I’m a big fan of the Oak Street cinema. Its a movie house near the U campus that shows old and art films.
Lately they’ve been having problems and it looks as if the theater is very close to closing down if something isn’t done. A site to save the Oak Street Cinema has been started. If you read the website, I think you can tell pretty quickly why the theater is doomed.
1) Its run by committee. Nothing run by committee ever does well.
2) The solution to solve the problems of the theater is to contact politicians and try to get funding. This is basically an admission of failure. If not enough people show up to support the theater and you need gubment funding, then you’ve already lost the battle.
3) The theater is really horrible. The seats are uncomfortable. The screen is small. It has a very run down look to it. But for the type of films they show, there is no reason to ever go and see a film there. There is a nostalgia aspect to keeping it open, but quite honestly, old theaters are just inferior to newer mall theaters. I can go to the mall near my house and watch a film on a giant screen, stadium seating, with very comfortable seats. (see my last post on The New World) I’d be better off watching most old movies in my basement.
I think the answer to their problems are obvious. They need to let the audience select the movies that are shown, not a committee. Do it over the internet. You may get a lot of Star Wars and Godfather, but so what. Use those to fund the art films in between. Get a new theater or renovate the Oak Street. The screen is just too small for the size of the auditorium (its also why I dislike the Uptown). Ideally, you should also get more than one screen. The biggest audience you’ll have for many obscure movies is tens of people, so there is no point in hogging an entire auditorium for a film with that sort of draw.
There are lots of other little management things they could do as well to reduce costs, like online ticket sales, kiosks, and self serve consessions which would reduce your overhead.
…and go digital. Use DVD instead of film. The quality of some of the prints they get there is so bad, DVD iwould be an upgrade for most films they show. Digital would also provide much more flexibility on how long a show could run and what they could show.
There is a market for what the Oak Street is trying to do, but the current way its being done will never be successful.