second-run theater
April 11, 2005 1:57 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know any specifics (equipment costs, where one gets movies, copyright, etc.) on how one would start up a second-run theater?
posted by Yellowbeard to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You could start by asking these people.

From what I can tell, they (theaters, not those people I just mentioned...) make most of their money off of the food/drinks/booze sold. Try to get a license to sell booze if you're in an area that can support it.
posted by pwb503 at 2:18 PM on April 11, 2005

bjork and his wife are working on opening a theater currently...they have a blog here.
posted by TuxHeDoh at 3:30 PM on April 11, 2005

My experience with helping organize a film festival involves renting out movie theaters, acquiring movies from distributors, and marketing the festival. I can't tell you much about running the theater itself, but as far as films go, you need to get to know the film distribution biz. Think up a film title, any film you think would be a good "2nd run" candidate for your joint. Now Google it with the phrase "print source" in quotes. This is often a good way to get contact info for the distributor. Once you have that, contact them and tell them you want to show it. They will ask you where, how many times, how many seats in your theater, and then tell you how much you need to pay to license it. They use a complicated algorithm that factors in many things, but basically, they will charge you less if they feel the film has already been overexposed in your area. However, if you feel you can somehow dig up an audience to come out and see it, take the risk. That's how you make money. I'm no expert, but I don't think there's a way to go about this without some risk. For example, I think they'll laugh you away if you offer them a percentage of ticket sales. I'm pretty sure they want to set their own prices and get paid before you even get your hands on the print. That way, they know how much they're going to make. They factor in all the risks and decide what's worth it for them. Whether you can turn a profit depends on your ability to know your local audience better than they do, and pick films that you know you can sell out.

This actually does factor in the food/drink consideration. If you calculate that, including average food/drink purchases + ticket, you bring in $15 per audience member, then you know you need to bring in 1000 people to break even on a $15K public viewing license for a film. If you can raise the average food purchase to $17, you're doing better without having to increase your audience. But don't count on a neat-and-simple formula where ticket prices always cover the cost of showing the film and everything you make on the concession you can keep. It may or may not work out that way in the end.
posted by scarabic at 4:01 PM on April 11, 2005

First, go to these two forums and read the archives:

- BigScreenBiz
- BigScreenBiz

Do not start a thread with "Does anyone know any specifics (equipment costs, where one gets movies, copyright, etc.) on how one would start up a second-run theater?" That's the quickest way to get ignored. Trust me, if you read the archives you will find that the majority of your questions have been asked and answered several times before. Once you feel you have a grip on what's going on, feel free to ask specific questions on either forum (although, bigscreenbiz is a bit more laid back than film-tech, so you should start with them first).

As for second-run, you should really consider something else. The window between theatrical and DVD release has gotten so small that I really can't forsee second-run theaters lasting much longer. In the early 90s, it took at least a month or more for a DVD or VHS to come out after a movie had quit showing in first-run. That's why second-runs were so successful during that era. These days, I've seen DVDs come out within 2 weeks of a movie leaving the theater. That's not good.

I apologize that this post being so hastily written, but I'm literally heading out the door, but feel free to read the archives of my blog, especially the first two months, where I explain in detail exactly how film distribution works. has a brief explanation as well.

Good luck!
posted by bjork24 at 6:57 AM on April 12, 2005

I meant to say "Film-Tech" on the second link... either way, it goes to the right place. I told you I was in a hurry! Geez!
posted by bjork24 at 6:58 AM on April 12, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for all the help! Sorry if this was somewhat double-posty
posted by Yellowbeard at 11:06 AM on April 12, 2005

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