I grew up in Tacoma. I went to Wilson High School. And when I went to the movies, I went to Narrow Plaza and the Narrows 8 Theatres. Unfortunately as movie theaters evolved the Narrows 8 did not. Soon thanks to lack of stadium seating and subpar sound system, Narrows 8 closed down. Since then, it’s sat empty. But there are a group of people trying to change that and bring Narrows 8 back to University Place and Tacoma, but they need your help. I contacted Josh Evans about this and he was more than happy to share his vision of what could become the best movie theater in Tacoma. Here’s Josh:
1. What is JRE Digital Cinemas?
JRE Digital Cinemas Inc. is a family owned corporation legally formed in the state of Montana November of 2013 and relocated to Washington March 2014. Our ultimate goal is to offer affordable entertainment to the masses. My name is Joshua Evans and I serve as CEO for the company, taking the vision of all of our share holders (myself, my father Martin Evans, Mother Pamella Evans, Brother Daniel Evans and our sister Sarah Evans) and forming a solid plan to see that vision become a reality. I originally had the idea so form a company with my family when I returned from Connecticut in 2012. Having operated a 10 screen sub run theater in a competitive market against a Regal Entertainment Cinema I learned valuable information about the cinema exhibition industry and gained insight into what creates a working business model in that industry. My former business partner and I were not able to make our cinema in Connecticut a success because we were under capitalized and the transition to digital projection was well underway. Unfortunately, the finances to make the transition were just not available to us at that time.
I originally showed interest in the former 8 screen first run theatre located on Mildred street in University Place Washington, I believe in June of last year. I had talked with my family and we decided to form a corporation for the purpose of eventually re-opening this cinema. We discussed the cost of the renovations and the level of funding needed, at that time we had no idea of the condition of the building, furniture or equipment in the building. We later found out that the building has been all but gutted by the previous operator. Our main focus was to revitalize this cinema, create a locally owned and operated location that would be a benefit to the community and surrounding businesses. I Know first hand what losing a destination draw like a cinema can do to surrounding restaurants and local businesses that rely on that foot traffic for revenue. I knew that other businesses on Mildred street had to have been suffering and seen a decline in businesses since this cinema closed. With that in mind we started piecing together a plan to reopen the cinema and help to bring back those lost customers to the area, thus, JRE Digital Cinemas Inc. was born. The name is derived in memoriam from my late sister’s initials: Jennifer Rae Evans (JRE).
My father Martin has been on disability for most of my life, struggling with Multiple-sclerosis and still trying to earn enough money to support our family. Right now they live on a very tight fixed income and each time dad has attempted to re-enter the work force he ends up losing that battle due to his illness. He needs something that can be flexible enough so that when he has episodes of MS he doesn’t have to hit the pavement yet again. Employers love my dad. He is intelligent, hardworking, and dedicated but the limitations of his body make it difficult to stay productive at a full-time job. We, in part, wanted to form this company so that he can be involved in something that can provide certain flexibilities and still remain a productive member of society and provide for his family. So when you ask what JRE Digital Cinemas is I have one simple answer: it is Desire, Passion, and Love. Desire to provide for one’s family and take care of the people who love and support you. Passion to provide the community an entertainment destination that families and people of all income levels can enjoy. Love of our community, family, and loyal customers.
2. What’s the current status of the Narrow 8 Theatre?
We have researched the location, condition and funding requirements to make this dream a reality. We believe the local community will support this theatre when it reopens. It needs a lot of work! The building currently has no concession counter, seats, screens or equipment. Most of the carpet has been damaged or removed. We would need to install new digital projection. As far as the project itself, we need help and I’m not afraid to reach out to the local community for that help. We need to secure funds of at very minimum $50,000 in order to secure funding to repair the interior, replace seats and to install new equipment. Our goal also includes upgrades to the auditoriums including “retro-fit foam risers” (http://www.stadiumseating.com/solutions.php) to provide for stadium style seating. We have put together a rough estimate for building repairs and upgrades and have come up with a number that will allow us to accomplish all of our goals. The total funding required to get the cinema open is around $750,000. We plan to reach out to the local economic development organizations within pierce county and also at the state level. We also plan to utilize SBA backed loans but the required “Down Payment” needed would be in the 10-15% range, and cannot be borrowed, meaning, we can’t simply ask one lender to loan the funds needed to secure financing from another lender.
We fully believe it IS possible to make this project a reality. If the community would rally behind us and support our Indiegogo campaign, or a wealthy community member wanted to be a partner in our venture we could secure the required funds. We hope by getting our vision and story out to the public supporters of this project will come forward and help us out.
3. What’s different about what you want to do to the Narrows 8 Theatre?
The thing about operating a cinema in a competitive market is you HAVE to offer something unique compared to other theatres. What we have in mind is fairly simple: we plan to be a community hub. A locally owned and operated cinema involved in community activities, offering support to other local businesses all while keeping the consumer in mind when making business decisions. We want everyone in University Place and surrounding areas to feel like this is their theatre not some chain that won’t take the time to hear your feedback or get to know you by name.
We also plan to have a few things not commonly found in major chain theatres. We want to bring different ideas to light at this location like self-serve drink stations, free refills on soda, and even a coffee shop located inside the lobby offering fraps, blended coffee drinks and smoothies. We also offer traditional movie concessions at much lower prices than most chains and unique treats you probably wouldn’t find in most cinemas.
We want to reach out to the local community and hold events at our cinema. A few things that set us apart in Connecticut included hosting a film and music festival featuring only Connecticut films either filmed in Connecticut or directed by a Connecticut resident and showcasing only Connecticut based bands and musicians. We also hosted a launch party for a group of film students who had produced a full feature film. We offered a venue for them to show the film to potential distributors and backers to get the film on contract for distribution. This type of community involvement is usually only seen at local cinemas with a connection to the community.
Let’s talk a little more about “affordability” and what that means for the Narrows 8 Theatre. Ticket prices will be $6.00 matinee (before 3pm) and $10 evening, 3D films would be $8.50 matinee and $12.50 evening. Every Tuesday will be “DiscountTuesday” offering ticket prices at $6.00 all day (3D would be $2.50 additional). Concession deals like a “$3.00 Any Size Popcorn” would be a regularly occurring promotion and our boxed candy would also be lower than most first run theatres. At times in our previous cinema we had candy deals, $2.00 a box during peak times throughout the year. Local movie goers can expect to see punch cards similar to what you would find at a drive-thru coffee shop where ticket purchases would earn you FREE movie passes. We are aggressive with social media deals and coupons as well as free movie pass giveaways . Group ticket prices for large groups like childcare facilities, non-profits, schools, and summer youth programs have always held a top priority in our business model. In short, our “uniqueness” comes from operating a full-scale first-run cinema as a small, local business, and for the community to treat it as such.
4. How can people interested in this project help out?
First and foremost the easiest way to help is to spread the word about us. Tell everyone you know and then tell them again! You can reach our facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/Narrows8Theatres or follow us on twitter at:https://twitter.com/narrows8theatre.
Secondly, we have an online crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo. Contributors can essentially “pre-purchase” products and services anywhere from coupons, movie passes, t-shirts to collector’s merchandise and on-screen advertising space. The link to the campaign is https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/narrows-8-digital-theatres or you can visit www.indiegogo.com and search for “Narrows 8 Theatres”. Place a small contribution of $5-$5,000 and once we have reached the end of our campaign we will start delivering the contribution “perks” and get the ball rolling to get the theatre open.
Lastly, if you would like to discuss becoming an equity partner or even just to drop me a line about the theatre please email me at email@example.com.
5. What do you see as the future for Narrows 8 Theatre?
We see a successful venture between the community and ourselves. We plan to grow with the industry and constantly improve the cinema going experience for patrons of the Narrows 8 Digital Theatres. We want to become an integral part of the community backed by the support of the people. We plan on being involved with local issues, events, and programs. We see ourselves as a viable business, creating jobs and providing tax dollars for the state and city to fund much needed projects. We see a place where patrons can go and feel safe, comfortable, and a part of something great.
We love getting to know our customers on a personal level, what a difference it makes in customer service. It’s almost funny how a person reacts when they visit a movie theatre and see the owner behind the counter making popcorn or maybe tearing your ticket or even cleaning theatres after shows saying: “Thank you for coming to our theatre! We hope you enjoyed your movie! See you next time!”
We look forward to seeing each and every one of you at the Narrows 8 Digital Theatres!
I’d like to thank Josh for taking the time to fill us in on his vision and I hope readers will help out. This is a project that deserves to be funded.
As always, if you or someone you know would like to join me for 5 Question Friday, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jack Cameron