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TOPIC: Considering a purchase and requesting guidance

Considering a purchase and requesting guidance 29 Mar 2011 17:06 #35616

There is a 1930's era single screen (720 seats including balcony at last count) theatre abandoned and for sale in my home town--about 6 million people. I am considering buying/restoring the building,then opening a theatre inside. The building is a landmark of the area. The neighborhood is a little run down, but it's less than 5 blocks from two expanding developments--the first: a large private university--the second: an artsy, bohemian, hangout district. The closest screen is 8 miles away and is a first-run multiplex. There is a former restaurant attached to the building.

My thought is to run classics and art/independent films and turn the restaurant into a beer/wine/coffee bar. Using that area as a reception hall, I've considered renting the facility out as a wedding venue to help supplement income. Running events with movie tie-ins, I hope to create a destination for the artsy crowd and a regular date night for the university.

Any thoughts on things I should consider? Am I out of my mind for thinking that this could work?
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Re: Considering a purchase and requesting guidance 29 Mar 2011 17:33 #35617

  • rufusjack
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My first thoughts:

a) as always read every post here on this forum
b) due to the large population you are probable in a very high coded/regulated area.....what would it take to be ready to be occupied?
c) arthouse business seems to take a while to develop
d) 720 is wayyyyyy more seats than you will need.

1) How long ago was it last used as a theater?
2) Can the balcony be used for a second screen WITHOUT losinf any coolness that a typical 1930's theater may have?
3) How is parking?
4) Approximate sale price?
5) what shape are the seats in?
6) any booth equipment still there?

Good luck and move very cautiosly.
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Re: Considering a purchase and requesting guidance 29 Mar 2011 20:27 #35619

The building is zoned for commercial/residential multi-use and is structurally sound; however, vandals stole nearly all internal copper several years ago. So opening would be after a near "to the studs" restoration including electric and plumbing. I optimistically think of the vandalism as a head start on drywall removal and getting up to code--what's left of the internal wiring would have had to be replaced regardless.

It was last used as theatre in the late 1980's, when it was a second run Spanish-language house.

Using the balcony as a second screen is an interesting idea. I'll have to check the possibility of that. Maybe as a more intimate "screening" room.

25 parking spaces next to the theatre, another 40 next to the restaurant. The smaller needs repaving pretty desperately.

The theatre was listed 5 years ago at a half million. After sitting vacant through a real estate nightmare and being ransacked, the seller has become extremely motivated. In initial conversations the restuarant, theatre and parking lots are looking to move together in the 200 to 275 thousand dollar range, maybe much less. (The seller floated those numbers, no idea what his taking price might actually be.)

Seats range from not bad to "no way I'm touching that without proper protective gear." They are period appropriate so if replaced by modern seating would take my seat count down by a quarter at least--maybe half.

The booth is a lost cause as far as I can tell, but I'll continue to investigate. Maybe there's a diamond in that rough.
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Re: Considering a purchase and requesting guidance 30 Mar 2011 11:21 #35620

  • lionheart
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Of all the information you shared, the one thing that jumps out at me first is the parking. You need to check your local parking codes. If I remember right, there is typically a requirement to provide one parking space for every so many people. In my case, the small town was satisfied with the available on-street parking and the small municipal lot in the rear of the building, because it was a downtown location. But, I believe some cities will require one space for every 3.5 people or something similar. If that were the case, your parking would only be enough for about 227 people including both the theater and restaurant. You have to assume that every seat is filled; so, you can't create capacity greater than your parking will allow for. One helpful thing is that often cities do not apply the parking rules in downtown areas. You just have to check and see what the parking code is for your site.

As for the poor condition of the property and needed upgrades and renovation, I can sympathize. I went through something similar. It is always hard to estimate the cost of that kind of project. Whatever you think it will be... double it and maybe you will be close.

If you provide public access to the balcony, either as a balcony or as a second screen, you may need to provide handicap access as mandated by the ADA. Since you will be doing major renovations, handicap accessibility will be required in most of your facility with only a few exceptions (maintenance spaces, etc). In some locales, officials may even want you to provide handicap access to the booth. For sure, any stage or performance areas have to be handicap accessible. Check out ADA requirements before you go too far. It can be a deal breaker.

If anyone is interested in a theater that has already been twinned and renovated, I have one for sale in Oklahoma. No construction headaches, just a turn-key operation. A buyer could have it going again in short order.
Last Edit: 30 Mar 2011 12:20 by lionheart.
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