Costs of new small town theater?

posted by dschmeink on December 18, 2009 at 7:35 am

I live in a town of 3,500 people with no nearby towns for at least 25 miles that have a theater. How could I find what the demand would be for a movie theater in a county of 36,000 people? Are there still single-screen theaters running in small towns anymore? How much would it cost to build a new, single-screen theater? Bad idea? Good idea?

Comments (11)

cahammoaz on December 18, 2009 at 9:11 am

i have some contacts and info for web site.

Chris Hammontree
Kingman,Az 86409

historiccinemas on December 18, 2009 at 10:06 am

You can hire The Cinema Preservation Group in Asheville NC to do a feasibility study on your project to make 100% certain that the theatre is feasible, they just finished a study in Kingsport TN.

The number is 800-353-8417 and their site is

William on December 18, 2009 at 2:45 pm

You can get alot of answers about your question over at big screenbiz. Just do a search about opening a theatre.

longislandmovies on December 18, 2009 at 7:22 pm


hnelson330 on December 20, 2009 at 1:11 am

Lots of singles still running… but are any companies OPENING singles and twins anymore? I imagine the overhead costs alone would be huge, let alone getting film companies to distribute to such a small theater.

danpetitpas on December 29, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Hmm. I don’t think any companies are opening singles or twins anymore. The film industry is set up to discriminate against such theaters. For example, with the last Batman movie, you had to take it for five weeks. Admissions typically decline 50% a week, so by the third week, you’re not seeing much business. The larger theaters will simply move a movie to a smaller auditorium and fill their larger screens with the latest release.

And, you’re right, the overhead costs of opening a new theater are huge. But film brokers can get you films. It’s up to you, however, whether you make money on them or not.

ImpendingDoom on January 2, 2010 at 11:22 pm

There are still MANY singles and even twins still open and running. I work for a recently re-opened twin, and previously worked in the twin for some years before it was closed/remodled/re-opened. If you can manage a small theatre corectly, (this includes keeping a tight inventory, keeping a good reputation with customers, keeping prices on tickets and concessions reasonable and still make profit) then a single screen or a twin can be a little gold mine. I have been in the theatre business my entire life, and if someone where to open a small theatre, I would suggest that you have AT LEAST 2 screens, better yet 3…4 at the most for a small theatre. All in all, the small theatres can make it just as the larger ones. Ive seen this one im around running strong (aside from a re-model) for almost 40 years.

virginiamotionpictures on January 23, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Virginia Motion Pictures (North Baltimore, OH – Population of 3500) operates a 1-screen with Mega-plex’s 10 minutes south and 10 minutes north of us. We do enough to support the operations – but not enough to sustain an income. Especially the older generation and “kids” enjoy these theatres, however, you have to be selective of your movies and put a lot of effort for your market. Contact me if you need further information:

I would also recommend to hire The Cinema Preservation Group in Asheville NC for studies.


sentimentalJim on February 23, 2010 at 3:42 pm

In Tampa Florida the Tampa Pitcher Show[1 screen] has been there for 25 years or so,and downtown, the Tampa Theater[1 screen] has been around since 1926.Just depends on how you run the business.

elkridgecinemas on April 2, 2010 at 1:02 am

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TowneCinema on September 17, 2012 at 4:49 pm

As an owner of a one screen theater, I can advise you NOT to go with one screen. If you’ve done your homework you already know that most of your new movies have to be held at least two weeks to as much as four weeks (Warner Bros is bad for the 4 week movie). If you choose a poor movie you’re stuck with it for that length of time. I strongly urge you to reduce the seats in your proposed one screen to 75 and increase your screens to three. Yes, it will cost more, but you will have more flexibility with your movies. You HAVE to make your customers want to choose your little theater over your competition, and if you don’t have the movie they want to see when it comes out, then you’ve lost that customer for that week, which in turn, loses you money. If you go with 3 or more screens, I suggest you have at least one auditorium with more seats (100 or more) for those big hit movies that come once in a blue moon. I would also suggest putting a small arcade in. With a town of your size, I would also look into being a concert location for your local bands.

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