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TOPIC: Newbie w/ an idea needs advice

Newbie w/ an idea needs advice 21 Oct 2003 15:55 #6536

  • wdrwoman
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Hi all,

I've been enjoying reading your posts and decided that you would be the best people to give me advice.

Recently Carmike closed a theatre in my area that I have been dreaming of opening as a discount theatre. Several of you have said that these are going the way of the dinosaur. Why is that?

I know nothing about theatre systems. I have a business degree and I've been doing computer programming most of my career. I am having somewhat of an early midlife crisis and I've always loved the movies. I'm in the $40 - $60 a year range now...would I make more than that owning a theatre?

Are there good programs for women or in general to find money for a theatre? What else should I consider?

I believe it is a four screen theatre. It's in a large city surrounded by lower middle class to upper lower class people. Some people recently leased it to open an all Spanish movie theatre. But after some large machinery that seemed to be sucking the air out of it, they have given up. I have no idea what the procedure is for. The concession area appears to be in good shape from what I can see although the color scheme is a little scary. I have no idea if any equipment was left, probably not, but the fountain part of the pepsi machine is still there.

Thank you all in advance for your help.

Carol
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Re: Newbie w/ an idea needs advice 21 Oct 2003 17:49 #6537

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The kind of money you make shouldn't be an issue.

1. The film studios (who control the product) have just about killed off the discount business.

2. Art is an ever growning business opportunity.

3. Commercial should be entered only if the competition is an inconvinient drive away and they have no designs on your town.

4. Small town, independently owned cinemas will survive till the cinema industry is dead.
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Re: Newbie w/ an idea needs advice 21 Oct 2003 23:05 #6538

  • outaframe
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HI WONDERWOMAN <> Welcome to the board!... Ah, the lure of Showbiz!... OK, lets talk turkey... Are you thinking of this as an addition to your present job, or in PLACE of it?... I assume you are working as salaried, rather than hourly, and are putting in 5 eights, with your weekends free... Do you enjoy weekend jaunts, vacations, camping, a hobby?... Is your significant other as interested in this project as you are, and is he (or she) interested in helping you with it?... Have you ever operated, or been involved with any kind of other small business?... Are you willing to invest all your savings and net equity, and borrow considerably more with no guarantee that you won't lose it all?... Are you intending to be "in the trenches" 7 days a week, and be able to do everything involved as well, or better, than anyone you can employ; or do you intend to operate it as an absentee owner?... You are in a profession that is likely isolated from dealing with people: do you enjoy one-on-one face-to-face interaction with customers, employees, suppliers, service people, etc?... Do you love movies enough to put in perhaps 80 hours per week, or more, to make this happen?... You are now making what may be regarded as a fair/very good income depending on your area, which is probably also secure; are you willing get into what is really a crap shoot?... You already know the statistics on small business, what makes you believe you can beat the odds?... You have probably already run the figures: take HALF of the bottom line and decide if you'll be satisfied if that's as good as it gets... IF Show Biz still looks like your cup of tea, then we'll go from there...
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Re: Newbie w/ an idea needs advice 22 Oct 2003 00:29 #6539

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Carol,

Yes, the general consensus is that discount or even subrun is dead. In many areas that is true. However, there are still a FEW of us that make a comfortable living running subrun theatres. There are many more that keep them going, but can't make a living from them, and need another source of income to make a living.

I represent a minority opinion on this subject, but do so based on my own success. It is my belief that unlike first run theatres where it is almost a necessity to have many screens in order to play as much product as possible thus allowing you to play all the good shows... more screens is a liability for subrun. There just isn't enough really good product to fill multiple screens for subrun. There are many weeks when I search for just one playable picture for my single screen theatre. Most subrun films don't have any "legs" left by that point and can only play one week.

What I believe is the key to a successful subrun is creating a unique atmosphere, something completely different then what is done at the first run multiplexes. It is difficult to do that in any existing smaller multiplex theatre such as the one you discribe. What is needed is an old historic single screen, but a small one around 500 seats or less which is a manageable size. By preserving (or restoring)the original decor and then operating the theatre as it was operated back at the time that it was new, you would be doing something so different that, not only would people want to experience it, but its uniqueness will attract so much press, that you could never afford to buy or would never get from just another multiplex theatre.

If you operate a four screen as a subrun or discount, the only thing that will attract the patrons is the price, and that is not enough. It's just another multiplex, just a little smaller, with lower prices. The success comes not from the lower price alone, but from giving MORE then the first runs do at a lower price.

Lets face it, most multiplexes today are not first class, but many people don't know that because they don't know any better. They may be the best class available, but they are certainly NOT first class. On the other hand, many multiplex subruns are SO poorly run that many people have come to think of 2nd run as 2nd class. I will admit that most of the multiplexes built during the past five or six years are a great improvement over their predecessors, but they are still not first class. Unfortunately those predecessor theatres are the ones now available, such as the four screen you have mentioned.

So yes, I would have to agree that subrun is almost dead in most situations, unless there is that special theatre available that can give the first class experience at discount prices. However, it takes more then just the physical building. It also takes the proper management style. The proper programing, the makeup of the show, the use of lighting and curtains, and a uniformed staff. So many little, but important details. Ultimately, what it takes is... SHOWMANSHIP.
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Re: Newbie w/ an idea needs advice 22 Oct 2003 08:02 #6540

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My husband and I both have some reservations, it's a big step. My mother has been an independent business owner for several years but I never have been. While this is a large city part of the Triangle in NC (Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill), there are two 4 or more theatres, one drive in, one art house. There is a discount theatre in Raleigh that seems to be doing well. There was one in Chapel Hill that seemed to be mobbed every weekend but I'm not sure if it's still there. The parking was horrible. My thought is that the Carmike closed because it was first run at almost $6 a ticket and the area it's in couldn't support that price.

I'd like to replace my current job at some point but not neccessarily right at the start. Actually, my job requires a great deal of customer/user contact so I'm well versed in that. I do enjoy weekend trips but realize that those would be over until I achieve a level of success.

Honestly I haven't run the figures on paper yet. I wanted to know if my idea had merit or if discount theatres were definitely on the way out. My next step would be to do that by contacting the lease agent and developing a business plan.

My biggest fear is the money angle. I enjoy a modest lifestyle now and this would be somewhat of a dangerous move especially at age 30. I have spoken with a gentleman in Greensboro who has made a success of his theatre and he was willing to mentor me.
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Re: Newbie w/ an idea needs advice 23 Oct 2003 00:54 #6541

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Dear girl, at 30 there is no way you are facing a mid-life crisis: you are standing at the threshold of the best years of your life!... All the planets are lined up for you at 30, go for the gusto!... As usual, ROXY and I see things from about the same perspective: it is hard enough to find enough GOOD pictures to satisfy one screen, let alone four... Many pictures open strong for a week or two, then drop like a stone... Four screens does not mean four times the business: even the nicest multi-screen houses usually have one or two decent sized theaters, and the rest are shoe boxes... Most first run openings require multi-week playdates, and after the picture's legs give out, it moves from the big house into one the shoe boxes to limp out the remainder of the contract... Playing late first run, and subrun will require that you have something saleable on all your screens because you will be getting the leavings from the first run, especially in a metro situation... In the local economic situation you describe, I doubt that most art films will pay, but the Spanish films might be a permanent thing for one of your screens... Ethnic films seem to have a very loyal following in some locations, and may not be available elsewhere in the area... And they might be the focal point you need to set your theater apart and do some of those things that ROXY defines as Showmanship...

Is this theater located in a mall?... If so, is there any possibility that the mall may be dying out, and that there is a newer, shinier replacement lurking down the road... In many areas, malls have a 15 to 20 year life expectancy, then turn into no mans land when the stores move on to the new one... A theater in this kind of situation usually won't survive... These are what give discount theaters a bad name: they become $1 "toilets" that are run without any maintenence til the lease is fulfilled, then abandoned...

Having your Mother in business, and a mentor in the "biz" should provide plenty of counsel, and an ear to the ground about what's going on locally... If your hubby shares your enthusiasm, and you both are willing to accept the lifestyle changes this will require, you can operate this as a modified "Mom and Pop" with just a couple of employees, most of the time... AND if hubby likes mechanical/electrical stuff, and it meshes with his regular job/profession, he can take charge of projection, which is always one of the weak spots of this type operation... Even with the finest equipment, there's a lot more involved than just pushing a button... Just be very conservative with expectations, and don't quit your day job!...

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Re: Newbie w/ an idea needs advice 23 Oct 2003 10:12 #6542

Discount still is doing well up in Canada in several markets do study of the demographics first and find out the income level and the spending habits of the population first
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