Competition is good, right? It keeps you on your toes and makes you think more creatively. Let's hope so! Because just as we're about to open our own movie theater, it looks like the movie-showing business in Springfield, Missouri has just expanded to 15 or more screens.
Earlier this week, a new commercial development broke ground about 500 feet from our theater. The plans call for fine dining, boutique shopping, a parking garage, and a 14-screen multiplex theater with plush, high-backed love seats.
Luckily for us, we've known about this incoming theater since we started, so it wasn't a complete surprise. But after not hearing any news on the development for the last six months, and after finding out the developer had an "accident" involving a leg wound caused by a gunshot and a lead pipe to the head (we promise it wasn't us!), we thought plans might have been put on the back burner.
Dan and I talked early on about what this competition means for The Moxie. Of course it's competition, and they'll probably attempt to show some of the same movies that we will specialize in (independent films, documentaries, foreign films, etc). But it will also bring more people to the downtown area who are interested in watching movies, so that's always a good thing. Plus, we've worked hard for the last year and developed a niche audience through Dan's blog'Žand we're not even open yet!
Our next step is to turn that niche audience into regular customers. We have roughly a year to do it before the multiplex opens, so that means we need to open soon and provide creative programming and film series in addition to our regular film fare. Just a few ideas we've been tossing around include a Heckler's Series, where we'll provide popcorn-holding megaphones, show an unintentionally bad movie, and let the audience go to town with their commentaries. We also will be working with the local colleges and universities to provide film handling and exhibition courses as well as student film series.
The other bit of competition we've come across this week was during our attempt to book films. We got a call last night from our booking agent saying he couldn't get the film we were hoping to open with. Reason being, the 16-screen theater in town has already exclusively booked it. I had a mild panic attack, because this theater is not typically known for showing documentaries, but I got over it pretty quickly. Our booking agent is an extremely creative person and we developed a strong back-up plan.
The first year of business is tough for anyone. We're lucky we've had so much positive buzz about The Moxie, but we can't let that get to our heads. If we want to stay in the game for many years to come, we have to make sure this first year is one of our most impressive. It will be difficult, but we're excited and up for the challenge!
Diary of a Start-Up is a weekly blog written by Dan and Nicole Chilton, who are currently starting up an art-house theater in Springfield, Missouri. Dan has been chronicling their progress for more than a year at The Moxie Blog.