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TOPIC: Ridglea Theater, Fort Worth (TX)

Ridglea Theater, Fort Worth (TX) 10 Jul 2010 23:34 #34346

  • LeviWeaver
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Hey guys.

First of all, thank you. You have all been a massive help already; I read through all of the FAQs last night and have continued to pore over the rest today...

I said some of this in reply to Roxy's compelling overview of what it takes to run a single-screen, but I thought I'd ask your collective opinion on a few details of theater I am considering purchasing: The Ridglea Theater in Fort Worth, Texas. As of right now, the plans are for it to be demolished and turned into a Bank of America, but the massive public outcry has started to make some headway, and it looks like they may back out of the sale. I'm putting together a business plan to pitch to investors, and hopefully I'll get the building (My wife and I were married there a few years back, the place means a lot to me.)

The current tenants have been running it as a music venue for the last 12 years. From 1998-2004(ish) it was probably the best venue in the city. Due to upkeep issues and a penchant for heavy metals bands, the place is now really dirty, and bands that could fill it (standing capacity - 1,000) no longer want to play there.

Our plan is to rehab the place, clean it up, and turn it into an art house - indie & foreign films, live theatre, concerts (of bands with names not including the words "corpse" "blood" or "death"), and hopefully weddings, graduations, proms, etc.

As far as I know, the closest theater concentrating on independent/foreign film is the Anjelika in Dallas (43 miles away). There's also the Inwood in Dallas, but nothing in Fort Worth.

There also isn't another music venue between 650-2000 in Fort Worth (all in Dallas). Same goes for live theatre (our seated capacity is around 750).

It is in a great location - Camp Bowie is one of the fastest-growing developments in the city, and is designated as an "Urban Village" zoning, which is geared towards a lot of foot traffic. TCU is right around the corner, and there are 4 smaller universities in Fort Worth.

Assuming Bank of America acquiesces to the demands of the public, it looks like the cost of the building will be about 1.5 million, and the renovations to be about the same (so, not cheap), but it seems like a viable location to succeed as an art house, if it were run well.

What I need to know from you guys is this: Is there some glaringly obvious element to planning that I'm missing? Obviously, this place shut down for some reason, but it seems to me that mis-management is that reason. Am I fooling myself? Is the size of the venue a deal-breaker?
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Re:Ridglea Theater, Fort Worth (TX) 11 Jul 2010 09:02 #34347

  • trackfood
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Let me get this straight, you want to spend 3 million dollars on a single screen theatre?

That to me would be your "glaringly obvious problem"

I just don't see how you could possibly cover your debt expense, much less make a profit.
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Re:Ridglea Theater, Fort Worth (TX) 11 Jul 2010 09:16 #34348

  • rufusjack
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Agreed, you have 3 million reasons to walk away.

Too many times I see people with little experience in an industry complain that a business was mis-managed when many times the business was properly managed. The problem is no one can make the business successful.

What experience do you have in operating the type of business you propose?
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Re:Ridglea Theater, Fort Worth (TX) 12 Jul 2010 00:24 #34352

  • LeviWeaver
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(pardon the length, i've been doing only this for a couple weeks now.)

What Experience Do I Have In This Business: None, sadly. Which is why I've been sleeping about 4 hours a night for the last couple of weeks just reading, reading, reading.

My expertise is more in the music end of things. I've been a professional touring musician for the last 5 years - not Rolling Stones (or even Arcade Fire) money, but I've broken even, which is more than a lot of indies can say.

I agree about "it was mismanaged before" being a common short-sighted way of looking at things, which is why I felt a bit sheepish using it. It's prideful to look at a failing business and think "I could have easily succeeded where they failed. I'm obviously smarter/better." I am definitely approaching this with personal humility (but optimism, based on what my research is digging up...)

So.

$3m is way too much for a single-screen. That makes sense. (

But what if the movies are part of a larger vision? Do any of you have any experiences to share about running a theater as part of a grander-vision, more all-encompassing arts venue?

I think the reason I am focusing so hard on movies to start off with is that it provides the most easily-definable clean break from the former tenants, so that I can rebuild the concert business from the ground up, re-establishing a good reputation with national booking agents, management agencies, bands, etc. For the time being, the venue's reputation with quality touring acts is shot. The backstage sucks, the place is pretty dirty, and it just doesn't have the atmosphere it once did.

I did mention it's been a metal venue - the local scene there is loyal but not massive (most shows bringing in <100 to a capacity-1000 room). Occasionally, they will have a well-attended touring metal act to boost their numbers, but all of their attendees are driving in from somewhere else. They are not bringing in much foot traffic or local-neighborhood clientele at all. (Even with all this going against them, they are bringing in 500k/year)

It's within a 5-minute drive of TCU, which has a large theatre department, and another 5-minute drive to the arts district, which is the 2nd largest in the nation. The demographics study we did shows that the zip code of the theatre is the highest-represented at the yearly main street arts festival downtown.

The plan is to form a non-profit 501(c)3 to run the day-to-day operations of the theater, and we would bring on an operations manager and hire a staff member with knowledge of running the cinema aspect. I'd hire a movie booker (I've gotten a quote of $150/mo. - does that seem about right?) and my wife has a degree and 6 years experience in marketing (minimal marketing has been done with the current tenants). As part of the formation of the 501(c)3, we are also bringing on a board member with extensive fund-raising experience.

A facebook group was started about 3 weeks ago to save the building, and there are already over 7,100 members: there are some who don't want to lose their metal venue, but a majority are nostalgic about the building. It's been part of the landscape for 60 years.

So: me personally, running a movie theater? no experience. Which scares the hell out of me, and for good reason.

And the price is high. Especially if it were just going to be a single-screen theater.

But with the versatility (and public support of) the building, a good team with the necessary skill set, the perfect neighborhood, no foreign/indie competition (and soon, the ability to accept donations)... does it still have no chance, in the collective opinion of the boards?
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Re:Ridglea Theater, Fort Worth (TX) 12 Jul 2010 11:08 #34357

  • LeviWeaver
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tossing and turning in bed last night, i felt like i had a further clarification on the "mismanagement" issue.

Maybe "mismanagement" is a bad phrase. They brought in a lot more business to that particular style of music venue than I would have thought possible. They're not dummies.

It just seems like the wrong business for the neighborhood, it's a great location for the arts, just not for a metal venue.

Anyway. I'll keep reading here, and I'll let you guys know if anything comes of it...
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