Celebration AMC
Today is the last day for the Celebration AMC 2. The space is showing as available for lease. (hat-tip to the Celebration History Center for the link)

There’s been a lot of lively discussion on the internal Celebration residents message board, with a lot of “how could they do this to us?” sentiment. I’m not happy the theater is leaving, but I won’t pretend that I’m surprised, either.

AMC, the movie theater company, is a business. Lexin Capital, who own the downtown buildings, is a business. These businesses will do what they feel is best for their shareholders, within the confines of whatever business partnerships and/or contracts they’ve signed. AMC is ultimately accountable to their shareholders. First and foremost, their shareholders want to earn a return on their investment. This is done by having revenues that exceed expenses across the enterprise. If a theater is proving to be a drag on the earnings, and there’s no other reason to keep it around (like prestige or good will), then they should be looking to close it. While this isn’t Government 101, it’s certainly Business 101. It may even be a better long-term decision for a company to break a contract and incur short-term pain (or judgments) if it nets a benefit in the long-term.

Does AMC have a responsibility to the community? No! With an interest in 5,000+ screens, why should they devote any time to trying to make two of them profitable? Put another way, consider this: say they’ve earmarked $500,000 for amenities upgrades in the Orlando market. Where should they invest that? Where are they likely to see a return on that investment, of course. Celebration? Where they can barely get enough people into the theater to fill a single row? Not likely.

What’s Lexin’s role in this? Same as AMC’s: to provide the highest possible return to their shareholders. There may be internal disagreements about how to accomplish this goal, but not about the goal itself. Plus, it gets a little murkier with Lexin, as some of its moves are strategic and may not have immediately obvious benefits, but the benefits are there. It’s more trickle-down with them. They sponsor an Oktoberfest concert that brings people into the downtown who provide revenue to merchants that enables those merchants to keep paying rent. Or fireworks. Or snowfalls and carolers.

In the end, who wants a shiny theater in their downtown that nobody ever goes to? How does that serve the community?

So now what? I truly believe an alternative, Enzian-style theater could be sustainable here. Previously the theater had to compete not just with the outstanding sister theater over at AMC Pleasure Island 24, but also with all the other entertainment options available in one of the busiest tourist areas in the world. But I do believe there’s a niche that could be filled.

Thoughts?

13 Comments

  1. I blame Lexin. A theatre provides much value to the Celebration economy, and Lexin should recoginzie the benefits and keep the lease affordable for the theatre operator. They are giving up on a tennant that I’m absolutely positive the listed as a benefit to other tennants to sign leases.

  2. Oh wow! I was very upset to hear they were leaving. But how I'd love to see an Enzian-like theater in Celebration! I say we push in that direction!

  3. I don't know if anyone really wants an art theatre (a-la Enzian) in downtown Celly. Showings of "The Brown Bunny" will NOT go over well in this community. So basically, you're going to end up with same problem … a movie theatre that shows movies that nobody wants to see.

    Let's not get too caught up in the "Lexin and AMC are businesses and businesses need to make money and blah blah blah" arguement. That goes without saying. Let's address why the theatre closed.

    The problem, as I see it, is that the theatre never capatalized on the Friday and Saturday night date crowds by offering beer/wine and films those crowds would want to see (Apatow's stuff, Matt Damon movies, etc.)

    Also, there is a pervasive belief that the business of downtown do not need to serve the needs of the residents, but rather the needs of tourists. Until that changes, we'll all just sit back and watch people lose their life's savings on bakeries for dogs and Japanese plastic cat stores ;)

    • The fact that businesses need to make money didn't necessarily go without saying on the Front Porch, that's why I wanted to try to make it clear. There was a lot of hand-wringing and "how could they do this?!"; the answer seemed obvious to you and me but seems that it wasn't to some other people.

      I'm not saying it has to play controversial or artsy foreign flocks, but the theater has to realize they'll have a damn hard time competing with Pleasure Island 24… and that's even before the upgrades that are going on there. So they need to provide something that can't be found in a 10 mile radius or so. Decent movies, better-than-decent food & drinks, and decent parking (at least compared to the Downtown Disney cluster).

      • The basic problem with the theatre is that it wasn't created to make money in Celebration but in Downtown Disney; once that link was pulled the theatre was on the way out. Disney would only let AMC expand their Pleasure Island complex IF they put in a movie theatre in Celebration; no one at AMC thought that the Celebration theatre could or would make money, and in the views of many residents never tried. They seemed for a long time to use it as a training ground for their new managers where mistakes didn't matter. Having talked to several of the AMC managers, they only thought of it as cost of doing business.
        Once Disney pulled out of Downtown Celebration, the movie theatre was going too.

  4. You are missing a fundamental truth for business planning. You serve your shareholders buy making your customers or guests the priorities. Apple, Target, Ikea and Pixar understand this. Idiots who look at companies as numbers in black and white, miss the chance to grow business. AMC could have easily started to run old films on week days like Indiana Jones, Saving Private Ryan, When Harry met Sally… Then run big movies… Thurs-Sun. Serve more food etc. As for Lexin… They are greedy, ignorant an driving businesses out of Celebration with high rent and no connection to families of Celebration.

  5. Phil makes a great point that the theater was gone as soon as Disney pulled out. There are several regional theater operators that have sought out the space, but with a monthly asking rental of over $20K it is highly unlikely that anything will ever occupy the space other than dust. With the Landlord holding AMC to the fire, it is unlikely that anyone willing to make this theater a community asset can afford to do so.

  6. I think it would be a great locale for a boutique theater. it could have a Old Movie Night. There are alot of independent and foreign films that never get show on the major theater chains screens that would have some appeal. It could always go X-rated, that always seems to at least have a dedicated audience. How many seats does it have? 400? One would probably have to charge $12 per ticket just to break even.

    • The high rent is what kills any possible art house type theater. I believe the best formula would be to show movies that appeal to a mass audience while at the same time complementing (not competing with) what's showing at AMC Pleasure Island. Not that there isn't a place for independent or foreign films, it just can't be the bread and butter because the rent's too high to make the numbers work.

      I think it'd be a cool place for company meetings, conferences, and the like (at least during the day using one of the theaters) to boost revenues. Out-of-towners could stay in Mona Lisa or Celebration Hotel, fantastic restaurants are right there, and the whole experience would be less impersonal than a chain hotel along the interstate.

  7. A dinner style theater that caters to the non residents might work.

  8. George Simmons

    I have been talking with Linda Burns with Sevell Realty trying to see what the options are for securing this facility. I head up a 501(c) non profit that promotes education in the math and science fields and we have been trying to acquire a theater facility to reopen and run 1st run films. The facility would be used as a platform for teaching highschool students business mathematics, accounting, inventory controls and management techniques while operating the theater. We would be using the profits from the facility to fund educational activities and tutoring programs in the community.
    I come from close to 20 years in the entertainment industry working in both the theater exhibition and television sides. This facility has limited functionality due to having only 2 screens. With the number of films released each year and the requirement by distributors for theaters to retain a film for a certain number of weeks. it limits the films that can be shown additionally when ever there is a big boy around like AMC or Regal they have pull with distributors to say who gets films in their areas. For this reason many smaller theaters become 2nd run or art houses. Art houses are a niche market and unless you have a large clientele or the only one around for miles its difficult to be profitable. This facility also is a victim of the times Linda was saying they want between $15,000 to $20,000 for rent this is not realistic for a 2 screen theater given expenses and available customers to seat ratio. If we can get them to agree to a revenue sharing agreement or get community support for the project we feel it could be operated profitably. Given the fundamentals of theater operations it may become more realistic that the owners renovate the facility into a different use if it is priced out of the range of theaters to operate profitably. If anyone has an interest in our idea for this facility please feel free to let me know.

  9. We have visited this area and are interested in re-opening this Theater and making it a wonderful family oriented place again, only better. We have a fantastic plan and are looking for serious investors. If you are interested, please contact me @ info@mrsrogerspopcorn.com. Thank you

  10. Fred in Wausau WI

    I’m a city planner in WI. I visited Celebration a few times via Google street view and noticed the theater.

    Since AMC is out, what about “iPic Theaters?” Google that, and then get the building owner excited about that opportunity. I hope you succeed, whatever direction you take.

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