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When the Met Cinema in Oakhurst, California closed on November 1, 2012, its fate followed that of many small theaters around the country. Faced with declining attendance, reduced concession revenue, and the need for conversion to Digital Cinema Projection systems, the theater's owners just could not continue with business as usual.
With so many changes in society and how people can find entertainment, "business as usual" won't work any better than in any other industry.
To stave off closing altogether, many theaters try to rally the community for support; asking for donations and holding fundraisers to tap the goodwill of loyal customers. That's worked for some theaters, but in some cases, it's either not been enough, or the owners betray the support of the community and close anyway.
That's why a plan by three Oakhurst men may just be unusual enough to have movies playing again at the Met Cinema. The Los Angeles Times published an article earlier this week about the new members-only approach to running a movie theater that was hatched by James Nelson, Matt Sconce, and Keith Walker:
Three childhood friends believe they've developed a subscription plan that could save not only the Met but also struggling small-town theaters across the country.
The deadline to find out if they can make it work here is Dec. 31. If enough people enroll, the trio will be able to sign a lease and reopen the movie house.
They ran models of Nelson's subscription-based theater idea, showing that to break even they would need 3,000 people, or 15% of the mountain communities, to sign up. For $19.95 per month, a member would be able to see each movie one time and buy individual tickets for friends. Non-members could buy a $16 day pass.
Click the Read link below to view the full article.
They set a goal of 3,000 members by December 31, 2012 and their web site at https://savethemet.com/ announced that they reached their goal that day! The subscriptions will begin on the opening date, which is tentatively February 1, 2013.
This is definitely a unique approach to opening a previously-closed community movie theater, and it will be interesting to see if they can keep the momentum they've achieved, and continue to attract new members as well as keep the existing ones at a rate that will sustain their business model. I think it's going to be a challenge, but if they can, this may be a model that can be used in other locations where doing business as usual just isn't working out.
Related News Coverage
Hollywood ending makes movie history in Oakhurst -- KFSN-TV ABC30 [Jan 1, 2013]
What Do You Think?
Can this members-only approach to a movie theater work? Would you attend a movie theater where everyone was a member? Are the prices hitting a sweet spot or missing the mark?
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