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TOPIC: Restoring an old small-town cinema

Restoring an old small-town cinema 08 Jan 2012 06:15 #37717

  • Cdmoore66
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I am considering a purchase of a historic movie theater in a small town. There are larger cities on the outskirts of town, and on cinema with 14 screens within 20 miles. My idea is to create a unique movie experience that is not available within at least 2-3 hours of town. I want to turn this old theater into a cinema pub. The theater is equipped with a balcony and seats about 200 people. I am looking for resources, ideas, suggestions and any information someone with experience has to offer! Thanks in advance.
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Re: Restoring an old small-town cinema 08 Jan 2012 07:00 #37719

  • revrobor
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I assume this theatre is at least several decades old and is a single screen.. If that is true I would encourage you to restore it and run it as it was run "back in the day". That sort of theatre experience is not available at multiplexes. RoxyVaudville, who posts on these forums would be a good contact for advise as that is what he has done with his theatre. I would discourage you from turning it into a cinema-pub. There are enough bars for people who want to drink but there are no or few quality family theatres. I have owned and operated several theatres like the one I suggested. If I can be of any further assistance PM me.
Bob Allen
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Re: Restoring an old small-town cinema 09 Jan 2012 02:58 #37721

  • JPRM
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It's VERY rare that I'd disagree with revrobor, and he knows and understands theaters as well as anyone. But I do believe that theater pubs have their place and can be a very smart way to go.

There are several successful theater pubs where I live, and I have some random observations on them. First, a HUGE percentage of customers in these places buy concessions, and they spend more than I see folks spending at other theaters. (A - pizza, B - couples don't share a glass of beer the way they'll share a soft drink.) Second, I've never, ever seen anyone get drunk at one of these theaters (this is over the course of hundreds of visits). And third, unless a market is overserved with such businesses, a theater pub can be special because it offers an experience that the chains can't.

If there's one big reason for all of the above, I'd say it's that theater pubs I've known are not perceived as bars that happen to show movies. They're not even seen as theaters that happen to have bars. They're more like theaters that have little cafes.

Keep in mind, this is coming from someone who could have opened 10 bars or clubs in the time it's taking to open just one theater. One big reason I don't want to do the former is that I don't want to deal with drunk, unruly customers. But, in my observation and in all the asking around I've done, I've not seen a hint that beer and wine create problems in a movie theater. Very simply, the customers aren't going to these theaters to get drunk - and they're not ordering beer after beer. When I asked the owner of one of these places if offering beer had created problems, he shook his head and said "none." He went on to tell me how his audiences were always well-behaved because they were adults, not teenagers.

My feeling is that when theater pubs are done right, they become an affordable, easy night out for everyone from twentysomethings to young parents to folks who just want to avoid all the noise, expense and hassle of the multiplexes. If people want to go out and get drunk, a theater pub would be an absolutely awful place to do it.
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Re: Restoring an old small-town cinema 10 Jan 2012 22:22 #37732

  • Mike
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needless to say but I will say it: as a former bar owner, if you are going to be selling booze you need to be prepared to deal with people who are high, working on getting high, or quite out of it. Many theatre/cafe/pubs also show live sporting stuff and I have been there and seen it: it's pretty much what you would expect. It's different than showing a quiet movie. It is a crowd experience with alcohol infused. You have to be a professional. If the reason you want a bar or movie theatre with ia bar is because you like to drink: the road to hell and ruination is well worn. :huh: Be careful.
Michael Hurley
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Re: Restoring an old small-town cinema 11 Jan 2012 00:59 #37734

  • JPRM
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I'd agree with Mike completely on showing sporting events in a theater-pub. A long game offers plenty of breaks for customers to go to the lobby and buy more beer. It's a completely different experience (and one that invites a lot more bad behavior) than watching a movie.

That said, I'm a big fan of the theater-pub idea as a business because I've seen how well it can work for second-run. Customers go to these theaters, save a bundle on admission and feel that they can treat themselves a bit at the concession stand. You're offering them 'dinner and a movie,' after all. My wife and I go to these theaters, and I'm sure we're quite typical; we'll each order a slice of pizza, I'll have a beer, and she'll have a soft drink.

That's a sale of about $14 on concessions for one couple. One note: good pizza from a local pizzeria is a must. There's nothing 'special' about a nameless, frozen pizza.

Very, very different vibe and atmosphere from a bar, though. I can compare to my experience in bars later (not a drinker...I'm a musician), but I'm really not exaggerating when I say I've never seen anyone drunk at a theater-pub.
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Re: Restoring an old small-town cinema 11 Jan 2012 19:33 #37738

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most of the places I have been at are waiter/waitress ops. Reel Cinema in Bar Harbor Maine uses a bingo number board to announce your order is ready... B6!
Michael Hurley
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Re: Restoring an old small-town cinema 20 Mar 2012 18:49 #38126

  • K White
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How do I find this RoxyVaudville on the board? I'd like to read their exerpts.
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Re: Restoring an old small-town cinema 20 Mar 2012 20:14 #38128

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Type RoxyVaudville in the search bar at the top of the page and it will bring them up.
Bob Allen
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