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Archive for Sunday, January 5, 1992

T SLOW LOCAL MOVIE THEATER BUSINESS

January 5, 1992

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Longer lines at unemployment offices may have shortened box office lines at movie theaters across the country.

But Lawrence's movie houses have been somewhat insulated from the economic downturn, say local theater managers.

"As far as our theater here, we're consistent, we're not falling out," said Chris Watson, general manager of Dickinson Theatres, 2339 Iowa. "The holiday season here compared to last year was better, but that's because we got the bookings."

However, the movie industry across the country is seeing tough times, Watson said.

"Hollywood has been crying for about a year and wondering, `Where are the big profits we were seeing in the 1980s?'" Watson said.

RANCE BLANN of Crown Cinema Theatres, which has eight screens in Lawrence, says his business hasn't been hurt by the recession.

"I've never noticed that it affected movie business very much," Blann said. "That is still something that people will try to do even though times are tough."

Blann manages Hillcrest Theatres, Ninth and Iowa; Cinema Twin Theatres, 31st and Iowa; and the Varsity Theatre, 1015 Mass. Total gross income for the local Crowns Cinema theaters is up 7 percent from a year ago, he said.

"If the economy is worse, we haven't noticed," Blann said.

Watson said the traditional film industry theory is that in hard times, movie theaters do well because people go to movies as a relatively cheap way to escape from their frustrations.

However, Watson says that's no longer true this is the first recession the country has experienced when movies can be rented on video cassettes.

"OVERALL, when you're faced with economic hard times and people have cheaper options, those options are played out," Watson said.

Blann, though, doesn't believe video rentals hurt the big screens.

"My personal opinion is that the video movie craze, I think, has actually helped (box office) business in Lawrence, Kansas," he said. The more movies people watch at home and the more they talk about them, he said, the more they're attracted to films at the movie theaters.

"If there's one thing the video business did hurt, it probably pretty much put an end to drive-ins," Blann said. "But as far as indoor theaters, no, I don't think so."

Going to a movie is still fairly inexpensive, Blann said.

Matinees in Lawrence cost $3 for a ticket, and adult tickets for evening films cost between $4.50 and $4.75 per ticket.

"IT COSTS money," Blann said. "But it's not like going to a Chiefs football game where you'll end up spending 50 bucks minimum and not like going to a restaurant where you can spend $30 for a meal. In terms of the entertainment dollar, we're one of the last things that people cut."

Tim Griffith, manager for both the movie theater and video rentals at Liberty Hall, 642 Mass., said his theater, which shows alternative and international films, hasn't seen much of an effect from an economic downturn.

"We're not rolling in the dough. We want the recovery as much as anybody," Griffith said. "But the theaters are more affected by the movie itself. If it's a good movie, they'll come and see it."

Griffith said video business is helped somewhat because many people who normally would go to a theater rent a video instead as a way to cut costs. Liberty Hall also operates a video rental store.

"AS FAR AS video, I do think that is booming because it is a cheaper form of entertainment instead of taking the whole family out for a movie at $4.50 apiece," he said.

Griffith said people on tighter budgets might see a movie instead of spending their money on more expensive forms of entertainment.

"It's a lot cheaper than a ball game, or a concert," he said. "The times are varied enough so you can always find time to go to one."

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