Comments from VinceEmmons

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VinceEmmons commented about Is a free movie theater feasible? on Apr 4, 2008 at 8:42 pm

Wimovies is correct, you can’t operate a real business and function as a charity/hobby… However, if you were fortunate enough to live in a place with a very community-minded cinema owner already looking for some promotional attention, here’s what you do. Find a radio station (don’t bother too much with the most successful guys, they don’t need you) or a newspaper that will underwrite the cost of the rental for your film(s). In exchange, they act as your exclusive or perhaps shared sponsor for the event, and agree to promote the heck out of it on air/in print to benefit a worthy local cause which you have interest in helping (the charity, of course, must endorse what you’re planning to do…). The theater owner will want to schedule the special event at a time when the building would otherwise have been empty or poorly attended anyway (meaning either a day-time show, or at best, a weeknight). The attendees, presumably the many loyal listeners or readers of your sponsor, get to see the show in exchange for a modest donation (a dollar or two, or canned food drive item, etc depending on your charity). The cinema owner gets the love and adoration of a grateful community, the promotional attention to his business, and of course, the concession sales to help recoup his very real operating costs. The radio or newspaper partner gets a higher-profile value-added event to tout to their clientele, the charity gets the donations, and you get to see your classic film on the big screen, all for a very good cause that hopefully you personally believe in.

VinceEmmons commented about Williamsburg Crossing Movies 7 on Mar 3, 2007 at 3:33 pm

A sloped floor location that opened approx 1990, Carmike opted to cease operations in May of 2005, several months ahead of the opening of the Consolidated New Town 12, located slightly more than two miles away at a new “lifestyle” center in Williamsburg. The building was stripped of seats and projection equipment, and would have needed considerable investment throughout to return it to a good operation. Unfortunately the competitive environment in Williamsburg was such that operating as a first-run venue would have been impractical. It would however have made quite an enviable location for a nice art house. The demographic there skews toward the highly educated/higher income households and the location is convenient to the College of William and Mary.

VinceEmmons commented about Tennessee Theatre on Jan 16, 2005 at 2:51 pm

Visited the newly restored Tennessee Theater today at their open house event, they'e done an absolutely outstanding and thorough job on this deserving palace. It’s been well-outfitted now for live stage performances, with an expanded stage, dressing rooms, etc. and the auditorium is simply jaw-dropping. Having visited for years, still could never have imagined the hidden gem waiting within. Back to her full glory and absoutely worth your time!

Official website is

VinceEmmons commented about Commodore Theatre on Aug 1, 2004 at 10:01 am

Terribly sorry, in the post above it should read that the staff takes great pains to see that the food sevice does not interfere with the enjoyment of the show (with deepest apologies to the fine folks at The Commodore).

VinceEmmons commented about Commodore Theatre on Jul 11, 2004 at 1:03 pm

The owner of the Commodore is a dedicated showman, and the management is first-rate…This place is the gem of Portsmouth. You place your order from telephones at tables in the auditorium, and the wait staff takes such great pains that the food service does interfere with the enjoyment of the show. Exceptional film presentation on a beautiful huge screen. Kudos!

VinceEmmons commented about Tara Theatre on Jul 11, 2004 at 12:51 pm

The Tara has undergone some recent improvements, including new seats, drapes, restrooms, concession stand, and a re-envisioned lobby space with an art-deco feel.

VinceEmmons commented about Looking for Advice on Jan 4, 2004 at 8:33 am

Careful! There’s a tremendous laundry list of problems with reviving old abandoned or neglected theaters. There’s almost always a good reason these places went out of business, and why it often takes direct city involvement (and municipal monetary support) to get one re-opened.

First, if it’s been closed for years, and the utilities have been off, you can safely assume that the HVAC systems are inoperable and will probabaly need full repalcement. Secondly, without internal climate control, you have the ideal conditions for mold, mildew, dry-rot, etc that may make the building un-inhabitable without tremendous amounts of work (the drapes, carpet, seat upholstery, screen valences and masking, etc will at bare minimum smell badly, perhaps be unsafe, and may be beyond rescuing). These conditions also exacerbate the damage that can be caused by even very small amounts of water (such as the cumulative effects of a pin-hole leak in a roof left un-monitored over several years).

The projection and sound equipment may indeed be all there, but even if the sound system miraculously still works, it will be completely obsolete. The projector itself, without climate protection for years, will certainly warrant thorough professional attention, and may also need replacement.

Make sure before you even bother paying a building professional to inspect the theater that you still have an audience and can get plenty of film product. Where have your potential customers gone in the intervening years? If they’ve grown accustomed to the modern amenities of a gleaming new multiplex in the next town, with stadium seats and digital sound, nice area restaurants, lots of free parking, etc you may have a very tough time winning them back to this place, no matter how much you clean the ol' gal up. It may also pay you to ask an independent film booker for some brutally frank advice….if you can’t get the major studios to provide a steady stream of product, you’re going to be in trouble quick.

Local building code officials will expect you to bring the theater in to full compliance with all applicable regulations (ADA guidelines, electrical upgrades, fire alarm systems, sprinklers, etc) and any one of these issues could be expensive enough to make it impractical as a profit-making venture.

Don’t want to discourage you from perhpas saving a worthy old palace, but this is absolutely a dangerous endeavor to undertake without lots of external support, particularly if you are new to the business.

How can you make it work? Find out if the city has an interest in using the theater to showcase the revitalization of their downtown or business district. Ask if they would be willing to provide grants or other assistance related to getting the building up to safe modern operating conditions. In some cases, a city might be encouraged to buy the building, address all the serious concerns, and then lease out the site to a qualified operator or enter in to a management contract (they own it, but others run it for a fee).If the building is appropriate for small stage productions, you may be able to share the burden with a community playhouse company. It may also be an excellent meeting place for communities that lack their own town hall, another reason for them to support getting it open. Consider operating it as an art-house theater (only works with particular demographic groups though) to avoid the fisticuffs involved in first-run exhibition.

Hope this helps, and good luck!