DDA board members Lewis Cline and Stan Rogers gave a lengthy presentation during public comments about the potential impact movies could have in bringing more people to downtown and attracting corporate sponsorship dollars of events.
The board requested $51,000 to move forward with the project, which includes $45,000 in new equipment such as a 220-inch screen, projector and surround sound for showing movies on weekends, and upgrades to allow other events like company meetings during the week. About $2,000 would be needed for staff.
Lewis said the ideal time to schedule movies would be during First Friday weekends, particularly because loud downtown activities prevent live performances and restrict access to production crews. On average, three movies would be shown a month in the 170-seat theater, he said.
With an average audience of 55 moviegoers paying $5 per ticket, the board estimated that each movie screening would make $325 in revenue, including $50 in concessions. Average expense costs for each movie would total $182, including $25 for concessions, $137.50 for movie royalties, $16.50 in sales taxes and $3 in merchant fees.
“The estimate we’re looking at is probably a net profit of around $150 just per movie showing, if we show three movies that’s $429,” said Lewis. “That’s net, after expense costs, especially royalties on the movies, which is the biggest expense which has to be paid.”
The city’s goal would be to stay revenue neutral, said Lewis.
He said the board’s research shows that screening movies is a “break even to minimum profit margin” enterprise. The real return, he said, would come in corporate sponsorships, meetings and seminars, in addition to film festivals, movie-themed fundraisers and concessions.
“We turn down bookings all of the time,” Lewis said. “We do not have the capability to do a Power Point presentation or any type of business application in the theater.”
Previously, the Canton Theatre showed movies during its early history before experiencing a decline in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1997, the city acquired the theater and completed renovations to turn it into primarily a performing arts facility. It has since become a popular venue for concerts and weddings.
Since March, 5,000 people have attended events at the theater, according to the DDA.
At the urging of city officials, the DDA said it formed a Theater Equipment Committee to recommend upgrades and enhancements to the theater’s current audio and video capabilities.
Councilman Bob Rush said the idea of showing movies would be significant in the development of downtown Canton. “Personally, I’m all for it,” he said.
Councilman Jack Goodwin also expressed support for the idea and complimented the work of theater manager Bob Seguin. He also stated that he has already received positive feedback regarding potential sponsorships.
“I think you’re going to make more money off of Cokes and popcorn than you believe,” Mayor Gene Hobgood told Lewis and Rogers.
Council members are schedule to vote on the movie proposal at the next city council meeting on Oct 18.