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TOPIC: Historic theaters

Historic theaters 14 Feb 2002 19:48 #27700

  • xirtam
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I have been researching historic theaters for sale in my area and are following up on several. Some of theses theaters have been neglected and have a lot of damage. Some have the chairs still in the theater some have been gutted. They range in condition. I have read some of the past postings on what it may cost on building a theater to what it may cost to restoring a theater. I came up with these questions. Is there financing out there for such projects? I am simply going after a dream of mine to own a small theater. I know I'll need assistance because I don't have tons of money. Does anyone have any stories about working with banks or local goverments. I beleive there is local govrement funds available but depending on the theaters condition I may need more.


FYI-the type of theaters I'll be viewing are small one screen theaters that seat at the most 600. Poplulation is 11,000-50,000.
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Re: Historic theaters 14 Feb 2002 20:39 #27701

  • Large
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Banks will not be interested unless you possess some form of collateral that exceeds the loan you are seeking. They have almost no interest in loaning money to an untested individual.

Local government is a much better bet for a small business loan, grant or easement. But they will not give you huge amounts of money.

My business partner and I financed our theatre using the "friends and family" method. We couldn't secure a loan until we had cash flow, and a cosigner.

A single screen theatre is a very bad idea. It really limits your options, cash flow and ability to secure prints. Even if I were looking in a market of 50,000 I would need at least 3 screens if not more. Can the single screen be divided in a pleasing way or can it be added on to. Even one big room with a couple of 50 seat rooms will vastly expand your prospects.

I believe we only have one single screen owner on this forum that is successful but he followed a very unconventional business plan.

Good Luck; Keep Reading.


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Re: Historic theaters 14 Feb 2002 21:57 #27702

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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, helvetica">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Large:
<B>Banks will not be interested unless you possess some form of collateral that exceeds the loan you are seeking. They have almost no interest in loaning money to an untested individual.

Local government is a much better bet for a small business loan, grant or easement. But they will not give you huge amounts of money.

My business partner and I financed our theatre using the "friends and family" method. We couldn't secure a loan until we had cash flow, and a cosigner.

A single screen theatre is a very bad idea. It really limits your options, cash flow and ability to secure prints. Even if I were looking in a market of 50,000 I would need at least 3 screens if not more. Can the single screen be divided in a pleasing way or can it be added on to. Even one big room with a couple of 50 seat rooms will vastly expand your prospects.

I believe we only have one single screen owner on this forum that is successful but he followed a very unconventional business plan.

Good Luck; Keep Reading.

</B><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I know of at least one of the theaters I investigated is a twin. Another one I believe is big enough to be converted to 2 maybe 3. It seats 2,000 currently. The theater that seats 2,000 is said to be very neglected. For the last year the city has been discussing demolishing it but a local arts group is obviously trying to keep it. May I ask you where the majority of your start up funds came from? Friends and family? Savings? Thank you for your response
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Re: Historic theaters 14 Feb 2002 22:40 #27703

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a very little background--I have 4 small town (population--850, 1500, 3100, and 3800). I started with 1 6 years ago, added rest in next 3 years. 2 are 18 miles apart--then 45 miles to next 2 which are 8 miles apart. I have multiplexes in surrounding areas, but all 20 miles or so away.

In all cases the towns want their theatre to stay open--(all were closed in the 80's--1 for over ten years). With the communities involvement we have operated successfully---but the main thing I feel is the community needs to feel "ownership" in "their" theatre (referring to psycologically--not financially) and you have to know before taking on a project that they will still be supporting the theatre in the years to come.
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Re: Historic theaters 15 Feb 2002 21:52 #27704

  • Ken Layton
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Do a search here on this site under "the lobby" and the topic, "Aberdeen, Wash. theater for sale" and you'll see the specifics on this theater.
Update 2-15-2002: Regal Cinemas has closed their 4 plex dump of a mall theater and this area is now without a theater! The Aberdeen theater is for sale for $100,000 and the owner is willing to go lower and carry paper.
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Re: Historic theaters 15 Feb 2002 22:26 #27705

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Ken

I did the search in The Lobby for Aberdeen Washington and the page must not be available anymore
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Re: Historic theaters 16 Feb 2002 00:24 #27706

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Funny I just did access it a few minutes before posting. Try just the search word "Aberdeen".
If still nothing here is the real estate agent: Craige Fectzo, Windermere Real Estate, Aberdeen, Wash. (office phone 360-533-6464 or his voice mail 360-537-7987)
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Re: Historic theaters 16 Feb 2002 15:04 #27707

  • BECKWITH1
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Large: How do you define successful?
I know that there are at least 4 of us single screeners who post here regularly. Since Burney and I are female that leaves Avalon and RoxyVaudeville. Come on I am waiting to hear which one of them is successful!

BTW - my single screen will be 30 years old this Presidents Day weekend. Given that it is not now and never was a palace like Roxy's that is actually pretty good. It has been serving this community steadily for all but 4 months of those last 30 years. Roxy - hint for you - this theater was once part of a franchise system. Can you guess which one?
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Re: Historic theaters 16 Feb 2002 15:50 #27708

  • Large
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I didn't realize that there were 4 single screens on this forum. I also don't mean anything by using the all-encompassing “guy” in my writing.

If a single screen is still around and profitable then more power to it. I was specifically referring to Avalon because he created a single screen from scratch.

I, personally, would like nothing less than to run a successful single screen like in theatre in the movie, The Majestic, right down to the apartment above the theatre.

I just think that a single screen is a risky financial proposition today. You are too reliant on that one good movie and if you pick that one bad movie you will have a bad week or two. If you have at least a 3 screen the risk goes down quite a bit. Right now even with five screens we can't play all of the product that is being offered to us.

Now every town is different and every situation is different. I have seen single screens work well in the land of the mega-plex; I have also seen single screens fail in towns without any competition.

I agree with the wimovieman that a single screen can work in a small town where the town feels like they own the theatre. I also agree that an historic single screen theatre can be run very successfully as a museum piece.

But as a newly built business plan, I feel that the single screen is sadly dead. The neighborhood hardware store is dead, I go to Home Depot. The neighborhood green grocer is dead; I go to the large Albertson’s on the hill. And the cute, funky corner bookshop got squashed by Barnes & Noble. Do I like it? No! But I accept it as economic reality.

I liked the neighborhood single screen theatre. But it got triplexed, torn down and replaced by 16-screen, all stadium seat, all TXH monstrosity 8 miles away with a 10-acre parking lot.


[This message has been edited by Large (edited February 16, 2002).]
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Re: Historic theaters 16 Feb 2002 15:59 #27709

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One way we define successful is $1.4 million gross in 2001, with an $118,000 profit.


But as successful as that is, I still can't afford a house in Sonoma County!


Another way we define success is having to write the landlord a percentage rent for the month of January that is slightly more than the base rent. (He get both checks, therefore is making twice the rent on the building than he thought.)

Success is relative and subject to interpretation.

But all in all, we are having a very good year.
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Re: Historic theaters 16 Feb 2002 16:44 #27710

  • BECKWITH1
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Thanks, Large! You are a gentleman!


You are quite right about the difficulties of single screen life. I wouldn't recommend building a new single screen, but they do already exist and can find a niche. They are not ever going to be wildly profitable, but then again those multiplexes are not turning out to be very profitable for their owners either. We had a good year last year. We did better per screen than our competitors (all year), but then our closest competitor went out of business in October. Landlord has re-leased the space to another so we will have new competition this year.
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Re: Historic theaters 16 Feb 2002 16:48 #27711

  • Mike
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Ah the money..... where's the money? Where did we get the money? In our case it was a combo of savings......we had about 60,000 in the bank (he 44 and she 38 with no kids) and we bought an existing theatre with that as a downpayment on the 160,000 it took to buy it with a combo of SBA and regualr loans.

Get over the romance of movies: loans are loans and money is money: no one loans money to romantics. Unless you're Enron!

Leases are often cheaper than purchases and you can get in the door for less up front but since you are not taking the risk you will pay for someone elses profit.

Then there are the fact that towns and ci=ties want theatres as attractions and will work to make it happen.

There is $ value in the romance!

Mike Hurley
www.bigscreenbiz.com
Michael Hurley
Impresario
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Re: Historic theaters 17 Feb 2002 20:56 #27712

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>>The neighborhood green grocer is dead<<

No I'm not! And my town still has a hardware. Town of 5,000, trading area of 15,000 maybe, multiplex (8) 15 miles away, nearest drive-in 30 miles. That's where I want to build mine (hey, what the hell, I already dead right?). There would be 100,000 people within 20-30 minutes, no tourists though. Whaddaya think? (All tongue in cheek, I assure you!)

[This message has been edited by D. Bird (edited February 17, 2002).]
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Re: Historic theaters 17 Feb 2002 23:42 #27713

  • RoxyVaudeville
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BECKWITH

There were two franchise theatre packages that I was aware of back in the late sixties and early seventies. Jerry Lewis and Trans-Lux. There were a lot of Jerry Lewis Cinemas around, but only a few Trans-Lux... so therefore I will guess Jerry Lewis. All of them in this area are long gone.
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Re: Historic theaters 20 Feb 2002 20:16 #27714

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Roxy, I knew you would know. Jerry Lewis is correct. This theater is an anomally even here. Most people, locally, remember that it was and the occasional person coming from a distance knows that it once was a Jerry Lewis. I still have the original franchise notebooks which came with the theater. (Somewhat worse for the years and the water damage that happened when the basement office was flooded.)I do not know how many Jerry Lewis Cinemas were built in total although there were 190 of them by March of 1973. The chain was dead by 1980.

I also looked up the original newspaper articles showing the original Jerry Lewis marquee.(Not spectacular - just 4 plastic sections with Jerry's face on each side, the Jerry Lewis Cinema sign and the white Wagner letter section). The front is only 1 story with all glass. Some of the glass between the entrance and exit doors was later covered with wood siding so that we have a space for side table, chairs and pictures of Mickey and Minnie Mouse on the inside. In case you are wondering how this could be a 1 story building - it isn't. Interior dimensions of the theater are: a full 22 feet tall at the bottom 16 ft tall at the top with a 4 ft floor slope. (The ceiling in the front 1/3 of the theater goes up another 2 feet - sound reverb technique I believe). The lobby is 1 story tall and the booth is up 6 steps off the lobby(3 1/2 ft). Basement office is directly underneath the booth. This is a fairly standard floor plan for the chain, but I was wondering if they are all RED inside. Red curtains, red seats, red wall paper, red & black carpet. Even the concrete floor in the theater is poured red/pink!. Concession is Yellow and Blue - primary colors.

Booth equipment was all very basic except that they had a Peck automation so that it could be run theoretically from the concession stand with just a 2 person workforce. I have no idea how they thought they could handle 354 people with only 2 employees. We need 4 on busy days. The automation was broken when we arrived and has been replaced with an Ultimation 2000 unit which is not run from the concession stand. The miniature lamphouses (I think 600 watt) were replaced immediately with 1600 watt Kneisleys and the Christie AW-3 platter replaced the number 2 projector. Since we now run on the number 1 Simplex XLT projector which was closest to the center our left side keystone is significantly reduced.(All Jerry Lewis plans that I have seen for single story theaters have keystones on the sides of the screen although our screen is also a few inches closer to the audience on the left side than the right side.) The original sound system was mono with a 35 watt Simplex amp and 15" speaker. We now have a Dolby Digital sound system with JBL speakers and Crown amps.

Here are some more specs for those of you who are interested: Building is 42'W X 110 long (too narrow to split nicely). Theater is 72 feet long with a screen size maximized in scope at 25 X 12. Emergency exits are down stairs on each side of the screen. The seats are installed as pairs along the wall with 2 side aisles and 14 seats across the middle. Over the years, the seat bottoms were replaced with plain gray seat covers and the lower half of the curtains on the side walls were cut off and replaced with gray carpeting below a wooden chair rail. I would have sworn on a stack of bibles that the wall carpet and seat bottoms were blue but I was proved wrong when we finally installed large fluorescent cleaning lights. That proved that the gray piece of carpeting used in the basement was an exact match for the blue carpet on the theater wall.

Lobby is 37 feet long, but lobby width (42 feet) is reduced by concession stand / boxoffice on one side with bathrooms/projection booth on opposite side. Boxoffice window is outside but under the marquee. The original turnstile was removed by us so that customers didn't have to go through a cattle counter (respect for our customers and ADA compliance).

I have found out that in the early 70's concession was not the big deal that it is now. Our cashier was supposed to work the boxoffice AND the concession. The Exhibitor might help her out a little especially at the Intermission when most of the sales were made. Her change fund for the boxoffice was supposed to be $50 and her concession change fund was $10. She was also supposed to come to work 1/2 hour earlier than the boxoffice opened so that she could fix her hair and makeup. (These gems culled from the franchise books).

The first film shown here was John Wayne in RIO LOBO (adults $1.50, children .75) with a childrens matinee on Presidents Day, 1972 - TARZAN'S DEADLY SILENCE and a cartoon carnival. DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER started the following Wednesday.

It is fitting that we are now running Peter Pan in RETURN TO NEVERLAND because the tiny little kids are coming in and feeling that special magic that we all love about movies. Their faces light up and I am happy that we are there giving them the best memories in our old theater.
February 20th, 2002
Happy 30th Birthday!!

I am writing this now because I am not sure that this theater will make it to 35 or 40 or 50 years old so might as well celebrate its unique qualities now. I am not sure who will close it and demolish it or when but the forces are swirling around it. If you read all this I thank you.
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