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TOPIC: new theater

new theater 07 Oct 2003 15:45 #6659

  • lemonice1
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For the last 10 years I have had a dream to open a cinema pub and now this opportunity has presented itself. I am currently in the beginning stages of negotiations to lease a 3 screen in a strip mall/shopping center. Originally the theater was a 7 screen but closed down several years ago because several large megaplexes moved into the area with stadium seating. 4 of the screens are being converted into retail space so this leaves me with 3 screens plus the lobby. The 3 screens held at one time about 600 seats. The theaters are the old-fashioned, shoebox style that are quite deep, 160 ft, but not very wide. I would like to convert the smallest screen of the 3 into the kitchen. The remaining 2 screens would be combined into one large theater. Even though it would be a very large theater, every other row of seats would instead be long bench tables running the length of the rows. I would like to change the lobby and replace the rundown concession stand with a nice bar. I would love to show first run movies but I can't imagine being able to get prints with the many, many theaters around here. I would instead show a combination of second-run and older films. This theater is directly across from a very large, 40,000+ student university. There are also 2 large community colleges in the immediate area. There is about 170,000 residents within 5 miles, 500,000 within 10 miles, and 910,000+ residents within 15 miles. There is a lousy 2-screen cinema grill about 10 miles away with terrible food, small screens, and a flat floor with regular tables and chairs. Basically, I want to serve excellent food, beer, and wine, catering to the large college population. I want to do this right! I would like to show second-run movies mixed in with popular college movies, along with some independent films. If I could get my hands on some 80's movies that would be great. Currently there is no equipment in the theater, not even seats or screens. If I went the single screen route, I would use a 2 projector booth, in case anything went wrong with the first. Please let me know what you think of this idea, along with any suggestions you may have. I have read nearly all the posts on bigscreenbiz.com and I find the information invaluable. I apoligize for the rambling, and all further postings will have a much clearer question. Thanks in advance!
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Re: new theater 07 Oct 2003 18:00 #6660

  • Roger
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Sounds like a wonderful opportunity. I say, try to use all 3 screens. Single screens, even in a cinema cafe situation, just are not often profitable. The more screens the better. There is a cinema cafe in this area that in recent years added a tiny second screen in the former office space above the lobby of the building because it is so much better than just having one screen. Instead of putting the kitchen in one of the auditoriums could you instead use some of that newly created retail space that is being carved out of the other 4 former auditoriums?
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Re: new theater 07 Oct 2003 18:32 #6661

  • lemonice1
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Unfortunately all the retail space at this time has been offered to other businesses. I believe they are starting construction soon on the refit. It is possible to still have 2 medium size screens but the theaters are sooo deep and narrow. It doesn't seem to fit well with today's theaters, big and somewhat comfortable. Is it better to have 2 screens than one even for second run and older movies? I thought it might be harder to book movies and have them constantly changing if I had two screens??
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Re: new theater 07 Oct 2003 20:19 #6662

  • D. Bird
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If they are so long and narrow, why not cut them in 4, with 3 screens and your other "quadrant" reserved for kitchen and hallway to the auditoriums???
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Re: new theater 08 Oct 2003 06:23 #6663

  • jimor
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D. bird has an idea, but of course, this all must be determined by an architect familiar with the local codes and agreeable with the mall owner, especially as regards minimum exitways, aisle clearances, aisle lighting and emergency lighting, etc. Don't begin construction without the legal clearances; it could cost you greatly if you try to side step them. If you can make more shallow auditoriums, that would be to your advantage as to projection and acoustics. Food service depends a lot on how much you know about it. Are you a chef or know one, at least enough to do a good short order kitchen? Or, are you really thinking of an expanded 'microwave' snack bar? Is there a films program or school of theatre at a local school? If so, you might want to talk to them about a tie-in for showing selected films if they do not have screening rooms always available (they can get films for you on their 'ticket' and it may not cost you a penny, and you would then profit from their usage fee for your place, PLUS refreshments which the always-hungry students will buy). A personal contact between you and the instructors involved would be the best way to approach this. You might even take a floor plan along when you meet them, with some snap shots of the empty spaces and ask them what they would do in your place. People usually love to give advice, and in this way you might get them on your side, maybe even with Letters of Recommendation from them going to the mall owners and officials to get you the space and cooperation you want. If the school(s) will sign a contract for a minimum usage fee over a given period of time, you might get enough guaranteed income to not have to worry about enough screens to make a buck. With the tables you plan to install, you would also have ideal 'desk' space for students to write on for tests or the like during lectures, but for this you would have to provide a light level for reading = intermission lighting? If the courses in film/theatre have an historic bent, then you may want to decorate like the old movie palaces to better get the kids into a receptive mind that would also appeal to the instructors. Much information about this can be had in the BOOKSTORE link on the sidebar of the Theatre Historical Soc. of America's site: www.HistoricTheatrs.org Best Wishes, Jim
Jim R. (new E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) member: www.HistoricTheatres.org
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Re: new theater 08 Oct 2003 09:05 #6664

  • Ken Layton
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You need to get as many screens as possible if you want to succeed. Just having one screen would be a real struggle to keep open. Beware that many mall/strip mall owners think a movie theater is a cash cow and they either have high rent from the outset or they find a way to sneak into greatly increased rent somewhere along the line.
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Re: new theater 08 Oct 2003 11:07 #6665

  • NanEman
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We're also putting together a first-run cinema cafe operation. We're planning 4 auditoriums, 2 seating approx. 80 and 2 with approx. 45 seats. The seating is a combo of tables/padded rolling arm chairs, counters/padded rolling arm chairs, and a few rows of conventional seating with flip-up tabletops.

Having more than one screen is almost imperative if you want to really have a successful operation. If you start thinking about "boutique" size auditoriums, using less depth and width, you might find you actually have space for 2 or 3 screens. The smaller auditorium size allows for a more intimate and convivial atmosphere. If the auditorium size gets too large, you have an additional problem of getting the patrons' food/beverages served in an acceptable amount of time. Don't forget your waitstaff needs time to bus tables, tally tickets, collect the money and give change. A handheld POS system can help a great deal with this situation. Make sure you take credit cards!

Several cinema cafes in small resort areas of Florida are really kicking butt with the small auditorium concept, averaging 68% occupancy rates. Keep in mind these operations are very well run and are well established (9 yrs. and 4 yrs.)

A tight and efficient kitchen layout will also help give you some room for auditorium space. Make sure you have a commercial kitchen professional assist in your kitchen plans. The food/beverage side of the operation is where all the money is, make sure you have the tools (i.e., good layout and equipment) to make your operation successful.

Don't forget to plan space in your kitchen for a 2-3 (maybe 4?) keg beer dispenser. With all those college students, you can make a fortune on beer/wine sales.

Afterthought: Your theater designer must also take the placement of tables, counters and chairs in account when planning the acoustics of the auditoriums. These items make a huge difference in the sound quality in the auditoriums.

Good luck, we'd love to hear how your plans are going.

[This message has been edited by NanEman (edited October 08, 2003).]
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Re: new theater 08 Oct 2003 17:10 #6666

  • trackfood
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You need as many screens as you can get in there. The more movie choices you have for your patrons, the more patrons you will have. You also need to look at that competing cinema grill which you said was only 10 miles away. Are they doing that well?? Can your area (which you said had a lot of screens already) support ANOTHER cinema grill???
good luck
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Re: new theater 08 Oct 2003 17:28 #6667

  • bemily29
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I am also in the initial stages of planning a cinema pub - this information is great. Does anyone have any info on what one can expect for first year sales? I'm working with a 7,000sqft space in a city w/ pop of 110k, 2 universities under 1 mile away, a nice cultural mix, and 30-40% representation of babyboomers. The renovation costs I'm hoping are under $130k but I'm having a feasibility study done and the building commissioner in to make to determine what i'm in for in terms of code reqs. I was considering doing the microwave snacky/partner with area restaurants approach, but I'm wondering if its more profitable to build in a small kitchen (which BTW if you're doing any sort of food preparation - the code requirements call for a certain kitchen set-up - automatic $20k investment)?
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Re: new theater 08 Oct 2003 22:43 #6668

  • lemonice1
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I know a chef that will most likely become a business partner in the near future. We have already determined that we would like to serve the best of the best "bar food"... burgers, wings, chicken nachos, etc.

I now understand after the responses received from all the postings that it is very necessary to have more than one screen to make the venture more viable. I still need to use part of one of the three theaters as the kitchen. Maybe once I meet with an architect he will come up with something I have not thought of space-wise.

I was estimating 25k for used equipment for the one booth? I was hoping to have two projectors in case one went down. How many projectors would you suggest I have for two screens? Would I need a platter system if I am planning on switching movies quite often?

The previous theater owners rented out some of the theaters during the weekdays to the college. I believe the film department would meet over there quite often. So that is something to definitely look into.

The rent that the real estate agent is asking for is definitely steep, and I certainly will not offer anything close to what he is asking for. The theater has been closed for several years, and I think I have some room to negotiate when it becomes time.

A handheld POS system is a great idea that I hadn't really thought that much about. I will absolutely accept credit cards, I can't imagine a restaurant around here not accepting them anymore. I heard that some kitchen equipment resellers will assist in commercial kitchen layouts. Does anyone have any experience in dealing with that? I will make sure there is plenty of space available for the keg beer dispensors. I am planning on having a medium-size bar in the lobby instead of the current concession stand.

The cinema grill in my area seems to be doing ok... they have been open many years. They play second run movies and do not cater at all to the large college crowd in the area. I have never seen even an advertisement from them. I was a student at the university years ago and did not even know the cinema grill existed. I believe the only reason they stay in business is because they allow smoking in the auditoriums on all days except Sundays, which is very rare these days (at least in this area).

belmy29, I imagine that there would be much greater profits in building your own kitchen, rather than splitting profits will outside restaurants. Relying on outside restaurants seems like it would be a huge headache, even more so than running a quality short order kitchen.

Thank you all so much for all your responses thus far. I cannot imagine trying to turn my dream into a reality without all of your help. Thank you for making a newbie such as myself feel welcome.

-Brandon

[This message has been edited by lemonice1 (edited October 08, 2003).]
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Re: new theater 08 Oct 2003 23:21 #6669

  • outaframe
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Sorry, I know nothing about the restaurant business, but regarding the booths, $25k each should buy you very good used equipment, including the sound equipment in the booth... Although I am an advocate of dual projector systems, I feel that if you have more than 2 screens, you will have to go to platters... Unless you have an employee who's primary function is projection, more than 2 screens using dual projectors will just about eliminate his doing much else in your operation... Setting up a print for a platter system will not involve that much more time than for 6k foot reels, but teardown will be a bit more time consuming... Even if you play your pictures for only one week, it would be cost effective...
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Re: new theater 08 Oct 2003 23:49 #6670

  • Ken Layton
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If you plan on showing classics and/or have college film classes then a platter is out of the question as many distributors of classic films will not rent to platter operations. You could still have two projectors per screen if you had a 3 screen operation. You would have 6000 foot reels which run for one hour with an averge movie being on two large reel (only one changeover needed during the show).
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Re: new theater 09 Oct 2003 14:25 #6671

  • lemonice1
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Thanks for the info. So if I had two screens, dual projectors in each booth is still very doable? Any idea how much Dolby would cost for each theater/booth. Thanks again.

-Brandon
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Re: new theater 09 Oct 2003 15:27 #6672

  • John Pytlak
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Brandon:

You really should sit down with your theatre equipment dealer(s) to look at your equipment options and cost.

With a moderate sized screen, you should also consider the use of a three-blade shutter, so you can go to higher light levels than the 12 to 22 footlamberts allowed by standard SMPTE 196M without flicker. The brighter image would improve the presentation quality in a dinner theatre situation, where you may want a decent level of ambient light so people can see each other and the food, yet enjoy the film. Of course, a three-blade shutter and higher screen luminance requires larger lamps.

John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Customer Technical Services
Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Telephone: +1 585-477-5325 Cell: +1 585-781-4036 Fax: +1 585-722-7243
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Website: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion
John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Customer Technical Services
Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Telephone: +1 585-477-5325 Fax: +1 585-722-7243
E-Mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Website: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion
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Re: new theater 09 Oct 2003 16:41 #6673

  • outaframe
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Yes, I'm believe that a dual projector system with 6k foot reels would be the best way to do a 2 screen setup, and can even be automated via Eprad Co-Operators (or equivalent) if you want... By shopping around you should be able to do it with good used equipment for the $25k per booth you mentioned... Yes, that should include Dolby SR Stereo surround (optical sound) playback capability, which may or may not be Dolby Brand processing, however... It depends on what used equipment you are able to find... I seriously doubt that you'll be able to do Dolby SRD (digital) within the $25k per booth range, but that can be added later, if you feel it's necessary... Just be sure that the amps and speakers you use are up to digital specs regardless of whether you do it now, or add it later... Poor economy to install anything which will need to be replaced for digital, and the results with SR optical will benefit from the top spec equipment... In fact, you may never need to add the digital if the the SR optical is done really well, the results are very similar...
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