Our theatre the Rialto Cinemas Lakeside has been open for one year.
Ky and I had talked about opening a movie theatre for about 18 years. I never placed much credence to these conversations. I have heard all manner of people talk about doing all sorts of things. I worked in the cinema business so I could send him things like theatre year-end profit and loss spreadsheets. Meanwhile, I learned how to run a theatre and run a projection booth.
Two years ago I thought he was a little rash to quit his job at a hospital 12 blocks from his house that paid him the most he had ever been paid, in order to look for a theatre full time. To tell you the truth, I was starting a new career myself. Things were looking up. I was gaining responsibility and respect. I was being paid more than I had ever been paid in my life. I was having fun flying to new and interesting places I had never been to before, like Alaska in December and Laredo in July.
Ky called and told me that he had entered into lease negotiations for a property in Santa Rosa. I wished him luck and got a copy of the lease. A commercial lease is scarier than a contract to buy a house. I was not encouraged.
Ky signed the lease and told me when the opening date was. I sent him all of my money and quit my job. Such was my faith in Ky and what we expect in friendship.
We opened the theatre on time on January 14, 2000. The first month was very encouraging. We had record crowds.
We really only had two big setbacks the first year. Setback number one was in April when people across the US stopped going to the movies. We were no exception. We were barely able to pay our staff and film rentals. The next setback was the price of housing in California. The cost of housing went up 40% this year.
But after April, each month was a little better than the last until we hit November. Boom, as usual we set our attendance record on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The surprising thing is we have reset the attendance record three times in the past two months.
How is owning a new theatre different than working in one. We take criticism more personally that we should. We are more aware of our limitations. Ky is the classic geek, he doesnít care about sports, doesnít even know who the teams are. He is the most anti competitive person I knew beside myself. Now that he is fighting for films in the market place, he is fiercely competitive. He gets mad and yells if we donít get what we want. I have known the man for 18 years and I didnít see this side of his personality until we opened our doors. Well, itís good to have the tiger fighting on your side.
We are able to respond and communicate with our public much quicker than any other theatre. Our audience is growing and learning. They expect certain films to play our theatre. When we lost Chocolate and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, our public wanted to know why. In retrospect some things happen with good reason. Chocolate isnít grossing as well as another film we booked and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon really did need to be on the biggest three THX screens in the county. They are selling out many shows. Perhaps we will pick it up for Oscar season.
Our tag line is ďBringing the Best Films in the World to Sonoma County.Ē We were very pleased that when the Golden Globe nominations came out, we had played half the films that were nominated.
We grossed one million dollars our first year at bat. That is about 20% more than the previous operator grossed his last year here. We probably will not show a profit this year but we have high hopes for the next one. Our staff costs were much higher than we had guessed and the costs of power in California are supposed to go up 39% this year.
We still have 6 out of our origional 18 employees. I used to work a 12-plex that had a 600% staff turnover per year. I guess that our staff likes working here, for the most part.
I think the financial shake out that happened to the big boys will ultimately be good for the smaller independent theatres. There is a place for small independent exhibitors in the film exhibition industry. I hope that we grow and prosper in the future.
Thank you for all your tips and tricks. Places like Film-Tech will only help us independent exhibitors compete against the big boys.
Hereís to 9 more years.