The opening weeks of the Mars Theatre have been a success, Springfield city staff told city council members Tuesday night.
From crowds to social media, the Mars’ numbers have continued to grow, city cultural affairs director Tommy Deadwyler said, and local businesses have said they have noticed an upturn in commerce.
“We’re hearing comments from local businesses that have seen an increase in their business already. They’re noticing an increase in their night-time business,” he said. “It’s definitely exciting to see people on the street after 5 o’clock. People will ride by and wonder ‘what’s going on?’ It’s all very positive.
“We heard nothing but positive comments,” Deadwyler said. “It was very well received. We’re very excited about that.”
The Mars’ Web page has had more than 5,000 sessions and 18,000 page views, with the average duration of each visit at 3 minutes, 4 seconds. The Mars’ Facebook now has more than 1,200 likes, a number that has doubled since the theatre opened.
“We’re continuing to reach out to new users,” Deadwyler said.
The Mars had six showings of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” and drew 640 spectators, according to Deadwyler, and the new movie “Godzilla” is showing throughout the weekend. Deadwyler said they are looking at other movies to show, and they want to reach out to churches and show “God Is Not Dead.”
The theatre also is starting to have an impact on the job front — the Mars has added four part-time personnel.
“We’re already creating jobs,” Deadwyler said. “It’s what we were hoping for.”
Council member Justin Cribbs said he brought his family to the Von Grey show, the second event of the official opening weekend.
“And that was awesome,” he said.
Deadwyler added that the performers have been just as impressed with the Mars as the audience has been.
“We keep hearing from the artists themselves what a great sound system we have,” he said, “and we’re hearing what a great experience we have with the movies.”
With first-run movies, the Mars has to show them for a certain amount of time. The cost to show the movies is based on percentage of tickets sold, and a minimum payment is involved. Deadwyler said the city paid $1,000 for the minimum on “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” After that, it’s based on a percentage of the tickets and the ticket price.
The percentages also vary, as do the minimums. For instance, City Manager Brett Bennett said, the movie company got 70 percent of the tickets for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”
“That’s why you see $6 Cokes and $6 popcorn,” he said, “because that’s where (cinemas) make their money. As time goes on, those percentages drop. As ticket sales drop, they drop that percentage.”
The percentage on ticket sales for “God Is Not Dead,” by contrast, is 35 percent, because it was released several months ago.
Bennett said it was the movie industry that led to the demise of the single-screen movie house and the rise of the multi-screen Cineplex.
“That minimum comes into play,” he said. “They can show that movie 200 times and all they’re paying is that minimum. Granted, there is a percentage. But there is one concession stand operating for 12 different screens. That’s why single movie theaters died when the movie industry took control of the movie world.”
The average for ticket was $3 per person, and the concession stand prices have been kept below the rates charged by theaters in Pooler, Bennett said.
“The concession stand is doing great,” Deadwyler said.
The price for live shows, Deadwyler said, depends on the artist. Overall, the theatre has made money and Bennett said they priced tickets lower than usual in order to draw crowds. The Mars’ reason for existence, Bennett explained, is not to add to the city’s bottom line.
“It’s not a money-making venture,” Bennett said, adding it is also not a money-losing proposition. “I want to make sure we don’t expect to see all this money rolling in. There will be events and shows where we might lose money, but the next week, we’re going to make money. The idea is that at the end of the day, it’s not costing us an arm and a leg to operate. If it was money-making venture, somebody else would be doing it. It would be a commercial operation.”
The big picture, Deadwyler said, is downtown revitalization.
“What it’s bringing in is not as black and white on a spreadsheet,” he said.
Deadwyler added they are working on lining up older and classic movies to show, at a reduced rate, at the Mars.
“We’re working away on the movie part of it,” he said.
Mayor Barton Alderman said he appreciated the efforts of Deadwyler, Bennett and other city staff in getting the Mars launched.
“It’s been a lot of hard work,” he said.
Said Deadwyler: “It’s been a great team effort. Everybody jumped in and helped out. Springfield should be proud,” Deadwyler said.
Upcoming at the Mars Theatre
• May 17 — Effingham County High School chorus, 7 p.m. Tickets $15.
• May 24 — Col. Bruce Hampton, Ret., 8 p.m. Tickets $20. Follow at www.colbruce.com or @colbrucehampton on Twitter.
• May 30 — Savannah Children’s Choir, 7 p.m. Tickets $15.
• May 31 — Beverly “Guitar” Watkins, 8 p.m. Tickets $20.
• June 14 — Red June, 8 p.m. Tickets $20. Follow at www.redjunemusic.com and on Twitter @redjunemusic.
• June 21 — Robert Lee Coleman, 8 p.m. Tickets $20.
For more on the Mars, visitmarstheatre.com and follow them on Twitter @MarsTheatre