Salem Cinema sets the record straight by Reina PikeAs a follow up to last month’s article “Show stoppers,” we are taking a closer look at Salem Cinema and its operations. Contrary to our last story, owner Loretta Miles tells us that Salem Cinema is not a second run theater.
“Salem Cinema is and always has been a first run theater,” she said.
Salem Cinema is, however, an “arthouse” theater, which means that her first run movies greatly differ from those of mainstream movie houses. Most studios and distributors predetermine whether they will market a film to a mainstream or art audience and base that decision on subject matter and genre, filmmaking budget, and stars or directors attached to the film. The decision is most often made prior to the production of the film.
“I carefully hand pick and personally book each and every film shown on my screen,” Miles said. “I base my decisions upon a number of factors: film quality and integrity, subject matter, genre, and even occasionally star power. Although it’s nice to sometimes get a real money maker, that is never first and foremost in my decision making process.”
Occasionally there might be interest from an independent theater and a major exhibitor to book the same title. In that case, Miles says, sometimes available screen dates are the deciding factor, other times the anticipated potential for higher ticket sales tips the scales.
“Sadly, studios are only too happy to assume that a mainstream audience will support art film at the multiplex and that the art audience will go wherever the film plays,” Miles said.
The question then still remains. If Salem Cinema is a first-run theatre, why must Salem audiences wait so long to see movies that have shown in Portland? The answer is quite simple, Miles says, and has in part to do with population.
“All movies are opened on a ‘roll out’ or ‘break’ calendar. Usually [films] open in New York and LA, then move to the next largest market and ‘roll out’ to smaller and smaller markets on a carefully planned schedule. The majority of film is not slated to open in Salem at the same time as even Portland, and this is all determined in advance by the studios,” Miles said.
As far as cost goes, she pays the same film rental fees as any other first run movie theater.
“I struggle to keep my pricing fair and would never consider raising them because I am required to pay a high percentage of ticket sales,” she said. “None of my prices, neither at the ticket booth nor the concession stand, have been raised in years in spite of the fact that I have been hit with everything from increased rent and shipping fuel surcharges to increased utilities and rising insurance fees on an annual basis.”