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TOPIC: newbies entering into the business

newbies entering into the business 10 Dec 2002 21:18 #23699

  • j.sirles
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Is it just me or has anyone else noticed the vast number of people whom seem to think they can hop right into this industry easily. I have noticed that several people have apparently seen "the Majestic" too many times, and as a result believe that they too can run a cinema with ease.
Now, I realize alot of the best theaters were opened by people who had never worked in this industry before. Yet, I also see many people getting, or about to get in way over their heads, and eventually having to sell for much less than they put into their place.
It bothers me that there is this perseption that this business in easy, and that outsiders rarely see how complex it can indeed be.
Thus I guess in closing I would like to say: If you are a newbie, welcome to this industry but be prepared. Read everything on this site you can, contact people in this industry for help because there is ALOT to learn, and ALOT can go wrong for you. Don't have the arrogance to believe this is easy work, or you like many others will fail and end up selling to those of us who know what we are doing.
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Re: newbies entering into the business 11 Dec 2002 00:44 #23700

  • RoxyVaudeville
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Yes sirles, there is a lot more to this business then first meets the eye. However, someone who works for a few years in theatres to learn about the business can still make the transition with relative ease.I'm not talking about opening a 16 plex or even a 6 plex, but there are still singles, twins, tri-plexes, and even quads that can be had for little money on lease with all equipment included.

I remember when I opened my first theatre after having worked in other theatres for several years. Of course they were almost all singles back then. There were a few twins, but not many yet. I opened my first theatre on a lease with a total investment of about $100.00 (One Hundred Dollars). I eventually had 18 theatres and never invested another dime beyond that first $100.00. Each additional theatre was aquired from the cashflow of the previous one(s).

Someday I will retire and sell my present theatre. The person that buys it will not need even the $100.00 that I needed to get started. It will be someone that has worked for me for many years already and that I know knows the business. I will then sell that person the business lock, stock and barrel for no money down and I will hold the mortgage. They will one day just sign some papers and take over, and their patrons will supply the cash flow to pay me.

It can still be done, but I do realize that it isn't as easy as it once was and that most people won't find a situation like mine. But there are still some out there. You just have to look harder to find them. The gentleman that leased me my first theatre didn't even require that I pay any rent until after I opened up, so that I would have some cashflow to pay him. I owe him a great deal. Without him I might not be in business today. I therefore will do the same for someone else and see that they have the opportunity to enter this business without any financial investment.
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Re: newbies entering into the business 11 Dec 2002 07:49 #23701

  • carlpalko
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Wow, Roxy, I didnt know you had that many theatres. Hopefully around spring when the weather is nicer and it is warmer out, I will come down to the Roxy again.

As far as things going wrong,j.sirles,
I have seen that first hand, but it wasnt by a newbie. It can happen to anyone.

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Re: newbies entering into the business 22 Dec 2002 11:46 #23702

  • Tim Eiler
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After working in this Business for 20 years I bought My First Theatre (a drive-in closed for 20 years)5 years ago. It is amazing how many people want to open a theatre from Scratch and think they can do it for a few thousand dollars. The other thing is that People seem to come out of the closet who were going to reopen the one I bought or who want to become partners. Then you have the ones who have a "Great idea/Location" for a theatre but have no money and want you to put up you money for them. It Is usually a bad idea/location. One common misconception I have noticed in all these people is that they think theatres get to keep all the boxoffice money.
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Re: newbies entering into the business 22 Dec 2002 19:33 #23703

they think theatres get to keep all the boxoffice money

That has to be the single biggest misconception about your business among the general public...
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Re: newbies entering into the business 30 Dec 2002 13:46 #23704

I've dealt with a number of people who want to get into the business and I have encountered many misconceptions on their part. I know a lot of others have also, since we participated in a similar thread back in September, I think it was in the "Lobby" forum.

I too am amazed at how many people think that operating a movie theatre, ANY kind of movie theatre, whether hardtop or outdoor, is very easy. On one hand, maybe that's a tribute to people already in the biz. Maybe some exhibitors make it look easy.

Anyhow, I work with an industry trade group and we are frequently approached by people wanting to get into the business. The following are some of the misconceptions we frequently see among people wanting to get into exhibition without any prior experience:

1. The theatre gets to keep all the money made at the box office and all the concession profits.

2. The owners won't have to show up at the theatre very often. They simply need to hire a manager to handle everything and then stop by the theatre to pick up the bank deposits.

3. They will be able to run their proposed theatre flawlessly from the start, even if they have no prior experience in motion picture exhibition, film booking, the food service industry, etc.

4. They don't need any knowledge or expertise in film handling and projection since they plan to install digital projection equipment and will only have to plug in a DVD or videocassette and push a button. Many don't realize that most theatres today still run actual film. They often think that all theatres went to a digital or video type of projector years ago. Even after being told that they will still have to learn to handle real film, that digital projection will not be the norm any time soon, some will argue that they will still install only digital projectors because they assume all product is released simultaneously in a digital format and on film.

5. Some people want to show only the type of movies THEY personally like and assume everybody else has the same taste in film. Often these movies have been available on videotape or DVD for years.

6. Other theatre owners, even those who would be their competitors, will be happy to show them how they run their business and let them learn from them.

.7 There are government agencies and private funding groups that will give them GRANTS to open a theatre. They just want us to tell them whom these agencies or organizations are so they can go get the free money.

8. Zoning will not be a problem. They can put their proposed theatre on any parcel of land they choose.

It is true that there are plenty of veteran movie theatre owners who have become successful even though they had no experience in the industry prior to building or buying their theatre/s. However, many people are very surprised when they learn how much work and personal money is involved. Many of these, once they find out, we never hear from again. On the other hand, some roll up their sleeves, learn as much as they can about what they are getting themselves into, and make it happen. Good for them!



[This message has been edited by Starlite Cinema (edited December 30, 2002).]
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Re: newbies entering into the business 30 Dec 2002 18:16 #23705

  • Barry Floyd
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Great comments above....

We will be breaking ground on our new-build drive-in theatre in Tennessee in about 3 weeks. As a newbie with no prior experience in the theatre world... here's what I've learned so far.

1. The theatre gets to only keep a small percentage of all the money made at the box office, and the film companies want it in advance for the first year!!

2. The owners have to work their "day job" 5 days a week, then work at the drive-in 7 nights a week to make sure they can keep food on the table and the rent paid. Somewhere in the "free-time", I get to see my wife and kids.

3. While I do have extensive experience in the food industry from prior years, I don't know squat about projection. Our cash flow plan shows that I'll be paying a projectionist more than what I'll be bringing home. I'm not crazy enough to try to book my own product...my balls aren't big enough.

4. I don't own a DVD player yet... as I'm hoping it'll fade away like the "Beta format" of video tapes. I said the same thing about CD's vs. Vinyl a fews years ago.
Digital projection... fine, I'll do it.. if you'll tell me who will pay for it, and prove it'll work at the drive-in.

5. "Some people want to show only the type of movies THEY personally like and assume everybody else has the same taste in film."

Would I really expect to fill the lot up every Friday and Saturday night by showing my collection of Under Siege, Hunt for Red October and Crimson Tide..... NO.

6. The other drive-in theatre owners within a hundred miles still don't believe I'm really going to do this yet. They still think they're the "ONLY DRIVE-IN LEFT".

7. There are no government agencies and private funding groups that will give them GRANTS to open a theatre. It was the first thing that I heard from my SCORE advisor.

8. Zoning will not be a problem.... Yeah right!!! Zoning Boards are made up of a bunch of political wannabe's who constantly chant, "NOT IN MY BACKYARD".

9. So far... the price tag for my "Field of Dreams" is at $485,000.00 and I have to produce 20% of that IN CASH at closing!
If it doesn't work... we loose our house, our cars, equipment, land... etc.

The reality of it all is overwhelming!!!

Barry Floyd
Floyd Entertainment Group
Lebanon, Tennessee

Stardust Drive-In Theatre
Watertown, Tennessee
Barry Floyd
Floyd Entertainment Group
Lebanon, Tennessee

Stardust Drive-In Theatre
Watertown, Tennessee
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Re: newbies entering into the business 30 Dec 2002 19:00 #23706

  • CharlieBo
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Barry and Starlite

Great comments.As a booker,the one I like best is #5-They want to show the "movies they like".I don't know how many times I've had potential clients wanting to book classics like CASABLANCA,etc.Back in the 70's this repertory policy possibly could work,with the right effort put into it.Nowadays,with video,DVD,etc,its just about impossible to make it work.There are only a handful of this type of theatres out there,where in the 60's and 70's there were probably a couple of hundred.I booked several of them myself.
It seems like first run is really the only way to go,although a "discount"policy can work in certain areas.
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Re: newbies entering into the business 01 Jan 2003 14:45 #23707

  • Adam Fraser
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We get about 2 or so calls a year asking us questions on how to open a theatre. When we tell them the actual numbers most of the time they think we are lying to them. When someone says that to us when they come into the theatre the best thing to say is....."Look in the parking lot where we park, there isnt a Lincoln or a Mercedes.. A Dodge, a Ford and a Jeep".

Also, people just cant believe that to build a 500 seat one or two screen theatre from the ground up, with very good equipment is in the Million Dollar range or more if you plan to give your theatre any kind of style or architecture.. not those ugly pole barns or mall theatres that I would never step foot into.
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Re: newbies entering into the business 02 Jan 2003 02:09 #23708

  • Zamin
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Good thing I've had experience in the exhibition business. I'm currently working as a projectionist at a local theatre, and do my best to get my hands on ANY usefull knowledge that would go into running said business. I realized after about my first week on the job that none of these popular misconceptions were true.

My business partner and I are currently in the works to build an arthouse theatre in our town, I think the closest theatre that deals with these kinds of movies is about 150 miles away, other than the local Kerasotes, which may get one or two a month. We both realize that this is not going to be an easy task as we started research on this project in summer 2002, and hope to be open for business around summer 2006. At that time I'm going to work my full time "day" job from 5:30pm-2:15am every Monday through Friday (to provide a living expense so we could possibly run at a slight loss the first year if need be), and then spend about 48 hours of my weekend and 6 hours every weekday at the theatre, while my business partner "eats, drinks and sleeps" our theatre. BTW, we hope to build a bathroom with a shower connecting our two offices, and keep a few extra suits handy so we won't need to go home at the end of the night.
Working at the theatre I'm currently at has also shown me about 1000 ways that a theatre could be run better, and just the little things. The current owner has been an owner for about 35 years and owns 43 of the 59 screens in town, 7 of which are second-run, the rest first. He's grown arrogant in the fact that he's pretty much the monopoly in town and has his "nothing can touch me now" face on. The goal is to eat away at his weakest performing theatre, and within 3-5 years close it down, as it's already running at a loss with revenue from the flagship keeping it afloat. After the closure of this theatre, we plan on expanding into first-run in another town about 40 miles away to increase revenue (and show citizens of this fair town a little thing called FILM DONE RIGHT). With revenue from both of these theatres, we hope to eventually expand and "bully" him out of our arthouse town with a first run theatre with all the little things done right (curtains, film-cleaners on every screen, proper film-handling techniques, well-paid employees for great customer service, etc.). Estimated date of closing of his theatre, 2018.

In-works motto of our theatre - "Good enough is never good enough."
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Re: newbies entering into the business 02 Jan 2003 10:06 #23709

  • GREGBORR
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Zamin,
Best of luck with your plans, on the subject of offices, I have a couch, murphy bed, shower, and small kitchen in mine. My partner Rob has all of the above plus an apartment one door down from his.

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Re: newbies entering into the business 02 Jan 2003 13:28 #23710

  • BurneyFalls
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Dreams of a new construction are frequently in my mind. When I purchased my single screen five years ago, I stayed in the theatre on the weekends for over six months. My house was 220 miles away. The theatre was freezing cold at night--heck, in the day it is only 47 degrees without the heat on. Anyway, there wasn't a shower; there wasn't even any HOT WATER! I drove to the state park to shower in the beginning. Soon my patrons, staff, and new friends in the community opened their homes and hearts to me and I was showering at their houses. I still don't have a shower stall in my theatre, but my first interior improvement was the installation of a hot water heater.

Even though the transition was inconvenient and often uncomfortable, I was on a natural high during that time. When I walked into the auditorium I would look around and say to myself, this is mine--all mine. I say this all the time, but I will say it again; I love owning my theatre and think it was the best thing I ever did. Not a night goes by where a patron doesn't compliment me on the great improvements that have taken place since I bought it. That's the best reward anyone could dream of receiving.

P.S. I permanently moved to Burney 4 1/2 years ago and live three blocks from my theatre. Sure beats the 80-110 mile round- trip commute I did for twenty years before changing professions.

[This message has been edited by BurneyFalls (edited January 03, 2003).]
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Re: newbies entering into the business 02 Jan 2003 23:35 #23711

  • D. Bird
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Do y'all think this "newbie naiveity" applies to those new to the THEATRE biz, or those who've never run ANY biz? Those who've managed a small biz and dealt with gov't red tape, employees, etc, etc, I find to be alot less shocked at the realities.

I think you can say this about most businesses:

It'll cost more money than you think. It'll be harder work than you think. You won't get rich. And you won't survive against an experienced operator (who won't help you compete against him.).

Those who've run a business don't tend to have "pie in the sky" dreams. They research, plan, and then make the proper decision, even if that means NOT building their "dream".
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Re: newbies entering into the business 03 Jan 2003 15:36 #23712

  • John Pytlak
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"If you build it, they will come" only happens IN the movies, but NOT for those without a viable business case of operating a theatre to SHOW them. ;-)

John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Worldwide Technical Services
Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Telephone: 585-477-5325 Cell: 585-781-4036 Fax: 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: newbies entering into the business 04 Jan 2003 19:30 #23713

  • j.sirles
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Hey any lurking newbie-wannabes...
Read the above post by BurneyFalls. Thats dedication!!!! Burney deserves to own a theater, do you? If you have that dedication and you did your home work, then good luck to you I'm sure you'll make it.
And to BurneyFalls all I can say is WOW.
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