I have the pleasure of working with a number of independent theatres across BC and Alberta. I not only love the cities and towns these theatres are in, but the tenacity and dedication these owners have as locally owned theatres.

Royal Theatre: Trail, BC

Royal Theatre: Trail, BC

What many people don't know about the theatre industry is the difficulty single screen theatres face. There are hundreds of single screen theatres all across Canada. A lot of these theatres are family owned and run, and usually are a side business these families run just out of their passion for movies. Imagine how many small communities there are across all of Canada and how a lot of them each have a single screen theatre to share the magic of Hollywood with.

I previously wrote about Movie Rights and theatres difficulties with dealing with large studios demands. These demands are even worse for the single screen theatre owners. Here are just a few things single screen theatres have to deal with:

1) Keeping Up With The Jones'
Today more than ever it's important that theatres stay up to date with theatre technology. For 100 years pretty much all theatres used the same projection system and had the same or similar surround sound. Today, with the advance of digital projection and 7.1 surround sound, theatres are forced to stay up to date with competitor theatres AND home theatre systems, if they expect audiences to show up. There's obviously a high cost to this, but also a big demand.

2) Studio Demands
If a single screen theatre wants to play a first run movie (on or near release date) then they can't play anything else, sometimes for up to three weeks. You can imagine the difficulty a theatre is under to draw crowds from a small community into their theatre for 21 days with the same movie. The first week will do well, but numbers usually peter out in week two.

Golden Cinema: Golden, BC

Golden Cinema: Golden, BC

3) Audience A.D.D
Audiences tend to have an urge to go to what is newest and shiniest. Audiences like to be entertained not by just what is on screen, but the whole experience of going to the theatre. They love the big screens in lobbies, arcade games and flashy concession screens. Single screen theatres are typically older buildings, some are the original theatre that was first built in their town or city over 50 years ago and aren't set-up for such lobbies or arcades. It's hard to keep up with big company dollars and their shiny new toys, even though the movie experience in a single screen theatre is just as good if not better. 

So What? What can we do? What can help single screen theatres?
I'm an advocate for keeping business locally. If more people in their cities and towns supported their local theatre, their numbers will go up and it will help with keeping the top movies on their screen.
Studios need to see more of the opportunities they can have in a single screen theatre. If they were willing to split first run movies and keep movies for one week at a time, they would increase opportunities for theatres to sell double bill tickets, provide more variety for patrons and give theatres the best movie offerings in their area.
Theatres also need to listen to their audience. Giving them opportunities to speak out about what they love, want more of and wish there was. If a single screen theatre is willing to work for their community, they'll continue to see increased business and help from studios.

What was the last single screen theatre you visited?
A few I get to work with and are rich in history are the Beacon Theatre (Burns Lake), Gem Theatre (Grand Forks), Golden Cinema (Golden), Royal Theatre (Trail), Park Theatre (High Prairie), South Cariboo Theatre (100 Mile House) and Napier Theatre (Drumheller).

Matthew A. Hawkins