April 25, 2018
Hello Cinema people,
We (Audrey and Alex, the owners) wanted to give you an update about what’s been happening at the Cinema since we acquired the business in January. The short version is this: We’ve been investing in the business, aggressively cutting costs, and striving to increase revenue – all in an effort to lay the groundwork for a sustainable future. But we also learned that we’ll need to overcome some real challenges in order to achieve profitability.
This update turned out to be longer than we had expected, so we don’t blame you if you don’t want to read all of it. But please do try to read Part 3 (“What’s in store for the future?”).
Part 1: Accomplishments
- The Cinema now has point-of-sale terminals that accept credit cards!
- The old popcorn machine was beyond repair, so we have a new one now.
- We hired an audio engineer to optimize the sound system. The Cinema now features true “surround sound”.
- We bought a new professional-grade Blu-ray player
- We upgraded the wireless network and installed a new wired network
- We fixed some of the broken power outlets and added ground-fault protection to others
Sustainable, eco-friendly, ethical initiatives:
- We introduced some new concession items, with an emphasis on items that are healthier (i.e., cholesterol-free) and cruelty-free.
- Whenever possible, we source our cookies and other items from local suppliers – Misfit Doughnuts & Treats, Abundance Food Co-Op, Hettie’s Delites Café, and Wegmans on East Ave.
- We now use napkins that are made from 100% recycled fiber (and they cost less, too!)
- We ramped-up our own recycling efforts. We now have two recycling totes from the City of Rochester, and we created a bin where customers can place empty water bottles.
- One of our customers suggested that we reserve a spot for handicapped parking. We agreed! So we created such a spot directly behind the Cinema (across from the Addis Ababa restaurant).
- We would like to have equipment to aid our hearing-impaired customers. We’re following-up on lead on a movie theater that is selling some used assistive listening devices.
- We’re also investigating the possibility of purchasing captioning devices for our customers who would not benefit from amplification. Unfortunately, these devices would be expensive, so we’re seeking grant opportunities.
Assisting animal rescues
- One of our goals in acquiring the Cinema was to use the facility to help animals. As such, we’ve hosted adoption events and fundraisers with Kitten Korner Rescue, Hearthside Cats, and Pitty Love Pit Bull Rescue.
- We’re currently raising funds for HopeAgain Cat Rescue, a local organization that recently lost about 20 cats in a tragic fire.
- Next Saturday (Apr. 28) we’re hosting an event sponsored by Animal Rights Rochester. A lecture and a movie will address the subject of animal agriculture, veganism, and climate change.
- On Sun. May 6, we’ll be hosting a fundraiser for Begin Again Horse Rescue.
Assisting other non-profit groups:
- We’ve contributed auction items to be used at fundraisers for the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and ROC City Love.
Working with local filmmakers:
- We screened an independent movie (“Solver”) produced by Jack Kelly, a filmmaker who has roots in Honeoye Falls.
- On April 29, we’ll be hosting a screening with Alex Weisser and Hassan Zaman from Floating Home Films, a local production company
- We’re helping to educate the next generation of filmmakers. We recently worked with two aspiring young documentarians (students) from RIT
- We secured Parkleigh as a customer, and we’re in the midst of negotiating with a prominent local bank.
- We recently hired a sales rep (working on commission) to solicit additional screen ads from neighborhood businesses
- The Democrat & Chronicle, City, and Rochester Business Journal all published articles about the change in ownership. WROC Channel 8 ran a news story about the Cinema.
- We’ve ramped-up our presence on Facebook
- We created accounts on Instagram and Twitter, and we post regularly.
- We’re submitting movie schedules earlier to the Democrat & Chronicle in order to ensure publication in the Thursday “Weekend” section.
- We’re active in the South Clinton Merchants’ Association
- We accepted an invitation to speak at an NBN6 meeting, where we discussed our plans for the Cinema
- We’ll soon be hosting a group of local children who produced animated features. They’ll be screening their movies for their friends and family.
- On May 5th, we’ll be participating in the annual Clean Sweep event. The Cinema will act as a gathering place for volunteers.
- We’re participating in the Playful Sidewalk painting event, and we’ll be offering a special screening for participants after the event.
- Some of you may have met Genny, our resident blind cat. Bo and Cal are sloooowly becoming acclimated to their new environment, and hopefully one of them will become the resident theater cat who greets customers.
- We changed providers for our phone and Internet service, thereby saving about $150 per month.
- We “insourced” pest control and accounting (though we occasionally rely on excellent accounting advice from The Christopher Group, located near us on South Avenue).
- We’re working multiple shifts ourselves, thereby substantially reducing payroll expenses
- We disabled an exhaust fan that was continuously blowing warm air out of the building
- We found a lower-cost supplier for paper products
- We entered into a barter agreement with an electrician, who performed various repairs and upgrades in exchange for a screen ad
Fundraisers, grants, and zero-interest loans
- A local comedy group organized a night of stand-up comedy at the Cinema and donated the proceeds to us.
- We held a successful raffle that raised almost $1,000
- We’re working with the City of Rochester to apply for a matching grant of up to $5,000
- We met with representatives of Kiva Rochester to get information about their zero-interest crowdfunded loan program
- A local artist has promised to create some paintings for us that we can auction-off
- A representative from the Geneseo Small Business Development Council is helping us to write a business plan
- We formed a business advisory council that consists of local entrepreneurs, MBA graduates, and cinemaphiles
Part 2: Short-term plans for improvements
- We’re looking for a welder to fix the dozen or so broken seats
- We’re going to replace the burned-out light bulbs below the marquee
- We want to repair the neon light behind the large cursive “Cinema” sign mounted above the entrance
- The floor will receive a much-needed new paint job
- Note that we own the business, but we lease the building. Our landlord has promised to install new air conditioning units by May 31st.
- We’d like to buy a portable stage that we can use for live music, lectures, weddings, etc.
- As mentioned above, we need to buy assisted-listening and captioning devices for our hearing-impaired customers.
Part 3: What’s in store for the future?
We’re optimistic about the future, and we’re working hard to ensure that the Cinema remains a neighborhood cornerstone for many years to come. But we’re also coming to the realization that financial sustainability is not going to come easily.
The first three-and-a-half months of our ownership has coincided with the Cinema’s busy season, which centers around the pre- and post-Oscar period. However, despite the increased ticket sales, we still find ourselves in the red for the year-to-date.
We’ve learned that in the past, the Cinema has engaged in a number of Indiegogo fundraising campaigns. While these have apparently been successful, we don’t want to continue relying on donations to keep the business afloat. We don’t intend to launch any more of these types of campaigns in the future.
We do have a plan to restore profitability. That plan will be the subject of our next newsletter, which will be sent in the near future.
In the meantime, we do have a favor to ask. If you are a business owner, please consider running a screen ad at the Cinema. Or if you frequent a local business, ask the owners if they might consider advertising at the Cinema. Each screen ad produces a steady, predictable income stream. And, the ads are very successful at promoting local businesses! So it’s a win-win proposition.
Also, please consider hosting your next event at the Cinema. We’ve hosted birthday parties, business meetings, private screenings, memorial services – and, of course, weddings (we, the owners, were married here in 2009).
One of the most rewarding aspects of running the Cinema is talking to our customers. If you have any suggestions or other thoughts, please send your email message to firstname.lastname@example.org (your message will reach both of us). Or just stop by and see us at the Cinema. We’re here most evenings, except Mondays. We’d love to chat with you and hear your ideas.
Thank you for reading this long message and for supporting the Cinema! We hope to see you at a movie soon.
Audrey Kramer and
Bo relaxes on his bed
Genny, our blind cat, takes a short break from running around the office and wrestling with her brothers.
Cal is our newest theater cat. When he was admitted to an animal shelter, he had a .22-caliber bullet lodged in his hind leg. Luckily, the veterinarians were able to remove the bullet and fix-up the leg (though he still limps on it a little).