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TOPIC: Diversify or Die

Diversify or Die 06 Jun 2014 11:49 #41017

As I wrote under revrob's topic Fund Raising Ideas, we planned then shortly thereafter cancelled our digital conversion project.

Since Oct 2013, when the MC's began putting the screws to us by charging big advances and guarantees on practically every movie we've gotten, (even movies that are 6 wks+ old), we're practically a sub-run now and we've had to become much more cautious with our selections.

Our closest competitor, (in a city with population about 180K - with shopping malls and LOTS of great restaurants), is about the same distance away as revrobor's place, (50+ miles one way). A good percentage of people here make the trip there frequently for those reasons alone. And of those, a good number probably tack on a movie to their out-of-town trip.
They have sub-run theaters there also, (a $1.00 theater and a $3.00 theater), so.. I don't think becoming a full sub-run theater ALONE will not work for us here.

Needless to say, since we cancelled the digital plan we have gone into overdrive planning our next move.

To be clear, this theater has been a First-Run Triple since the 1970's, (open F/S/SU one show a day for all 3 movies), and have an extra room which is level, about the same size as our theater rooms.
We have utilized the extra room for dances with live music and DJ's, birthday parties, workshops, business luncheons, etc, but because my partner and I already work M-F, it is very infrequent. The only other entertainment option in this town is a roller rink.

Our County Seat has a population of around 7,000. We have put out feelers to see if LIVE Theatre is an option and I believe it is. We have calculated costs to build a stage in theater 1, and have been in contact with theater troups in the region. Hosting an occasional dinner theater and bringing in regional comedy and entertainment acts is a viable option. The local Elks Club recently hosted a dinner theater night and it sold out in days - 120 tickets at $25 a piece.

We are also considering implementing a Youth Club, open 5 days a week. That would entail terracing theater 3 and using it in conjunction with the extra room which would have pool tables, foosball, table shuffleboard, two big screens for WII and gaming parties, and the like. We already have one suitable projector for DVD's and both rooms are already wired for surround sound.

We are ready to diversify.
Some feedback would be appreciated.
Last Edit: 06 Jun 2014 11:50 by periwinkle.
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Diversify or Die 07 Jun 2014 15:22 #41036

  • Keweler
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Feedback is not easy without more information...
Do you want a business (making money) or a hobby (not loose money)?
IMHO, unless you market is considerable bigger than the 7k you mnetioned,all your ideas you can do as a hobby.

Theater ... most theaters rely on public funding and/or volunteer work. We have "Illinois biggest summer festival" in town, which creates a lot of business, yet they are always fundraising to keep afloat.
I think taking the Elks as an example might blur your vision. In our town the Elks are a well established organisation. Just selling tickets to their members as a fundraiser would yield at least a 100 sales. But selling 100 tickets as an outsider to the Elks would be much harder.

Youth Club ... do you have kids? I think they are the best to ask when it comes to things like that. If you don't, ask church groups if there is an interest. Once again a hobby ..maybe but defiitely not a money maker.

I think the biggest problem you'll have is that you can't commit more time to any project. So my advice, hire a manager to run whatever you decide on.

Good luck,
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Diversify or Die 09 Jun 2014 09:02 #41049

Hi Keweler,
To answer some of your questions, my partner and I took over our theatre a few short years ago so save it from closing; Small town, no local entertainment options to speak of. The previous owner just wanted to retire.

To us it is a working hobby and has certainly provided some nice fun money - considering it is only open 3 days a wk.

Live theatre has been presented locally at different small venues perhaps three times in the past 4 years and has always sold out. Advertising is usually done through various Facebook Group pages, which, here, everyone reads. For the most part just mentioning an event or activity to 'the gang' at Hardee's in the morning will have your message all over town by nightfall. The Elk's club, having a fairly good sized banquet room, simply provided the venue to the outside theatre troupe on one of those occasions.

Youth Club - my kids are grown but early twenties. I have spoken to a good number of our regular theater attending kids over the past few months. They all love the idea since there is truly nothing for them to do here except watch movies or go roller skating.

Most adults here constantly complain there is nothing here for kids to get involved with. Years ago I was a Programs Coordinator for a church in a large populated city and was involved in, well you name it. Coordinating church member involvement in carnivals, festivals, community projects, Holiday concerts and plays, youth field trips, youth camps and summer activities and overnight lock-ins, and fundraisers. They were crazy but personally fun rewarding years.

You are right, it takes a lot of time to undertake a club-like project. Unfortunately I doubt I can find anyone local with the right knowledge and experience to handle it, so I'll have to make it work. IMO, there isn't a decent waitress who has any kind of coordination here.

I'm fairly confident I can perform my regular weekday work (which is all computer) at the same time (most of the time). With some luck, I'll find a few people to give me a hand and perhaps over time learn what is needed. Gotta start somewhere.

My partner only cares that the mortgage and bills are covered, so converting it to a mechanic shop with 3 bays, would work too, lol.

After reading the latest post about Video streaming to take over film industry, I am even more convinced of the need to diversify.
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Diversify or Die 09 Jun 2014 13:39 #41051

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I think a lot of the guarantee issues you're dealing with are related to being 35mm. That $500 guarantee was probably because you're running 35 and they're sticking it to you for that reason alone. I am a small theater and I have a VPF but I do not regret going digital as far as booking is concerned. As I've said before, we've had a number of bookings that were complicated by the VPF. We've had some really high guarantees, we've walked away from a couple of bookings. We've even had move-over bookings flat out denied to us because the studios didn't think they'd make any money here. Those times stressed me out a little, yes, but I knew the sky wasn't falling and there were other movies to play so we booked other films and carried on. In reality, it has made booking easier and more flexible. It has made my business better. My customers DO notice the quality of our picture and sound. Booking decisions are never, ever made based on what prints are available in my area and whether or not a courier service can be found to bring it to me.

I think you made a mistake cancelling your digital conversion.

And as far as video streaming taking over the theatrical industry. So what? There are a lot of industries that are now making more than this industry. Just because one industry is succeeding doesn't mean another is failing. I think they call this a non sequitur.
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Diversify or Die 24 Oct 2014 10:45 #41602

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How is this working for you now? Do you have any updates? I'm interested because it sounds like your town may be going through a period of death where the foot traffic is very low. If the theater has been around since the 70's, I imagine that it is in or near your downtown area.

I mention this because I am currently looking at reviving a theater in my downtown area. I have been looking and dreaming about this theater since 2006 but I am only now making a move on the project because our area experienced a period of death. There was almost no foot traffic in my area in 2006; partly because of Katrina and partly because the city wasn't doing anything to muster pride in its citizens. In the past few years, the city has worked hard on bringing those people back to our community and our weekend nights have foot traffic again. Not only that, but our midweek nights have foot traffic.

My point is that even in my situation where everyone I talk to is wanting the theater to reopen, it isn't a sure thing. If the leaders in your town aren't fostering that pride in the citizens and aren't driving a shop local mentality, you may be fighting a losing battle.
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Diversify or Die 24 Oct 2014 12:45 #41604

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if you don't have a theatre, a movie theatre, in your downtown then traffic is dying. When you have first run movies, or a well run theatre of any kind, you don't have to beg people to "buy local" as they'll come because they want to see the movie. But they sure won't come if the theatre is closed. And talking to people is not a good indicator: 50% of people NEVER go to a movie. But people do go to well run theatres to see the movies they want to see.
Michael Hurley
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