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» Cinematour Forum   » Cinemas in the News   » Seattle: Columbia City Cinema in trouble

   
Author Topic: Seattle: Columbia City Cinema in trouble
Mark Campbell
Member

Posts: 437
From: Seattle, WA
Registered: Oct 2004


 - posted November 05, 2010 02:45 PM      Profile for Mark Campbell   Email Mark Campbell         Edit/Delete Post 
The Columbia City Cinema in south Seattle is in financial trouble and is hoping to offer stock to help crawl their way out of debt.

http://www.seattlepi.com/ae/429271_theater29.html

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Adam Martin
Administrator

Posts: 1090
From: Dallas, TX
Registered: Feb 2003


 - posted November 06, 2010 03:26 PM      Profile for Adam Martin   Author's Homepage   Email Adam Martin         Edit/Delete Post 
quote:

Plucky Columbia City theater fights to survive

By MICHAEL E. ROSS
SPECIAL TO SEATTLEPI.COM

It'd be the plotline of an engaging Hollywood movie, but it's happening in real life in Seattle, and you, dear moviegoer, get to help write the happy ending.

In the six years since it opened in south Seattle, the Columbia City Cinema, the independent movie theater at 4816 Rainier Ave. S., (in the Odd Fellows Hall building) has come to endear itself to moviegoers weary of trekking downtown for movies. The theater regularly screens first-run films, sometimes films opening the same day at the bigger multiplexes downtown.

The cinema, which opened upstairs in the building in 2004, has been facing the same economic challenges in recent years as its loyal patrons. "We have been playing catch-up and improvising from the beginning," said owner Paul Doyle. "It's been like the endgame in chess."

Doyle said the troubles began in 2007, "when our downstairs tenant defaulted on the rent. When we got rid of him, we were paying double rent because we had a vacant downstairs.

"We needed to do something immediately," he said. The theater expanded to include upstairs and downstairs screens, at great cost.

"We didn't have any money for new screens, but we did it any way we could, with credit cards, guerrilla financing -- all of it short-term and high-interest," Doyle said.

In 2009 the economic downturn started to hit. Doyle said that at one point, "we were down 20 percent" in attendance.

Compounding that challenge was another one. Part of the movie house's development included remodeling of the old space. "The city said, 'Wait a minute, you've remodeled. Because you remodeled, we can now make you put in sprinklers.' "

With no immediate recourse, the upstairs portion of the theater at one point closed for four months, a period during which Doyle now estimates the cinema lost $400 a day in admissions -- "almost $50,000 as a result." The theater's up and running but with only three screens instead of four, because of the lack of the required sprinklers the theater doesn't have the money to buy.

"We decided to do a stock offering as a way to restructure the debt," Doyle said. The theater plans to offer 480,000 shares of stock in the theater at $1 a share (purchasable in lots of 100 shares) by Jan. 1. The idea has a proven populist punch; a similar "crowdfunding" approach was used to produce the 2009 film "The Age of Stupid," a well-received feature film with an environmentalist message.

"Generally people seem to favor the idea," he said. ""Community ownership of independent theaters, both profit and nonprofit, has become a trend in the United States. In trying to adapt to market conditions, that's one solution they've hit on, because people tend to love their local cinemas."

The movie theater's application has been submitted to the state Department of Financial Institutions, which supervises equity offerings by Washington small businesses; Doyle's confident the review period will be finished in time for a formal offerings of securities to the public "sometime around the first [of November]."

The benefits? Pride of equity in an emerging Seattle neighborhood -- and some financial benefit. "The first five times they'd go into our theater with a companion, they'd save an average $10 per person per trip over what they'd pay downtown for parking and concessions," Doyle said. "So it pays for itself. That's the dividend every time they use it. Finally, there is the possibility that later on of actually getting a [bigger financial] dividend. Is it probable? No, it isn't probable, but it's certainly possible."

For manager Tanya McKechnie, a master of multitasking, it's a labor of love. "Most of our employees are hanging in there with back pay owed. We pay them as much as we can. Lots of them donate their time. We're starting to show better movies, but they cost us more. Our community loves us but we can't seem to get ahead enough at this moment."

Like in any good cliffhanger, the clock is ticking. McKechnie said as much privately: ""We're gonna sink if we don't start really swimming," she said.

Doyle says as much, and more, in a message on the theater's web site: "We need to sell $50,000 worth of stock by December 25 or the cinema will close forever. It's as simple as that."


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Mark Campbell
Member

Posts: 437
From: Seattle, WA
Registered: Oct 2004


 - posted November 06, 2010 10:49 PM      Profile for Mark Campbell   Email Mark Campbell         Edit/Delete Post 
I might purchase some shares if possible to help them out. Plus I always wanted to own a movie theatre so this could be a tiny foot in the door.

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Mark Campbell
Member

Posts: 437
From: Seattle, WA
Registered: Oct 2004


 - posted May 11, 2011 11:17 AM      Profile for Mark Campbell   Email Mark Campbell         Edit/Delete Post 
Closed. Hopefully another operator will take over the space?
Seattle Times article

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Ken Layton
Member

Posts: 87
From: Olympia, WA
Registered: Oct 2004


 - posted May 12, 2011 07:48 AM      Profile for Ken Layton   Email Ken Layton         Edit/Delete Post 
I think the city of Seattle is still going to play hardball about the sprinkler issue. It's just too costly for the amount of revenue the theater generates IMO.

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Mark Campbell
Member

Posts: 437
From: Seattle, WA
Registered: Oct 2004


 - posted November 07, 2012 09:18 AM      Profile for Mark Campbell   Email Mark Campbell         Edit/Delete Post 
Columbia City Cinemas set to reopen as the Ark Lodge Cinemas:
http://seattletimes.com/html/movies/2019498639_cinema23.html?prmid=4939

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