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THEATER CLOSINGS - 20 Jan 2012 17:25 #37776

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MUSKEGON — Citing "economic and personal factors," Muskegon's only independent movie theater is closing, a post on Facebook from The Harbor Theater stated Sunday afternoon.
Managers Jennifer and Brendan Pelto later confirmed that the theater, 1937 Lakeshore, had its last two showings Sunday night.

After nearly five years in operation, the theater closed on showings of 'My Week With Marilyn' and 'Like Crazy'.
"It's bittersweet to end on such great films," said Brendan Pelto.
Shortly after the announcement was made on the social media website, the theater's Facebook page lit up with comments. More than 100 users expressed sadness at the closure.
The theater was unable to stay open despite upgrades made in the past several months. In June, owners added 3D compatibilities to the screens and in October began showing first-run films to play head-to-head with Norton Shores' Cinema Carousel.
In Feb. 2010, the struggling venue raised more than $6,000 through a fundraiser that featured an appearance by filmmaker Michael Moore.
"It goes to show that if you want to have locally-owned business in your community, you have to support them," Jennifer Pelto said.
The Facebook post stated, "Thank you for your understanding -- this was not an easy decision for those involved with the Harbor Theater."
It also expressed gratitude to "our wonderful patrons."
The couple said more information about the closure will be released in the coming days.
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Re: THEATER CLOSINGS - 21 Jan 2012 00:09 #37778

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Interesting pick to start with as recently there have been many. I wish them well.

www.mlive.com/entertainment/muskegon/ind...012/01/post_134.html

End of an institution: The Harbor Theater fades to black

Published: Friday, January 13, 2012, 10:23 AM Updated: Friday, January 13, 2012, 11:25 AM
By Bill Iddings | The Muskegon Chronicle

MUSKEGON — Cable Pelto, at 2 1/2, has grown from newborn to toddler behind the concession stand of the Harbor Theater.
His 2-month-old sister, Moxie, will not.


Jen and Brendan Pelto pose for a portrait with their son Cable Pelto, 2, and two-month-old daughter Moxie Pelto on Wednesday, January 11, 2012. Harbor Theater closed its doors after the final two showings on Sunday night.

On Sunday, their parents, Brendan and Jen Pelto, closed Muskegon’s only art-and-independent movie house. The lights below the Harbor’s marquee that juts over the sidewalk toward Lakeshore Drive, facing Muskegon Lake in the distance, are out.

The Peltos had leased and operated the Harbor, a landmark standing at 1937 Lakeshore for more than a half century in the business district of the Lakeside neighborhood, since April 2008. They’d started refurbishing the Harbor for reopening the previous fall.

In the beginning, all was optimism, a positive outlook anticipating a bright future, combined with a love of movies.

In the end, enough was too much. Costs rose, income didn’t. Some exhausting work weeks ranged from 70-80 hours. The consuming demands of running a small business being what they are, family time bordered on nonexistent. After Cable was born, his parents frequently had him at the Harbor while they worked. Patrons marveled when he started to walk and talk.

For all that, “It was pretty hard,” Brendan Pelto said Tuesday of his and his wife’s decision to close the Harbor. “Yesterday I found myself looking at the box office charts, and I said to myself, 'Why am I doing this? I don’t need to plan for the next month.'”

The Harbor was an oasis in the movie mainstream, a respite from the first-run, big-budget films filling multiplexes. The Harbor booked films that, because of the limited demand inherent in the world of niche, most big houses wouldn’t touch.

Tickets were priced below the bigs, as were popcorn, pop and candy. Traditions, dating back to the 1960s when the Harbor was named Our Theatre, included free coffee, paper cups o' Joe poured from a pot next to a tip jar where patrons could drop loose change to help defray costs and ensure refills.

The Peltos instituted a membership project, which grew to as many as 200 people, in which patrons paid an annual fee and got discounts at the Harbor.

Special events included film festivals and themed movie series, complementing the main attractions, late-night cult films such as “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” and matinees of family fare.

But, save for exceptions like “The Reader” and, last year, Woody Allen’s surprising “Midnight in Paris,” which ran a record-setting 11 consecutive weeks at the Harbor, most of the films booked into the theater did not draw well. They broke even at best, lost money at worst. In the Harbor’s 325-seat Port Theater auditorium and adjacent 185-seat Starboard Lounge, audiences often could be counted on the fingers of two hands, sometimes one. In the world of indies, that’s a gimme teetering on the brink of pitfall.

“Not every film was going to be a success,” Pelto said. “Seventy percent of the time, films that come to the Harbor, that we select, lose money. We pay more to get the film there, the shipping costs and exhibition guarantees, than would actually be brought in by admissions.”

A few months ago, some distributors began demanding that theaters to which they provided movies convert to an all-digital format. Such an upgrade, required to be completed by January 2013, would have required the Peltos to sink $120,000 of new equipment into the Harbor.

And in November 2011, when Jen Pelto gave birth to the couple’s second child, the proverbial writing was on the wall.

“I was ready to move on,” Pelto said. “It felt like I’ve done it for almost five years. I love it. I love movies. But I don’t want to do it seven days a week anymore. I was missing weekends with my kids.”
So, on the night of Jan. 8, the Harbor's two auditoriums each screened a movie, “My Week with Marilyn” and “Like Crazy,” then faded to black.

The end seemed to come out of nowhere, with advance notice measured in hours. The Peltos announced the Harbor’s closing by posting a message on Facebook.com.

Public reaction on the social-media site went viral. Hundreds of postings lamented the Harbor’s demise. Comments came from near and far — from adults who as children had seen movies at the Harbor and held the theater dear in their memories, one who “saw my first movie there in 1982 and my last one last year on my birthday”; from filmmakers who had visited Muskegon and screened their fare at the Harbor; from a cinemaphile decrying “it’s practically impossible for the little guy to compete with the megaplexes”; from a parent who “loved bringing my children there.” The word “sad” was repeated and repeated and repeated.

The Harbor’s closing hit few people harder than it did Tom Berdinski, A lifelong Muskegon resident. the 47-year-old Berdinski moonlights as a “no-budget” comedy-horror film director, shooting exclusively in West Michigan. His first two guerrilla flicks, the feature-length “The Italian Zombie Movie” and the short “The Giant Rubber Monster Movie,” premiered at the Harbor. “The Italian Zombie Movie” has since developed a cult following, playing on rogue late-night television and at numerous horror-film conventions.

Looking back, Berdinski recalled seeing his first zombie movie, director George Romero’s iconic “Night of the Living Dead,” at the Harbor when he was 11 years old.

The Peltos taking a chance on “The Italian Zombie Movie,” Berdinski said, made him what he is today: an independent filmmaker already working on his next movie.

“I don’t know if I ever would’ve had the confidence to try showing (‘The Italian Zombie Movie’) on a big screen without the Harbor’s help,” Berdinski said. “ ... We had a great, nearly sold-out screening ... It’s sold thousands of DVDs and even gathered several horror-genre awards ...
“ ... Muskegon was so lucky to have an independent movie theater. When you’ve seen enough of the Hollywood products, it’s really refreshing and enjoyable to see non-formula pictures on a big screen.”

The Harbor did not go down without a fight.

After the '60s, when the theater was owned by Oscar Kendall, it's usually been operated by families — the Fonsteins, the Dhuses — and it thrived through the 1970s.

However, the Harbor also closed several times, only to reopen, and not always as a movie theater. One incarnation was as a teen nightclub, albeit one that tanked in short order.

The Peltos almost closed the Harbor once before. When the Harbor was on the financial ropes in 2010, Berdinski and some of his “Italian Zombie Movie” mob organized a fundraiser to save the Harbor. World-renowned documentary filmmaker Michael Moore rode to the rescue, appearing in Muskegon and even donating money.

The event raised almost $18,000. Moore, a Michigan native known for such docs as “Roger & Me” and “Capitalism: A Love Story,” “Sicko,” “Fahrenheit 9/11” and the Academy Award-winning “Bowling for Columbine,” chipped in an additional $5,000. The Harbor stayed open.

This time, however, the Peltos did not consider another fundraiser, mainly because they figured their time to go had come. A few months ago, the Harbor started booking some first-run films in an effort to boost attendance. But movies such as “The Rum Diary” and “Tower Heist” didn’t pay off, Pelto said, because the cost of the film exceed what the Harbor could expect to make from admissions and concessions during a run.

Plus, “It wasn’t easy for me to get passionate about first-run films,” Pelto said. “It became very difficult for me to, I guess, care about and promote them. I had a hard time, personally, to sell that to our core audience. I just felt kind of dirty.”

Moore has not been the only celebrity to frequent the Harbor. Lloyd Kaufman, the cofounder of the famous independent Troma film studio, has twice visited the theater, once giving a workshop in indie movie making. California-based director Richard Elfman in 2010 came to the Lakeside Film Festival at the Harbor, screened his 1982 cult musical comedy “Forbidden Zone” and then raved about Muskegon and the Harbor in his Buzzine online entertainment magazine.

Equally impressed, but also distressed, has been Andrew van den Houten, a director, producer and former actor whose Moderncine studio made its horror film “Offspring” in West Michigan. Another Moderncine horror film, “The Woman,” screened at the Harbor last year, and has been piling up awards after it played the prestigious

Sundance Film Festival in 2011.
Van den Houten, along with “The Woman” director Lucky McKee, novelist and screenwriter Jack Ketchum and others from Moderncine, has visited Muskegon and the Harbor several times.

The Harbor, van den Houten said last week, might have been doomed merely by its location.
“I’m really disappointed that the town didn’t come out and support it, to keep the theater open,” van den Houten said by phone. “But I think that might be indicative of the lack of interest in independent film in Muskegon.

“I love Muskegon and I have a lot of friends there who are very big fans of independent film. But I think the overwhelming, larger population in that area probably is more interested in going to see the next big studio picture, other than seeing a film like ‘The Woman’ ... I just think it’s a hard market to sell.”
Van den Houten voiced high praise for the Harbor, particularly for the Peltos fighting against seemingly insurmountable odds.

“Brendan had a very, very challenging job,” van den Houten said. “And I think he did a phenomenal job at getting local celebrity interest, certainly from Michael Moore, to come in and help and donate the money to keep the theater open. I think he was really, basically, keeping its dead carcass alive a lot longer than anyone would have expected.”

The Harbor has gone under at a time which independent movie theaters, both nationally and worldwide, are struggling to survive. Part of the problem is akin to David facing Goliath empty-handed: Motion picture chains, with their deep, corporate profits, have been booking many art-and-alternative films that are the staple of their indie counterparts.

In the end, enough was too much. Costs rose, income didn't. Some exhausting work weeks ranged from 70-80
hours.

“It’s going to be a very difficult year, which is another reason we got out now,” Pelto said. “It’s gotten very hard to start booking film prints.”

The Harbor had planned to run such current films as “The Descendants,” “Shame” and “The Artist,” all of which are garnering Oscar buzz, after the Academy Awards nominations are announced later this month. Pelto said he planned to open “The Descendant,” which stars George Clooney, Jan. 27 at the Harbor. Now films like those will have to play elsewhere in West Michigan, or go unseen around here until they’re released on home video.
Ends aren’t always final. Common wisdom, even against the logic of reality, is to never say never.
So the Harbor Theater and the Peltos are out of the movie business, for now.

“I don’t think it’s something I’m ever going to let go,” Pelto said. “I’ll always love movies. Now I’ll probably travel to see movies. Maybe down the road we’ll work in movies again, somehow.”

Bill Iddings is a Chronicle correspondent.
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Re: THEATER CLOSINGS - 21 Jan 2012 07:38 #37780

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You wish them well
lol -
Last Edit: 21 Jan 2012 08:19 by slapintheface.
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Re: THEATER CLOSINGS - 21 Jan 2012 07:39 #37781

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GOD BLESS US
Last Edit: 21 Jan 2012 08:21 by slapintheface.
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Re: THEATER CLOSINGS - 21 Jan 2012 07:41 #37782

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GOD BLESS US ALL
Last Edit: 21 Jan 2012 08:20 by slapintheface.
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Re: THEATER CLOSINGS - 21 Jan 2012 07:46 #37783

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I KNOW THEY ARE ON THIS SITE
I BOOKED THIS THEATER---( THEY NEVER PAID ME) -- OH WELL 2012 -TIME TO FORGIVE .
Last Edit: 21 Jan 2012 16:05 by slapintheface.
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Re: THEATER CLOSINGS - 21 Jan 2012 16:10 #37785

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Old Town Theater (Photo courtesy of Old Town Theater)
To walk inside, they say, is to travel back in time.

“The inside is marvelous and it's too bad that we can't hold on to some of the history,” says Alexandria resident Dottie Reed.

But after this weekend, it will close.

“It's just a beautiful place don’t you think?” asks owner Roger Fons. “Worst thing I ever did in my life though was open this place up. Pretty hard to make a dollar off of a nine dollar ticket.

Fons cites the economy, and a year of crummy movies, as the main reasons his sales dropped 50 percent from 2010. The theater also suffered from employee theft. And he says operating the place seven days a week just drained him.

“Something breaks every day, at least one thing, ok?” he says. “So pretty much, a pain in the rear end, Ok?”

Fons never planned to run the theater. But once he bought it, he couldn't find someone else to do the job.

The cinema was built in 1914 as the first permanent movie theater in Alexandria. It is also one of the few theaters that serves alcohol.

Its new owner, the president of PMA Properties, will likely rent it out as retail space, restoring the facade and removing the box office and overhang. And as Fons prepares for his next adventure - which will take him back to his home state of Michigan, but which he can't yet discuss - he will auction off every last piece of equipment.

For some, it’s a sad end to an era.

For Fons...

“It's still just a business,” he says. “You have to run it like a business.”
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Re: THEATER CLOSINGS - 26 Feb 2012 03:57 #37933

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Last show for the Detroit Theater
Items are up for sale before demolition.
Ken Robinson, Newsradio WTAM 1100.


(Lakewood) - On this Oscar weekend, a final curtain call for the Detroit Theater in Lakewood.

The former movie palace was opened to allow fans to purchase, chairs, fixtures, and other items before the building is torn down. The historic structure is to be replaced by a McDonald's restaurant.

Sales hours were from 1pm to 5pm on Saturday, with the final day Sunday again from 1pm to 5pm.



Saturday visitors were disassembling seats and removing signs, while sharing their fond memories of good times and great films.

Theater owner Norman Barr told Newsradio WTAM 1100 last year he made the decision to close for a number of different reasons.

Barr said there has been some interest in the building, and as he approached retirement age, he was looking to do different things, which included spending time away from Cleveland.

Barr admitted that competing with high tech multiplex theater palaces had been difficult. While patrons expressed sadness about the closing their support had waned over the years.





Barr denied that the theater had been hurt by Netflix, Blockbuster, and cable TV.

The Detroit is Lakewood's last remaining movie house, and had been open 86 years. It premiered in 1923 at 16407 Detroit Ave, but closed during the height of the Great Depression, only to reopen a few years later. In 1988 it added a second screen.
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Re: THEATER CLOSINGS - 28 Feb 2012 20:55 #37951

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The closing of theatres is a sad comment that seems to reflect the overall mood of the country today. When you pay $5.00 for a gallon of gas, you're not thinking of going to the movies before you buy food.

Thanks to multiplexes and digital projection, people will wind up watching movies ALONE at home on their TV, which is just the way movies WERE NOT meant to be seen. When there are no more theatres, everything else will also be negatively affected along with their demise. Once they're gone you can NEVER get them back
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Re: THEATER CLOSINGS - 28 Feb 2012 21:16 #37952

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Techman707 said:
"Thanks to multiplexes and digital projection, people will wind up watching movies ALONE at home on their TV, which is just the way movies WERE NOT meant to be seen. "

Actually, thanks to multiplexes and digital projection we should see more customers at modern theatres.
The current crop of correctly presented digital movies will offer better sound and better pictures than we've ever seen in movie theatres outside of 70 mm big city houses.
Multiplexes mean our customers will have a choice.
In several of the small cities I’m familiar with, we have eight to ten screens in communities that never had more than two or three screens during the “golden age” of movie theatres. The presentations and frequently the actual screen sizes are far superior than anything ever seen before in these same towns.
We can see that over the last few months theatre attendance is up over last year because of better product and great presentations.
I'm truly sorry for the operators who aren't able to take their theatres on into the future but the doom and gloom I read about so often on this site doesn't reflect reality for most of the industry.
This is an exciting time to be an exhibitor.
Last Edit: 28 Feb 2012 21:21 by CGM.
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Re: THEATER CLOSINGS - 28 Feb 2012 21:51 #37955

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CGM wrote:
Techman707 said:
"Thanks to multiplexes and digital projection, people will wind up watching movies ALONE at home on their TV, which is just the way movies WERE NOT meant to be seen. "

Actually, thanks to multiplexes and digital projection we should see more customers at modern theatres.
The current crop of correctly presented digital movies will offer better sound and better pictures than we've ever seen in movie theatres outside of 70 mm big city houses.
Multiplexes mean our customers will have a choice.
In several of the small cities I’m familiar with, we have eight to ten screens in communities that never had more than two or three screens during the “golden age” of movie theatres. The presentations and frequently the actual screen sizes are far superior than anything ever seen before in these same towns.
We can see that over the last few months theatre attendance is up over last year because of better product and great presentations.
I'm truly sorry for the operators who aren't able to take their theatres on into the future but the doom and gloom I read about so often on this site doesn't reflect reality for most of the industry.
This is an exciting time to be an exhibitor.

I agree CGM. It's a wonderful time to be in exhibition. To Techman's comments...not sure why multi-plexes and digital projection would push people to their homes? Multi-plexes mean options on movies and digital projection means the best presentations the industry has ever seen. He may be right about gas prices pushing people away from theatres -- less disposable income means less movie-going. But, the other argument sounds like The Old Showman's alter-ego.

Elin
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Re: THEATER CLOSINGS - 29 Feb 2012 16:13 #37961

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CGM wrote:
Techman707 said:
"Thanks to multiplexes and digital projection, people will wind up watching movies ALONE at home on their TV, which is just the way movies WERE NOT meant to be seen. "

Actually, thanks to multiplexes and digital projection we should see more customers at modern theatres.
The current crop of correctly presented digital movies will offer better sound and better pictures than we've ever seen in movie theatres outside of 70 mm big city houses.
Multiplexes mean our customers will have a choice.
In several of the small cities I’m familiar with, we have eight to ten screens in communities that never had more than two or three screens during the “golden age” of movie theatres. The presentations and frequently the actual screen sizes are far superior than anything ever seen before in these same towns.
We can see that over the last few months theatre attendance is up over last year because of better product and great presentations.
I'm truly sorry for the operators who aren't able to take their theatres on into the future but the doom and gloom I read about so often on this site doesn't reflect reality for most of the industry.
This is an exciting time to be an exhibitor.
I'm truly sorry for the operators who aren't able to take their theatres on into the future but the doom and gloom I read about so often on this site doesn't reflect reality for most of the industry.
This is an exciting time to be an exhibitor.

It's hard to know what to make of this because I do not know what CGM works with or what size city. CGM, I venture, stands for cinema general manager? Is it safe to say that theatres of different sizes and demographic bases have very different experiences? How would an AMC 24 in NYC have much in common with a small town three screen? I do not think of the discussions here as "doom and gloom" but rather the concerns expressed come from primarily a group of business people dealing with a expensive and fast moving and possibly economically unreliable technology. Even if I am not wearing your shoes I can feel empathy. I don't know where CGM lives or works but I suspect it's a larger market than the 40% of theatres in this country that are expressing concerns about digital or 3-D. And I'll bet 1.00 that CGM has not been personally faced with borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars to stay in business. I don't think anyone doubts these are exciting times to be in the movie business. Or as the Chinese curse goes: "may you live in interesting times." Over the years I've had a lot of opportunity to hear stories that had nothing to do with me: the cost of air conditioning, how to keep gangs from bring guns into the theatre, should I play Indian or Hispanic films, etc. etc. The fact that I might have an opinion never translated into considering myself an authority. " A man has got to know his limitations."
Michael Hurley
Impresario
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Re: THEATER CLOSINGS - 01 Mar 2012 04:17 #37964

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How about framing this topic this way: This used to be an industry where one can operate a theater on small amount of money. We opened a twin on just $30,000. Now, you could not do that at all.

If your theater is in the top 2800 locations (talking mainstream here)....you could be relatively excited. But, we are still in an industry with fewer people going to the movies.

Year
Admissions*
2011 1.27
2010 1.339
2009 1.414
2008 1.341
2007 1.4
2006 1.401
2005 1.376
2004 1.484
2003 1.521
2002 1.57

So operators who are in the 3000+ ranking are nervous about their futures. And rightfully so.

Maybe CGM can tell us something about them self.
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