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March 5, 2013 - 1:14pm

Ken Mistler buys downtown theater with hope of keeping more entertainment dollars in Batavia

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown, business. Batavia Showtime Theater.

Downtown Batavia needs a theater, according to local businessman Ken Mistler, and when Dipson announced that its Batavia location needed to be sold or it would close, Mistler stepped in and bought it.

Now comes the hard work and expense of upgrading the two-screen movie house, and Mistler wants to know what moviegoers want from their local theater.

His number one question right now, he said, is what will bring people to Batavia Showtime?

Consultants for the City of Batavia reported last summer that some $31 million from Genesee County residents is spent annually in Buffalo and Rochester for entertainment and dining.

"I want to get them to bring some of that money back to Batavia," Mistler said. "I want to give them a reason to stay here."

First order of business is to start showing first-run films. He's also going to invest a substantial amount of money -- he doesn't know how much it will cost yet -- into upgrading to a digital projection system and dropping 35mm film. He also plans interior renovations and changes, but he's taking it one step at a time, he said.

Mistler owns City Slickers Restaurant and he said a downtown theater is important to the restaurant businesses downtown, not just his own.

People still like to go out for dinner and a movie, and if there is no movie theater in Batavia, people looking for a full evening of entertainment will just go elsewhere.

With local ownership, Mistler said, he thinks he can breathe new life into the former Dipson.

There are plenty of ideas for Mistler to look at for his theater, which could include special movie nights, special events for children, a small stage for comedians or small bands -- all of that -- Mistler said -- is on the table for discussion.

"It wasn't that this was a bad place, but the owners lived far away," Mistler said. "It was hard for them to watch and maintain it with the other theaters they had. I’m going to be on hand and we can do things the other owners wanted to do but couldn’t do because they weren’t here."

The theater remains open seven days a week as Mistler takes over management and begins making changes.

He said among his promotional ideas is to offer a package of a dinner from City Slickers and theater tickets. He said he would love to meet with any local restaurant owners who want to do the same thing or have other promotional ideas to tie the theater more closely with dining downtown.

"I need the feedback from the people," Mistler said. "I need to know what they want. I really do."

On Facebook: Batavia Showtime.

Kelly Hansen
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Wonderful news! We prefer to do all of our business locally as much as possible, and this venture has made my day! One more reason to spend hard-earned dollars right here in town. Best wishes on your latest venture!

Suggestions:

* Get a new sign out in front of the City Centre
* Show new releases, bring back classic films for special events (ie: Casablanca and couple it with dinner specials at a variety of restaurants for Valentine's day, and offer family film series during school holiday breaks (older family films at cheap prices).

Lou Moretti
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Awesome! Will definitely support Ken and his new business venture!

Lisa Falkowski
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Thank you, Ken! You could teach the City Council a few things about keeping business in the City (and County). How do you feel about the trash business? Looking forward to continued visits to the theater.

Kyle Couchman
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My two cents....Ken since there are two screens make one theater a special events theater. You could do something unique there like have no standard seating, instead put lazyboys and couches and such for a more "homey" feel. Maybe even do a dinner and a movie night where tables w chairs are placed and you or another resteraunt serve a light dinner by candlelight while the movie plays. As well as the standard small concerts and comedians and such maybe even do some hookups so it could be used as a place to do business presentations
. Non traditional ideas always seem to work the best. Again just a thought to kick around a bit.

Jason Crater
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I don't think Kyle deserves 3 negative votes for that...but I can tell you I would NOT be comfortable sitting in a recliner in a public movie theatre...too many things I don't want to think about could have been done in it previously.

Samantha Stryker
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I think it would be nice if we had a local place to show indie or classic films once in a while. The closest place I know of to see independent films is the Little Theater in Rochester- it would be a big draw for Batavia if we had some harder to find films playing there every now and then! Even doing a one-night classic film showing occasionally would be awesome- it turns it more into a community event.

Kyle Couchman
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aww hell Jason the votes mean squat to me theres always little naysayer that snipe from the dark but usually have nothing to say, as for the lazyboy comment Jason if you ever sat in a friend's home that has teens ya never know whats been there either ......just sayin.

Lisa Falkowski
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Any ideas are good ideas. Even if Ken didn't take an idea, it may spark another! I'm anxious to see what he comes up with. He's a creative man and I've enjoyed this other businesses very much.

Robert Bennett
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First thing that has got to go is that sign. If I drive by and the movie isn't even spelled right or missing letters I'm going to keep on driving because who knows what it looks like inside.

Second idea I have is a comedy club. Maybe even only a couple nights a week. Open up one of the theaters a little bit for more comfortable seating and get a liquor license to serve beverages. Helium just opened up in Buffalo and they are bringing a lot of big name acts to town. Having a stop in Batavia could be a nice draw for acts as they move towards Rochester.

Ron C Welker
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When I was a teenager, and that was a long time ago the local theater showed free shows Saturday mornings for the kids, mostly westerns.Not sure how Roy Rodgers would fly these days but just a twist for the local kids to enjoy.
Good luck Ken.

Sally Waldron
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How about a weekday dollar movie? Mon thru Friday have two different movies showing for a buck a ticket? Or at least one day a week would be good.

That would be affordable entertainment for seniors or students with the day off from school.

I know we take our individuals all the way to Movies 10 in Rochester for a movie day out. They love it plus it is amazing how crowded it is up there.

Billie Owens
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Bargain bonanza movies for people who don't have a lot of money to spend should be, and are, provided by libraries and other non-profits. Plus they can be rented at stores.

They are not going to draw the Genesee County residents who spend $31 million a year on dining and entertainment in Rochester and Buffalo. Those people want first-run movies in a cool venue with some nice places to eat nearby.

To add to the obvious mix, I go along with those who would from time to time like to see Indie films -- so-called Art House films. We don't need a liquor license at the cinema to make it a draw, for comedy or anything else.

(I personally like foreign films, but the majority of people, including my husband, don't care for them -- that's why they have Netflix!)

Sally Waldron
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But wouldn't it be a great idea for those that can't afford movies all the time? I mean does it always have to be about the big dollar and can't part of it be for those that might like to be able to do things they can't afford? When I first started out on my own or as a young married couple I would have loved a treat of a movie but my bills prevented it. I am sure that many seniors would love a dollar show to go to also.

The big money is going to be made on the weekends anyways and not during the day. Besides if you have others that come to town during the day for a movie they possible will shop and dine since they saved a few bucks at the show.

I think they deserve a chance to enjoy a movie theater also. Stating that they have to use non profits or the library is sort of sounding discriminatory to me, almost that because you are poor you don't deserve to enjoy a day out or to treat you kids.

Believe me, I have been to movies 10 a few times during the day and every theater there is packed during the specials, and I am sure the restaurants surrounding benefit from the lunch traffic from them.

I fully expect a large number of vote downs from this, but to push off those that don't have big money to spend is to me a pretty ignorant thought process that hurts a community more than it does help it.

carol grasso
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Great news Ken! Congrats to you! How about bigger seats for one row. I have RA and it is very hard to get out of these seats here in Batavia. One show like movies 10 because most of us will be paying higher garbage rates now and we won't beable to go to the movies very often being on fixed incomes. Brighter colors on the walls. Why not let the high school kids and college kids do some of thier art works for their grades. Get the community envolved. Lets have a fix up the show day. I'm in! Call me! 585-343-1027

kevin kretschmer
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"...............he doesn't know how much it will cost yet -- into upgrading to a digital projection system.............."

From what I heard this AM on WXXI while driving to Buffalo, about $70K per screen. The Dreyden just finished their renovation.

Howard B. Owens
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I told Ken today about how when I was a kid in San Diego, the State Theater used to sell summer passes. For $11 you got tickets to 11 movies on a Wednesday afternoon. There were movies like True Grit and Sound of Music.

While this might be something to offer to younger movie goers, it occurred to me later: You could do the same thing for seniors -- a summer-long season pass to come in for an afternoon movie and see some classic. With all the retirement homes downtown -- Washington Towers, 400 Towers, Jerome, the Manor House -- it might be a big hit.

Jason Brunner
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I prefer to stay local because I don't like to travel out of Batavia, not a fan of the car ride ;), so what my family is looking for is good, new movies and a clean place to watch them. We'd love a Family Movie Day on a weekday during the morning. We spend a lot of our dollars at Movies 10 for that purpose. Dinner and a movie in Batavia has the possibility to be great again. I'm tempted to be excited about the prospect.

tom hunt
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Good idea Howard, just make sure the air conditioning is working in top notch condition and the thermostat is set at 65 degrees.

Don Lovelace
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Valerie T.. the current Asst. Mgr. should be promoted to Manager she lives local and she is very good with customers.

Mark Potwora
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Good Luck and congrats on another new business venture Mr.Mistler..It's good to see someone local invest in that theater...Only one suggestion keep the popcorn prices reasonable..

Peter O'Brien
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Is it as good as sitting on my couch with a beer? All I can eat popcorn for less than the cost of a large at most theaters? Pizza delivery? No? Then I am not interested. I have a 3d tv and surround sound. I can put my feet up and talk if I want so any movie theater is of no interest to me. Also I don't have to deal with the public. Hell I won't even miss the arcade portion of the theater as I have built a mame cabinet.

I only catch first run movies at the drive in because I can't duplicate that experience at home with running my car through the wall.

Local is all well and good if it can deliver the same quality. Restaurants around town do that. Unless that theater is replaced with stadium seating and Imax, its not going to draw me in.

RD Adams
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Great news. First thing we need in a local theater is stadium type seating. Then possibly bundle dinners and a movie with local restaurateurs. Not having to drive to Buffalo or Rochester would be wonderful.

Phil Ricci
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When I lived in Europe, the movie experience was wonderful! Stadium seats of course, but:

You were able to purchase your seat, either online or at the Box Office. No need to race, it was yours.
A full variety of foods were there. Remember theater owners only make roughly 2-10% on first run films, so there profits come from concessions.
They also had theme nights that supported the big release, which made the whole thing feel like an event!

My two cents:

Treat this like an indoor drive in. Fridays when new movies release, pay one price and get 2 feature films. That's 4 new releases you can run now instead of two, plus it will keep people there longer.

During the day run 2nd runs and charge $3-4 for it. These are movies that just left the theaters but aren't on DVD yet. You can basically rent a movie with the theater quality.

Host film festivals for local and independent film makers.

Have Special "Anniversary Marathons" like Star Wars, Lord if the Rings, Godfather, Harry Potter, etc.

Host movie premiere events for charity where you get on a list to be a premiere theater, and show the movie a week before release. Roll out the red carpet and invite local dignitaries to attend.

Partner with the Muckdogs, restaurants, hair salons, book shops for great cross promotions.

I have a lot more, but here's a few.

Phil Ricci
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Oh and accept credit cards please!

Robert Brown
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Butter, real butter, no chemically enhanced crap. Make the best popcorn in WNY. Maybe try unsalted butter and use sea salt. Experiment and make something truly unique and appealing.

Visit the Little in ROC and see what works there and how it can be scaled to Batavia. There is an ambiance about the Little and it has everything right there: food, banquets, entertainment, and a unique atmosphere.

The challenge here is being off Main St. on the back side of an unappealing building. Too bad there's nothing immediately adjacent in the City Center that could be leveraged...

John Roach
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The biggest grip I heard about the place was that it was dirty. Your shoes stuck to the floor type of thing and the seats being dirty. I felt that way years ago, and just stopped going. Don't know if it is still true, but that is what I hear. If still true, just keeping clean will be a step in the right direction.

Jason Post
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That was why I stopped going there as well. Last time I was in there, which was some years back, you could hear your shoes peeling up off the soda-soaked floors.

Ken Mistler
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In place.. Done.

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