A re-model success: Fresh concession options drive Maple Theater rebirth
The growth of new food and beverage offerings in the movie theatre industry can accompany new construction or become a key reason for a remodel. I thought a specific example of a remodel project that included this factor would be informative and interesting to review. My friend Mark Hanne of The Proctor Companies suggested the Maple Theater in Bloomfield, Michigan, which was just remodeled and opened on Nov. 1 to the delight of its customers and a successful first month.
The Maple Theater is owned by Highline Investments, LLC, which is the holding company and acts as general partner in seven theatre-related entities. The company launched in 2002 with its first investment, Emagine Theaters in Detroit. Currently, they own and operate four different locations and have three locations which are owned and managed by Emagine and Regal Entertainment.
I spoke with Highline owner Jon Goldstein about the remodel project and his company’s direction. He declares, “The vision for our family of theatres is to provide the best customer experience possible, one person at a time. We take a grass-roots approach to everything that we attempt and see ourselves as ‘curators’ of content-driven theatre operators.”
Content is exactly what he has added in the remodel. The Maple Theater is 37 years old, with a well-established client base in a suburb of Detroit. The question for Goldstein became: What can we give customers that will improve their experience with us? He worked with Proctor Companies to redesign and remodel the theatre in a grand makeover. He added a coffee bar, a drink bar and an update to the concession stand and its offerings, among other things. There is free Internet service and he says his company has created an environment that encourages people to linger.
The coffee bar is the first that Goldstein has added to a theatre. It is open the entire day and brings traffic in early and keeps it steady. It offers coffee from local artisan coffee makers, which helps compete with Starbucks across the street. The owners also serve fresh local foods at the coffee bar but they are still experimenting with a larger food offering and working towards finding the right mix. But Goldstein has been somewhat stunned by the success of the coffee bar and the foot traffic it keeps in the theatre.
The drink bar has also been very successful, which is no surprise as this contribution to the theatre is highly profitable and a natural fit. The Maple offers a full bar, which complements the new look and feel of the theatre and has been much appreciated by the adult clientele.
Goldstein notes that “anything liquid is profitable and is my preference of offerings.”
The concession stand provides a twist on traditional soda as well, offering a variety of beverages to choose from.
The concession stand is also unique in that it offers high-end candies from the Sanders Candy Company, a variety of nuts, and its own popcorn specialties cooked in three different oils. The first is called Pop-N-Olive and consists of popcorn seed, olive oil and sea salt and it has been a wild success. The second is the Classic, which is popcorn seed cooked in canola oil. The third is Sun-Pop, which is popcorn seed, sugar and salt, cooked in sunflower oil. The variety of popcorn is a big hit with customers and is something I am seeing more and more of as I travel around the country. (I think an article should be devoted to this sometime next year.)
You have to be brave to be willing to invest the money and time into a major overhaul of an older theatre, but today you really have to consider it. Today’s customer wants a special experience to accompany the film—that’s what gets them out of the house.
Goldstein speaks with pride and passion about this project. “It is our vision to work harder to provide quality filmed entertainment at fair prices in warm atmospheres.” He also believes that you have to tailor a theatre to meet the specific needs of the customer you are serving, stating, “Our culture is very family-oriented, as my wife Lauren and I run everything ourselves from our home office in Bloomfield Hills. But we give autonomy to each of our managers, which allows them to take ownership in their locations to tailor each operation to the demographics of each unique area.” Offering up a new experience in an old, local, well-loved theatre has given the Maple renewed life.
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