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History of the Regent Theatre: 2002

By Allan Webb Prev | Next

The Xmas/New Year was the best ever and the week ending 2/1/2002 was the biggest the Theatre has ever had grossing $30,000. The shop also performed exceptionally well. I decided for both of the long blockbusters to charge more and have the same price for all sessions ($12, $10, $8 with normal prices being day $9:50, 8:50, $7.50 and night $11, $9.50, $8). Frequent movie-goer coupons were still being accepted. This was a concession programme to encourage people to come back to the pictures more frequently and was devised by Pike Productions of USA. It had been in operation here for over 17 years and provides a 20% discount for all patrons who wish to use it. It has been a very successful method of rewarding good patrons.

I ordered $10,000 worth of stock just before the price went up so I could hold the price of confectionary down. To give an example, our potato chips cost $1.20 and at the major theatres they were $1.90. Our Tangy Fruits were $2.50 whereas theirs were $3.90. Their Ice Creams, $3.00 next to ours at $2.20. As the film companies do not get a share of the confectionary, the chains make sure they get as much as they can from this area, which is very profitable for them with such high prices and the large number of admissions. Everything else we were selling was considerably lower than their prices. We went through all that confectionary very fast and although I had thought it would last for several months, it did not take long to sell everything.

Throughout all the years that I have been connected with the Cinema Industry, I have learned that things never stay the same. When business is at a high, it is bound to collapse and when it is at an all time low, a film comes along that starts the ball rolling again and gets people back into the Cinema for a while at least. However, the good times are less frequent and the bad times longer each year and with considerable outlay in trying to keep the facilities up to date, the actual profit margin continues to deteriorate.

On Saturday January 12, 2002, an armed robber held up the Chemist shop, diagonally opposite to the Theatre and the Armed Offenders Squad closed the street down for two and a half hours. Our patrons that came to the morning session were not allowed out of the building and those coming to the afternoon sessions were not allowed near the place. The robber had escaped before the Police had arrived but they kept the street closed down just in case he was still in the shop. We lost about $500 that day however we were covered for loss-of-profits insurance and the Insurance Company paid up.

There have been three burglaries at the Theatre since I have operated it. Two of the break-ins were through the South Pacific Coffee Lounge and were probably carried out by youngsters. Some money and confectionary were stolen and all the office draws rifled. Another was via one of the lobby fan lights over a particularly busy holiday weekend when we were screening Rambo. They tried to kick in the storeroom door but as it was made of solid wood and had two locks on it, they were unable to do so.

Still speaking of catastrophes, I have mentioned earlier about flooding due to the poor condition of the roof when I first took over the lease of the Theatre. However, one of the very worst disasters took place when we had a Pepsi Cola Post Mix machine. I wanted them to replace it with a new one but instead they just fixed up the old one and during one night, after the theatre had closed down, it started to leak badly. I was woken at 7am and told that there was water pouring out the front of the building. When I arrived I didn't know what to do first as the whole of the lower floor area was flooded and water had even soaked into both the adjoining shops as well as Cinema 3. Two weeks later it started to flood again, but thank goodness it was while there was a session on and we were there to deal with it. After that, I decided to throw out the machine and replace it with a new machine that I purchased for Pinto. That meant I did not have to deal with the drink companies again as both Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola had been difficult to negotiate with over the years and the machines were always giving trouble.

The Commonwealth Games were held this year and affected our figures during that period and all the big Rugby matches were to kill us weekend after weekend.

Business had been very good until the middle of the year and apart from the September School holidays it remained poor, however with our second Film Festival, the second Harry Potter Film coming in November and the second Lord of the Rings film in December, it looks like a very healthy period is coming up and hopefully will pay for all the new equipment that is being installed.

In actual fact, the Film Festival was a disaster and lost money but Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was 32% up on Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone for the first week that it played.

This year also saw a leap in Taxes and the Valuation of the building to over four fold which means that the rates will be increased by the same proportion.

I had heard of a new film cleaning system from the States and made a number of enquiries to find that basically the suppliers didn't really want to know about us as it was too close to Christmas. I kept on making enquiries and finally came across a firm that sent the necessary equipment totalling $2,500. On used prints this made an enormous difference, helping to improve the picture quality as well as keeping the projector head clean. The Film Guard also helped to keep the Digital Sound readings at a higher level than previously thus keeping the sound in Digital for longer periods than before. I had to spend another $2,000 to top up the ingredients to keep us going in film cleaner for some time to come. It was another first in New Zealand. I decided to get another unit at the end of the year as we were getting so many dirty films. The cost was about $1,500.

At the end of this year I had a Panasonic Commercial Video/DVD projector installed in Cinema 3.

New digital Wide Screen and new digital Combination Cinemascope lenses were put in place with new screens in Cinemas One and Two. A new complete centre channel speaker system plus a new amplifier was to be installed in Cinema One at the same time. The supplier for the sound system did not manage to get the speaker unit here until a day after the install time and when it finally arrived it was damaged beyond repair. The new screen was put in place without the new speakers. The total cost in round figures was $100,000.

When the Kineton was installed in Cinema 1 it had an automation unit on the projector itself which had pins placed into it for each function. When the format was changed, so did the pins have to be changed (Widescreen to Cinemascope or vice versa). When the new Victoria 5 was put into Cinema 2 it had an automation system included at the back of it using some cards which could be programmed by putting holes in the places required. This went around and each hole would create a function. The cards were preset but had to be taken out and replaced each time the format changed. However, when Cinema 3 came on line we were offered the use of three new Babymation automations as a trial for New Zealand as long as I was prepared to let others look at it when required. Later on the installation Company, Village Technology, had a change of management and reneged on the deal and charged me for all of them. The automations were not 100% reliable right from the beginning and occasionally, for no apparent reason, used to fault and exit, jam and lose the first function. This could be embarrassing as you never knew when this would happen. The film could be playing and the sound change to non sync (incidental music) at interval and keep going without dialogue or the lens might not change to Cinemascope or the lights might not come on at the end. I got everyone who thought they might know how to fix them over the years but no one could. This cost me a lot of money and finally I made the producers replace the three of them at cost. They are all to arrive by the end of the year, months after they were paid for. However, at the end of the year they still have not arrived.

Trying things out

Over the years, I'm sure I have tried everything there is to try and usually before everyone else. If new equipment is available somewhere in the world, we often are the first in N.Z. to try it out. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't but at least I am prepared to give things a go. Even with programming: I started 4pm sessions on Saturdays, Home Early Evening sessions at about 6 o'clock, Sundays with in-season films, Sunday afternoon movies, earlier starts on Sunday nights, from single to double and sometimes three movies back to single features again on Sundays, late sessions on holiday Sundays, morning coffee shows and continuous showing of Disney films in the holidays, single features for the first week and doubles for the second week and changing the second feature for subsequent weeks, even double feature matinees and keeping the films on for long seasons which eventually became the norm and so on. Eventually it comes back to the tried and true as nothing lasts forever.

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