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» Film-Tech Forum   » Operations   » Ground Level   » Have you ever had the public object to a proposed theater? (Page 1)

 
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Author Topic: Have you ever had the public object to a proposed theater?
Jesse Skeen
Phenomenal Film Handler

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From: Sacramento, CA
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 - posted 09-15-2015 03:27 AM      Profile for Jesse Skeen   Email Jesse Skeen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
This is kind of a weird one, but interested if I can get any answers- has anyone here ever been in or heard of a situation where the floor plans of a proposed new theater are submitted for public view, and one or more members of the public disapprove of the theater's design and try to get it changed or stopped completely? If so, how was it handled? Were those people ignored and hoped they'd go away? Were they reassured that the resulting theater would be great, and offered a tour and screening prior to opening? Told "If you don't like it, don't come"?

I remember seeing the plans for a theater that was eventually built by a company I worked for at the time- it was SUCH a bad idea (and the resulting theater truly is terrible)- I took one look at the plans and wanted to say "Don't do it!" but didn't for fear of losing my job. Now that I'm out of the business, I can speak my mind a little more freely about such things.

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Buck Wilson
Jedi Master Film Handler

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From: St. Joseph MO, USA
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 - posted 09-15-2015 06:06 AM      Profile for Buck Wilson   Email Buck Wilson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Apparently plans by AMC in the late 90's to expand an existing 6 screen theater in Overland Park KS got nixed due to neighborhood opposition. More details- http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/17487

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Scott Norwood
Film God

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From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
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 - posted 09-15-2015 06:31 AM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The AMC Hampton Towne Center 24 in Hampton, VA. was mistakenly granted a building permit, as it was (is) located in a designated "crash zone" for Langley AFB. This was not discovered until after construction had begun. I believe that the deal with the city that was reached was that it could not be re-built if it were destroyed by a plane crash. This is not very re-assuring.

The issue is not quite the same as what was raised above, but there was some objection to completing construction and opening the theatre once this issue was discovered.

Edit: see article here and here

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Mitchell Dvoskin
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From: West Milford, NJ, USA
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 - posted 09-15-2015 08:50 AM      Profile for Mitchell Dvoskin   Email Mitchell Dvoskin   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Neighborhood opposition happens all the time to proposed businesses. The issue is usually over building location, size, parking, noise, traffic, etc. I have never heard of public opposition to the interior design of a business.

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Martin McCaffery
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 - posted 09-15-2015 08:54 AM      Profile for Martin McCaffery   Author's Homepage   Email Martin McCaffery   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
RE: AMC Hampton - How difficult was if for them to get insurance?

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Scott Norwood
Film God

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From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
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 - posted 09-15-2015 10:07 AM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
No idea. I was living in the area at the time and was amused by the story. I wonder if the insurance company even knew; the area was re-zoned as part of the deal with the city.

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

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From: Lawton, OK, USA
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 - posted 09-15-2015 10:36 AM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
As someone with both knowledge of design and movie theater nuts and bolts I have to say unequivocally it is only an extremely stupid idea to let members of the public armchair quarterback how the interior of a movie theater is designed.

First of all, a lot of people who have little appreciation for art & design, yet think it's something anyone can do really need to stop. They have no business dictating the interior design of a movie theater. They don't have the creative talent. More importantly, they don't have the first clue how to arrange the functional elements of the theater, much less understand how and where the embellishments should be applied.

When it comes to the theater auditoriums themselves members of the public (or more likely a city council) should only have a simple list of things they want or don't want in an auditorium. IMAX house? Surround sound? Stadium seating? Stuff like that. If things get any more specific than that you'll get into some geometric conundrums -shit that just won't fit.

It's usually best for the public or city council to be able to say yes or no about a movie theater project. They shouldn't be able to dictate all sorts of odds and ends that go into it. That kind of bureaucratic hurdle slows things to a crawl and often derails big projects.

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Scott Norwood
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From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
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 - posted 09-15-2015 12:28 PM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Agreed with Bobby. The only valid public concern for the interior would seem to be with issues like fire safety (non-flammable materials, sufficient number of exits for capacity of venue, etc.), code compliance (eletrical, plumbing, etc.), and structural integrity (the building should be built well enough to not collapse on patrons or bystanders). The general public has little or no knowledge of these issues, and there should be public employees (fire marshal, electrical inspector, plumbing inspector, etc.) whose job it is to review building plans and protect the public from shoddy construction. Unless someone in the general public can demonstrate that he is qualified in the area on which he wishes to comment, I cannot think of any reason to accept public comments on interior issues.

I can see where the general public should have a chance to express concerns about location, exterior design, and traffic/pedestrian safety, however.

Note that I am talking about new construction of private buildings here. Public buildings (city halls, courthouses, etc.) are a different issue, as are historic structures and other special cases.

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

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 - posted 09-15-2015 01:44 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I don't think the general public should have any input on the exterior design of a building. There isn't very many architects, artists, urban planners, traffic engineers and sign designers in the peanut gallery. As long as the exterior and project site meets zoning requirements and any sign ordinance requirements then it should be all good.

Big theater chains already have corporate identities and sign programs to follow. Those programs keep things looking more consistent, organized and professional. If more cooks are allowed into the kitchen everything goes to disorganized shit very quickly. It would be ridiculous to let some local idiot what font should be used for the channel letters on the building. Even if it is an independent theater the average person doesn't know about size and material limitations that can change just from a simple choice of typeface.

Local governments have to tread carefully in the area of trying to legislate taste. The City of Tempe, AZ lost a very expensive law suit from Blockbuster Video and Video Giant when its city council tried dictating the color of their signs. Blockbuster sued over trademark infringement and won the case.

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Sam Graham
AKA: "The Evil Sam Graham". Wackiness ensues.

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 - posted 09-15-2015 01:45 PM      Profile for Sam Graham   Author's Homepage   Email Sam Graham   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
It would not surprise me if there were objections out there relating to handicap access.

In the early days of stadium seating, there were some really ridiculous designs out there. Cinemark, for example, in some of their really big Tinseltown auditoriums, had the handicap row up front where one would have to look STRAIGHT UP to see the screen, and the view was atrocious. Even sitting in the second row of these rooms required climbing stairs.

Such situations and even far lesser examples led to lawsuits by the ADA. It would not surprise me if the ADA later filed objections on new building proposals to ensure the design had improved access.

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Leo Enticknap
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 - posted 09-15-2015 03:11 PM      Profile for Leo Enticknap   Author's Homepage   Email Leo Enticknap   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Bobby Henderson
I don't think the general public should have any input on the exterior design of a building. There isn't very many architects, artists, urban planners, traffic engineers and sign designers in the peanut gallery. As long as the exterior and project site meets zoning requirements and any sign ordinance requirements then it should be all good.
That is how the public has an input into the exterior design of buildings: by electing the politicians who determine the zoning and sign requirements. I agree completely that individual complainers should not be treated like Prince Charles whenever anyone comes along with a NIMBY-motivated meow and hiss. But basic principles and guidelines to prevent unregulated sprawl probably are needed.

Getting back to topic, at one theater I worked at from its opening in 2000 until I left the following year, we faced an organized campaign from local residents against late night shows, because they feared drunken yobs roaming the streets, etc. Given that (a) we showed mainly arthouse movies, (b) there was a first run place only 300 yards away that already did late-night shows of mainstream movies, and (c) about the same distance in the other direction was a nightclub that opened until 3am, the patrons of which were lucky to leave in the direction of their homes rather than the hospital, it was all a bit silly. Nevertheless, for the first six months or so we were open, there was a condition on our license stating that the last show had to be over by 11pm. One Saturday evening that was 11.03, thanks to a box office computer crassh delaying the start of the final show. Two nearby residents complained to the council.

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Jesse Skeen
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From: Sacramento, CA
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 - posted 09-16-2015 01:24 AM      Profile for Jesse Skeen   Email Jesse Skeen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
OK, now what about people who say your proposed theater truly SUCKS? I'm in a local battle now with a big chain that is planning to tear down an iconic theater that has been here since the 1960s (they have already torn down part of it) and replace it with a new theater that has LESS than HALF the seating capacity of the old ones. I consider this an insult to what the old theater was when it was new- it was chopped up in the 70s though and personally I'd rather see that one torn down than continue to operate that way, but they should be going all-out with this new theater and it seems severely undersized without anything special about it. I have told these people at public meetings that I worked in the theater business for ten years, including a few months at the theater slated to be torn down, and feel that their new theater is simply inadequate, but they have had literally nothing to say in response. (I emphasized to them that I am also the sort of person who SHOULD be going to a movie at least once per week, and would if there were any theater here worthy of my doing so. These old theaters properly restored would certainly have fit my criteria, but I would settle for a really good new theater in their place as well which the one they have planned is not.) I've been working with others in town who want to save the older theater more than anything else, although that likely isn't too practical at this point.

In the case of the company I worked for, it was a much smaller one in a smaller town. They had run a six-screen theater for about ten years and built a new one with five screens a few blocks from it ten years later, keeping both open as they still are today. The six-screener was a bit cramped, with theater sizes ranging from small-smaller-smallest, but considering what that town had before it was a godsend. The owner was afraid of competition coming in, so I suspect this newer theater was his way of discouraging that- what I objected about that was that first it only had five screens, at a time when other companies were opening 16-screen theaters. Second was that these five screens weren't even any GOOD- the floor plans showed that each auditorium would have FEWER seats than even the smallest ones at the older theater. Even more insulting was that they decided to make all the screens common-width with top-down masking for scope. I felt this was a REALLY bad idea, and it was eventually one of the reasons I left that company. I saw plenty of movies there when it opened, and the screens in fact are embarrassingly small, and when popular movies are shown there it does get quite crowded due to the small capacity.

For the present proposed theater, I got the attention of the local news and I agreed to go on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8a3gbvwLZY

To put that clip in context, I had not even yet seen the floor plans for the new theater, but was concerned enough just seeing how much (or more appropriately how little) space on the property it would take up to start making some noise about it. (The announcer incorrectly states that I was once a projector operator at the older theater, but I only worked on floor staff for a few months there. The editing left a bit to be desired, but I was glad that they at least showed me stating that the new theater being built is generic in comparison.)

Now again, I personally am NOT opposed to them building a new theater, but I do think what they're planning is severely inadequate and an insult to the old theater it will be replacing. They could have gone all-out and built something comparable to the older ones up to modern standards, but this seems just quick and easy with nothing special about it at all. I know some will quickly say that large theaters are "no longer profitable" but the seating capacity for this new theater comes out to LESS THAN 200 seats per screen, making even the 6-screener I worked at for many years seem gargantuan in comparison! The largest remaining auditoriums at the old theater are about 500 seats and those consistently sold out for the big movies, I am betting that if this new theater opens people are going to go there and find shows have sold out quickly and end up leaving in frustration. There is also another new theater being built within a few miles of this one which based on the company behind it will probably be better-designed in this one. That same company is also re-opening a big 1930s theater in a nearby small town, keeping its original large auditorium intact with smaller theaters build alongside it. If that comes out well, THAT may be the place I end up going to movies for from now on.

Regardless of how this new theater turns out I will give it a fair shot when it opens, but from everything I've seen so far it'll be a miracle if it turns out to be anything more than adequate.

Bonus clip of part of the old theater being destroyed- it was originally two buildings like this, the one already torn down was the oldest. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61INjYBpDOs

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Jesse Skeen
Phenomenal Film Handler

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From: Sacramento, CA
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 - posted 09-16-2015 03:27 AM      Profile for Jesse Skeen   Email Jesse Skeen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
(Can't edit my post now but I meant to say the other new theater will "probably be better designed THAN this one", not "IN this one.")

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

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From: Lawton, OK, USA
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 - posted 09-16-2015 08:41 AM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
It's difficult for me to get excited about a new theater opening anymore. There are so many things that are wrong with the design of modern movie theaters and it starts with the goofed up specs of d-cinema itself. The situation makes it very easy to just stay home and watch there.

We all know common width screens suck. But d-cinema's goofed up take on CinemaScope™ gives that cropped fake-scope image the kind of screen real estate it deserves: letter-boxed and tiny. The smallest, lowest resolution format doesn't need to be blasted up huge. But let's be sure to go J.J. Abrams crazy with all the lens flares and anamorphic bokeh. It's a bunch of pretentious bullshit.
[fu]

Nevertheless common width screens do suck. They remind me I could be watching the very same kind of letter-boxed image at home for a whole lot less money (and it would probably be more in focus too).

It's rare to find a movie theater that sounds as good as it should. I'm convinced the combination of stadium seating and the habit of theater chain executives buying tiny, under-powered surround speakers has a lot to do with it. This doesn't get into what kinds of systems they're putting behind the screen.

"Immersive sound" could have been turned into a major improvement for movie-going. Instead it's kind of being allowed to turn into a scam. A theater could stick some logo up on the marquee, claiming to support Dolby Atmos, DTS-X or whatever. But is there any way for a customer to check just how many amplifiers and what not the theater has, just to see if they're getting something more than just a slightly spruced up version of 5.1 surround? Nope. There are no standards to control just what gets installed. In the end this will be another area where home theater will end up beating the cinema.

The success of fake large format screens seems to be a statement about the gullibility of the general public and how they're only too happy to fork over extra money just to worship a brand name.

Even really high end installations, like Dolby Cinema, are marred by things like fake scope on a common width screen.

We have a new Carmike theater opening here in Lawton, probably around November. I'm not very excited about it at all. The "IMAX" screen there will almost certainly be of the old HDTV quality 2K variety. The other screens will probably be okay, but I kind of expect the sound and projector brightness to be toned down a bit, that way the IMAX house will seem so much better when it really isn't.

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Frank Cox
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 - posted 09-16-2015 05:41 PM      Profile for Frank Cox   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Cox   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I think that if I was building a new theatre that met the applicable regulations (fire, zoning, etc.) and someone came along to tell me that he doesn't like the design I would be inclined to tell that someone to mind his own business. Same as someone coming into my theatre right now and telling me that I'm doing it wrong. If I didn't solicit that person's advice, and if that person isn't satisfied with an "I prefer to do it this way" response, well... there are other theatres that he can go to. If he did have a good idea, then I might implement it. But there's a big difference between a suggestion or a request, and a demand. Guess which one will get a more positive consideration and response?

What it comes down to is that if you feel that you can do a better job than the other guys are doing, then by all means write a cheque and set up your own theatre and operate it your way.

It's their money, their business and their risk to take. If they set it up and it fails, then yes indeed -- they may have done it wrong, but it's still their failure and not yours. I understand that it fails to meet your personal standards but if they think it is adequate for their customer base then that's their call to make.

There was no theatre in this town for fifteen years before I came along and made this one. Shortly before I opened it, I happened to meet the guy who owned the previous theatre. He said, "Are you the guy who's setting up a theatre?" I said that I was, and he said, "You'll be out of business in two months."

Thanks for the ray of sunshine, guy. I'm still here, twenty years later. [Smile]

That guy's wife used to come to the show here once in a while but he never set foot in the door, ever.

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