Welcome, Guest
Username: Password: Remember me
  • Page:
  • 1
  • 2

TOPIC: Small town cinemas disappearing?

Small town cinemas disappearing? 03 Nov 2011 21:08 #37342

  • jacker5
  • jacker5's Avatar
  • OFFLINE
  • Platinum Boarder
  • Posts: 877
  • Thank you received: 6
  • Karma: 7
I am getting worried and what I am seeing. In the last 6 months a growing trend of theatres being sold for next to nothing at auctions and just closing down in small towns has been appearing.
What will happen to small town that are to far away from a multiplex. Why are the towns people not embracing there main street charm and supporting it!
I am puzzled anytime I go to small town USA I always make it a point to visit the town theatre.
It is just the feeling I get and warmth a multiplex can replicate.
So again what will happen when digital takes over completely and forces the lil guys out.
I know home cinema has come along way but it is still not a theatre. But I guess generations down this may just be a memory!
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 03 Nov 2011 23:34 #37343

  • revrobor
  • revrobor's Avatar
  • OFFLINE
  • Platinum Boarder
  • Posts: 1133
  • Thank you received: 23
  • Karma: -8
My guess jacker5 is that most of the small town and rural theatres that close close because the owner has not done what needs to be done to be a vibrant part of the community to garner the community's support. Years ago TV forced many of those theatres to close because the owners did not change their method of operation to keep up with the "competition", gave up and shut down. Those theatres today are going to have to eventually, in one form or another, go digital or trying becoming retro running 35mm prints from distributors vaults. I believe there is still a few years left for 35mm but they had better plan for it.
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 04 Nov 2011 16:42 #37346

  • Mike
  • Mike's Avatar
  • OFFLINE
  • Administrator
  • Posts: 5050
  • Thank you received: 45
  • Karma: 15
small town theatres, like small town restaurants and convenience stores and everything else are small businesses that rely on a small slice of population. They are valued in the communities and in many places and states are even owned or operated by county or city governments in various forms. The challenge is one for all of us in the business: the baby boomers are retiring and that's who own and operate many small town theatres. As they look to retire, and sell, at the same time the digital cinema conversion takes place: it is a stressful time. In case no one has noticed it: police, school teachers, highway departments, etc. etc. are top heavy with older workers and there isn't enough young people to take all the jobs: it will be a workers market in a few years. Same is true for selling a small business: there are less people who want to own or operate a business.
Michael Hurley
Impresario
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 05 Nov 2011 20:47 #37348

  • JPRM
  • JPRM's Avatar
  • OFFLINE
  • Expert Boarder
  • Posts: 122
  • Thank you received: 5
  • Karma: 4
I'm as big a champion of small-town theaters as anyone. I want them to survive. But I've noticed that a fair number of these are just poorly run as businesses. If a theater is only open a few days a week or if it's not kept up properly, the folks will go elsewhere for their entertainment. Or they'll stay home. There's a part of all this that has nothing to do with the cost of digital conversion.

About a year ago, I saw a TV news report on a nearby second-run theater that was about to close down. Well, the theater had a dreary look about it, wasn't in a great location, and it was playing double features for $3. At the concession stand, there were little scraps of paper pasted near the candy with hand-scrawled prices. (And candy priced as low as maybe 50 cents, which seems a horrible business move to me.) The manager said things like "We have customers who used to work in this theater as teenagers...and now they bring their grandchildren here!"

Well, that's a nice story. But it has nothing to do with running a successful business. My point is, when it costs next to nothing to make your concessions look nicer or to charge separate admissions for two movies, or to just keep your theater clean, you have to do it. Keeping a historic theater vital and vibrant is completely admirable, but expecting people to show up ONLY because it's an old building is ridiculous. You can't compete with multiplexes or even home entertainment systems if you don't give people a good reason to come and spend their money in your theater.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 05 Nov 2011 23:49 #37349

  • RoxyVaudeville
  • RoxyVaudeville's Avatar
  • OFFLINE
  • Platinum Boarder
  • Posts: 891
  • Thank you received: 17
  • Karma: 3
“Keeping a historic theater vital and vibrant is completely admirable, but expecting people to show up ONLY because it's an old building is ridiculous. You can't compete with multiplexes or even home entertainment systems if you don't give people a good reason to come and spend their money in your theater.”


I agree with what JPRM is saying, that most people are coming to see a movie, not a theatre. On the other hand I firmly believe that the theatre going experience is just as important as the picture itself in making your theatre a successful operation.

Many small town theatres, and some large city theatres as well, make no effort to make their theatre something special and unique. Just because you’re in a small town, where people tend to be more laid back, doesn’t mean that people don’t want a first rate experience.

We often hear people that post here complain that the people in their small town drive off to the larger city to see movies instead of staying and supporting the local theatre. It’s probably due to the reasons JPRM gave. They make no effort to make their theatre a special destination. Being in the small town can be an advantage, if you can give people a better movie going experience then they would get in the city. People will go where they get the best return for their money and have the most enjoyable time spending it. Therefore, if you give a better movie going experience than the big city theatres, you have the opportunity of drawing their large population to you.

That’s exactly what I do. I have an historic old theatre in a small town that has been completely restored, is run just like in the old days with uniformed staff, stage curtains, a brilliant animated marquee, lots of free parking, and low prices to boot, and I draw the people out of the large cities around me by the thousands. People tell me day in and day out that they come here from many miles around because I give them a theatre going experience that they can’t get anywhere else.

If it can be done here, I’m sure that it can be repeated successfully in many other places as well.
The administrator has disabled public write access.
The following user(s) said Thank You: JPRM

Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 06 Nov 2011 02:56 #37351

  • JPRM
  • JPRM's Avatar
  • OFFLINE
  • Expert Boarder
  • Posts: 122
  • Thank you received: 5
  • Karma: 4
As usual, Roxy is on the money. By the way, I do agree that the theatre itself is important, and that's part of what I'm saying. The experience is what brings people out, and the venue and customer service are a big part of that.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 06 Nov 2011 15:26 #37353

I am the operator of a small town single screen theatre in rural Northeast Louisiana. I have to agree with the gentleman before me that the experience is the most important part of staying vibrant, however with the digital transition starring you down the nose it is a difficult time for us small operators. Luckily I was able to find some two-year old equipment with three years warranty left to make the transition at a price where I could get notes we would afford.

The lure and nostalgia of coming to your home town theatre goes along way, but what is on the screen and the competition with other local events determine your success. As an example last week I had Real Steel which should have been a big hit, but went against the Parish fair and we came out on the losing end. Had we already made the swamp to self financed digital I would have gotten this movie sooner and feel sure it would have been a good weekend.

Some of the things we do to make our theatre special are teaming with local fast-food restaurants. Firday is McFriday where you get a free medium fry with your ticket stub at McDonalds after the show and Saturday is Sonic Saturday where you get a free Ice Cream cone after the movie.

Its sad to see these great buildings go dark and that is one reason I returned our movie theatre to movies after 20 years of being a gospel music venue when our Chamber of Commerce gave me the chance.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 07 Nov 2011 16:17 #37358

  • Mike
  • Mike's Avatar
  • OFFLINE
  • Administrator
  • Posts: 5050
  • Thank you received: 45
  • Karma: 15
Roxy's theatre "The Roxy" is in Northampton, Pa. and Northampton County. The county has nearly 300,000 people and Northampton is 20K +/-. Folks: a county of almost 300K is nearly 10 times the population of my Waldo County. Northampton, PA has more people than every single large city in Maine except the largest: Portland, Maine. My point about small towns vs. large towns is that even people who think they live and work in small towns.... do not. Have you been in small town America? Texas? Montana, Wyoming? Live Oak County Texas (Rialto Theatre, Three Rivers Texas) has a population of 12 persons per square mile over 1000 sq miles. Northampton County has 300 square miles with a population of + 700 per square mile. My point has been that people with theatres in good strong markets with an available substantial population should have no problem making a go. You can put on the world's greatest show and if there are not enough people to support you the show will flop. The essential problem is not if small town theatres are run down or have amateur hour concession signs. The problem is that they are being forced to spend +/- 60-80K per screen to update to digital. There is a gap here that can't be bridged by lectures on their poor business skills. This is primarily a small town squeeze going on and people with little understanding of small town life, economies, etc. seem to have very little to offer. This is how and why NATO has written off the smaller 20% of theatres.
Michael Hurley
Impresario
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 07 Nov 2011 20:10 #37359

Our theatre is located in a small town with a population of 2,174 by the 2010 census and parish/county population of 12,314 we draw from a region of around 30,000 that includes East Carroll Parish and Chicot County Ark. Small town theatres CAN survive if they get the support they need from their communities and have the right product on the screen and personable professional service. When I took on this project four years ago everyone said it wouldn't work and I have proved it does. Luckily we have caught some good breaks with contacts I have made in the industry at the Tri-State show in Tunica who have helped us along through donations and putting me in touch with right people. The main thing is to look at each situation with a can do attitude not an I can't attitude and approach each challenge with the perspective of how can I make this work, not why will it not work. That is how I have approached my theatre since we have returned to playing movies and it has paid off for me any my community. This theatre has completely changed the perspective of our town and given us all something to be proud of. Name another place with the population we have that has been named in Readers Digest as the poorest region in the nation that has a operational movie theatre that plays first-run around 3 weeks after the break.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 07 Nov 2011 21:33 #37360

  • revrobor
  • revrobor's Avatar
  • OFFLINE
  • Platinum Boarder
  • Posts: 1133
  • Thank you received: 23
  • Karma: -8
I'm glad your theatre is doing well and wish you continued success. However, as I recall your theatre is owned by a not-for-profit, tax exempt corporation so I'm not sure you can compare it to other privately owned theatres.
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 08 Nov 2011 04:32 #37363

  • tegbert
  • tegbert's Avatar
  • OFFLINE
  • Fresh Boarder
  • Posts: 2
  • Karma: 0
Our theater was originally opened as a Paramount Theater in 1952. It closed four or five years later due to lack of interest (so the story goes) because of TV. My parents purchased it in 1963 and turned it into an old fashioned melodrama theater. It was a huge success for 44 years. In 2006, we put on the last live melodrama and closed the doors, thinking we would be able to sell it for a great price. Then the real estate bubble burst here and the construction industry went bust. Suddenly, we had an old theater in need of remodeling and repairs that was costing us taxes. We had to do something. We decided to put in some sweat equity + $50,000 and we made the theater back into a movie theater. We installed all the 35mm equipment and sound system and screen. We have been running this way since about Feb, 2010. We knew going in that there might be some changes coming down the pike in the way of digital, but not as soon as it has descended upon us. Of course, we are classified as a new build, so we cannot participate in the VPF program. Our competition is in Jackson, WY (21 miles over a mountain pass), Idaho Falls, ID (70 miles), and Rexburg, ID (50 miles), and a drive-in movie theater in Driggs, ID (6 miles).

We are currently replacing our old chairs with refurbs. We do everything we can to enhance our patron's experience. The public loves to have us here. The trouble is, we don't take anything home from all our effort. It truly is a non-profit business that is more a labor of love than a way to make a living. My brother and I work construction when we aren't working our hobby. Why are we not taking any money home? Because we have been turning the money back into the business. We recently invested in a 1080p Mitsubishi digital projector that puts a high definition picture on our screen that is sharper and brighter than even our 35mm. The resolution and brightness are exceptional. We installed an Oppo BDP-93 blu-ray which is top of the line. Now, we are looking down a double-barrel shotgun that threatens to put us out of business. I feel that the current digital configuration is opportunistic on the part of the equipment manufacturers because of the prices they are charging. The complexity is more than it needs to be. Why couldn't the manufacturers of these digital servers create a solution that would allow us to use the equipment we have? Certainly, they could devise a secure system that does not have the need to ack/nak with the projector. Why does the projector need to talk to the servers? I know, it is a secondary layer of security.

I am sorry this is soooo long, but I am really angry that we have gone to all this effort and expense, only to be faced with being forced out of business because we cannot finance $65,000 and cover that debt service through ticket sales. We don't want to mortgage our houses and non-recourse loans where the theater itself could be used as collateral are too expensive and the terms generally not long enough to get the payment down where we could handle it. We need a miracle! Bill Gates, where are you when we need you!?
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 08 Nov 2011 06:11 #37364

  • rufusjack
  • rufusjack's Avatar
  • OFFLINE
  • Platinum Boarder
  • Posts: 1476
  • Thank you received: 33
  • Karma: -7
Three things that are beneficial to having a successful small-town theater:

1) A very cool movie palace-Richard (Roxy) has this. He has owned for a long time and kept it up. I asked a year or so ago if he would open it if it had been sitting idle for a long time and he said "no".

2) A long distance to your closest competitor. Fiske-your closet bigger competitor is in Monroe more than an hour away?

3) Extremely low cost for your facility- I have seen twins with asking prices over $200k. No way will that work.

So do your homework and find these factors.

Even then that sweet spot for a successful theater has been less than 1 out of 10. Before digital.......now I would cut that in half.

So you want to own a small town theater with 1 or 2 screen? You have a 5% chance of it working out. If you none of the above factors, I would say 1%.

I have been my own boss for 20+ years operating a number of different businesses. I have seen many new owners come and go and they almost always think the old operator was doing a poor job. Most if not all of them have failed too. So that run down theater may in no way support the improvements to make it top notch. I know that for my theater, there is no way I could justify spending $300k+ to get it to be top notch.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 08 Nov 2011 07:57 #37365

  • JPRM
  • JPRM's Avatar
  • OFFLINE
  • Expert Boarder
  • Posts: 122
  • Thank you received: 5
  • Karma: 4
I have a question, and I don't mean this as any sort of comment on what WILL be the effect of digital conversion for small-town theaters.

When we're talking about theaters such as these that are closing right now, is it correct to blame the cost of digital? Are owners closing these places simply in anticipation of the cost of converting? Or are there just no buyers (for the same reason) when these theaters go up for sale?

There may have been many factors that contributed to the closure of the theater I cited in an earlier post, but an inability to get prints didn't seem to be one of them. Again, I'm not asking anyone to predict anything about digital. I just want to know if it's causing theaters to close as we speak.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 08 Nov 2011 16:28 #37366

  • slapintheface
  • slapintheface's Avatar
  • OFFLINE
  • Platinum Boarder
  • Posts: 2442
  • Thank you received: 20
  • Karma: -51
There are 3 reasons --

1. Normal -- you loose some every year -- the circle of life

2. Biz has been bad in some markets due to the economic crisis.

3. Prints are getting harder and harder to get 3rd tier.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Re: Small town cinemas disappearing? 08 Nov 2011 17:07 #37367

  • rufusjack
  • rufusjack's Avatar
  • OFFLINE
  • Platinum Boarder
  • Posts: 1476
  • Thank you received: 33
  • Karma: -7
I will add a couple more:

Running a small town theater is a labor of love. Eventually you get tired of that. Especially when you get little out of the theater and you realize that you could go work for someone else and have a much simpler life.

This is a frustrating business on many levels. From struggles to get movies. There are very few business out there where you do not decide what products or services to offer. I own video stores and and yea sometimes the studios say they do not want you to have their movies on street date. (WB is doing that now) But I can go buy it anywhere and rent it out legally (and usually pay much less than from distribution). I decide what we have to rent.

It is hard to get capital right now.
The administrator has disabled public write access.
  • Page:
  • 1
  • 2
Time to create page: 0.261 seconds
attraction attraction
attraction
attraction
attraction
attraction