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TOPIC: How to operate a Single Screen Theatre Today

Re:How to operate a Single Screen Theatre Today 13 Jul 2010 15:19 #34371

  • RoxyVaudeville
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revrobor (Bob)

I tried sending you a private message, but each time I get the same response that I got when I tried to get into the "Child Ticket" post.(which I still can't get into) If you wish, you may e-mail me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

SLAP.
You are absolutely correct that the business that I do could not support those numbers... $7,000 a month rent plus cam. I would never try it in that kind of theatre. When I say that this policy is designed to work in historic theatres, I mean theatres that were build between 1920 and 1950, before TV altered everything. The older the theatre, the better. The older they are, the more architecturally distinct they are, and the more able they are to be unique in this day and age.

These theatres have for the most part vanished from most cities as the real estate is too valuable to let sit idle, but in smaller communities surrounding many cities they often still exist. In my neck of the woods these theatres often rent completely equipped for between $1,000 to $2,000 per month, and as they are generally downtown, there are no CAM charges. These same theatres can usually be purchased for anywhere from 100k to 250k.

These are the situations where my policy can often be made to work. The communities are small, the cost of operating the theatres are relatively low, but they are close enough to large population centers that you can draw the numbers of people you need from the larger cities by giving them something that they can't get in those cities.
Last Edit: 13 Jul 2010 19:46 by RoxyVaudeville.
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Re:How to operate a Single Screen Theatre Today 15 Jul 2010 07:36 #34379

  • leeler
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My situation is different then that of Roxie's. My biggest competitor is 25 miles away in another state. They are a fairly typical six-plex. They get all of the mainstream titles on the break. I have no firm handle on their numbers as they don't post on Rentrak but, I have heard they do not do that well. The teenagers from my area do go there on opening weekend and I can't seem to affect that behavior. There's nothing like borrowing the keys and getting out to the "big city" (population 6000) when you're a teenager. So, I focus on the families and the seniors. The teens usually come to see me sometime anyway.

We are the only theater in the county. I usually get five or six blockbusters a year on the break and then try and bring in as many other mainstream titles that I can in between splitting my screen when I can. Usually theaters like mine are community owned and are staffed by volunteers and get their funding from the town they're in. They typically are not open every day of the week, rarely have more then one show a day and get movies six weeks old or more. I've seen numbers from these types of theaters and they are not very good at all. But, they serve their communities and they serve their function. Many of these theaters will not be able to afford (or justify) the switch to digital projection and will eventually go the way of the dodo bird. But, some will be able to make the switch. I know of one by me that just did a fundraiser for digital projection and made it. Others will be able to as well, but many will not be able to make it.

A theater like mine can work because of the distance involved in the competition but also because of the way we differentiate ourselves from them. We offer digital projection and 3D, we have real butter for our popcorn, we serve beer and wine, we serve hot dogs and other hot sandwiches and fries, we thank our customers for coming after every show, we have reserve seating, etc etc etc. In short, we try harder then they do...

Financially, we make it due to the reasons above but, also, because we have diversified beyond just being a movie theater. We have a video store in a side office that brings in video customers into the movie theater (where they see what's playing) in order to rent a movie. These customers typically get a soda or popcorn while they're here, too. We also have our kitchen in our other side office where we make hot dogs and other hot sandwiches, fries, nachos, fresh brewed by-the-cup coffee, slushies and more. We just finished installing a pick up window so that we can sell these items out on the street, too. Finally, and perhaps, most important financially is that we live upstairs.

We have a large apartment/loft on the top floor of this building and that simplifies all sorts of things for us. It also makes the business pay for the mortgage, utilities, insurance, etc. That really helps us financially and allows us to pay out less in salary to us.

To the newbies out there reading this thread, take what Roxy wrote at the top and really consider it. It is a very competitive business and it's certainly not a get rich quick kind of a business. It is LOTS of hard work and takes a passion like few others require. I typically put in 60 hours a week running my one screen and side businesses (twice that in mental hours). It's easy to get excited about opening night with a packed house and lots of smiling faces having a great time watching a fabulous movie you brought in for them. But don't forget about that Tuesday night in late September when you have a dozen people in there (you hope). It can and does happen. It's the most exciting and frustrating business I've ever been involved with and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Cheers to the movie business and long live the single screen theater!
"What a crazy business"
Last Edit: 15 Jul 2010 07:42 by leeler.
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Re:How to operate a Single Screen Theatre Today 15 Jul 2010 08:50 #34380

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Thanks Leeler.

As fas as digital and community theaters go: I have seen quite a few raise the money needed to go digital and 3d. One in a town of less than 1000 people. IMHO, it will be the rare for-profit single screen that can make the digital switch. Very few will be able to afford the additional $1000 or so per mo. to finance it.
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