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The business perspective of Towne Cinema Centre: How to compete in the big leagues

For many of us UFV students who grew up in Abbotsford, Towne Cinema Centre has been a staple of the city. Its laid back atmosphere has always been a comfortable place to go see a movie. And while the theatre may lack in certain features that the larger cinemas boast, it also certainly isn’t without charm.

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By Joe Johnson (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: March 14, 2012

For many of us UFV students who grew up in Abbotsford, Towne Cinema Centre has been a staple of the city. Its laid back atmosphere has always been a comfortable place to go see a movie. And while the theatre may lack in certain features that the larger cinemas boast, it also certainly isn’t without charm.

It opened its doors in 1974 as a spry two-screen theatre. Then as the years past, it expanded to four screens, and then would become what it is today, a nine-screen movie experience. For the past seven years, Jessica Chernecki has been the general manager. Under her management, the theatre continues to advance towards modern day necessities.

But being that Towne Cinema operates under the larger corporate umbrella of Landmark Cinemas, there’s a clear definition of functionality between the two entities. Landmark takes care of most financial matters, leaving Towne Cinema with the handling of the theatre experience and operations.

When Chernecki first started working there, she was in concessions. After moving around a bit, she was promoted to assistant manager and ultimately hired as general manager. By and large, the employees working there all seem to be pleased with where they’re at.

But really, it’s about the movies. According to Chernecki, the films that are often the most popular are children’s movies. Usually a family will come as a whole. “I find that the big family movies that we open are usually the busiest. For example, right now we have The Lorax out. It’s a Dr. Seuss movie, and that one’s been just crazy busy.”

Money, though, is what will keep those movies playing. In a time of strong competition from large Cineplex Odeon theatres in Mission, Langley, and soon on Mt. Lehman in Abbotsford, a pricing strategy is required.

The large Cineplex theatres focus on the high-end of the market. According to Chernecki, “I know that the one in Chilliwack that opened, I believe their admission prices are around $12 to $15, and then it’s even more expensive for the 3D and they have the VIP cinema, as well.”

For Towne Cinema, it’s the opposite. They’re focusing on low-cost. They’re normal price for everybody is $6.95.

However, around a year ago they introduced the $2 Tuesday. It’s proven so popular that even considering it’s less than 30 per cent of the typical admission, they make more revenue on that day than they do on any other weekday at the normal price. Together with the weekend moviegoers, their box office is keeping them in what would seem to be a profitable position.

Of course, concession sales make up the other half of their gross revenue stream. “I think overall, it’s about 50/50,” Chernecki said.

When all is said and done, the cost of showing the movie comes from the box office, leaving the majority of net profit coming from concessions.

“Even though tickets are cheap, we do sell a lot in concessions,” she said.

The marketing aspect of Towne Cinema isn’t something that’s very visible. Aside from having showtimes listed in newspapers, and the occasional partnering with local businesses, they have a Facebook page. Their page of Facebook is something that they list upcoming events on, such as airing The Goonies for $5 in preparation for when Super 8 was released.

Being so close to UFV, with a residence of university students, Chernecki expressed interest in the possibility of direct marketing. “It would be good, because they are really close and if they don’t drive, there’s not a lot else around here.”

While Towne Cinema may not be overly active in marketing, they are making an effort to keep up with changing technology. Already having a 3D screen, thanks to a digital projector, they’re in the process of upgrading the rest of their antiquated film reels.

The upgrade is set to be completed by March 16. But it won’t be cheap at a cost of $100,000 per projector. However, customers will only see the upside. There won’t be an increase in ticket prices, and the picture quality is going to be significantly improved.

These improvements are necessary to stave off increasing competition.

When asked if Towne Cinema will still be here in 10 years, Chernecki answered, “I guess it really depends on what happens with the new theatre, but I think that we’ll stay open. We’ve been open for this long, so I don’t think there are any plans to see it go.”

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