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TOPIC: Licensing older films for a small theater

Licensing older films for a small theater 11 Aug 2014 14:20 #41283

  • MrCarder
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Some space that used to house an old theater right next to our college campus has just been put back on the market. It hasn't been a theater for quite some time, but still has the marquee. The company that leases this space is thinking about turning it back into a theater and I've volunteered to help as much as I can.

In my opinion, we should show older movies and charge significantly less that a standard theater. There is a fantastic "normal" theater in town, and I see no need to compete with them. Depending on the design we go with, I doubt the capacity will be over 50 for the single screen theater. I think the best course of action is to show older films and do "theme nights" every so often. Being in walking distance of the campus should be a big help.

I've seen $1 theaters before, and although I don't think we'll charge that little it got me wondering. How would one go about getting permission to show movies that are at least a decade old? Is it even feasible for such a small capacity?
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Licensing older films for a small theater 11 Aug 2014 16:36 #41284

  • Andrew Thomas
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Every movie has a distributor. Call/email them and ask for their terms. Seems like DVD/Bluray is almost always $250 guaranteed vs 35%.
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Licensing older films for a small theater 11 Aug 2014 17:16 #41285

  • Mike
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you can show movies for free but you still have to pay the distrib and your bills. The problem with old films in small markets is that they generally do not perform. Unless you have a very serious program and work to build a steady audience. It can be done. Are you thinking non profit?
Michael Hurley
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Licensing older films for a small theater 11 Aug 2014 17:35 #41286

  • MrCarder
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It won't be non-profit. Maybe if I was in charge, but I'm really just consulting.

I think our biggest customers would be college kids looking for a cheap date within walking distance. That would be most of the audience on any given night. I'd like to do different events as well, though. For example:
  • Theme nights for big franchises & cult classics, like an Indiana Jones triple feature
  • "Mystery Science Theater" style viewings of bad movies, maybe let some local comedians get involved
  • Screenings of local films

We'd also probably rent the place out if there's demand for it.
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Licensing older films for a small theater 12 Aug 2014 11:58 #41289

  • lionheart
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If you could get permission to show an Indiana Jones triple feature, and if you could get it for $250 vs. 35% for each movie, the total cost just for licensing is going to be $750 minimum. If your theater only has 50 seats, then each seat will have to bring in $15 just to cover that. Then there is all the other expenses such as rent, insurance, payroll, utilities, etc. Even if you only show one movie that costs $250, then you still have to pay all that overhead, which won't be much lower than it was for 3 movies. And if you are actually sucessful (and that's a big if), then you will find that film rental goes up. It's always the higher of the two terms (flat fee vs. percentage), not the one you would like to pay. Still, that's a better problem to have than booking movies and having 2 people show up, which just might happen to you, and probably will. For some old movies, you'd be lucky to get 2 people for an entire week.

Just something to think about.
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