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Independent Cinema Owner Tackles Tough Industry Questions on Reddit

The owner of a two-screen theater in Fremont, Michigan, speaks about going digital, price gouging and teen romance.

Fremont Cinema Guy - P 2012

Fremont Cinemas is getting its turn in the spotlight.

The small, independent first-run movie house in Michigan got a major boost of notoriety on Wednesday, when its owner submitted himself to an "Ask Me Anything" chat session on Reddit. It became one of the biggest posts of the day, as users peppered him with questions about his little business, leaving nearly 2000 comments and counting.

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There was plenty of talk of popcorn recipes and favorite films, but the conversation actually tackled some of the most serious issues facing theaters today. From profit sharing to concession prices and digital, here are some candid answers from a theater owner trying to adjust to a new movie economy.

On profit margins and sharing with studios:

Depending on the amount of time that the movie has been released, anywhere from 35-85 percent of each ticket sold goes to the movie company. But they don't take into account our prices. They figure we should sell each ticket at a set price. ie, we have a twilight hour of 4-5:59 pm that we sell tickets for $4.50, the studio assumes we sell it at $7.50 and takes 80 percent or $7.50 either way. They don't care about our discounts. So all the money is from concessions. And it really annoys me sometimes. lulz.

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On converting to digital projectors:

My partners and I are discussing that currently. Because our screens are so small, the equiptment would be relatively inexpensive (compared to other bigger theatres). It would cut our overhead significantly because we wouldn't need the same expertise for alot of our operation (putting movies up, taking them down, fixing breakdowns, stringing the movies). But our attendance has been declining pretty steadily. Partially because of the movies we get, because we are on the bottom of the pecking order. Only a limited number of 35mm prints are available and any given time, and when larger theatres don't release them, we can't get them, so we have to deal with older movies. It would probably take a few years to recoop that cost. But because of the variety of attendence its hard to peg that figure down.

On kids that use the theater as a space to neck:

Yeah, I tell them to take it out to their car. I don't make out infront of their netflix. Golden Rule.

On running special promotions for old films:

I haven't researched getting old movies, mostly because they are incredibly expensive, fragile and hard to bring in a steady crowd. I studied film/video/new media in college and I have a deep love of the medium. So idealy that would be how I ran it, but we operate in the bible belt of Michigan, people are very conservative, and they tire quickly of the movies we have. I agree with you though, film does draw, but digital is aggressive.

On guests bringing guns into the theater:

I don't see a place for weapons, anywhere. That being said, I in no way know of a situation where that would be my business. If you have the license than you should know where or where not to bring it. I personally don't have anything to do with the things. Horrid tools that have a sole purpose of destruction. No one ever built a hospital with the butt of their gun.