Off The Record: Can Danville cut it as a moviehouse Mecca?

May 24, 2004|HERB BROCK

Danville has gained a reputation as Title Town for the football prowess of the two local high schools. Maybe it also should be called Tinsel Town East for its new reputation as a movie theater Mecca.

On Mother's Day, the city gave birth to octuplets - the new eight-screen Danville Cinemas 8, located in the new Danville Convention Center on the site of the old Lowe's store. With the existing quadruplets - Danville Cinemas 4 in the Danville Manor Shopping Center - this still relatively small city now has 12 movie screens.

But the dozen screens won't really be an accurate count of what will be available to Danville area residents in terms of their celluloid entertainment opportunities. In a few months, there will be massive new multi-screen theater opening up on U.S. 27 near Nicholasville.

Thus, by the end of the year, there will be perhaps as many as 24 movies screens within a 20-minute drive of downtown Danville. And, if you want to count the multi-screen complexes on the south and east ends of Lexington, including the ones at Lexington Green, Man O' War and Hamburg Place, you could say that, in a very few months, Danvillians will be within a half hour's drive or a little more of 50-plus movie screens.


In the spirit of this being an election year, it sounds like a politician has promised a movie screen on every street corner to go along with a chicken in every pot. Perhaps that should be changed to a popcorn bag in every microwave.

Perhaps from now on the U.S. Census Bureau should add a category where movie screens are counted. The bureau could have a movie screen per population ratio, and also numbers showing how many people attend "G"," "PG," "PG-13" and "R-rated" films and list their age, race and gender. As if the bureau didn't have enough numbers to crunch, but the crunching of these movie stats probably would provide as good a look at the entertainment tastes of Americans as anything.

And what about the ripple effect of the movie theater growth? Like the Toyota plant in Georgetown generated satellite industries, the construction of more and more movie complexes might result in plants that make movie screens, movie seats, popcorn machines, industrial vacuum cleaners to remove the popcorns from theater floors and devices to remove the gum from under theater seats. And we haven't even talked about job creation.

OK, I do need to take a breath. Before taking any more leaps in analysis of the movie screen boomlet, let me hop back to where I started and talk about Danville and the two-complex situation we have here.

While I am an occasional moviegoer and enjoy escaping the real world by going to a moviehouse, buying a vat-size bag of popcorn and a silo-size cup of Coke and losing myself in a movie, I'm not sure there is a need for a dozen screens in Danville when there are dozens more not that far away. Thus, the question is: Can Danville cut it as a moviehouse Mecca?

It's kind of like the growth of cable, dish and direct TV. At first blush, it sounds neat to know that you can gain immediate access to 500 channels with one push of a button, but who has time to watch all those channels.

I realize the issue is choice, but with me there are too many choices for my simple mind to handle.

While I am a capitalist - with a liberal bent - and believe competition is at the heart of our economic system, I'm not sure both of the complexes can make it. And chances are the one that would not be able to make it is the older four-screen theater.

For the last several years Danville Cinemas 4 has been able to offer first-run flicks at half or less the cost charged at the Lexington theaters. But would movie theater companies and/or movie distributors allow first-run movies to go to two movie complexes in the same small city?

If so, then the older complex, if it were to continue charging its low prices, would be able to offset the fact that it is outnumbered, screen-wise, by the newer complex by under-charging it, price-wise, and thus staying solvent financially.

Another possibility for the older complex would be to convert to a niche theater. It could offer older movies or a particular genre of movies.

Still another option for the older complex is, if it finds itself in a financial bind, to sell or rent its four auditoriums to the ever-growing Eastern Kentucky University Danville campus.

EKU already occupies space in the Danville Manor Shopping Center, and it could use the fairly small auditoriums for lecture halls for its larger classes.

Whatever happens in Tinsel Town East will be interesting to follow. In fact, I think I'm going to grab a seat, a huge bag of popcorn and a big cup of Coke and follow this "G"-rated, first-run flick.

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