Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Grand Forks theaters: promises unfulfilled

The other night, I went to the Carmike 10 on 32nd Avenue South to see "The Black Dahlia". Aside from the fact that I came to the conclusion that there were only two (three at absolute tops) employees in the entire multiplex, I also couldn't help but think about all of those promises made to us about new movie theater construction and renovation projects in Grand Forks...all promises that have gone unfulfilled...

•A new 8-screen stadium-style theater attached to the Canad Inns/Alerus Center complex. It was originally even supposed to have full food service (eat a meal in your seat) as well as state-of-the-art audio and video.

•A new 12-screen stadium-style theater at Columbia Mall in the old Target store space. It was supposed to be a Wallace Theater. That would have been such a boost for the mall and would have created much needed competition for Carmike.

•A renovated Carmike 10 with new stadium seats in the theaters. Certainly needed!

•A revamped Columbia 4 turned into a discount theater. We need a discount theater in Grand Forks badly. I used to go to the old Plaza Twin at South Forks Plaza often...I wish I could still see a movie for $1 or $2 dollars. The Columbia 4 is far too outdated to expect people to accept it as a theater for first-run movies. It would be much better suited for a discount format.

And here we are...not one of these projects has happened. Carmike really needs competition and Grand Forks really needs more movie screens in much more modern theater environments. As it is, going to the movies in Grand Forks currently means you put on your old clothes (those seats...ewww) and pay way too much to sit through a movie with poor video and even worse sound. What a shame!

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

I suspect that the issue is...now that the movie theater industry has become a business where the movies are just an attraction and the primary revenue/profit center is selling crap like popcorn, and candy, the snack sales can't cashflow a new theater development.

I'm not an expert but, I've been told that the ticket revenue is a break-even situation for the film licensing, and the snack bar is where the theater makes their money (hopefully anyway).

Now that consumers are getting away from junk food like soda pop, popcorn, and candy, it's time for the industry to adapt to the marketplace.

...not to mention the competition from the digital era. Tivo, On-Demand, NetFlix, etc.

Anonymous said...

Who wants to watch a movie in a cramped theatre when you can rent a movie and watch at home. I would go to many more movies if they had stadium seating, but as it is now, I'll wait for most of them to come out on DVD. Carmike flat out lied, and the only way to make them pay for that is through the wallet.

Anonymous said...

Maybe theaters will be part of the "major" entertainment project hinted at for Bronson property.

vcsuvike said...

Maybe Grand Forks should continue trying to find another Theater company. Carmike definitely stinks and refuses to do anything. I do think something on the Bronson site or the "entertainment complex" thing would be an excellent location.

Rick said...

Carmike has really gone down hill over the years. Ugh, it makes me want to just rent a movie.

ec99 said...

Concessions have long been the profit makers of movie theaters. Anyone know the markup on popcorn, candy and pop? Further, does anyone else resent the fact of paying for a ticket, then sitting through a whole passel of ads, trailers, and more ads. Last time I went, there were twenty minutes of them beginning when the movie was scheduled to start.

JGS said...

Thats why theres this thing called bringing your own candy, pop, or other goodies. It's not like they check that anymore these days. Instead of paying 10 bucks on the concessions, you can spend 3 at the gas station.

Thats the way I see it.

GrandForksGuy said...

I can't understand why several different theater companies announced major building and renovation projects and then every one of them went unfulfilled. I don't think Carmike will make ANY changes to their theaters until they have some sort of competition in town. We won't be seeing that renovation of Carmike 10 anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

Boy am I glad I live in the Twin Cities. stadium seating theaters all over the place. Favorite is the Lakeville 21, complete with a Monster Screen and full digitial surround sound. When I'm up visiting in GF, I never even remotely consider the possibility of going to a movie there. Heck, we're even getting a new multiplex up in the northwest part of the cities that'll have an Imax screen.

You poor, poor people...

Anonymous said...

What I find really interesting is it is cheaper to go to a movie in the stadium-seat theaters in Fargo, than it is to go to the run-down dungy movie theaters in Grand Forks.

The service has really gown downhill also in the past couple of years. I don't understand the concept of having only a couple people working at a time. A couple weeks ago, we went and there was a line snaked through the whole front area of people trying to get concessions, a lot of them finally gave up and went to their movie. They only had 2 people on a friday night doing concessions. This isn't the first time this has happened either. Management must be a joke

Matthew said...

I went down to Fargo on Saturday to see a movie. There was one ad, and one preview. It was so weird...

GrandForksGuy said...

I actually have never minded previews before movies...actually, I enjoy them. Still, 20 minutes of them is getting a little out of hand!

daniel vincent john said...

i enjoy previews as well.

can't wait for rocky balboa (rocky six) to come out in december.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=0biU_lZE0Xc

Anonymous said...

At Carmike movies have 7 minutes of previews, maximum. Sorry about the 20 minutes, but you must be a liar. No movie has ever had 20 minutes of previews. The biggest blockbusters don't even pull that. Liar, Liar. And Fargo has the exact same previews as Grand Forks. You don't want to sit throw 20 minutes of ads? Don't show up 20 minutes early.

The new Canad Inn theatre pretty much died when Carmike said "Oh no, we were planning on making a new one ourselves!" Of course they were just posturing so they could keep their rundown crap theatres running without competition. You suck Carmike.

Anonymous said...

First - the combination of two big things happened which likely put all of these projects on hold. The industry took a huge downturn right around the time any work was scheduled to begin, which decreased spending for every chain, not just Carmike. The other contributing factor was that everyone announced in a short space of time - which meant that if all projects were completed, GF would have 34 screens, which, in this market, is oversaturation. They basically all scared each other out of doing anything.

Second, a remodel in GF is probably likely for two reasons: Carmike FINALLY got all of their financial information complete and they are currently in the process of a digital projection rollout scheduled to be completed by the end of 2007. They'd be idiots not to remodel while they are shut down for the installation of digital. This digital rollout will apply to ALL Carmike theatres at some point - it is a contract with Christie/AIX - minus their discount houses. So yes, the Carmike 10 and Columbia 4 will be capable of digital projection of movies and additional content such as sporting events and pay-per-views. This will solve the complaints of "poor video and even worse sound."

Third - the days of the $1 discount house, at least in terms of Carmike, are gone. If the Columbia 4 were converted to a discount theatre, it probably won't be a dollar, and the prices of concessions, sadly, would remain nearly identical to its big brother. (On a side note, did ANYONE notice that the Columbia 4 received new seats a couple of years ago?)

Fourth - competition is a double-edged sword. In terms of the market, GF can handle only so many screens and/or theatres...this is why the three projects you mentioned collided into each other. The distributors of the movies will only send so many prints to so many places in a given area. This isn't the Cities where you have Star Wars playing in six different theatres in the area. In GF, ONE theatre would get a movie, not BOTH theatres. A good example of this is Bismarck. Plus, any competition to Carmike, while having the flexibility to compete on terms of concessions, will still charge the same amount, relatively, for tickets. Fargo ticket prices are nearly the same as GF. And don't discount the possibility that this competition runs Carmike out of the business in GF, only to turn itself into Carmike.

I'm not even going to get into the cost of concessions and the impact of contraband on the cost. As for the service - there is a means to address your issues - talk to that management that is a "joke" and let them know. Go to the Carmike web site and bitch, and bitch hard. The whole idea that not going to movies will show them won't work very well - GF is just part of the scheme, and a small part at that. The response to that will be to INCREASE the price of tickets and concessions to offset your attempt to show them. The more you complain, intelligently and calmly, the more likely it is to set a fire under someone to get something done. And I doubt a blog in the right venue to address these type of grievances - use the Herald, use the Carmike feedback form, send letters, buy stock and go to stockholder meetings. If you are REALLY upset about the prices, organize and boycott...THAT is an impact...a few people here and there not buying tickets out of rage won't do much good. Get news coverage, become such an annoyance to the management of Carmike that they will be forced to do something.

Anonymous said...

And why must a person sit and freeze throughout a movie? Ever hear of heatint people?

GrandForksGuy said...

Carmike makes a very poor effort at adequately maintaining their properties. The Columbia 4 is a good example. Ever notice how faded the blue paint on the front of the building is? Would it cost that much to buy a can of paint? Also, many nights the parking lot lights aren't operating. Why? Would it cost that much to buy some new light bulbs? This is very unsafe and shows just how much Carmike cares about its customers' experience at their theaters. These examples are only on the outside of the theater itself...the inside is even more poorly maintained. "Little things" like these speak poorly of Carmike and its local, regional, and national management.

And I doubt a blog in the right venue to address these type of grievances

Well, it certainly can't hurt. I doubt any complaints sent to Carmike itself would be addressed beyond a form letter. At least 150 people read this blog everyday so I think it is a decent form for airing complaints about Carmike. It's at least a start.

Anonymous said...

Would your complaint receive a form letter? Yes, it would, sort of, and probably two free tickets. (Score!) The important part is that beyond the form letter, a number of people will receive a copy of your complaint. The more complaints about a certain location, the bigger a problem it becomes. The bigger the problem, the more likely to get any type of work done.

My comment was not meant to disparge your blog or its readership, but rather to state that if the management of Carmike cannot be bothered to fix their theatres, it is highly unlikely that they will see reading blogs (or newspapers for that matter) as part of their job. Trust me, the bigger the stink that is made, be it here on this blog, or anywhere else, the greater the chance of results. But just lamenting the negatives won't get anything done.

Carmike has a web feedback form - as easy as posting comments on your blog. Use it every time you go to a movie - good, bad, horrible, wonderful. EVERY time. Their solution will be to throw free movies at you - which isn't that bad.

These guys won't see anything as their responsibility until it becomes a problem - so make it a problem. And GF isn't the only place that this type of thing is happening - so the more effort put in, perhaps the greater the end results. Maybe.

GrandForksGuy said...

I drove by the Columbia 4 this evening. No lights on in the parking lot (who cares that this theater is right next to the scene of a very high profile kidnapping?) and the sign on the theater read "THEA" as it has for months. Of course, it would be far too expensive to put a light bulb in that "TER" part.

After all, what kind of business would actually want to have an operating sign and lights on in their parking lot? Carmike knows how to save a few bucks here and there! After all, they don't make anything selling those $3 dollar cups of Coke and those $4 dollar candy bars...

All sarcasm aside, why can't Carmike get its act together? It's a big chain...is there no competent regional management in this area or does a poor theater experience and poor upkeep plague Carmike theaters nationwide?

Anonymous said...

To put it bluntly, the answer is two-fold. The management at the Columbia 4 in town is horrible. And yes, Carmike's nationwide basically suck. Want proof? Their independent auditors, PricewaterhouseCoopers quit - this is the company they brought in to tell them what they are doing wrong. It would seem they suck so bad that their auditors wanted nothing to do with them. (http://msnbc.msn.com/id/14794667/)

Carmike theatres across the country have been robbed, like ours, and multiple times as well. (http://www.dailyprogress.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=CDP%2FMGArticle%2FCDP_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1149190678259&path=!news) (http://www.readthehook.com/stories/2006/09/21/4BETTER%200438.doc.aspx) Including one in the Cities where they tied up management and proceeded to rob the place.

It took Carmike 9 months to state (as well as restate previous) end of year 2005 financial statements - which nearly delisted them from Nasdaq.

Carmike has been closing theatres in various cities, mostly older locations, probably because it's cheaper than running it, or fixing it. Probably like the Columbia 4.

Here is a post from another GF blog from earlier in the year: http://progressivepalette.blogspot.com/2006/06/dramatic-decay-of-theaters.html. The link in the article is here: http://www.ktre.com/Global/story.asp?S=5042552&nav=2FH5

It's not just GF, by any means - it s a systematic problem, plaguing the whole chain.

Anonymous said...

I was told (from an inside source at Carmike in GF) that the manager at Carmike was fired recently. Apparently he was horrible to work for (he had 6 employees walk out on him the week before those lenses were stolen)and, as everyone has noticed, not a very good manager of the theaters! And supposedly, they will start "renovating" in 2007...whatever that will mean. Personally I am dying for some stadium seating and better sound.

Anonymous said...

Renovating the theater, I won't hold my breath. Carmike has been promising us digital sound and stadium seating now for four years at the 10.

Anonymous said...

Want a trouble free movie experience, DON'T attend a movie at the Carmike 10 here in GF. I made the mistake of accepting two free tickets to the theater this weekend. With the theatre prices, it's been months since I've went to a movie. Boy has the service gone down the last four months. First we had to wait in line about 20 minutes to receive our admission tickets, only one ticket terminal of four were open. When I finally got inside they only had two employee at the concession stand helping us, the other four were off too the side talking with friend or something. Sent another 15 minutes in line to purchase my cold and stale popcorn. No one mans the ticket booth, just a rope blocking the path. By the time I got through all of the horse S_-_ in the front, the movie had already started. I don't mean the previews the main show had started, my girlfriend filed me in on the first ten minutes of the film. We really should have left, the night just got worse. About half way thru we wanted more popcorn. So I went back to the concession stand, Low and behold there was no employees to be found. I ended up not receiving my popcorn refill and returned to the movie. After the movie I attempted to complain but was informed my the children working that the manager had gone home for the night and they could not help me. They rudely suggested that I call on monday.

I have heard that the theatre has turned into bad place to go the last couple of months, but this was worse than bad. What company would let the management take off on a Friday night and leave 16 and 17 yearold children in-charge.

When I contacted the manager his response was a canned response of "that shouldn't have happened". He didn't make any attempt make it right.