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TOPIC: Pics of the theater I'm contemplating buying! Comments welc

Pics of the theater I'm contemplating buying! Comments welc 26 Feb 2005 20:01 #9910

  • air7walk
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Take a gander, folks! I'd love to restore this gem to the same beauty it had in the 1930s when it was built!
http://www.ibiblio.org/dls/pics/dan/theater

I've really been praying about it to make sure I'm doing the right thing. The first picture shows the theater from the outside. It's all connected -- theater, hotel (upstairs), and diner below. Check out the original lights in the second picture!!

Any comments? I still don't have a price yet, but I know it needs a lot of work.. the stage has a trap door that you can actually raise a piano onto the stage. The screen is long gone and the seats have been removed too.
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Re: Pics of the theater I'm contemplating buying! Comments welc 26 Feb 2005 22:17 #9911

  • jacker5
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Wow! You certainly do have your work cut out for you. It looks like you have to pretty much start from scratch.
A good thing in a way cause you know what is needed and will be able to provide the best you can provide.
If the price is right go for it. But the place needs a total renovation from top to bottom. What is going to be done with the Hotel and additional space? Is there away to add additional screens?
Remember if there in no other real competition go for the biggest screen and the best sound. Also a bright clean friendly lobby helps.
People are getting sick of the shoe box plexes and miss the gran venues of the past. If you can provide something like that people will come and spread the word. But you have a long tough expensive road from what I see from the pictures.
That is my opinion, but I think there is potential and it does look like a good find.
Good luck!

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Re: Pics of the theater I'm contemplating buying! Comments welc 26 Feb 2005 23:58 #9912

  • Ken Layton
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I like it! It has warmth, charm, and personality. What a nice little theater. True there's a lot of work ahead, but boy what a gem when it's done. Do you get the hotel and diner also? If so that's great rental income right there.
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Re: Pics of the theater I'm contemplating buying! Comments welc 27 Feb 2005 01:37 #9913

  • BurneyFalls
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Go for it if the price is right. The auditorium and the booth look very similar to my new theatre.
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Re: Pics of the theater I'm contemplating buying! Comments welc 27 Feb 2005 09:46 #9914

  • air7walk
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Thanks everybody -- right now the owner is really thinking it over, but I believe he wants to sell the entire thing as one piece.

Even though I don't believe I'll do THX certification, I did pull up the list of approved products and started pricing them. I'm trying to get a rough idea of how much refitting an entire theater with awesome sound and image quality will be. I'll also go back and research previous threads, because I'm sure that's been covered. I bascially need to find a beginner's guide to everything I'd need to buy to start a theater. You're right, too -- almost everything needs to be redone, including buying a screen!

Time to go back and research threads more, but it strikes me as funny -- I'm buying a movie theater *without* a screen.
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Re: Pics of the theater I'm contemplating buying! Comments welc 27 Feb 2005 13:04 #9915

  • jimor
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Well, ‘Air’, you’ve certainly got a lot to consider, and honest, even brutal analysis is called for in this case. Of course, if you are a wealthy man, the practicality of the place may not matter since it will be a ‘toy‘ for you, but if you are not, then be very careful if it will be your sole source of income. As the movie “The Money Pit” made clear, any place can look like a dream, but the costs -- obvious and hidden -- can easily bankrupt the average man! And if you have a family, then you must first consider their needs and the impact such an ‘investment’ will have upon them. Were you thinking ‘my kinds will be cheap help in the years to come!’ but to that I say: ‘Don’t count on it!’ I know a guy who built his own single story, single screen cinema called the Gallery Cinema, but I was told that when he closed it ten years after building it, it was because he was about to lose his wife and children because of too often dragooning them into working there, even though it was but a short distance from his home.

I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but dazzling optimism can quickly crash to dismal financial failure. After all, it IS closed and you must ask yourself ‘why.’ The owner may be quick to claim that the previous operator did not know what he was doing (in an effort to get a burden off his shoulders), but if there is no competition within 15 miles, and it still failed, then either he is right, or the area does not have a dependable audience. Is there a large college nearby that does NOT have a workable cinema? Then you may have a good youth market, along with high school kids. Is it a retirement area? Then maybe, just maybe you will be able to pry some of the oldsters away from their projection TV’s with their DVDs and cable, to come out in warm weather, assuming you have LOTS of warm weather (mostly for matinees; are you available to run matinees?). So, first of all, is there a DEPENDABLE audience. Everyone will come for opening night out of curiosity, but what about after they have seen the place and tasted the usual refreshments that they can probably make at home? And if they do come, where will ALL of them park? At whose expense and liability? Remember that there is a reason that very few single screen cinemas survive any longer; how will you beat the odds against them? And if you do prove a small market exists and can get distributors to cooperate with getting you the films you want and need, what prevents a conglomerate from noticing and opening a multiplex nearby and then draining away all your formerly ‘loyal’ patrons? What will you live on then, since your theatre will then likely have NO resale value?

Then there is the structure and its legal standing. If the hotel and diner are currently physically and legally part of the theatre building, you will either have to buy the whole thing (do you know how to run a hotel and diner, or have good reason to believe that the present operators will remain into the distant future thus giving you rents?) or you will have to get lawyers to create a demising agreement to legally divide the building between different owners, and if think that that won’t bring future problems, you are certainly in a fantasy. Have you checked on taxes, fire and police protection, insurance requirements to even get a limited policy? Have you thoroughly checked the building from rafters to sub-basement? Of course it must be sound physically, but what about theatre sound (very loud these days) intruding into the hotel and diner? Will you have law suits arising from that? You may not think of it now, but what about ‘wild life’ already long resident in the theatre and the rest of the building? A movie palace I know of had a problem of rats running over the feet of patrons until the landlord finally evicted some food stores in the building; the rats were just overfed and rambunctious. Have you had a good title search done for liens and other encumbrances? Regular title insurance may not protect a property of this size and nature.

I too have long dreamed of owning my own theatre, but even if money did materialize and a suitable venue appeared, could I make a go of it? Does a fellow have the time and stamina and cash to become a virtual one-man-show? How much of your life is it all worth? You say that you "prayed" about this, and that means that you are the rare man who appreciates and obeys God to the best to your knowledge, but nowhere in the Bible does God guarantee us material 'success', but only the 'sustenance and covering' that is needed for each day, PROVIDED we "seek His kingdom interestes first." How much time will this business allow you to that? Best Wishes on this, and let us know what the light of day brings. Jim (jimor2 [at] yahoo.com)


[This message has been edited by jimor (edited February 27, 2005).]

[This message has been edited by jimor (edited February 27, 2005).]
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: Pics of the theater I'm contemplating buying! Comments welc 27 Feb 2005 20:04 #9916

  • outaframe
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Jimor's thoughtful comments are a cold shower for the enthusiasm you are feeling about this situation, but are 100% on target!... Look and think all this over carefully before you take the leap...
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Re: Pics of the theater I'm contemplating buying! Comments welc 28 Feb 2005 22:12 #9917

  • filmguy
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It's very easy to envision it the way it will look when it's finished, but many times what seems like a labor of love in the beginning turns into just one hell of a lot of labor.

While I have a lot of respect for the man who says he has prayed about it, don't forget to listen to what the answer to those prayers might be. Many times it's not what we want. If I had listened better in the past, it wouldn't have taken so long for me to get to where I am now.

Things to consider are the electrical loads modern equipment will have. (three phase in the booth and ventilation if not elsewhere) The whole electrical system will probably have to be redone. The roof is a problem on new buildings let alone an old one. (I know this from experience) New sound and projection equipment take up much more physical space than the old equipment that the booth was made for. Some of those old nitrate booths are REALLY small. In almost every theatre I've seen from the thirties that wasn't a wooden structure, the ventilation system consisted of tunnels and passages cast under the floor and inside walls and literally all over the place. These places are ideal areas for mold to grow and rodents to hide. If you use them or not, they can pose a health threat. They can also be nearly impossible to clean out.

I agree that these old theatres are cool places to see a movie. Mine was built in 1937 and everything I've stated here is what I've had to contend with. I'm doing fine here now. Attendance is up and still increasing. It is far from done and it was an operating theatre when I got it. I've been at it for 3 years.

Good Luck
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Re: Pics of the theater I'm contemplating buying! Comments welc 02 Mar 2005 16:52 #9918

  • air7walk
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First of all, my heartfelt thanks to everyone throwing "cold water" at me. Your honesty is what makes this forum worth coming to.

Jimor:

I need to hire you to be my mentor.
Can you move to KY?? To answer some of your concerns, this isn't my sole source of income. I'm currently employed as a manager at a global IT company. "The Money Pit" is a GREAT reference, and I'm being cautious about that. When I look at that pic, I basically think "starting over". filmguy hit it right on the head -- the roof has issues (not sure if the current owner would fix or I would -- I'm not even to the point of getting an offer of how much it'll cost to buy the place yet). I'm 27 and don't have any family. My parents are in the same city as the theater and diner, and it would actually give them somewhere to work if something ever happened with their jobs. The only place I'm looking for cheap help is my 15 year old brother, but I'm not putting all my eggs in one basket ;D I want to do it right, and often family and friends are the hardest to work with.

One main reason the theater closed was a difference of opinion on what types of movies could be played at the theater. The previous person that leased the place from the owner wanted to play movies the owner didn't agree with -- the person leasing the theater left, and I'm not aware of anyone else that wanted to abide by the owner's terms. In this instance, I'd be buying the property from the owner and running it how I wanted to run it -- not leasing it. As a kid, I used to go and the theater was SOLD OUT all the time -- I even missed seeing E.T. the first night because we got there too late.
While it was open, the place did very well. There isn't a college, but the surrounding area has 30,000+ people with the closest theater being 30 miles away. In my mind, there IS a dependable audience. They'll come out for opening night, and the thing that'll keep bringing them back is top notch service, sound, and visuals. I'd like to make this theater all digital.

A few of your concerns are right on -- how will I convince distributors to give me flicks? I'm counting on hiring a booker to make that happen for me -- maybe I'm being too optimistic? I still have a TON to learn before I decide to buy it.

As far as the hotel/diner go, I plan on leasing that out or getting a partner. I have some great ideas, but I won't make my living running it -- my plan is to lease it out and collect rent. The owner IS a lawyer, and he said he's willing to sell it as a whole or split it out. I haven't check out any of the areas you mentioned yet -- again, still coming up with a biz plan and thinking all that through. Thanks for the suggestions to consider. I won't be doing a hotel -- that will become part of the diner if I use the space. I hate rats, so I'll make sure there are none.


Lots to think over, and I appreciate all the feedback. God has a plan for everyone -- I'm trying to figure out if this is His for me.


THANK YOU, JIM.

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Re: Pics of the theater I'm contemplating buying! Comments welc 03 Mar 2005 11:36 #9919

  • Mike
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Theatres are kind of like falling in love with a serious abuser of substances: it's very exciting for a while but it chews you up.

Michael Hurley
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Michael Hurley
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Re: Pics of the theater I'm contemplating buying! Comments welc 03 Mar 2005 23:32 #9920

  • air7walk
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I'm sure a theater is like anything else -- you want it really bad until you get it. It's only *then* that you can decide if you love it more than you hate it. Nothing's perfect, and I'd be a fool to think it's all sunshine and gumdrops -- but something made you guys get into the biz, and something keeps you coming back. If I choose to take this on, I'll just have to find what keeps me coming back. I appreciate all the help here and from folks that have been emailing me. Now I have to get realistic and start looking at hard data -- I'll let you know how it turns out!!
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Re: Pics of the theater I'm contemplating buying! Comments welc 04 Mar 2005 03:19 #9921

  • BurneyFalls
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Just remember, those gumdrops stick to the floor.
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