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Price Increases, Upgrades Coming to Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse

by Chris Teale April 26, 2017 at 10:00 am 0

As it prepares to begin showing first-run and art-house movies, the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse announced a price hike and a series of other upgrades.

The iconic local business at 2903 Columbia Pike is about to shift to playing movies on a first-run basis, meaning it has quicker access to films. Owner Greg Godbout has said previously that showing mainstream movies several months after the initial release has hurt business given the rise of video on-demand services.

But to show first-run films, the Drafthouse will need to increase its ticket prices to meet the requirements of its film distributors. In an email sent to customers Tuesday, Godbout said tickets will now cost $8 for matinee screenings, and for students and other discounted groups like children and seniors, and $10 for screenings after 6 p.m.

The Drafthouse will also no longer offer $2 discount films on Mondays and Tuesdays. Instead, Mondays will be a “discount day,” with $8 evening showings, while Tuesdays will be the full $10 price.

“While this is a low price considering the average ticket prices in our area ($12 – $16), it is still a significant increase for our customers,” Godbout wrote. “By agreeing to the studio’s terms on pricing we will get access to films earlier than normal. We are doing this because the ‘Second Run; market has vanished — and we are struggling to compete with streaming at home released, before we get access to films.”

But the cinema will also receive several upgrades. The outside marquee will be revamped at some point in the future, while “The Green Room” — adjacent to the cinema entrance — has been closed to make way for a soon-to-be-announced new tenant. A new food menu will also be introduced, as well as some new furniture over time.

In the email, Godbout also criticized the Kennedy Center for establishing itself as a “commercial entertainment entity and local competitor” that now has stand-up comics. He said the center’s “unfair advantage” of being underwritten by federal taxes will cost the Drafthouse at least $150,000 in revenue this year.

More from Godbout on competition with the Kennedy Center, after the jump.

Having grown up in the DC area, we used to have such a fond impression of the Kennedy Center. Until the last few years, when the Kennedy Center has become a ruthless direct competitor. They have poached comics who annually perform in the comedy club or small comedy theater market in DC and rerouted them to the Kennedy Center – significantly overpaying the comics. In these cases they aren’t offering increased DC area performances, but instead moving comics (and revenue) from one healthy private market to their publicly funded venue.

In our case, they have also denied us access to a performance troupe that has regularly performed at the Drafthouse for years – not because we wouldn’t share, but because they want all the performances for themselves. They won’t allow the performance troupe to work with us as they have done each year. Repeatedly we have found ourselves in disputes with the Kennedy Center over the last two years.

We are used to dealing with competitors – we have many in the DC market. However, the Kennedy Center leverages money and assets received by the Federal Government (US Taxpayer) to directly compete at the local level – damaging what used to be a local healthy marketplace. Having read previous reports to Congress, it is clear they are able to overpay for comics/performances, because the Federal Government pays for all building expenses, land, utilities, and facilities management. The US Taxpayer is giving an unfair advantage to the Kennedy Center to compete in the small comedy theater market.

The legal entity that operates theater performances in the Kennedy Center pays no rent or expenses related to the building (based on past congressional reports). It appears the legal entity is also charging rent to groups for the rights to use the facility and keeping that revenue for themselves. The smaller theaters in the DC area do not have the same advantages – particularly the private ones.

We would love for the Federal government to give us a room in the East Wing of the White House, pay all of our operating expenses related to the room – and allow us to produce shows and/or rent it and keep the proceeds.

We will be writing a more detailed letter (which we will share) where we ask Congress to charge the non-profit legal entity fair market rent, utilities and facilities management costs for using the Kennedy Center. We are asking this in order to level the playing field, now that the Kennedy Center has established itself as a commercial entertainment entity and local competitor.

For the Arlington Drafthouse, the damage is done. The Kennedy Center will cost us at least $150K in revenue this year as a direct result of their actions. Small dollars for the economic behemoth that is the Kennedy Center. However, for a small privately owned family business who gets zero government funding/assistance – it is a painful loss.

Below are a set of questions I have emailed to the Kennedy Center (which they have not responded to yet). I believe these questions will shine a light on the Kennedy Center’s practices and quantify the benefits they receive from the Federal Government. Sorry, to bother you all with this drama, but we want to get the word out after dealing with this privately for 2 years and we want answers from the Kennedy Center. If you have some thoughts/ideas – please feel free to share.

1. How much does the Federal Government pay for your facilities?
2. How much rental income did you receive in the previous year?
3. How much of that revenue was returned to the US treasury to reimburse the government for paying for facilities, utilities, insurance, and facilities management?
4. Which companies donate to your comedy programming?
5. Where can I find an online account of your latest budget?
6. Where can I find a copy of your latest report to Congress?

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