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TOPIC: Booking Question

Booking Question 26 May 2014 21:22 #40948

  • mjweaver
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I'm new to the forum and have found it very informative thus far. I'm looking to restore a single screen historic theater in my hometown. The current owner runs second run movies on Fri night, Sat afternoon and Sat night. He is still using 35mm and lacks the funds or desire to go digital. If we purchased the theater, we would convert it to digital. I've researched the film booking process and spoke with him, but he was not able to answer many questions on the digital content. I'm very certain I will need to use a booker, especially early on. He books for himself. My plan would be to continue to stay away from the first run and direct competition with the other theater. We are in a town of about 10,000 and there is a small 7 screen multiplex in town. I would also like to expand our offerings. I would like to have the usual Fri/Sat night screenings, Sat matinee for our prime movie (best we could get) but maybe have something more kid friendly for a Sun matinee. I would also like to add something like a Throwback Thursday show (possibly with a theme) with something that is several years old. I would think with the prints being digital, then it would be relatively cheap/easy to get some of the older films to order for a few of the additional screenings. I guess the question is would it be feasible to have multiple films to show on a single screen theater at different times over the course of a week? How hard is it to get digital prints of older popular films? Is it financially feasible to get a film for one or two showings? I know this was impossible to do with 35mm due to shipping costs and logistics. Will film companies require a certain number of showings to get the digital print or have exclusive showings on a single screen or will they just want the guaranteed minimum to get it?
Any help would be greatly appreciated!
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Booking Question 27 May 2014 01:07 #40949

  • BusyBee
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If there are DCPs available for older titles, you can probably get them for a 35% rental with $250 or $350 minimum. They will probably encourage you to show blu-ray instead of shipping you hard drives (at least that's what they always do to me when I want to show an older title). In my experience, the studios don't really care how many shows per day you do or if you split screens on old stuff, just first run titles.

However, just giving your post a cursory glance I'm stuck on the fact that there is already a 7 screen theater in a town of 10,000. I'm in a town of 10,000 and we have 3 screens, and there's not room for another theater here. At least, not one that could afford a digital projector.
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Booking Question 27 May 2014 11:26 #40951

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I agree with every Busybee has said. This would be a hobby theater that one would hope would break-even with you working for free.

That 7-screen is probably keeping at least the most current kid movie on-screen at all times. Are they running any summer kids movies (movies that are already out on home video) for free? or a buck or two?

Yes you need a booker. Larry Thomas has always been a straight forward guy 513-232-2164.

Really old movies: Maybe Bob "The Old Showman" can tell us about his experiences. I know he just played Chitty Chitty Bang Bang this past weekend. I doubt these kind of movies will do well in a town of your size. Especially for just one or two shows.

You would probably not get to play anything that is being played at the 7-plex. It is not the current owner's choice.

Does this theater have any good character to it? Is it appealing to the eye in some way? Or is it just the old theater that has been in town for decades?


Sit down and put at least 40 hours into reading every post on this forum as you can.
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Booking Question 27 May 2014 23:57 #40953

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We are chock-full of character and history. The theater was built in 1875 as an opera house, converted to a mercantile and then opened as a movie theater in 1940. It closed in the early 90s and was reopened in 2000. The owner has done some work on the building and it is in better condition today than when he bought it. This is a vital part of our town and its history. I want to see the restoration of this historic building that is at the end of Main Street. There has been a big push to renovate the buildings on Main St. to revitalize the historic downtown district and this project would be the tipping point to bring that area of town back to life. Our Main St foundation and the state counterpart are very excited about the idea. We would have huge community support. There is funding for restoration of the facade from those organizations and likely we wouldn't pay anything for that part. We have a local bank that is offering extremely favorable terms if we do this. Right now, we are gathering some quotes for some restoration work to the building itself. That will be the make it or break it point. We will have to see what our initial investment would be to see if we can make it work. Our group all has day jobs. This project is not a way for us to retire early. We would love to make money but that isn't everything. We certainly don't want to lose money, so it does need to be self-supporting.

We have the community support that is necessary to make this happen. If we restore it, they will come. I have no doubt that there is a market for this theater in our town. Currently, the owner is selling tickets for $2 to a second run (primarily kids) movie in a dilapidated dirty theater. He is selling a family friendly entertainment for cheap and there is a market for that, but I see it as better than that. We can sell the movie experience that people want. I know lots of people that routinely drive 1.5hrs to see a movie out of town because the local corporate multiplex just isn't that great. It is 7 small screens and you can hear the theater next to you. They have the newest movies but they lack the magical movie experience. They don't do any summer kids movies or anything discounted (unless you count the matinee). They do usually have something G/PG on all the time.

We have something completely different, and I want to get away from the discount kids theater theme. Ours is a 600 seat theater with a balcony in a prime location with loads of history. We can keep the character and charm but upgrade the inside and restore the outside, making it a clean comfortable family friendly atmosphere. We can capture that magical cinema experience. I think we can have the family friendly atmosphere and still play PG-13 stuff to cater to a wider audience (probably stay away from the R).

I guess I really need to nail down our market/niche to have a better idea of our business plan. Of course I would love to show the movies I want to show and not have to worry about money. I would love to have an independent/foreign film night, but I know there is not a market for that in our town. I am looking for what would be realistic in our situation. I would like to have the best movie available to us to show 3-4 showings per weekend for 1-2wks. I would also like to always have something G/PG available at a set time over the weekend such as Sunday afternoon matinee. Maybe I'm trying to appeal to too many people and have too many identities this way. It may be that we just have those few showings each weekend and have one film for a couple of weeks. I will have to get into deeper details with the booker to see exactly how that would all work. I'm just looking for ideas on how people are running their single screen theaters and what type of movie offerings they have. I'm still new to this (in the 20hr reading range) but am eager to learn.
Thanks so much!
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Booking Question 28 May 2014 11:19 #40954

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If you have not figured out by now I am the one who makes sure people take a step back and takes a deep breath before the do something that could cause them to lose their house. This is not a seller's market for single screen theaters. Take your time.

I would suggest going the non-profit route. I do not see much of a sweet spot for profitability.

The theater is too large by today's standards. Probably costs a bunch to heat/cool. Would love to see pictures of this theater from cinematreasures or cinematour. I understand your thinking about not wanting to name the theater but it could give a better ability for us to assess this theater and just importantly the 7 screen competitor.

You say the 7 screen has small rooms. How big are the screens? How big is the screen at the old theater? A room can be small but effective. There are not many days of the year that a theater in a town of 10,000 people needs more than 50 seats. The theater I attend the most now has 28' screens in their medium size rooms. I have no problem finding a seat that I like in that room.

Too many of the giant classic theaters that I have seen have very small screens. Optimum seating should be placed 2x-3x the screen height away from the screen. Many theaters place them 1x-4x.

Single screen theaters are far from ideal to operate. The most successful on this forum our Leeler and Roxy. Roxy has a grand classic theater that had been updated on regular basis. Be careful in thinking you can replicate his success.


Leeler has revamped a small town theater but bought it closest competitor and made nice improvements to it which he says has affected the single screen. Someone could take over the 7 screen and make it better too.

I am sure both will chime in with good input.

Both just play one movie at a time and change each week. My guess is that it leverages the min. film rentals better. Studios seem to be charging $250 as a min. these days. That can be very expensive for just one show.

Good job in reading the forum. You are farther ahead than most newbies.
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Booking Question 28 May 2014 13:20 #40956

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I have decided to go sub-run and classic at my theatre. It's the only theatre in a county of 20,000. I use blu-ray and a video projector. I get a beautiful picture on my 22 foot screen. The sound runs through my 35mm sound rack. I am now considering getting a second video projector for my small 37 seat auditorium. Blu-rays are available of older pictures for about $7.95 to $29.95. The rental so far has been $250. vs 35%. I believe I will continue to go with blu-ray and skip the digital thing based on my format. It would allow me to run current product about six weeks after the break. You can get an excellent consumer grade video projector for about $1,500. or a professional grade for about $3,000 to $10,000. Good luck.

Bob
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
Last Edit: 29 May 2014 00:01 by revrobor.
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Booking Question 28 May 2014 15:15 #40957

  • BusyBee
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Rufujack is definitely the forum "reality checker" but I'm a dreamer and I like to look at the big picture and think of all the possibilities.

Your setup sounds a lot like my town. We're a historic town, with a historic Main Street designated renovation program. Our theater is within the boundaries but not on the main street. We are also a Deco theater built in 1940, as opposed to a huge old Opera House. We are the only theater in town, and our theater has been triplexed, so we run it as first-run as possible open 7 days a week.

I have a lot of dreams about things I could do with my theater, but in fact I know none of those things will be as lucrative as remaining first run. I want to serve food and beer, but we don't have room to store or prepare it.

I think what you have going for you is that you are a classy old opera house. I'm assuming it's looking pretty crappy now but with renovation will be amazing. You can sell the experience more than the 7 plex and you can charge accordingly. If I had a ton of extra room like you probably do, I would be interested in showing films geared toward mature adults and serving food and beer/wine. Not full on entrees, but classy, simple light meals. On that note, what sort of population are you drawing off of? Do you have nearby towns? And are there already theaters servicing those populations. We have a bigger town 40 miles away with a theater, but we do draw off of each other depending on our programming.

I would also use my space to collaborate with my community for community theater (plays) and community concerts (choirs, orchestras). Splitting tickets sales but keeping concessions/restaurant sales.

Small towns can't really accommodate more theaters very well, but they can handle lots of restaurants. We have great cuisine in my town of 10,000 and there is room for more.

I'm in the pacific northwest, so I will give you some of my inspiration: All the McMenamins theaters, and the Kiggins Theater in Vancouver, WA.

It's just paying for that projector. You need to be making money to cover the cost. I am glad to hear you have a bank working with you on this. We, too, had a bank that respected our vision and worked with us and it has made all the difference.

I would love it if you would share what theater you are talking about. I love looking at old opera houses and dreaming up business plans for these old places.
Last Edit: 28 May 2014 15:16 by BusyBee. Reason: there/their/they're
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Booking Question 30 May 2014 20:15 #40970

  • Bob Nash
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Mr. Allen:
I hope this works. I love to see small town theatres work and I love classics but I think it will be difficult.
I looked at your Facebook and am wondering about your 9:30 summer special. Bring your own DVD or Blu Ray and your friends to see a movie on the big screen for $80.00.
This isn't Bob Allen showing a Blu Ray at home. It is still a commercial movie theatre showing a movie to a public group even if tickets aren't available at the door. How do or how will you handle licensing costs?
Bob Nash









revrobor wrote:
I have decided to go sub-run and classic at my theatre. It's the only theatre in a county of 20,000. I use blu-ray and a video projector. I get a beautiful picture on my 22 foot screen. The sound runs through my 35mm sound rack. I am now considering getting a second video projector for my small 37 seat auditorium. Blu-rays are available of older pictures for about $7.95 to $29.95. The rental so far has been $250. vs 35%. I believe I will continue to go with blu-ray and skip the digital thing based on my format. It would allow me to run current product about six weeks after the break. You can get an excellent consumer grade video projector for about $1,500. or a professional grade for about $3,000 to $10,000. Good luck.

Bob
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Booking Question 31 May 2014 14:20 #40972

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Hi Bob:

The people rent the room for a private party. It is not promoted and the theatre is closed to the public. My booker gets the terms from the copyright owner for any blu-ray I run for the public. The standard term seems to be $250. vs 35%.
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
Last Edit: 31 May 2014 14:22 by revrobor.
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Booking Question 31 May 2014 17:56 #40973

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revrobor wrote:
Hi Bob:

The people rent the room for a private party. It is not promoted and the theatre is closed to the public. My booker gets the terms from the copyright owner for any blu-ray I run for the public. The standard term seems to be $250. vs 35%.

So did your booker say you do not have to get permission (and pay) for the 9:30 pm private showings?

How did Chitty Chitty Bang Bang work out for you? Why are you still only running one movie at a time? It would seem that you would have a decent amount of movies to play on film right now.
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Booking Question 01 Jun 2014 13:31 #40974

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I'm running only one movie because I have only one video projector. I'm not running film because I don't have the funds to pay the advance on them. I'm trying to recover the funds I lost on some of the films I ran in the past as I took over this theatre with no operating capital. Chitty was a so-so performer. I expect to do better with "American Graffiti" and "McLintock" (this is big John Wayne country around here). Right now I'm trying to figure out what this community wants. Our summer hours are 2pm and 7pm seven days a week. I am in the process of scheduling movies the public has requested in our "Name Your Films" box in the lobby. All the films they have requested so far are, or soon will be, available on blu-ray. I'd like to get a second video player to open the second auditorium.

Bob
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
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Booking Question 03 Jun 2014 23:17 #40986

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I appreciate all the help. The theater in question is the Melba in Batesville AR. I was wrong on the seat numbers. It has 428 seats downstairs and another 70 or so in the balcony (which is not currently used). The screen is 33ft. We are planning to be a nonprofit. We want to be primarily a movie theater but would like to have some concerts and community events as well. I went on Fri and Sat night to see how attendance was for Rio 2. There were 150+ people at each show. That was a lot more than I thought there would be given the condition of the theater. I think that we can get more people given what we plan to do.

There are two questions we have to answer in order to decide if we wish to move forward with this project. The first is what our initial investment will be. We have a walkthrough with an architect (who has done several historic theater restorations) later this week which should give us an idea of what costs we are to expect for renovations. We know what the building will cost us and how much to go digital.
The second question (which I have been tasked to help research) is what our operational expenses and revenue would be. Like I said this is going to be a nonprofit (although it has to support itself) so we are going to have community support. We need to be able to generate enough revenue to cover our expenses and especially pay our bank note. Numbers from the previous owner are pretty useless. We can get numbers for his insurance, utilities, etc, but he does not keep great records as far as ticket and concession sales. He quotes some numbers from the air on what his numbers were on a certain show and about how much he sells in concessions but he doesn't have all these numbers in any type of format we can utilize.

I'm trying to get an idea of some projected numbers. I think we would have one movie for the weekend and run 4 shows (Fri and Sat evening & Sat and Sun afternoon). We were thinking $4 for the show. So if we sell 500 tickets for the weekend, that would be $2000 ($700 to the studio for the average 35%). I've seen the number for concessions to average $2-3 per cap. For this hypothetical weekend, that would be $1000-1500 in concessions. That would be about $2000 for the weekend. I realize that is not profit, but that would give me an idea of what our revenue would be and what we could afford on the loan. I know those are all assumptions but is my math correct? Is there a better formula to calculate this? Is there anything I'm overlooking?

Thanks again for all the great input!
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Booking Question 04 Jun 2014 13:09 #40997

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Excellent decision in going non-profit.

All theaters must submit box office reports to the studios as well as communicate nightly to Rentrak their ticket grosses. Ask the seller of the theater for these numbers. They should be able to log-in to Rentrak website to see those. But they may not be able to as they have a horrible Facebook page and no website.

If they says those numbers are not a good measure of what sales where he/she flat out under reported sales and shorted the studios film rental monies.

Other bookers should be able to see this theater's ticket sales as well. Feel free to call Larry Thomas that I mentioned in an earlier post.

I can only find pictures of the Melba of the outside. It does has some charm on the outside. How does the inside look? How far away are the seats? How many seats are outside the screen? I would imagine this theater has two aisles that line up with the edge of the seat.

How are the seats? Have cupholders?

here is Roxy's grand theater. www.roxytheaternorthampton.com/ Does the Melba look close to this at all?

Your math seems to be correct as well.
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Booking Question 05 Jun 2014 18:03 #41005

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Your theater reminds me a lot of mine, except we have triplexed.

If I were in your position, I would run at least 2 shows per day. I would not open up without a digital projector. Digital will take care of so many of the potential issues of booking, maintenance and longevity. Find a way to fund that. Once you have that in place, you can build your business up around it.

You can accomplish a lot with paint and deep cleaning. Hopefully your seats are in decent condition. Our seats are only 12 years old, but they are breaking left and right so we are replacing them this fall. We've had complaints, but business has been good the past 6 years despite the seats. We repair them the best we can, keep the tears sewed up and have them professionally cleaned from time to time.
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Booking Question 05 Jun 2014 18:04 #41006

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And by 2 shows a day, I mean on the weekends. a 4/7 type schedule Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The previous owner probably wasn't open on Sunday because he wanted to stay home and have a day off. No weekends off in the movie biz!
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