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TOPIC: To buy or not to buy??>

To buy or not to buy??> 13 Jul 2012 16:24 #38840

  • Wurlitzer7
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Hello everyone. My Malox moments these days are to purchase a small town rural single screen that is up and operating. It has retail space and an apartment. It is a pivot property to keep the town alive. This would involve moving and giving up my stable income. I'm 64. The price is excellent and the theatre is able to do cinema and live production on a small scale. I have a track record that is positive in both areas. However the 'track record' is in major markets.
My frustration is that I signed for a mortgage on another theatre that is close to home in a dysfunctional town that needs complete renovation from a shell with a small amount of decorative plaster left. The project and the not-for-profit group as well when the economy fell apart. Both buildings are almost identical in design and floor plan, one is successful, the other a nightmare.
Which makes more sense.....? Selling a shell that has retail space rented or purchasing an up and running business. It shell needs a good $750,000.00.
My background is in highly successful art house, classics, independent and festivals. I also am a professional theatre organist.

Your answers will be taken very seriously.

The town with the theatre for sale has a revolving loan program. The USDA is also interested. The persons selling the theatre are a great positive influence to the community. Thanks for your wisdom!
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Re: To buy or not to buy??> 13 Jul 2012 16:51 #38841

  • revrobor
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Hello Wurlitzer7: That's a tough call and I guess it boils down to how much money you have. With the one you have a chance to revitalize a community which should give you a great feeling of satisfaction in addition to doing something you like. With the other you can jump right into running a theatre the way you want. I'm 80 and don't have the funds to do either but if I did I'd go with the shell as it would give me a better opportunity to put my 25 years in the business to use in helping improve the community. I hope to do that someday but it's going to have to be a deal that is practically dumped in my lap. I think if your only goal is to make money then go with the operating theatre. But if you have a heart to also help a community then go with the shell. But be prepared to struggle for awhile. Is the operating theatre digital? If not you are facing at least a $50,000 outlay very soon. Good luck.
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
Last Edit: 13 Jul 2012 16:52 by revrobor.
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Re: To buy or not to buy??> 13 Jul 2012 17:10 #38843

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Thanks for your wisdom. The 'shell' will take 5 years to pull together. The operating theatre does a lot of school shows and private events using a commercial projector. It is not the type for what's down the road. They run 35mm on weekends.I want to be a 'ROXY' by the holidays. Moving and leaving secure work is a hard decision.
Last Edit: 13 Jul 2012 17:10 by Wurlitzer7.
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Re: To buy or not to buy??> 13 Jul 2012 18:04 #38844

  • Mike
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"purchase a small town rural single screen that is up and operating. It has retail space and an apartment. It is a pivot property to keep the town alive. This would involve moving and giving up my stable income"

I would be very careful and not do anything you absolutely did not WANT to do. Are you familiar with life in the town? If you need to make a living doing this I would proceed with extreme caution, do not choose with your heart: use your head...as it is unlikely that a single screen in a small rural town can support you.
Michael Hurley
Impresario
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Re: To buy or not to buy??> 13 Jul 2012 18:21 #38847

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I run a single screen theater in a very small town and the satisafaction is high but the money is low. We live above it and it pays for itself but not much more. We gave up our stable incomes to run it and it has been worthwhile as it really brought the town together. But, be prepared to have lots of dinners of leftover popcorn...
"What a crazy business"
Last Edit: 13 Jul 2012 18:22 by leeler.
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Re: To buy or not to buy??> 13 Jul 2012 18:25 #38848

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Thanks Mike..... If I purchased this theatre I would be able to find additional work in my field locally outside of the theatre. A majority of my work would be when the theatre is on down time. I only would hope the theatre would support itself. You have to go about 30 minutes to another screen. The town needs some kind of redevelopment plan for the business district. However, for such a small place they have some wonderful newer additions to attract folks.
Last Edit: 13 Jul 2012 18:26 by Wurlitzer7.
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Re: To buy or not to buy??> 13 Jul 2012 18:31 #38850

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leeler.... small towns I believe need their theatre. Your thoughts are very helpful. I believe the 'shell' theatre could sell as another party might have my original zest to make it happen. I've played for thousands of folks to show up in costume for just the SINGALONG musicals for the goodie bag. Their 'White Christmas' with a singlong is also sold out for a week before Santa shows up.
Last Edit: 13 Jul 2012 18:32 by Wurlitzer7.
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Re: To buy or not to buy??> 14 Jul 2012 02:33 #38854

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I would go with the theatre that's up and operating, and make it even better.
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Re: To buy or not to buy??> 14 Jul 2012 15:32 #38856

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ROXY If I could turn the operating theatre into a 'ROXY' we would have the town jumpin. The NY ROXY was the only theatre with three Kimball organ consoles in the pit, twin grand pianos and about 50 musicians. Thanks for all the great advice you provide on these pages.
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Re: To buy or not to buy??> 14 Jul 2012 18:11 #38860

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Is any small town single screen theater worth $750,000?
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Re: To buy or not to buy??> 14 Jul 2012 23:05 #38863

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Is any small town single screen theater worth $750,000?

Yes, I know of several, so I'm sure there are more. However, having just said that, I do admit that there aren't many.
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Re: To buy or not to buy??> 15 Jul 2012 01:16 #38864

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RoxyVaudeville wrote:
Is any small town single screen theater worth $750,000?

Yes, I know of several, so I'm sure there are more. However, having just said that, I do admit that there aren't many.

Richard,

You have awaken my curiosity on this. You care to give an example of such a theater?
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Re: To buy or not to buy??> 17 Jul 2012 04:21 #38882

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Is any small town single screen theater worth $750,000?


Yes, I know of several, so I'm sure there are more. However, having just said that, I do admit that there aren't many.

Richard,

You have awaken my curiosity on this. You care to give an example of such a theater?

Since a couple of the theatres that I'm referring to are my booking clients, I don't think they would want there theatres publicly named. I will therefore refer to them without actually naming them.

One is a first run in central Pennsylvania in a small college town, the 2nd is a moveover run in southeast Pennsylvania, and the 3rd is my theatre in the Lehigh Valley region of eastern Pennsylvania. All 3 of these theatres have had investments totally $750,000 or more when considering purchase price and cost of renovations/restorations. All 3 theatres gross well and cover all expenses including the debt load for restoration and still make a profit. They are all privately owned commercial for profit operations.

Older theatre buildings built prior to 1950 usually inluded rental units, such as retail stores, offices, or apartments for extra income. All 3 of these theatres have such. The central Pa. theatre has a coffee shop (operated in conjuntion with the theatre) one retail store and 3 apartments. The move over house has a resturant in the building. My theatre has 2 retail stores and 2 apartments. These all add income and value to the properties.

The central Pa. first run although in a small town with many multiplexes in other towns and cities not far away usually out grosses all of them on a picture by picture basis. The move over house continues to increase it's grosses every year and is now the 2nd top grossing subrun in the state. My theatre is and has been for many years the top grossing subrun in the state. In fact I probably out gross 80% of the first run screens in the state.

The 3 theatres that I'm mentioning here have two things in common. First, they are old theatres originally built in the days of silent films, and have either been completely restored or rebuilt to look like theatres of the golden era of the movies. Secondly, they all operate just as they would have when they were built, with uniformed staff, stage curtains, beautiful multi-colored patterned carpet, soft colored lighting schemes, grand marquees with lots of bulbs and neon, and no screen advertisements or video games.

While I know that no other single screen theatres in Pennsylvania operate using this formula (what I call the showmanship formula), I also know that no other single screen theatres come even remotely close to grossing what these theatres gross. I would certainly think (at least hope) that there are other theatres throughout the nation that operate in this manner, and benefit from that type of management style.

I certainly believe that other single screen theatres can be made successful by using this formula.
Last Edit: 17 Jul 2012 04:23 by RoxyVaudeville.
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Re: To buy or not to buy??> 17 Jul 2012 15:27 #38885

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Thanks Richard.

I think we are NOT operating on the same definition of small rural single screen theaters.

Your theater is in a town of approx. 16,000 people. In the Midwest, we have many towns that size and even smaller operating as many as 8 screens and doing well. Plus are you not 10-15 mins from Allentown?

Maybe the original poster can be more specific on his definition of small rural town. To me a small rural town would be 3-5000 people located 30 miles away from a larger town.

Also the presence of other rental units certainly factors in greatly.
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Re: To buy or not to buy??> 17 Jul 2012 19:02 #38886

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Rufus,

My theatre is in that range and we do nearly all of the things Roxy mentioned. We also own 3 other buildings on the 5 acres but the theatre stands by itself as a building worth that much. Town of 3000-4000 people. Pays for itself and wages.

www.pinestheater.com/tour
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