Thank you for your interest in and support of the Valley News. So far, we have raised 80% of the funds required to host journalists Claire Potter and Alex Driehaus for their one-year placements in the Upper Valley through Report for America, a national service program that boosts local news by harnessing community support.

Please consider donating to this effort.

Bottom Line: Lebanon’s Entertainment Cinemas back with fancy seats, wine and beer on the way

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 11/21/2021 11:49:26 AM
Modified: 11/21/2021 11:49:11 AM

Don’t call it the Sticky Six anymore.

The six-theater Entertainment Cinemas multiplex at Miracle Mile Plaza in Lebanon, long known by the unappetizing sobriquet owing to generations’ worth of chewed gum and spilled soda, has reopened with plush, lounger-style recliner seats aimed at enticing moviegoers back into the theater.

Next on tap: applying for an alcohol beverage license that will let patrons drink beer and wine during the next Marvel movie or umpteenth Fast & Furious sequel.

Those are just some of changes debuting at the Lebanon movie theater, along with an expanded snack and food menu, larger screens, upgraded sound system, a coat of fresh paint and new flooring, according to Bill Hanney, the Massachusetts-based owner of the multiplex.

“We’re making this into the kind of luxury theater that people will want to come to,” Hanney said recently while giving a tour of the refurbished multiplex. The upgraded amenities “is where movie theaters are heading,” he said.

Once considered a business that was as good as printing dollar bills, box office ticket sales were already declining due to at-home streaming even before the pandemic led many theaters to shut down temporarily or permanently.

On top of that, Entertainment Cinemas was embroiled in a nasty legal dispute over tenancy and threatened eviction by its landlord and Miracle Mile Plaza owner The Davis Cos., which was only recently settled. The pandemic and legal troubles kept the theaters closed from March 2020 to October.

But Hanney hopes with the Lebanon multiplex, reopened with “luxury” seating and beer and wine sales, the business will revive — although Hanney acknowledges he does not expect ticket sales to be like they were in the glory days.

“Attendance is 50% to 70% of what it used to be,” Hanney admitted. “We expect it to get better but it will never be what it once was. People went through the pandemic with their big-screen TVs, and that’s all they did for a year and a half.”

The larger seats taking up more space — there are only four seats per row now on either side of the middle aisle — has reduced capacity 50% to about 400 seats across the six theaters. The price of tickets has gone up $1 to $11 for adults and $9 for kids and seniors after 5 p.m., although the price for “bargain Tuesday” showings has been cut 50 cents to $6.

Hanney said the concession stand is being beefed up to include new munchies like chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, french fries, pizza slices, pretzels and hot dogs, along with the regular popcorn and candy.

Also coming is an online reservation and ticket purchase platform that will allow people to select their exact seat in the theater, similar to what concert venues and airlines now do.

“You like a middle row aisle seat? You’ll be able to buy the ticket for just that seat,” he said.

While Hollywood may be glamorous, the theater business is fairly prosaic.

Because movie studios typically take 90% of the revenue from ticket sales, theater operators depend on the concession stand to make a profit. That’s why alcohol sales are seen as critical for survival: Hanney said that since introducing beer, wine and low-alcohol drinks at a theater he owns in Leominster, Mass., revenue is up 35% to 40% “per capita.”

“It makes a difference,” he said.

Also back running the Lebanon theater is manager Mike Eastman, who started working behind the counter and in the ticket booth in 2007. When he joined the theater it was still receiving movies in metal canisters and the films had to be threaded on projector reels. Today, digital movies are beamed via satellite to the theater, stored on a hard drive and screened with projectors programmed to turn on and off by themselves, all automated without human control.

Reflecting a showman’s exuberance, Hanney is confident that despite trends in entertainment, not everyone will want to sit at home and stream a movie on their TV.

“I believe that there are enough people that still want to go to the movies to fill these seats. Otherwise I would have walked away,” he said. “Give people a decent theater and they will come.”

Contact John Lippman at jippman@vnews.com.




Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784
603-298-8711

 

© 2021 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy