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On Location in Florida

WINDOWS OF OPPORTUNITY: Theater owner Rob Kurrus says movie theaters can survive as long as studios don't keep shrinking the time between a film's theatrical release and its release on DVD.
[Photo: Gregg Matthews]

Overbuilding, uneven attendance, the rise of high-tech home entertainment systems and a shorter window between the release of movies in theaters and on DVDs threaten the movie theater business. But none of it deterred Rob Kurrus from buying a Melbourne theater.

Kurrus worked through college as a movie theater manager and became a Regal Entertainment vice president before buying an old Regal in 2002 and converting it into a state-of-the-art showplace in Melbourne with marble floors, granite counters, rocker reclining seats, gourmet coffee and digital projectors for each of the 10 screens at his Premiere Theaters Oaks Stadium 10, one of the first, perhaps even the first, completely digital theater in Florida.
"In order to drive profits you have to drive attendance," Kurrus says.

"You've got to provide an attractive product to the people."

Kurrus, president of the Florida affiliate of the National Association of Theater Owners, has no doubts about the industry's staying power, provided the studios preserve the window of theater opportunity -- once six months, now 4.5 months on average, before DVD release.

While Florida theater owners share the same challenges as their counterparts nationwide, there are two significant differences: Florida's a growing state and has a large base of retirees. Concession sales per capita are lowest in Florida, Kurrus says. Until a few years ago, Florida's low labor and utility costs made up for the lost popcorn revenue but not anymore. "We're catering to an older market that doesn't buy a lot of snacks. That changes the bottom line quite a bit," Kurrus says. "You have to factor that into everything you do."