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TOPIC: Buying Movie theaters

Buying Movie theaters 02 Jul 2010 21:59 #34237

  • wayne10879
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Hi, I am not sure where to post this so hope this works. I am interested in buying a set of three movie theaters in my local town. One is a twin theater holding about 500 people full. The second one is a single vintige theater with about 150 seats. The last one is a drive in theater. All have consesion stands and bathrooms. The drive-in also serves hambergers and hotdogs. The projectors need a little bit of work and the buildings will also need a little bit of work. But at the time they are all running and working good. The property is owned by the theaters current owner and will be saled with the theaters. My question is on average what would someone expect to pay for these. I know that its hard to say without the more information, but I want to what other people might pay for something along these lines. The projectors are all 35mm with premium sound systems. Thanks for your time.
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Re:Buying Movie theaters 02 Jul 2010 22:22 #34238

  • rufusjack
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Wayne,

1) What will be your plan for the digital transition? I believe this transition will be a necessity within 3 years for most small theaters.
2) are these theaters up and running right now?
3) How big is this town?
4) How many theaters are in operation now?
5) Anyway to add more screens to either?

As far as pricing: I would contact Jeff Eisentraut. His family owns and operates 4 theaters in central Illinois and they seem to do pretty well. www.bestmoviedeal.com/Site/Home.html He occasionally posts on this forum.

Drive-Ins are tough to value as the land they sit on is more valuable without the theater. Lastly, Twins and singles are hard to run and make a profit. I would possibly encourage a lease to own scenario to see if you think you can make these work out. I pesonally doubt I would touch a twin or a single unless the deal was phenomenal.
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Re:Buying Movie theaters 02 Jul 2010 22:34 #34239

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Thanks for your post.
The theaters are up and operational know. They do pretty good and are the only theaters in our small town. We have between 5000-8000 people in our town.
On the issue of expanding and upgrading the projectors, currently there is no room to expand the theaters. The building next to it could be bought at a later time to expand but not at the present time. As for the digital projectors, depending on what I do I would include it as part of the upgrades. the time frame is unknown as I am still doing research on the equipment. Is there any good place to look for good projectors. Thanks for your time. Wayne
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Re:Buying Movie theaters 06 Jul 2010 13:54 #34294

  • rodeojack
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Drive-Ins are tough to value as the land they sit on is more valuable without the theater.

That's true where people treat their drive-ins as cast-offs, like they did 30 years ago. Pay attention to them, and their customers, and you can have a first-class operation that's well worth having on the property.

Syufy theatres just learned this in California. After sitting idle for 20 years, they reopened one of their drive-ins. They're quoted as saying they should have done that long ago.

As for what the operaton IS worth, you need to add asking prices for what land is included. I wouldn't get extended out into a deal that only leased the property.... for sure not if the lease was likely to run out before the contract on the business.

Otherwise, you have a lot more to worry about than what shape the projectors are in. Most any booth can be fixed up nicely without a huge investment. Unfortunately, many prospective owners focus on this area because they don't understand the mechanics well.

Your visible amenities are much more important... location, zoning, seats, screens, concession layouts & equipment, restrooms, taxes, ambient lighting (in the case of the drive-in), past community support, potential competition, etc, etc, etc. If all of these things passed muster, I'd take a theater with an empty booth & have a show on the screen in a couple of days.
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Re:Buying Movie theaters 06 Jul 2010 17:12 #34299

  • revrobor
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I agree with rodeojack and would add that you need to return the drive-in to a family entertainment center complete with playground, etc. You should expand your concessions at all the theatres. Try new products. Don't sweat the digital thing. Film is going to be with us for a lot of years yet (even though the manufacturers and distributors are trying to convince us the big switch is just around the corner). Old projection equipment (20 to 60 years old) will, if properly maintained, last for years to come. I would make sure you have stereo surround sound in your hardtops. You might also consider fm transmitters for the DI. The important things are service and presentation. Male sure both are top quality. If you have any competition withing driving distance BE DIFFERENT. Whether that is in what you book or lower prices at the BO and concession stand with a larger variety of foods. Hire someone with experience and vision to help you run them. Good luck.
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
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Re:Buying Movie theaters 08 Jul 2010 18:53 #34318

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Thanks everyone. I appreate the advice. My big question is would these theaters be worth over 3 million dollars. If not what would be the average someone would pay for something like this. I understand no one can tell me exactly how much its worth, but I want to no where the line is between a good investment and a bad one. Is there a site where I can look to see what other theaters are selling for. Any information would be great. Thanks for your time Wayne
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Re:Buying Movie theaters 08 Jul 2010 21:50 #34320

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What the theatres are worth depends on what the present owner has done with them. Their value will change depending on what you do with them. You need to have a vision for them. That can be done best by surveying your community. There are 31 theatres listed for sale in the classified section of this site. You can also find some for sale on the "Cinema Treasures" site.
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
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Re:Buying Movie theaters 08 Jul 2010 22:58 #34322

  • rufusjack
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Holy Sh*t Batman, $3 million !

I am going to go out on a limb and say hell no! You could build a very nice 6-8plex for that kind of money.
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Re:Buying Movie theaters 09 Jul 2010 21:32 #34330

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Thanks rufusjack, that is what I have been trying to find out. I was pretty sure it was way high but then I was not sure. What would you sugest would be a average price to pay. I know its not going to be accurate, but a average figure of what someone could expect to pay is what I am after. Thanks again Wayne
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Re:Buying Movie theaters 29 Dec 2010 05:30 #35054

  • SamD
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Yeah $3mil is a lot - especially in a small town of 5000-8000.
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Re: Buying Movie theaters 05 Jan 2011 18:26 #35087

  • genedo
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Purchase value of a theater is determined by theater level cash flow and that number times 1 or 2 is current market for sloped floor theaters that are not state of the art. Contrary to previous opinions posted, digital is here and 35MM has very questionable life. Would not recommend buying any theater without including the need for digital purchase as part of the consideration.
Recently talked with theater owner who thinks his theater is worth $2m and based on cashflow formulas used by investors, the value if $350,000. If a theater purchase does not include the projection of the next ten years and needs for that venue, it would be a questionable investment. If you want to see the tlcf formulas currently used by investors email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and will send them to you.
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Re: Buying Movie theaters 08 May 2011 13:19 #35970

  • iccmovies
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A few personal opinions if it's not too late - "street math" says you need a population of 5000 people per screen to be profitable, unless you do something extra ordinary. One and two screen theaters are hard to be profitable with due to run duration of films and the "clumping" of films together by movie companies if runing 1st run. Second run is quickly becoming a dead option with film "windows" getting shorter and streaming technologies getting better. Lastly - unless the real estate is spectacular - the $3mm price is way too high. Based on the info you provided - stay away!!
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