Newby Needs Help

posted by distinctionart on March 21, 2006 at 4:32 am

Hi, I am getting ready to open a theater and need lots of advice. I am in an artsy area and plan on showing art films and independent films. There is currently no projection equipment or a functional screen in the theater. Can someone please give me an idea of what type to buy, a good place to buy, and the typical cost of the projection equipment as well as the cost to run the movies?

I really appreciate any help I can get.

Thanks again

Comments (12)

larrythomas on March 21, 2006 at 6:05 am

I am a booker who specializes in art/indie films. Drop me an e-mail with your questions. No charge or obligation for the info.

PeterApruzzese on March 21, 2006 at 6:51 am

Also check the forums on, a resource site for independent theatre owners.

mikea on March 21, 2006 at 11:12 am


We have a theater building located in Lacrosse, Wisconsin. We have projector equipment, curtains, Art Deco theater seats,light bars, etc. We will sell as a package deal. If you are interested, please contact us at the information below.
Hope that this helps!
Thanks and as always have a great day!
Mike A

jon6444 on March 21, 2006 at 11:48 am

I have a used screen (13'x24') available for $500, includes frame, masking and a curtain motor…..I also have appox 750 used seats from circa 1940’s by american seating…in good mechanical condition, just a little fadded and dirty ($5 each) let me know if interested.

Jon Flynn
Fairborn Performing Arts

Saskgrl on March 28, 2006 at 7:59 am

Hi Melissa;

I recently did some research on starting a Community Movie Theatre here in rural Saskatchewan, and I figured that I could get everything I needed to start up for around $20,000 Can$(excluding building).

I did talk to many projectionists here in Saskatchewan, and they all suggested getting Century Projection Heads. They tell me that they are easier to maintain and fix, but are of course, not top of the line anymore.

You do know that you if you break even on the theatre side of things, you are doing great? Most of the money made in the theatre is from the concession.

I was also told that you can do the booking of movies yourself, but it is very time consuming. It may be that your time will be better spent somewhere else, and that a booker can do that for you.

Good luck in your endeavor, and keep us posted on how things are going. If I can be of futher assitance, just ask.


jukingeo on April 2, 2006 at 12:39 pm

Hello Melissa,

Congradulations on your endeavor. I myself am very much interested in theatre and would like to either be a part of a theatre organization or even buy a place for myself. Brenna is right unfortunately. I found out very quickly that movies will not make you much. Luckily my interest lies in the Performing Arts and more can be had going that route.

I am getting the gist that your theatre was/is a performing arts theatre if you are requesting projection equipment. Doing movies is fine, but don’t box yourself into altering the theatre to the point that you can ONLY do movies. Design the theatre in a way that in addition to movies you can do Performing Arts, Town/Company Events, Concerts, and don’t forget schools.

Just my 2 cents. But I know the feeling. I saw the movie “The Majestic” and wanted to fix up an old theatre for myself. But the initial drive was sparked in the 80s by a record album cover…believe it or not.

Good luck with your venture!

CinemaPresentations on April 3, 2006 at 12:19 pm

Hi Melissa-
Congratulations on your undertaking! As an installing motion picture sound engineer I can answer any specific qestions you may have about screen size, required wattage, projector choices, lens selection, etc. The price range is quite wide, depending on physical requirements and required/desired operational features. I can also recommend a few honest equipment dealers (and warn you about some others)

Baylink on April 7, 2006 at 12:49 pm

As a sidebar to this topic, (since I’d like to do something like this myself, but with classics — from GWTW to Airplane), can anyone comment on the practicality of purchasing the prints and how one would go about paying the exhibition rights fees exclusive of renting the prints?

I plan to rotate the titles on a regular basis, and it seems like it would be easier to just buy them from the collector circuit than to run the risk that Airplane will suddenly become popular again and the only copy in the country will be somewhere else. :–)

nelsonexpert on May 17, 2006 at 9:31 pm

You wouldn’t get away with playing “collectors prints” before they shut you down. You have to use the distributors as your source for film as they hold the copyrights and have the prints. Typically there is a guarantee of $200-$300 per title versus a percentage of 35% (I’m talking about classics). What will kill you is the shipping. The numbskulls did away with the 30 film barns we had in this country and a lot of prints are now located in only one or two places and they have to be shipped everywhere. Most of the classics are in L.A. and the dumb distributors insist that everything be shipped via air, which adds even more cost. The shipping costs will often exceed your guarantee

nelsonexpert on May 17, 2006 at 9:38 pm

The original poster says she wants to run art/indie pix. We would hope that you are aware of the BIG MONEY needed to acquire first run product. You also have to consider will you be ABLE to get first run product? Who’s your competition? What are they doing? Even the chains show art pix now: AMC, Carmike, Regal, etc. IF you have a chain as a competitor and they are playing the art pix you want, you will have a hard time wresting those away from them. A lot of this depends on the market you are in. An art house in New York City does not have the same challenges that an art house in a smaller town in Missouri may have, or a more competitive market like Kansas City, Seattle, etc.

jukingeo on May 18, 2006 at 2:11 am

CJARRETT—Is this true of all film sourcing or only “collector prints”. The reason I ask is that I am in the midst of purchasing a theatre. The building is a combo live act/movie house and I am mainly interested in the live act part. I probably will run some first runs during the slow periods. But I do have to figure out where to get the films from and what the costs or for a market study/and business plan. You seem knowledgable in the ‘film’ department and I wonder if you could tell me what these costs are.

Thank You,


Baylink on May 18, 2006 at 2:18 am

cjarret: what part of “I’m perfectly willing to pay them” is it that no one ever seems to get?

“They won’t do it that way” would be an acceptable answer, but no one ever seems to couch it in those terms, as you haven’t.

> You have to use the distributors as your source for film as they hold the copyrights and have the prints.

No, that’s not the reason I would have to do it that way. “Because they say so” is. :–}

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