Movie theatre chains and movies played.

How do ‘they’ decide what movies go to which theatres?

I live in a small town. We have one new 8-plex that is a Cineplex Odeon (Loews). It has stadium seating, digital sound etc.

There are two older theatres that are both Paramounts. One is a 2-plex and one is a single. These have older style seating and bad sound.

Basically, nobody likes going to the old theatres. Everybody I’ve talked to would be much happier if they just shut down.

The reason is, many times a big movie will go to the older theatres. For example, right now T3 and Pirates of the Caribbean are both playing at the old theatres. Having to go to those establishments can really ruin an big film.

I’ve noticed on occasion that after a movie has played in the new theatre for a few weeks, it will sometimes move to an old theatre and vice-versa.

I’ve also noticed that movies playing at a Paramount theatre here will be playing in a Ciniplex theatre in a neighbouring town.

So who decides which movies go where?

Generally speaking, there are firms which bankroll movies and firms which distribute the movies. In the case of the giant Hollywood studios these are usually one and same, although nowadays movies are so expensive that sometimes they will split the costs with other studios or spin off the distribution expenses as part of the deal.

The distributors work with theater chains, which bid for the right to show movies. In smaller cities they may bid for exclusive first-run rights. The bids involve how much of the theater’s ticket sales get sent back to the distributor each week. Generally again, the distributor gets 90% of the first week’s gross ticket sales and slides down to 50% as the weeks go by.

For big movies, a chain might sweeten the deal by giving up 90% of the first two weeks, say, knowing that they’ll make up the money by bigger concession sales to the big audiences who want to see the film. (This is why a box office bomb or one that has only a good first weekend is so devastating for theater chains and one reason why almost all of them went bankrupt in recent years - that and overbuilding.)

Second-run rights just complicate the above without actually changing anything important.

So it sounds to me like the theaters in your area are having a bidding war with one another to get the rights to the best movies. That’s the way life usually works.

You didn’t mention the size of these theatres, but that does enter into this. The studios would prefer that their hot new movies to go into whichever local theatre has the largest seating capacity.

Often the newer multi-plex theatres are smaller than the old single auditorium theatre palace. So it’s not uncommon for movies to start out at the old single theatre, with the largest seating capacity. Then after a couple of weeks, when the attendance is starting to drop, this movie is moved to one of the multi-plex auditoriums, with a smaller seating capacity.

In some of the multi-plexs, which have different seating capacities in their various auditoriums, the films may move around quite often – maybe even daily. For example, at the Saturday matinee, the largest auditorium shows the "kids movie’. But by Saturday evening, that same auditorum is showing the “teen-ager date movie”, and at midnight the “cult classic movie”.

Locally, we have a company that owns an old movie “palace”, with ornate decoration, 2 balconies, and seats about 2500 people. They also own a newer 6-plex just down the street, with much smaller auditoriums. Movies often move between the theatres, depending on demand for seats. And advance tickets sold for one theatre are even honored at the other if the movie has moved there.

But this is not likely in your case, since the theatres are owned by competitors.