BY CAROL HICKS
For the Commercial-News
The Lorraine Theatre, one of Hoopeston’s oldest historical buildings, is in danger of closing permanently due to lack of attendance.
“The overall attendance for 2010 versus 2009 is down almost 20 percent. The killer was July,” said owner Josh Caudle. “July 2010 attendance was down nearly 70 percent versus July 2009.”
Attendance is the key that represents ticket sales and revenues to the movie studios.
“So far in 2010,” he said, “the Lorraine has played 14 films where the tickets sales didn’t recoup the cost to the studios for providing us the films. They are therefore unwilling to continue to give us films.”
According to Caudle, the Danville movie complex just raised ticket prices to $8 general admissions, eliminated senior discounts and student discounts, and moved its matinee prices on the weekends and holidays before 6 p.m. to Monday through Thursday before noon.
Caudle explained the differences.
“We have kept our matinee daily for all shows before 6 p.m.; we’ve kept our senior discounts. Danville charges senior citizens $8 on the weekend afternoons ... we charge $5.75 all the time. Danville has basic digital sound, we feature an elite SDDS 8 Channel system. Danville still has older seats with tight aisles ... we have new highback seats with flip up armrests and every aisle is five feet wide. I point out these comparisons because our ticket prices are by far the lowest.”
The Lorraine Theatre, noted in previous years for showing many first-run movies, received some movies even before Danville. Losing its status of first-run movies and the opportunity to view good movies for reasonable prices in town, especially with the gas prices fluctuating so much, would be a devastating loss for Hoopeston residents.
The Lorraine Theatre will be closed Aug. 25 until Sept. 24 and may close earlier if the ability to get new movies is lost.
The loss would be especially difficult now as a more positive attitude has gripped the three-block business section in downtown Hoopeston. Several businesses have opened or moved in the past year to the downtown area or made improvements to buildings. City council members are now contacting and addressing the problem of absentee landlords in the downtown area. And a new organization, Be A Part of It, is actively bringing creativity and art to Main Street.
The Artistic Repertory Theatre hosts its events at the Lorraine and would still be able to in the future if the Lorraine is closed as a movie theater, according to Caudle, unless the building is sold to another party.
Hoopeston has about 6,000 people but draws half the Lorraine Theatre’s attendance from out of town.
“If everyone (in Hoopeston) would just make the effort to come to a movie once a month, just once a month, there would be no problems whatsoever,” Caudle said. “We cannot continue to keep such an old building in good repair if we do not receive some regular support from our community.”
He added that they’re not expecting sell outs, nor half sell outs, but are expecting shows to average more than 11 people a show.
“We’ve truly put our time and our money where our mouth is. Now it’s time for the community to do the same,” Caudle said. “If the Lorraine closes, it will likely never reopen. No one is going to buy a theater with attendance falling like this. The people of Hoopeston deserve to have a movie theater. The only question that remains is, will they try to keep this last living piece of its history or just stay home and watch another episode of ‘American Idol’?”