News Column

Small theaters add trivia, spirits

October 25, 2013

YellowBrix

Oct. 25--About 20 movie fanatics clustered in small groups around the tables and lounge chairs at the upstairs bar at Kiggins Theatre.

Lori Richie and Kevin Brooks, of the team "Flying Velociraptors," prepared for the first round of the weekly Tuesday trivia game much like their competitors -- they made sure they had an ample supply of pencils and their beer glasses were full.

The pair are part of a younger generation of theatergoers that Clark County's small theaters hope to court with a host of new offerings.

The first trivia question was a relatively easy one: "What is Rambo's first name?"

That would be John, for those of you playing at home.

Other questions were harder:

"In the film 'UHF,' Weird Al becomes the director of what channel?" the trivia announcer asked and was met with groans and an occasional "ooh."

Few got that one, 62, right.

The true movie buff love -- or hate -- came out in another question: Who directed "The Last Airbender?"

That was met by a chorus of "boos" and a few shouts of "no one!"

It seems the crowd wasn't so pleased with M. Night Shyamalan's efforts in the 2010 bomb, which had just a 6 percent approval rating on the moving ranking site Rotten Tomatoes.

The 7 p.m. trivia event is one that Kiggins' owner Dan Wyatt and his partners are calling a success.

In the year or so since it started, Brooks and Richie have become loyal customers, the two said.

"It's cool because every week we meet new people here," Brooks said. "It kind of feels like a move version of the 'Cheers' bar."

The two also said they also like to come out to watch TV shows at the theater, although that trend may be waning after the AMC network sent out cease-and-desist letters to small venues, including Kiggins, informing them that they can't show favorites like "The Walking Dead" anymore.

That show, which airs Sundays at 9 p.m., had been a big hit at Kiggins, which showed episodes for free but made money on food and drinks, Wyatt said.

"We used to do more business in one hour of that show than we did all weekend, and that was with no alcohol sales," Wyatt said.

Different networks have different responses to the trend of small theaters airing their shows. While AMC frowns on it, other networks encourage it, Wyatt said.

Wyatt tried his luck with another offering, ABC's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." But last week, he announced he had canceled the showing due to a lack of interest.

"We're going after the geek factor, and that's been OK," Wyatt said before pulling the plug, "but the reaction to the show has been a little lukewarm. 'Doctor Who' did really well last year, and we want to do that again, but that doesn't really start up until August."Still, Richie and Brooks said they both really enjoy watching TV shows that way.

"It's great to have a bunch of people who like one show all watching it together like that," Brooks said. "Otherwise I'm just watching at home alone."

It also makes for a welcoming and entertaining downtown social scene, Richie said.

"I usually just show up and whoever's here is here," Richie said. "We've met a lot of new people."

Kiggins and Camas' Liberty Theatre are benefitting from new digital projector technology. It's a switchover many small theaters are trying to make, because offerings on older film projectors are becoming progressively more limited.

At the Liberty Theatre, managing director Rand Thornsley said the technology has helped expand the types of films the venue can show on its two screens.

The theater has a large screen, which seems to do best with mainstream films and 3D offerings. On the smaller screen, he's been able to get more creative, showing art house films, documentaries and films aimed at senior citizens.

And he expects those audiences to grow once the theater's liquor license is approved, which should happen in mid November, Thornsley said.

"We'll be serving in the small theater and in the balcony of the big theater, but we'll have no liquor in the main area," he said. "I think we'll sell more wine in the small theater. We're getting a good art crowd in there, and wine is the thing they've been asking for."

Kiggins has also benefitted from new state laws that let customers bring beer from the bar into the theater, Wyatt said.

While it hasn't necessarily increased the crowd yet, beer and wine sales have increased since the new rules launched in September, he said.

"We've seen a blip," Wyatt said. "We think that will grow when more people realize we can have beer and wine in the theater now."

Still, other experiments at Kiggins and Liberty haven't done as well.

Second-run films and film festival screenings haven't been great sellers at Kiggins, Wyatt said.

He'd like to get new films a bit sooner, and there's a release schedule for intermediate rollout after first run that he hopes will let him do that. The digital projector will help with that and with the first-run screenings of new independent films, Wyatt said.

At Liberty, Thornsley said he's not entirely giving up on them, but presentations of a few concert films and stage shows last year didn't draw many people.

"They weren't a huge success, but we may try again this fall and see if they do better," Thornsley said.

The TV show trend is also too much of a gray area to get involved with at his venue, he added.

The biggest draw for both Kiggins and Liberty are PG- and G-rated family films.

With cheaper prices than mainstream movie houses, the theaters are a better bargain for families on a budget, Thornsley and Wyatt said.

"I think our most successful thing so far may be the kids matinee series," Wyatt said. "Those have really big turnouts."

Kiggins shows Disney and other kid-friendly films for Saturday and Sunday matinees and on the occasional weekday.

Liberty puts a lot of family friendly films in its lineup each week, because the films work well for the families that make up a big portion of the Camas and Washougal area, Thornsley said.

Both theaters also try to do special holiday offerings, which usually do well at drawing in crowds.

On Halloween, the Liberty Theatre is showing a double feature with a remastered, colorized 3D version of the 1968 film "Night of the Living Dead" and a remastered 3D version of the camp Ed Wood classic "Plan 9 From Outer Space."

"That should be a really good, fun program," Thornsley said.

Kiggins also has a special Halloween offering of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." It will air the film on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 6 and 10 p.m. and on Halloween at 7 p.m.

Kiggins is also hosting a stage broadcast of "War of the Worlds," the radio show, for that event's 75th anniversary on Oct. 30.

"We're always on the hunt for the next show that will draw a crowd," Wyatt said.

___

(c)2013 The Columbian (Vancouver, Wash.)

Visit The Columbian (Vancouver, Wash.) at www.columbian.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

A service of YellowBrix, Inc.


For more stories covering arts and entertainment, please see HispanicBusiness' Arts & Entertainment Channel

Story Tools






HispanicBusiness.com Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters