So I own a small movie theatre (2 screens) in a small town in Michigan. Probably within the year we have to upgrade to digital projection which costs way beyond our means. It is terrible sad to me because I've given my life to this and we are the only theatre for miles. I would love to know who else is in my situation or answer anything for you.
EDIT 1 Proof: EDIT 2 More proof. This is fun! ** Projector one** Gallery Lobby, Ice Room, Stock Cubby (Yes its only 2.5 feet tall and like 30 feet deep) and our projection room. Edit some larger number than before Wow, these comments are rapid fire. I'm trying to get to each of you. So cool. FRONT PAGE All my reddit dreams came true. I'm working the shows and getting to you guys as quickly as possible. Thanks for your patience. And for putting up with my horrid grammar and spelling. YOU ROCK!
UPDATE Right back, gotta grab smokes.
Update 2 I think I answered every post. Dont stop. keep em coming. You've all been so kind and thoughful. Redeeming mankind in my eyes. Update 3 My day is now done. I'm on my way home. I'll try to get at this, but I am the embodiment of the redditor's wife meme. Update 4 Home. The spirit is willing but the flesh is spongy and bruised. -Zapp Brannigan. 306 amazon women in the mood. One of the best of the whole series as of yet. Anywho, I want to thank all of you for your powerful, funny, witty, touching insight. To the people of Fremont, thank you for your support. Please know that we our honored to be in the community, you are all so loving and kind (in your own special ways ;D) and we do appreciate all of the support. I'm here again tomorrow, once i shake off the sleep. Good night to those who shall be sleeping, and wake up and get to work to those who are getting up. And yada yada its five o'clock somewhere. UPDATE 5 FROM THE LAND OF TOMORROW I'm on my way back to work, gotta make the popcorn.
Update 6 at work, ready for reddit and movies.

Comments: 1936 • Responses: 56  • Date: 

gibsonh901007 karma

Don't ever let anyone tell you that mustache is not incredible

fremontcinemas717 karma

I appreciate that to a tremendous degree. if only i had 2 upvotes.

ubercl0ud249 karma

We had a small theater in my college but they served beer during the shows. So instead of all of us going to some massive theater across town we would just walked downtown and grab a few brews while enjoy a good flick. How many beers would it cost to pay for digital equipment?

fremontcinemas266 karma

Again, we operate in a small conservative town. Some private citizens bought up most of the liquor licences in the town, just to hold on to so fewer people could get wet. So anywhere between 20,000 cases of great microbrew and 58,000 cases of Bud.

YThatsSalty265 karma

Some private citizens bought up most of the liquor licences in the town, just to hold on to so fewer people could get wet.

Sounds like it's time to introduce a "use it or lose it" amendment to the local liquor licensing law.

fremontcinemas186 karma

i know. Its just close mindedness.

angelsil224 karma

Some private citizens bought up most of the liquor licences in the town, just to hold on to so fewer people could get wet

Wow. That's seriously douchey. I expected that kind of crap from Indiana or Kentucky, but Michigan? I am disappoint.

fremontcinemas337 karma

Fact: Someone has a GIANT "sculpture" on their property, maybe 15 feet high of a Hand holding a fetus. and then infront of that, spelled out in white crosses, "ABORTION" in the town where I work.

ubercl0ud174 karma

What the fucking fuck!!

angelsil53 karma

Dude...that is just....wrong

Sightful58 karma

What is? The content itself or the fact that he used Instagram to filter the image?

fremontcinemas35 karma

and i took it from my facebook! ON MY MAC! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH lol.

fremontcinemas50 karma

Mega creepy, just got shivers thinking about it.

GopherInWI206 karma

Are you planning to make the jump to digital?
How much time will it take to recoup that cost?

Edit: I speell gud

fremontcinemas239 karma

My partners and I are discussing that currently. Because our screens are so small, the equiptment would be relatively inexpensive (compaired to other bigger theatres). It would cut our overhead significantly because we wouldn't need the same expertise for alot of our operation (putting movies up, taking them down, fixing breakdowns, stringing the movies). But our attendance has been declining pretty steadily. Partially because of the movies we get, because we are on the bottom of the pecking order. Only a limited number of 35mm prints are available and any given time, and when larger theatres don't release them, we can't get them, so we have to deal with older movies. It would probably take a few years to recoop that cost. But because of the variety of attendence its hard to peg that figure down.

TheMaskedHamster16 karma

I'm not familiar with the equipment, so this is only a guess based on general technical knowledge, but would the right choice in digital equipment allow you to play things that aren't recent feature films (or older films that have survived on 35mm?)?

I would imagine that would enable a lot of options for creative events to get people into the theater.

fremontcinemas21 karma

One or the other. These pieces of equiptment are massive. I'll post pics above.

abballer138 karma

Is it true you don't make any money from box office tickets and most of your margin comes from the popcorn and food?

how does the business model work? do you pay for each reel and all the box office money goes to the film maker while you recoup cost and a small margin? etc.

fremontcinemas227 karma

Right on. Depending on the amount of time that the movie has been released, anywhere from 35-85% of each ticket sold goes to the movie company. But they don't take into account our prices. They figure we should sell each ticket at a set price. ie, we have a twilight hour of 4-5:59 that we sell tickets for 4.50, the studio assumes we sell it at 7.50 and takes 80% or 7.50 either way. They don't care about our discounts. So all the money is from concessions. And it really annoys me sometimes. lulz.

revanfiliaexdeus181 karma

This is why I almost always buy that $5 soda and not feel bad about it.

fremontcinemas143 karma

good on ya!

Aven2ra133 karma

My favorite theatre is the Alamo Drafthouse for several reasons. 1. You can buy beer; and the selection is better than most traditional bars. 2. They have a food menu (not just soda and popcorn) that you can order from. 3. You can order food and beer during the movie and it is brought to you. 4. They play way more than feature films. I like going on Sunday nights to watch The Walking Dead on the big screen, admission is free though it's expected you'll spend some cash on food/drinks. I wish more theatres followed their lead.

fremontcinemas118 karma

I used to go to Brew and View at the Vic in Chicago (I was there for 8 years) and it was always awesome. However, I've never seen the appeal of drinking while watching movies. I'd rather toke. Cause everythings better then. But yeah, i just dropped 20 bucks on this movie, i'm going to pay hella attention. you know?

TBrown18106 karma

What's the worst movie you've ever seen? What's the best? What's the strangest shit that's ever gone down at your theater? Would you rather fight 30 cat sized t rexes, or one t Rex sized cat?

fremontcinemas197 karma

Worst movie, Dark Shadows, currently. Or Carnisaurs 2. Best? Hard. My top five (In order from 5 to 1) 5. Fantastic Mr. Fox. 4.Rashomon 3. The Avengers 2. Shaun of the Dead 1. The Incredibles. Strangest, meh, grossest? New Years Eve, 99-2000. Y2K is about to collapse the known world. An old woman had slipped off of the toilet and continued to #2. Well poo all over the walls of the stall, butt prints EVERYWHERE, hand prints of poo, just like a murder scene of the oddest consistancy dump. We didn't have gloves so I had to use baggies. Just awful. People were coming out of the theatres complaining about the smell. One T-rex sized kitty.

DTX12059 karma

O_O This has me wondering what the rest of that woman's day was like...

fremontcinemas105 karma

It was later in the evening. My guess? Embarrasing, smelly, crusty.

dagdaj105 karma

Do you sell popcorn to go? The theater in my wife's small (2-3k) hometown just started doing that. I find myself buying a big bag at least twice in a 4 day visit.

They also get the Chamber of Comm. to sponsor a weekly matinee during the summer like on Wednesday or something. It's usually an older movie that's already out on DVD type. Various chamber member business are given tickets to give away for free. They advertise in the paper each week who has them. Go into that business, get a free ticket, and maybe pick something up at that store.

Go to the theater and then buy popcorn and soda.

Everyone's a winner.

They also made the digital leap. And the capabilities let them show college football games (I'm sure they have to pay for some of that stuff) and other live/not-live events. They carried a Christmas concert from one of the colleges in the state last year. Sold hot chocolate and popcorn. Packed the place.

I must think I want to own a small town theater, otherwise I wouldn't have paid so much attention to what they do. Hell, I've been lurking for eons here and this AMA prompted me to register and login. 1st post.

fremontcinemas56 karma

Well, I don't know how i feel being the Ambassador from Reddit for you, Please don't let me turn out like the US AMB...well, I'm not going to show Innocence of Islam.
Yes, we have refillable buckets, and we out sell our major competitor, Wesco, a MI gas station. Every says how great it is. There is a description lower, but I've got the time. We use sunflower oil, weaver gold popcorn seed and butter flavored salt known as flavocal. I've worked in movie theatres for upwards of 7 years, everytime I smell popcorn I salivate.
Yeah, I'd also love to have like the old school HALO tourneys like back in the dorms.

daveMTU93 karma

My Uncle owned the local small town theater for years... also in Michigan, Northern Michigan, a lot less populated than Freemont. It only had one screen. When things got slow, they took out some of the front rows and built a stage for live theatre.. It has become a big hit, they have a live Drama club now, a bunch of the town people are got all into it and they have some great shows. He schedules down times with the cinema to facilitate the live theatre.

fremontcinemas75 karma

Thats totally cool! We used to have church groups but the cost of one minimum wage employee to be there is too much for the amount we'd take in.

broncuffaloes90 karma

What's the most memorable thing someone has done to get kicked out of a showing? I remember once in middle high school a friend of mine brought a condom and inflated it, then one of us (could've or could've not being me) threw it on the air and the shape of the inflated condom was projected.

fremontcinemas182 karma

Mostly kids horsing around. I ask people who are making out, to take it to their cars. Cellphones are the bane of my existance. You really need to talk to someone that badly, that you are willing to break the suspension of disbelief for all of those unfortunate enough to have bought a ticket at the same time as you? Sorry, it erks me.

PostPostPostIronic68 karma

Cereal & Cartoons weekend morning fundraiser!

fremontcinemas65 karma

HOLY SHIT. Great idea, and accurate description of my life!

lazychickbum68 karma

Why a movie theatre? How did it all start?

fremontcinemas88 karma

Convience? Well, I worked in one in High school and put myself through college at one as well. It just seemed natural. plus i hate factory work, with a passion.

tal2064 karma

What is the major source of your revinue?

Do you ever do special shows (like Rocky Horror, ect)?

Do you ever get grief over certian movies form the town folks?

fremontcinemas73 karma

Popcorn, No and everyday.

ehizzo40 karma

Have you ever caught someone doing something naughty in a theater? If so, what?

fremontcinemas91 karma

Yeah, I tell them to take it out to their car. I don't make out infront of their netflix. Golden Rule.

DTX12038 karma

What can the small but loyal crowd that these types of theaters usually attract do to help in such situations?

fremontcinemas85 karma

I don't know, don't sneak in candy. Come to movies. Its rough, we have been wracking our brains, and my partners are sharp, (both lawyers. My dad and brother.) but we have come up with very little. We tried tie-in drawings (Spider-man we gave out comics, and Battleship we gave out the game) and we started using facebook. Little to no effect.


Can I sneak in candy to the large AMC without having a guilty conscious?

fremontcinemas67 karma

if that is your prerogative. I cant in good conscious say do something i would hate to someone else. but i love the punk spirit.

Zetto34 karma


fremontcinemas42 karma

STFU and take my money. We are sooooooo small. I'll just have to show you guys my lobby. Please hold.

fremontcinemas74 karma

STFU in reference to, I want to be waited on in a movie. That'd be tits.

emarkd30 karma

Why do you have to upgrade? When I think of small theaters, I think of classics which should be available on film. In fact for lots of classic movie fans, the film is probably part of the draw. Do you show new releases instead?

fremontcinemas33 karma

I haven't researched getting old movies, mostly because they are incredibly expensive, fragile and hard to bring in a steady crowd. I studied film/video/new media in college and I have a deep love of the medium. So idealy that would be how I ran it, but we operate in the bible belt of Michigan, people are very conservative, and they tire quickly of the movies we have. I agree with you though, film does draw, but digital is aggressive.

toucher13 karma

Do you feel that you'll have to make that major direction choice in the near future, between converting to digital and staying as a first-run theater or re-branding as a classics / second run theater?

fremontcinemas21 karma

Just got off the phone with an associate about this exact issue. Sony will be out of 35mm sometime in 2013. So quick. Secondly, all the old movies just sit in a warehouse. I would have no idea about how to get access to those prints and then figure out a payment arrangement. Lots of people need to get paid from these old prints. Plus then shipping costs. Insurance costs. Lots of problematic situations rise.

Hysidres29 karma

The movie theatre i worked at in my hometown shut down last month for this reason

fremontcinemas87 karma

Isn't it demoralizing. The reason that I loved movies are two fold. My brother and I connected over going to movies. Furthermore, they are mini vacations from this unrelenting world. For two hours (give or take) I can be not me, or not involved. I can forget my bills, I can forget my heartaches, while at the same time being reminded of them by theses images on the screen. And still being comforted by that feeling. I feel a very strong connection between myself and other movie makers, not on a personal level, but like a collective level? I mean, in rarer and rarer cases I can feel the empathy of the producers of said film, like lets say "Glory" and I can be both trasported to a dangerous place with absolute personal safety, but still disconnected enough to apply these feelings to my everyday life.

theccab23424 karma

Before you owned your own theatre, did you ever illegally download movies? your know from torrents/usenet/DDL sites or other ways?

fremontcinemas59 karma

I don't want to incriminate myself. Does that answer your question?

b338823 karma

What do you charge for a movie? I used to really enjoy the smaller theatres when we still had them here.

fremontcinemas50 karma

Before 4:00 is $5.50, 4:00-5:59 is $4.50 and then Evening, Adults 6.50, Children (2-12) seniors (60+) 5.50 and Student or Military 5.75. Combo 1: 2 Large Pops and a Large Bucket of Popcorn 8.50. Combo 2. Large pop and popcorn 6.25. 3. Medium pop and popcorn 5.75. 4. Small 4.50.

SigmaStigma23 karma

There are a few small theaters where I live that will show mainstream, and older movies. By older, I'm talking about Buster Keaton, accompanied by a piano player.

I really prefer the ~100 year old theaters. They are beautiful on the inside, and it just feels like something special, as opposed to going to a big theater.

How old is your theater? Did you do any renovations?

What do you usually show?

fremontcinemas26 karma

Early 90's. 19 that is not 18. ~~ And it is kinda rundown, no matter how hard I polish this turd~~. Renovating is kind of low on our priority list. Digital switch is our obsession kinda right now.

WhatAreBirds22 karma

I've always wanted to know this.

How do theaters sync the soundtrack with film itself? Is it just as easy as rewinding everything to the start and then pushing 'Play' for both instruments at the same time?

fremontcinemas46 karma

There is an optical reader on our projector. The film consists of two parts, the image and the soundbar. Just like your EQ on your iTunes, or sound editing software. You know the mountain range looking thing. It just reads it like a tape. It is imprinted directly next to the image on the film.

cat_spasms19 karma

If you live in the Michigan Bible Belt, have you considered screening some of those terrible super-Christian movies and charging churches to see it en mass? That would probably get you the money for the digital equipment!

Edit: grammar corrected by a pirate.

fremontcinemas91 karma

I have some pride. Kirk Cameron is not allowed to headline my theatre. Like Gabe, I'd rather let it all fall apart. ;)

phantominthebrain18 karma

What is your policy on film-goers with CCW permits/Open-carry? Why or why not?

fremontcinemas65 karma

I don't see a place for weapons, anywhere. That being said, I in no way know of a situation where that would be my business. If you have the license than you should know where or where not to bring it. I personally don't have anything to do with the things. Horrid tools that have a sole purpose of destruction. No one ever built a hospital with the butt of their gun.

MoldyBiscuit18 karma

Why popcorns?

fremontcinemas65 karma

Cause its awesome. Plus ours is the best in town, for sure. We use sunflower oil, weaver gold popcorn seed and butter flavored salt known as flavocal. I've worked in movie theatres for upwards of 7 years, everytime I smell popcorn I salivate. Fuckin' Pavlov.

[deleted]28 karma

I fucking love movie popcorn.


fremontcinemas14 karma

Me too!!!

matty2520 karma

Selling quality popcorn is a good start. I go to the movies at least once a week and will avoid theaters with bad popcorn.

I'd consider advertising your popcorn as "the best in town."

fremontcinemas22 karma

word of mouth is all i have right now but good suggestion.

Krltplps18 karma

Any special insights as to what compels humans to do the horrible things they do in movie theater bathrooms? I have never worked in a movie theater, but just as a patron the things I have seen there have been horrifying. You must have some amazing (terrible) stories.

fremontcinemas42 karma

People are just shit monsters sometimes I think. Angry at no one in particular, fuck it, i'll smear shit all over. Maybe?

kellephant17 karma

My city's only independent theatre has just one screen. They are holding a kickstarter to help fund a new projector. Do you plan to do the same?

fremontcinemas19 karma

Thinking about it. My partners aren't very tech saavy so i'd have to come up with a decent proposal, but I'd give it some definate pondering time.

thencomesdudley16 karma

Have you considered switching to a co-op business model? One of the local independent theaters had to do that due to the incredibly high cost of converting to digital.

Also, you should really consider showings of weird/underground/classic movies. It's harder to do, but I bet it'll draw a dedicated following.

fremontcinemas13 karma

Well, right now, as in, 1:43 local time, I am doing our one tradition. 1:00 movies on Wednesday. I would love to show those older movies. Drop some knowledge on their asses, film style.

degeneraded13 karma

I've always wished movie theaters had a daycare. There's a ton of parents that would love to go to a movie but don't because it's too big of a pain to get a sitter on a Saturday night, then pay them $10 - $15 an hour and then afford to go to a movie. I bet people would pay $20 - $30 per child easy to have their children watched while they watch a movie plus you'd get a whole new demo coming in. Parents who often have money. Probably impossible to do, but just a thought.

fremontcinemas11 karma

No room for me, but GREAT idea. Although, we are used like a babysitter for older children. Fucking sad sometimes.

daydreamingmama12 karma

Where in MI is this? I live in MI! Are your movies closed captioned?

fremontcinemas23 karma

No they aren't closed caption. The best we have, are these five headsets that amplify the sounds. So if that is a deal breaker, thats the best I have. Do you ever find yourself too distracted by the Subs that you have no clue what is really going on? I do. I have to watch foreign films like 4 times to get it. And even then its pretty superficial.

Spiritbb11 karma

How much time a day do you spend grooming that superb mustachio?

fremontcinemas26 karma

3 minutes? I have a great wax company from oregon. Wild Oregon Moustache Wax. So nice. Also, my Turkish descent has a lot to do with the style of moustache, it usually likes to curl up.

fremontcinemas25 karma

ps, thanks :{)

HistoricalMan11 karma

What would you say the biggest threat to the profitability of small town movie theaters is? Corporate chains? Internet piracy? Motherfuckers sneaking McDonalds and Walmart candy into the screens?

fremontcinemas23 karma

The movie companies themselves, maybe, it seems harsh possibly, but they want more and more profit, I'm not that cutthroat. But no other than that people not buying concessions.

NotARandomNumber9 karma

Do you show TV shows at your theater? Several of the smaller theaters I know will play episodes of Breaking Bad or Walking Dead on some nights, if so is there anything special that goes into acquiring the rights to run the show?

fremontcinemas6 karma

we only have 35mm projectors. Also there are a lot of copyright things to get over. Especially with NFL, NBA, MLB etc... games.

JabbaTheButt168 karma

What is the craziest thing you've caught/seen someone do at your theatre. Does it make you mad when people sneak candy in?

fremontcinemas21 karma

Nothing too crazy, honestly people around here are pretty reserved, even the teens. It kills me when I have like 3 people come to a show, they don't get concessions, then I have to go clean up after them and all of their individually wrapped candy wrappers and like Subway wrappers. Big purses are the theater owners natural enemy.

Epic_GF8 karma

I don't really have a question, but just a suggestion. They don't have this at the movie theaters where I live, but I've heard that some theaters cater to young children in the morning by showing cartoons or kids movies. Maybe that's something you could try to boost sales. Just a thought.

fremontcinemas4 karma

The big theatre where I grew up did that, so newborn's Mothers' could catch a flick, totally awesome. Only available for the bigger theatres that can devote an entire auditorium to one movie that plays once or twice. You'll see.

[deleted]5 karma

Your mustache makes me smile :D

fremontcinemas20 karma

me too. But if i smile too much I have to reapply wax.

dontbait5 karma

I hear that most theaters and almost all projection rooms are haunted. Any stories?

fremontcinemas9 karma

I worked at a bar called Mothers in Chicago. Dearborn and Division. There are ghosts there. Not here, its such a boring town, they've probably left by now.

GaelicBobStoli5 karma

You need to make your cinema as kid friendly as possible on the weekends. All kid movies and free tickets for young kids under 5 or something along those lines. Meet up with local restaurants and the Chamber of Commerce and ask them to advertise for you and you will allow them to advertise at the theatre. Once you get the parents thinking of your cinema as the destination to place their kid for two hours of quiet you will become the go-to place, and if the local shops start to advertise with you by giving you discounts for ice cream or something you will make them profitable.

fremontcinemas4 karma

almost all of the movie selection is out of my hands. We use a booker, who talks to the distribution companies, who figure out how many prints there are, who is the biggest and best theatre, and then they let the print run itself through the filter of larger to smaller theatres. Two screens have almost no options. Plus every penny I spend here, is a penny we won't have for the digital switch, so giveaways are problems.

DirtyWhoreMouth4 karma

I had a friend who worked for a movie theatre in high school. He told me that the popcorn was all popped at the beginning of the week and then stored in huge bags. By the time Friday night came around, it was already almost a week old but it's ok because they warm it up. Do you do that too?

fremontcinemas25 karma

NEVER! I get to work about 3 hours before showtime and I pop small batches throughout the day. Several reasons. 1. Stale popcorn is shit. 2. The smell of freshly popped popcorn is the biggest reason people buy it (minus the fact that most people get it out of habit.) but no, I as an artisan of film ( would be remiss if I didn't uphold the value of fresh quality for my customers.

townsfoe4 karma

I currently manage a theater for one of the larger chains, and I've always had dreams of opening up an independent smaller theater or drive in. What were some of the biggest burdens/issues that you encounter that you didn't really expect? Is film buying and booking a hassle or time sink? We have an entire department devoted to that; I couldn't imagine how much it would add to the workload if I had to deal with the mess it appears to be.

fremontcinemas15 karma

Well I work about 75 to 80 hours a week, plus two kids at home and a firecracker of a wife, so I'm busy. Thats the biggest thing to get used to. Everything is done by me. EVERYTHING. Today for example, 4 people in Premium Rush, I sell tickets, make and sell popcorn (and sell pops and candy) then go up, string, frame, watch the first preview so the brain doesn't get wrapped, do a theatre check, then usually sweep for 5-10 minutes, go for a smoke and reddit. Our largest overhead? Payroll. Thats why you need to dedicate yourself to the sole upkeep of the theatre. Mop, clean toilets, do the plumbing, repair projector and the sound tower need be. Scheduling of both movies and employees (which gets easier when i'm the only one working for the most part). Candy orders, pepsi orders, Sysco orders (Paper towels, mop stuff). Putting up and taking down the prints. All of the responabilities are mine.

Pepesilvie4 karma

Great, I've been reading The Movie Business Book recently to get an insight into theater ownership! But it's a horribly boring book. I have a few questions I hope you can help me out; I wonder why there are no theaters which project classic films or even 80s or 90s pictures for the nostalgic crowd? There aren't at least we're I'm from (Argentina), what would be the process you'd have to get into to project let's say, Jurassic Park in your theater?

fremontcinemas3 karma

From what i've done in my VERY limited research, as in since i started this AMA, it seems like there is a lot of red tape involved in aquiring old prints.

beckyshangrila3 karma

What about popcorn, is it homemade?

fremontcinemas11 karma

Everyday, by yours truly.

Korben__Dallas3 karma

You seem like a film-lover yourself, so how do you feel about the 3D trend in the past few years, both from a theatre owner's perspective and from a cinemaphile's perspective? Do you try to avoid showing 3d films?

fremontcinemas5 karma

I don't avoid it. Its fascinating. Beowulf kicked my ass, they took full advantage of the fact that animation can have the craziest camera angles from nearly any point in their made up universe, as in you can zoom thousands of miles in one shot and make it believable. But more than that, I saw the leaked version of Wolverine. Before they put in the CG. Well, no amount of CG in the world could fix that script. 3d is the same way, it will not change content.