Rising costs make owning local theater a challenge
By Michael Brooks Staff Writer
When Alvin Svoboda first started working at the Ganado Cinema in 1953 as a 15 year old, adult ticket prices were 40 cents, and kids got in for 20 cents. With the rising cost of film bookings and upgrading equipment, Svoboda is hoping to be able to remain in business for years to come without having to increase prices.
Svoboda took over as manager of the cinema in 1973. He then leased the theatre and became the owner in 1980. Now 80 years old, and with failing health and having to purchase much more expensive, newer equipment, Svoboda wonders how much longer it will be possible to keep the theatre open.
“I have neuropathy in my feet, so I can’t feel when I walk,” Svoboda said. “I try to help clean (after a movie) but I just can’t do it anymore. I feel like I am sinking when I am standing up. “Aside from that, just booking movies has become expensive.”
First-run movies used to have a pre-set arrangement. When a theatre booked a movie on the same weekend it opened nationally, the theatre would pay a percentage of ticket sales. The percentage was predetermined, depending on the distributor or the movie itself. Each week that followed, the ticket percentage would remain the same, or drop, depending on how much attendance the movie was getting.
For example, if a theatre booked a movie on opening weekend, and agreed to pay 60 percent of ticket sales and it became a huge blockbuster, it would remain at 60 percent until attendance started dropping. At that point, the percentage would decrease. If a theatre waited, and didn’t run a movie on opening weekend, they may have been able to get the movie for 40 percent of ticket sales by waiting a few weeks.
“They no longer do it like that,” Svoboda said. “If I get a movie at opening for 60 percent and it preforms beyond the studio’s expectations, they may tell me the following weekend that I will have to pay 64 percent. It’s the same thing if I get a movie that has been out a few weeks. They may want 60 percent on opening weekend but then the movie over performs their expectations and when I try to get it in its third week they will want 70 percent of ticket sales.”
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