No reel improvement

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

STATEWIDE Independently run theaters that charge less than the big boys don’t seem to be reaping the benefits of more moviegoers with less cash to spend in the down economy.

“We’re dealing with the same costs as larger theaters, but we can’t afford to raise our prices,” says Andrew McElderry, owner of Skylight Theatre and Andrew’s Pizza in Hood River. Tickets at the Skylight range from $2.50 to $8.50.

Those costs, McElderry says, include the rising prices of commodities, such as corn. “Things like popcorn, for example, are costing us a lot more money,” he says.

Popcorn, a major source of revenue for the small theater industry, is something Tom Ranieri, owner and operator of Cinema 21 in Portland, knows a little about.

“Concessions certainly are a huge part of our business,” Ranieri says. “People have shown that they’re willing to spend an enormous amount on concessions.” A movie with food at major theater chains can cost upward of $20. At Ranieri’s theater, moviegoers can save about $8-$10 on an evening out.

There has been some concern about the future of the small-theater business, “but there’s no way to project how it will turn out,” says McElderry. “All bets are off.”

If you’re a small-theater, how do you compete?

“Good programming,” says Ranieri. “People will look at the value of the film and decide for themselves.”                       

CHRIS MILLER



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