Midnight Movie showing advice

posted by gritz76 on May 7, 2009 at 7:47 am

I was wondering if anyone had any info and insight on how I would go about showing older movies on a single screen theater.

Where do I go to find these? What can and can’t I show? How much will it cost to show older movies?

I’ve been kicking around the idea of opening a single screen theater that would specialize on showing older movies that most have not had the chance to see on the big screen. I am also interested in hosting midnight showings of older and newer B-movies. I want to concentrate on quality movies, a great vintage atmosphere, and a concession stand that would serve a vast variety of home grown recipes and snacks.

Comments (28)

KenLayton on May 7, 2009 at 7:52 am

The forums at www.bigscreenbiz.com is the place to go.

HowardBHaas on May 7, 2009 at 7:58 am

It is fantasy time? classics & midnight movies as primary source of profit????

monika on May 7, 2009 at 9:06 am

One can dream, Howard……

MPol on May 7, 2009 at 10:01 am

Who knows? WIth more people flocking to the movies now, especially with the economy the way it is, what would be so impossible about making money from Classic movies and midnight movies?

CapnRob on May 7, 2009 at 3:29 pm

I can remember when Boulder, Colorado would have 6 to 8 midnight movies on a Friday night. I have trouble imagining 1 midnight movie, now days. When you’ve got 7.1 surround and HDTV (and you can watch in your underwear) it’s hard to sell going out for a movie… and that is a drag.

gritz76 on May 7, 2009 at 10:14 pm

Our town has a population of around 26,000. The most popular thing to do is to go to the movies. I’m kind of looking to aim for the pot smoking crowd for the midnight shows, more family friendly shows during the day and filling in the middle with some good classic cinema. I think my town has the right mix of people to make this idea possible. I would keep the ticket prices low and hope for a larger crowd. I know if we had a theater that does this, I would be there. Also our theater does run midnight shows for the new releases and are always sold out, many times on multiple screens.

KingBiscuits on May 8, 2009 at 12:43 am

Run Half Baked. And Cheech and Chong. Also, Harold and Kumar and the first two Friday movies.

monika on May 8, 2009 at 12:44 am

Look at larger markets and see what is working for them and adapt it to your town’s demographic. I know that many cities Landmark has theatres in do midnight showings regularly.

arottingfetus on May 8, 2009 at 1:30 am

The pothead crowd is a great crowd to tap into. They are the midnight movie crowd. As a concessionist, most of our crowd after 11pm were people who reeked of it, and they will spend at the stand. We looked the other way on people puffing in their cars in the back lot, because we knew they’d have the munchies and they would buy alot of food.

MPol on May 8, 2009 at 1:24 pm

College students, too, are a great crowd to tap into for the midnight movie crowd(s). I bet if you ran movies like “The Warriors”, “The Gremlins”. and a bunch of others like that for your midnight movies programs, you might attract a good crowd, but I guess that’s just my opinion.

Older classics, specially for the 40 and older crowds, are an excellent idea, but I’m sure that if you ran enough of those, at good hours, both during the day and earlier in the evening, you might also get a good crowd. “Midnight Cowbow”, “West Side Story”, “Sound of Music”, “Lawrence of Arabia” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” come to mind here, also, when it comes to the golden oldie-but-goody classic films. Again, that’s just my opinion.

Hope I’ve been of some help here. All the best of luck to you.

gritz76 on May 8, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Mpol, You are pretty much on my wavelength. For the 40 crowd I was thinking those movies and making it an event of sorts. I would save those for Fridays. Maybe run a Sat night double feature starting at 10 or so and have the headline movie start at midnight. Something like The Night of the Living Dead/Texas Chainsaw Massacre double feature. My main concern is how hard is it to secure these types of movie for a showing? If it’s next to impossible I’ll stop dreaming right now, but if it would be easy I’ll start looking for a location soon! I was also thinking of adding an arcade full of classic games and a pinball room. Make it all a throwback to easier times!

MPol on May 9, 2009 at 11:47 am

Thanks, gritz76. Sounds like you’ve got a good idea going there. Again, all the best of luck in making this dream come true!

richjr37 on May 9, 2009 at 1:48 pm

Run “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and you’re assured a nice size crowd on a Saturday night. Just remember to post rules regarding what,if any,props you’ll allow in.

“Heavy Metal”,“Pink Floyd:The Wall” & “Eraserhead” are good,as well.

KingBiscuits on May 10, 2009 at 12:50 am

I imagine that the easiest way to do double features is to run two films from the same studio. That way the shipping costs and tracking down the prints won’t be as much of a headache as it would with a double feature with films from two different studios.

Examples Of Such Same Studio Double Features:
Pink Floyd: The Wall and Brainstorm (MGM/Warner Bros.)
Friday and Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle (New Line)
The Muppet Movie and The Dark Crystal (Universal)
Night Of The Creeps and The Monster Squad (Sony)
The Big Lebowski and Blood Simple (Universal)
Wayne’s World and Tommy Boy (Paramount)
Freaked and Idiocracy (Fox)

and so on

gritz76 on May 10, 2009 at 4:10 pm

How big of a space would you guys suggest looking for. I’m thinking between 100 and 200 seats, probably closer to 100. There is an older church for sale in a good location that would be really cool to utilize. As far as I can tell it has a 44' sanctuary, but it looks a lot longer than that to me. This sounds kind of small to me, but then again I really have no clue. I would also like to thank those of you who are offering words of encouragement, it is greatly appreciated.

Cfisher23 on May 11, 2009 at 12:01 am

The more seats the better, no one in the movie theater business every said they wish they had fewer seats. You are better to buy a old movie house. Where are you looking to buy? I know of a few theaters that are perfect for that. Also remember that you don’t want to go too new with your movies.

gritz76 on May 11, 2009 at 12:04 pm

I’m in northwest Illinois. We have a historic downtown that is just about empty. The only older movie house type theater was torn down about 20 yrs ago. My thinking on the size is I would rather have a smaller theater that is sold out than have more empty seats than people. I have really just begun to think about location so I am still open to any ideas.

richjr37 on May 11, 2009 at 1:44 pm

100 to 200 seats? in a town of 26,000? You better keep the ticket and concession prices prices reasonable if you intend to keep a movie theatre of that size in operation. You could have your night time price be $5.00 for adults and $2.50 for kids 12 and under with $2.50 matinee pricing and a flat $5.00 price for midnight shows.

Perhaps set a day during the middle of the week for matinee pricing all day.

Keep concession prices just as low and who knows.

How far is it to the nearest theatre from your area?

MPol on May 12, 2009 at 6:59 am

Hey gritz! I agree with the idea of not going too new with your movies. Let the people who want to see today’s schlockier movies have the multiplexes (meaning with 10-20, or more movie theatres in one building)

rsjones2 on May 12, 2009 at 6:44 pm

This idea sounds really good. I work for an AMC and we show classic films (one a week) as a way to fill some room in our megaplex. Print renting is actually sort of cheap depending on the company. Warner Bros. (Time Warner) had the cheapest prints so I would suggest hitting up Warner Bros in the opening weeks. They had some decent titles for around $1000 if you do charge $5 a ticket for your prime you should be covering the print charge quickly. On WB’s website they should have contact info for getting prints. Something that really helped our classic program take off was the timing of playing movies, for example Easter weekend we did Ten Commandments. The location should be in a easily accesible but nonethless busy and ‘good’ area of town, so a church could be good place. And of course advertise advertise advertise, give away free tickets to some people for the grand opening, email newsletter, radio, community events sponsorships, get a spot in the newspaper, websites, etc..

Now this last idea I’m going to mention is something way out of left field but after you start making a profit from this it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to get a digital slide projector, there not to expensive and they bring in advertising revenue and you could hook them up to a Internet connection and run live events (for slow weekdays) which is suppose to be the ‘next big thing’ after the 3D wave settles in. Movie Theaters can’t beat the super bowl on super Sunday, so show it. You might want to disregard my last idea I’ll completely understand if anyone thinks it’s stupid.

Good luck, and if you do get your idea going make a page for it here, I’ll defiantly like to visit. (Defiantly try to book the Wizard of Oz that was our highest grossing classic and it brought MONSTER crowds of all ages, with occasional sell out crowds. We covered that print cost in one day and that’s not including the revenue it brought to our concession stand.)

Marcel on May 21, 2009 at 12:08 pm

As far as I know there is only one theater in the U.S. still doing this and that’s the New Beverly Cinema in West L.A. They have been running double bills of films from the 40’s-present and midnight movies for the past thirty plus years.

mike0618 on May 23, 2009 at 4:34 pm

I tried pursuing this type of idea a few months ago with a repo’d theatre in michigan. was trying to lease it but the bank just sold it. I have lots of ideas to make this work but I want to go in woth someone who can get the site. I know I can make it work. I dont care what part of the country it is. If you or anyone else is interested in opening a classic theatre type theatre call or email me.

I have 19 yrs in the business as a manager, projectonist, etc.

mike 810-964-0764

trusse4 on July 9, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Many great ideas here! I am working with a group that has an old theater and wants to show revival-style films on DVD. How do I get the rights to do this legally? Depending upon the costs of this will determine if it is a feasible option. Do we still need to go through a booker?

JCL on July 14, 2009 at 10:01 am

Happy to see so many people “positive” in keeping those dreams alive.

Reality tho, is a long hard road for anyone. Make sure you have very ‘deep pockets’ and lots of full devoted time to the task.

Out of necessity I started working theatres at age 12 during the 1950s. Ended up in theatre management/ownership for 30 years. Over those years I have seen just about every type and experiment with film venues, from: ‘60-70s the 'rivival’ houses bringing back the films of 1930-40s, (in Berkeley and S.F). to Midnight shows of Rocky Horror. College towns with the advent popularity of Art and Foreign film fare.

College areas usually the best for a “all around film fare”. Younger folks still seem to have the “hunger and desire” for knowledge and something different to do.

Yes, you still must deal with film studios, whether it is on film or consigned to DVD. This is not a ‘inexpensive trip’. Public domain titles in ‘any’ form, needs no permission to run. However, most of those are not big money-makers.

Theatres, (almost) from the beginning, rely very heavy on ‘concession sales’ for their profit…as the studios take the “big bite” out of the film rental and % costs.

Another idea to consider if you have any kind of ‘stage area’, would be to supplement your income by holding: talent-comedy nights; short plays or improv, etc. That just a ‘throwback’ to old days just being “recycled”…but in a right location just might work.

Good luck to all of those with the dream. JCL

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on November 19, 2009 at 11:00 am

One thing not to do is let it get out of hand.MIDNIGHT SHOWS,read about ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW midnight Show REGENCY MALL 1.2.3. Cinemas GCC Augusta, Ga.It is onCINEMA TREASURES.

hnelson330 on December 20, 2009 at 1:21 am

I haven’t taken the time to read everyone’s comment, so forgive me if I’m repetative.

Older films can usually be rented for about $1000 … but that doesn’t guarantee a quality print. These prints may be scratched or otherwise damaged.

Secondly, I’m not sure the older films will draw crowds, especially with Netflix and other easily accessible sources to view older films.

Back in the ‘90s I was working at a theater that showed a “classic” movie once a week during the first set. Great titles like Breakfast at Tiffanys and West Side Story… and sadly I don’t think we got over 10 people for any of the films.

The RHPS is really the only classic film that I can think of that draws a crowd to the theater.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on December 26, 2009 at 12:32 pm

Unless you are in a major market I just don’t think it would work.Sure we made great money in the 70’s and early 80’s before ALL THIS NEW MEDIA from TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES to so many expaned cable channels,I think it would be a big risk.

awagentx on April 25, 2010 at 1:54 pm

here’s the company to go with for licensing, i would do a largish hd digital projector (think sanyo about $10k) they license for “play from dvd” besides real prints…. so you could with a digi do dvd’s and save print cost, we licensed for outdoor cinema, and it was $500 to show happy feet about 5 mo’s after it left theaters and they shipped us the dvd…. http://www.swank.com/ swank motion pictures

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