Advice on a theme theater

posted by meaghanek on April 13, 2006 at 6:56 am

I am not sure if I am posting in the right place, but I was wondering if anyone has any experience with theme theaters.

I happen to love horror movies and think that it would be really cool to have a movie theater that plays only horror movies — old ones, new ones, classics. Unfortunately, I have no idea if this is really a feasible idea or if I would have to find a balance of popular movies and horror movies to pay the bills. Any advice?

Also, I am curious to know what the average cost of getting copies of older movies from distributors. I would appreciate any help. Please contact me at .


Comments (9)

EvanC on April 13, 2006 at 8:09 am

This depends on your market area. Nowadays, operating a mainstream theatre is a challenge—but when you narrow the focus of your audience, unless you are doing it as a hobby with no regard for profit or loss, you have to have other attractions to bring money in the door. Not everyone likes scary movies, just like not everyone likes comedies, romance, etc.

For theatre distribution, not all old horror pictures are available—but when you can find them, the cost is usually in the $200-$300 minimum range or 35 to 45% of ticket sales, whichever is greater. You also have to pay shipping both ways for the prints—and if you are running a platter system in your booth, some distributors won’t rent you their prints—since film scratching is common to platter projection.

William on April 13, 2006 at 8:39 am

Another question is how many screens would be at this theatre? (single, twin, tri-plex, 6, 8, etc.)

Everything EvanC posted is pretty much true about the distributuion world.

SpikeSpiegel6262044 on April 13, 2006 at 9:09 am

There is this man in Bristol, CT and he is a major movie buff who runs this awesome museum called The Witches Dungeon and for a while, he was running a “Night at The Bijou.” Series at a small cineplex in Bristol. He showed horror films for a while until the landlord decided to close the movie house down and wanted to make the building something else.

Evan is right, but here’s an idea.

By the way, I am a big Anime Fan, and if I opened a theater here in Newington showing nothing but Japanese Anime Movies. It would die in a heartbeat. Anime is too exotic for the town, it would do better in places like West Hartford, Texas, or California.

On to the idea, if you are in college, why don’t you start a Horror Movie Club? Or maybe you can see if your local library or the local theater group in town can do something. They can have like a “Classic Horror Movie Film Night”

ggates on April 13, 2006 at 10:59 am

A theme would be a great idea, but not exclusive to horror for long runs. Very quickly, the novelty would wear off. Maybe a theme a month would work. Maybe weekend midnight shows. Or Saturday “kiddie matinees”. Sounds like a return to the good old days would be interesting.
Nowadays, AMC puts in a few rows on risers, and calls it “stadium seating”, then puts in some tables and people eat food while watching the show, and call it a “Premium Theatre”. No wonder the business has become so pathetic.

CTCrouch on April 13, 2006 at 12:14 pm

As alluded to previously, you’d be far better off having the theme being an annual or semi annual occurance, rather than a day to day thing. A weekly, monthly, or seasonal theme showing would also allow you to develope an “event” atmosphere that would draw larger crowds. I once worked at a theatre that held a yearly horror fest in October. They ran standard fair throughout the year, but devoted the last Saturday of October to a horror theme. In addition to showing horror films, the theatre was decorated accordingly and there were contests/games/prizes. Being a special event, there was always a pretty good turn out. This same theatre had tried a weekly Saturday horror/sci-fi late night showing, but it never pulled in a sizable audience with any regularity.

drgroovymovie on April 13, 2006 at 2:05 pm

How about a nice family movie.

jukingeo on April 14, 2006 at 3:56 am

Hello Meaghan,

I myself am looking into a theater, but for Performing Arts purposes.

While I do think your idea is cool, it is not practical in its current state (I will explain what you can do to make it better). Both Evan and Gabby are both correct. You couldn’t make a living off this project unless you think bigger or offer more. As you probably already know, there is a reason why just about all the small single, twins, and trip screen theatres have disappeared. There is very little money in films. Have you noticed it is only the huge cineplexes with a dozen or more theatres are the only ones that make it nowadays? Yup, there is strenth in numbers…but even so there is still very little profit in movies. The only money to be had in movies is made off the consessions. That is where the true profit lies in movies. I am pretty sure you have screamed when you paid $5 for a coke and $5 for a small bag of popcorn…but face it, if the theatres didn’t charge those high prices, they couldn’t exist.

Combined with what I said above AND the fact that your idea is VERY specialized, I believe it would die a very quick and painless death. There just wouldn’t be enough interest to support something like this.

But there is something you can do. What you could do is expand on some of the ideas others posted here. I had a similar idea to yours a while back, but lacked the ‘$’.

Getting to the details we know the big problem is the ‘novelty effect’ as Gabby has pointed out.

So I came up with an idea that could work for you. But like in my case you will probably need mega $ for it to work.

I believe what would work is if you transformed your theme theatre into a small entertainment center.

Here take a look at this website:

This is an entertainment complex. I live close to the Long Island Farmingdale one. This should give you some ideas.

Pretty cool place huh? Ok, now keeping that in mind…lets move on.

What a good idea for you would be to find yourself a small multiplex theatre that has closed down. In my area alot of UA multiplexes have closed down because they were built too small and the bigger chains (Loews (AMC) and National Amusements) put them out to pasture. Many don’t have the new stadium seating which is popular now. So the end result is that UA shut most of the theatres down and there a bunch of them floating around, sitting empty, waiting to be used again…or waiting to be destroyed. If this is the case in the area you are planning your project, you could probably pick up a building like this for a good price. Say you have a dozen theatres in the multiplex to work with. What you could do is keep half of them and with the other half, build a entertainment center around it based on movie themes. Offer a differnt theme in each of the theatre. Have one be your horror, one sci-fi, one anime, one old B&W’s. In the remodeled area you could build an area that has video games, redemption games. Hyperbowl(a video version of a bowling alley. Put in a small restaurant.

Now you have given the people a reason to STAY. If they stay, they will patronize your services. You will make more $ off each person.

Now you have the makings of something feasible. Not only have a place that not only you can open to a wide range of public interest, but you can also cater out to parties, special events, schools, etc.

As I said, this is a massive undertaking and will require the big bucks…several mil to give you an idea. But if you can get the bucks and have good finacial backing (i.e. investors). This is very well possible.

I believe I can help you out with this one (not financially, but idea wise), but would be a tremendous undertaking and you would have alot of homework to do.

Do you know what Business Plans and Feasiblity studies are?

If not, then that is good place to start your research.

Hopefully I got your gears turning.

Have a good day :).


RaneyOnline on April 26, 2006 at 5:39 am

I am a Horror Movie fan also and think it would be awsome to visit a theater like this. But, a yearly pilgramage would not support your efforts to keep the theater alive.
Maybe if the theater were part of a museum of horror movies or if it included a wax museum, restaurant, and book store. The restaurant would allow repeat customers for local townspeople and the bookstore could allow for personal meet/greet or book signing opportunities.
Could you tell us were you live or what location you are thinking about? I would say a large city or tourist area (Salem, MA ?)would be neccessary.

PaigeL on September 8, 2007 at 6:32 pm

I too have the thought of a theme theater (that is how I found these posts), I really appreciated all of the advice given and was wondering if anyone had any more information or advice on running a (themed) theater or how to get the investments needed? :) I am in Toronto, Canada!

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