Statement from owners of Varsity Theater (yes, it’s closing tonight) | News
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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Statement from owners of Varsity Theater (yes, it’s closing tonight)

Posted by on Thu, Jun 25, 2009 at 1:20 PM

click to enlarge Buster Keaton in Sherlock, Jr., released in 1924several years before movies began playing at the present site of the Varsity Theater.
  • Buster Keaton in Sherlock, Jr., released in 1924several years before movies began playing at the present site of the Varsity Theater.

Just an hour ago, Bruce and Mary Jo Stone, the owners of the Varsity Theater on Franklin Street, released a written statement confirming the closing of the theater. Although the document doesn't specify the effective date, presumably the theater will close after tonight's final showings of The Hangover and The Brothers Bloom.

In the statement, signed by Bruce Stone, several factors are cited. First,

[T]he numbers currently don't support the continuation of both theaters [the Varsity and the Chelsea, also owned by the Stones] as viable enterprises. The Varsity especially has been struggling for over two years, with no prospect of an upturn any time soon. Although the film exhibition business is a highly variable, feast or famine sort of business, the assumption has always been the feasts and famines eventually even one another out. However, there has been much more famine in recent years, with the summers being especially difficult.

The statement goes on to discuss changes in the business model that make it hard for specialty theaters to survive against multiplexes. Citing a May article in Variety , Stone writes, 

[Specialty distributors] still in business prefer to withhold their prestige product until the fall winter awards season. When an indy film suddenly gains traction and becomes successful with a wider audience (or "crosses over"), the distributors quickly book these films into multiplexes everywhere, thereby undercutting the business being done at the specialty theaters.

The statement also explains why exhibiting mainstream Hollywood movies is no panacea, noting that the Varsity can't compete with the multiplexes at Southern Village, Timberlyne and Southpoint mall under present distribution conditions, and especially with the lack of convenient and free parking on Franklin Street.

The statement goes on to note that the specialty audience tends to be older, and thus more uncomfortable with the rigors of traveling downtown: "A portion of this audience .... [is] troubled by the parking and traffic, by the street life, and even by the odors and objects that decorate the downtown walkways."

And finally, Stone offers what he allows might be a more subjective observation: "It seems that the college audience has become less and less interested in specialty films over the years. I am told that it's because of Netflix, or computers, or a more generalized predilection for the glossier multiplexes and an appetite for the comforts of mass culture .... or maybe it's just the economy."

The statement closes with thanks to the community and the theater's landlord James Rumfelt, along with a note that requests for interviews will be declined.

Varsity announcement, page 1 

Varsity announcement, page 2

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