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TOPIC: New to the theater business.

New to the theater business. 18 Apr 2013 13:24 #39918

There is a two screen theater for sale in my town. It looks like I will be able to be involved with the purchase and managing it. One of my biggest concerns that I have is the "booking" of the movies. I would like your advice on this. Is it as bad as sounds. The term negotiating has me hesitant to speak with a distributor before I am well educated on the specifics of this theater. What factors should be considered when negotiating? I also have been to your distributors list and am overwhelmed with the options there and am not sure where to even start. My first instinct is to do mostly blockbuster and popular movies but I am not going to be exclusive to these options. Should I start with a booking agent and eventually take over the responsibilities? I appreciate all advice you can spare. Thank you.
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New to the theater business. 18 Apr 2013 14:04 #39919

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A newbie should always use a film booker. I have found Larry Thomas to be a good person to talk to you. You talk to a movie booker BEFORE you execute any agreements to purchase/lease/operate a theater. They should be able to find out how that theater grossed before they closed.

Now the tough love:
1) How long has this theater been closed? How long has it been for sale?
2) How many screen are within 20 minutes? How far away is the nearest 8 screen theater?
3) Why did this theater close?
4) Why do you think you can operate it better?
5) Any chance to add more screens without diminishing the current auditoriums?
6) Are the auditoriums typical of many twins in that the auditoriums are long and narrow with 20' width or smaller screens?
7) Is the project well funded? If no equipment there, assume $150k or much more. Has to be digital.

Anyway to do a short term lease to purchase? Theater buildings are tough to use for other purposes and are hard to sell.
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The following user(s) said Thank You: snowman_106

New to the theater business. 18 Apr 2013 14:36 #39920

Thanks for the response. That is good info to have. I have seen the numbers of the sales but they were still on roll tickets, so some specific details are not attainable. He booked his own movies so I wasn't even sure if a Booking agent would be able to get the specific information you mentioned. To answer your questions

1. It is still open. It has been for sale for around 1 year.
2. Zero screens within 20 minutes. The Closest screen is about 40 minutes away. That would be the closest 8 screen
3. This theater is closing from the owner moving with his family which live about an hour away. The upgrades needed probably helped decide on the sale.
4. I think I can operate it better because I know the issues that are associated with the image of the theater such as old smelly dingy looking carpet that hasn't been replaced for over 15 years. I have a family of my own and know why we do and do not go to that theater. Our town doesn't offer many sources of entertainment, so losing this will hurt. Simply upgrading and updating things will help quite a bit. Making it a pleasurable fun experience again is a main focus. I have a very technical background in computers and am excited to operate a theater with a digital system. Beyond that there was very little done in advertising and marketing. Some simple efforts in social media, a website, and local activities would be huge improvement.
5. There is a unique location of a small 3rd theater already in the upper level. This would be a wider shorter room but with close to the same size screen. It has not been in use for 20+ years so there are no seats and it is not heated or cooled. One of the issues with that auditorium is making it ADA accessible. I see some exciting possibilities with this 3rd auditorium if a few hurdles can be passed.
6. Yes they are pretty typical long narrow. Holding 114 seats each and screen sizes are 21' x 9'.
7. The project has a community interest in keeping it open. Funding is my main focus at this point which is why I was inquiring about booking movies (fees and film rentals and such.) The total amount we have projected is the "or much more" side of things.

Formulating a plan with the interested parties could include a lease to purchase option, which is again they reason I am trying to dig up with expenses to formulate accurate numbers to see if project cost is within range of the size of the theater. Again thanks for your response and I appreciate all the expertise you can provide.

rufusjack wrote:
Now the tough love:
1) How long has this theater been closed? How long has it been for sale?
2) How many screen are within 20 minutes? How far away is the nearest 8 screen theater?
3) Why did this theater close?
4) Why do you think you can operate it better?
5) Any chance to add more screens without diminishing the current auditoriums?
6) Are the auditoriums typical of many twins in that the auditoriums are long and narrow with 20' width or smaller screens?
7) Is the project well funded? If no equipment there, assume $150k or much more. Has to be digital.

Anyway to do a short term lease to purchase? Theater buildings are tough to use for other purposes and are hard to sell.
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New to the theater business. 18 Apr 2013 14:38 #39921

Also, could you get me a way to contact Larry Thomas?
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New to the theater business. 18 Apr 2013 14:56 #39922

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Frank Rash is also a good booker. He served me well and booked my theatre just they way I wanted. His number is 402-223-5119.
Bob Allen
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New to the theater business. 19 Apr 2013 12:45 #39926

Thank you for both contacts. I will be in contact with each and go from there. If there are any other recommendations I will be happy to hear them.

There are three big box theaters that are all about 40-50 minutes away which has a little concern of competition.

We have just around 11,000 in our community.

I have thought of taking over the business in a couple routes.
-My first thought was to close for renovations and re-opening
Pros.
1. Open with a clean, fresh and with new image easily battling the poor stigma it has.
2. Allow time for the kickstarter campaign run to completion to assist in the upgrades.
3. Won't have to learn to run 35mm films and move straight into digital.

Cons.
1. Closing, people may assume it is closed for good, even with promotional advertisements to say otherwise. And despite best efforts they will move their business to the out of town options.
2. We will be closed during the busiest time and would move customers out of town anyway. Though we would still hit big releases like the Hunger Games. In it's current state the theater was able to sell out the midnight showing and even a last minute 2:00 AM showing.

-My second thought is to keep it operating through the summer months (the busy season) with concept art in the lobby saying, "this is our plan."

Pros.
1. Will still hit the summer months
2. Will allow for more promotion before it closes for renovations
3. Will get some practice under my belt before grand reopening.

Cons.
1. The urgency for the kickstarter may be a little diminished.
2. The new owners my get associated with the run down theater and carry the stimulus over to the new theater.
3. The learning curve of running 35mm projector
4. The higher cost of booking and shipping 35mm, fighting for top movies over the busy time and battling this while the theater has low attendance based on current status.

What are your guy's thoughts on these?
Last Edit: 19 Apr 2013 18:54 by snowman_106.
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New to the theater business. 16 May 2013 23:21 #39993

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Any progress on the theatre? I think it sounds very cool, really. About a year ago, I was in the same boat with the theatre I took over, though mine is second-run and has only one screen. Pretty much everyone on here is more qualified to speak to all this than I am, but I'll share a few random thoughts anyway. Please take 'em with a grain of salt.

First, depending on the condition of the place, simple upgrades like a GOOD cleaning and new carpet can make a world of difference. You may be able to open quickly and start generating some sales...and continue with your improvements as you go. It depends on what you have to do, of course.

Also, if possible, you might as well convert to digital before you open. You have to go digital soon anyway, and your entire operation will be much simpler from the get-go. We converted our place before opening, and it was one of the best decisions we could have made.

Even if you close for a bit to do your upgrades, folks won't forget that you're coming back if you get the word out. Build a little excitement with your marquee!

Anyway, I hope it's all going well. And I completely agree with other folks here on talking to a booker - he or she can answer all kinds of questions and advise you on things you may not have thought about.
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New to the theater business. 17 May 2013 01:24 #39994

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I think if you keep it open snowman and people know it's under new management and they see nothing different when they walk in it will discourage them and hurt your business. Especially people who left in the first place because they did not like it.
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
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New to the theater business. 30 May 2013 19:18 #40044

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In the initial reseach phase of seeking to change use of a business we already own into a small 80-100 seat Second/Third Run Cinema Pizza Pub with Digitial 30' screen. A big part of the 'experience' being big comfy recliners with tables in the arms. Of course access to high end pizza and adult beverages are the seller in a small market. Small lobby bar area would compliment. We are near a 10-plex, but we don't want to compete in any way,,,nor do we want to get caught up in the wait for their 'Second Runs' should they decide to hold out and keep the movie more weeks. Is it possible to find distributors for old Blockbusters? Reaching into the vaults to dig out hits from 1,2 and more years ago? Is there a market for that?
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New to the theater business. 30 May 2013 23:44 #40046

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Man, I almost think the big, comfy chairs are the toughest part of the deal. That's a lot of extra money that you don't absolutely have to spend.

On getting movies that are a year or two old, I think it turns you more into a pizza joint that happens to screen movies rather than a movie theatre that has the added attraction of beer and pizza. That's just my take on it.

If it means anything, my theatre is a second-run one-screen, and it's just blocks down the street from an 11-screen first-run. I've never considered them to be our competition, really, because we do things so differently. We serve beer, wine and pizza, and we only allow minors in at night if they're with a parent or guardian. Our admission prices are MUCH lower, too. In other words, rather than challenge the big guy on his turf, we just decided to play a different game.
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New to the theater business. 09 Jul 2013 13:45 #40129

Just a little update. And thanks for all the help and comments. I have finalized the business plan and have submitted it to a group of investors. The main contact was impressed and is on board with the need to keep the theater in our town open. He feels confident in the project. I am on a waiting phase at the moment as this person builds the investors group. Once that is done and the building is acquired we are on our way to renovations. I have built a Kickstarter campaign to initiate once the business is in our hands. We will close for about 3 months to get all the new seats, carpet and electronics installed. It seems long but this late in the summer I don't think we'll miss much traffic August, Sept, Oct. Our target is to be open by November to be open before the Hunger Games sequel release.
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