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TOPIC: The Question Remains: What Makes a 1-Screen Work?

Re: The Question Remains: What Makes a 1-Screen Work? 27 Apr 2011 21:00 #35849

  • JPRM
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All very helpful posts. Now, we prospective theater owners may indeed be naive and unrealistic. That may partly explain why we'd want to buy theaters in the first place. But based on some of these comments, I wonder why the heck anyone who already has a theater would STAY in this business. If it's so difficult and demanding and thankless and yields so little money, why continue to do it? I don't want to offend ANYBODY (I really, really don't!), but there are plenty of people who say those things about almost any career or business you can name.

I'm an advertising guy, and I could say most of those things about my job. But I like my work and would never discourage anyone from doing what I do. I've also run a small record label for the past 15 years (speaking of a vanishing audience, changing technology and competition from folks with almost limitless resources). On paper, you probably couldn't choose a worse business, but I've managed to keep it going, and I've never had a moment of regret about it. In fact, the need to be creative and find a way to make it work is what's made it interesting.

So...why stick with a theater? Is it really all that terrible?
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Re: The Question Remains: What Makes a 1-Screen Wo 28 Apr 2011 02:52 #35851

  • Cheetahz
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rufusjack wrote:
I agree with Dan Zee The 5% success rate is a number that I find to be a good prediction.

I really like you website Dan. Thanks for providing it.

Cheetahz, I guarantee that you are not the only person who has looked at that theater with great ideas of how to make it work This business is one odf the most difficult businesses to operate and it is now becoming a capital intensive business with digital.

Oh I know I am not the only person, I am sure I am just at the end of a long list of others who hoped to do something with it. However I will say I will at least give it what I got and the chips fall where they may. But I also side with JPRM's last post on why would anyone stick with it if it is nothing but negative? Because reading alot of posts that's what I come to understand.
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Re: The Question Remains: What Makes a 1-Screen Work? 28 Apr 2011 03:57 #35854

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The building has four one bedroom apartments and two store fronts. One store front would be a lounge/Bar and the other a kitchen. My plan is to restore the theater and add dinning. My inspiration for all of this comes from a theater in Portsmouth Va. The Commodore Theater. He restore the theater and added dinning 20yrs ago and still sells out every weekend.
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Re: The Question Remains: What Makes a 1-Screen Work? 28 Apr 2011 11:15 #35855

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To answer JPRM's question, "why stay in it?", I would say that there are things I liked about owning and operating a theater. It was fun. I liked going to work. I liked working for myself and enjoyed the challenges it presented. I greatly prefer it over working for someone else. I liked being around happy customers. I liked interacting with more people than I do in my other career. It's not as stressful as many other jobs. The worst thing that happened to me was that we lost a show and had to refund the money. If I fail at my current job, I could lose my job or potentially fail to prevent the loss of life, property, or large amounts of other people's money. My current job is relatively thankless, but people often gave me and my theater compliments. I liked seeing all the movies.

I could go on, but that is enough. People stay in it because they love the business. It's not always about making the most money. Some have other jobs and businesses that help them keep going. Some do make enough from the theater to survive or even make a good living. Those that can't make it profitable enough for their needs are forced to get out.
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Re: The Question Remains: What Makes a 1-Screen Wo 28 Apr 2011 13:15 #35856

  • Mike
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And as Dan Zee says: if you have one screen and want to be in the movies then why not 3 or 4 screens? Carve it out.
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Re: The Question Remains: What Makes a 1-Screen Wo 28 Apr 2011 15:36 #35860

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First of all there are not many single screen operators participating. 1) Leeler-has a good theater with rental units and other store front. 2) Roxy-As we all know has a cool classic theater that he has had for some time. A question to Roxy-If your theater had been sitting empty for the past 10 years or so and been operating inconsistently for the past 20 years; would you re-open it in today's environment?

If there are other single screen operators please speak up.

Lionheart-Your theater is for sale, right? And is not currently operating, right? So you have chosen to exit the business, right?

In my situation: we currently have 4 screens. (started with two 4.5 years ago) Our lease in up at the end of this year. The only way we operate the theater as it sits now is if the landlord lets us run month to month. I will NOT agree to a long term lease without getting some concessions from him. We would like for the landlord to pay for a 2-3 screen addition (shell of the building only, we will finish it out). We will see.
Last Edit: 28 Apr 2011 15:49 by rufusjack.
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Re: The Question Remains: What Makes a 1-Screen Wo 28 Apr 2011 16:58 #35862

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Yes, my theater is closed and for sale. Yes, I chose to exit the business. One reason was because it didn't meet our financial needs. We didn't have other income like some who have rental units or video stores. A good second job in our town for me would have been working at Wal-Mart on the graveyard shift, so that wasn't too appealing. Another reason we exited the business is that we had health concerns for our son and insurance issues. Non-group policies stink in my opinion. I still believe that given more time we could have done better, but time is what we didn't have. We didn't have enough start-up capital and closed after only 13 months. Warning to all would-be theater start-ups: make sure you will have plenty of start-up capital. It's not just about getting the doors open. It's about sustaining the place until business is fully established... two or three years. Our theater supported itself pretty well, but it didn't have a whole lot left over for us. We made enough to get by... as long as nothing went wrong, like health issues, etc.

I never claimed to be answering the original question of "What makes a 1-screen work". I only tried to answer the question of why people continue in the business. If I had my way, I would still be operating my theater. So my reasons for wishing I was still in business would be the same reasons I would have if I were still in business.

I guess I should have let someone else answer that one, but I didn't try to sugar coat anything. I did say that some are forced to get out, and some have other income. Am I wrong in my statements of why anyone would continue in the business?

And, oh, by the way, in the interest of full disclosure, my theater is a 2-screen, so I guess I shouldn't have been in this thread in the first place.
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Re: The Question Remains: What Makes a 1-Screen Work? 28 Apr 2011 19:40 #35864

  • RoxyVaudeville
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rufusjack said:
[/"A question to Roxy-If your theater had been sitting empty for the past 10 years or so and been operating inconsistently for the past 20 years; would you re-open it in today's environment?"
quote]

That's a very good question. I had been thinking about making a post about that very thought. Over the past 45 years I have operated 18 theatres. It was always my policy to take over theatres that were operating, or had just recently closed. Those theatres had weathered many a storm and somehow managed to continue to exist. I always felt if they were able to do that, often with minimal managerial or financial support, they would have a good chance of coming back to life with a decent clean up, fix up, and a good dose of theatrical showmanship.

Only once did I reopen a theatre that had been closed for many years. I was awestruck by it's incredible beauty. It was a beautiful 1920s 1700 seat movie Palace, and I felt that it needed a chance to be saved. While the grosses weren't that bad, the cost to operate it was unmanageable. We opened in September. By Janurary the cost to heat it was 60% of what we took in. I had to close it after only five months or it would have pulled down my other theatres with it.

So I would probably not ever try to reopen a long closed theatre again. But every situation is different and has to be looked at individually. If the area has grown dramatically since it closed, is properous, and there is no competition then maybe it would be worthwhile, I personally, at my age have no interest in acquiring any more theatres.
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Re: The Question Remains: What Makes a 1-Screen Work? 28 Apr 2011 20:58 #35865

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You know, in questioning the wisdom of buying a one-screen theater, there does seem to be an emphasis on theaters that have 'been sitting empty for years.' The theater I'm looking at is open, running and turning a profit; the owner is just hoping to retire. As a business, I like it because it's the only game in town, and I think a little more could be done with it. Of course I'd add a screen if I could, but that's not in the cards right now. Dealing with digital will be enough of a challenge. (That's if this even works out; if it doesn't I'll keep looking.)

But I don't even think the idea of buying a closed-down theater is ALWAYS bad. I think you have to consider WHY it closed, for one thing. After all, the guys who started the Alamo Drafthouse got their start with a closed-down theater in California. If they'd followed conventional wisdom, they'd never have gotten into the theater business.

And, just so y'all know where I'm coming from, I have indeed looked at a couple of closed theaters here in Portland. My reaction usually has four stages which occur in rapid succession. They are: 1. Hey, cool theater! 2. This would need some fixing up. 3. Hmmm...a LOT of fixing up, and I'd need to add screens. 4. Well, even if I could afford to fix this up, there's a 16-screen multiplex about 5 minutes away.
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Re: The Question Remains: What Makes a 1-Screen Work? 29 Apr 2011 00:42 #35867

  • leeler
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I love my single screen. It is having its' 70th birthday this year

Happy Birthday!
"What a crazy business"
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Re: The Question Remains: What Makes a 1-Screen Work? 29 Apr 2011 01:43 #35868

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Thanks Lionheart for the clarification.

JPRM,
What has changed from 5 years ago to now, is that you will have to convert to digital soon. This is an expensive event for all theaters but more so for single screens in more rural settings like the one you are looking at. Easily 10%-15%+ of revenues with an uncertain what can it do to create additional revenues.
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Re: The Question Remains: What Makes a 1-Screen Work? 29 Apr 2011 14:40 #35872

  • Cheetahz
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Well all this talk about going digital, it may be an advantage to a theatre that is closed for some years because installing the new equipment would not be that big of deal. In regards to the terrace they removed all theater equipment meaning it's basically a blank slate. Which if I can get all needed funding I can go digital from the very onset of re opening the theater. And even go sub-runs digital.... Then it's already part of your cost and a good selling point. But like I said earlier it's going to be non-profit / llc. Plus I could rent out part of the upstairs to a company and turn the downstairs into a viable extra income. It's simply finding the right mix to make it all work. And going non profit allows for donation and grants otherwise not available.
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Re: The Question Remains: What Makes a 1-Screen Work? 29 Apr 2011 16:26 #35873

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What has changed from 5 years ago to now, is that you will have to convert to digital soon. This is an expensive event for all theaters but more so for single screens in more rural settings like the one you are looking at.


Oh man, absolutely! I mentioned digital in (I think)my last post, and the need to convert is one of the biggest factors I have to consider in all of this. It's huge, it's unavoidable, and it could be a deal killer. I've never assumed that getting into this would be easy. In fact, I've assumed the opposite. If this theater doesn't work out, though, I'm going to keep looking. I have my eye on a couple of things!
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Re: The Question Remains: What Makes a 1-Screen Work? 29 Apr 2011 18:33 #35874

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Colonial turns 100 next April 12!
Michael Hurley
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Re: The Question Remains: What Makes a 1-Screen Work? 29 Apr 2011 20:23 #35875

  • leeler
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Mike,

what are you doing to celebrate your milestone?

I am wondering what I should be doing for my theater's 70th. I actually have a DVD of the first movie that played here ('Life Begins for Andy Hardy' starring a very young Mickey Rooney) and wondered if I should try to show it for a night. But, other then that, what do you do to celebrate the event? I need some ideas.....
"What a crazy business"
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