In the family way 

Springs discount theater owner plans to expand to other cities

click to enlarge Picture Show owner Jeff Stedman strives to deliver - affordable trips to the movies. - BRUCE ELLIOTT
  • Bruce Elliott
  • Picture Show owner Jeff Stedman strives to deliver affordable trips to the movies.

Imagine taking your family of four to the movies for $4. It's possible at the Springs' newest theater, Picture Show at Citadel Crossing.

Owner Jeff Stedman chose Colorado Springs as the first location for what he hopes will be a nationwide cinematic success. Picture Show has been Colorado Springs' "one and only discount family theater" since late 2003. And by the end of the summer, another Picture Show theater is scheduled to open in Denver.

Stedman plans to expand his theater chain into California and Florida, adding to the other existing unit in Marietta, Ga. The company, he believes, can easily expand at four to six units a year.

Stedman first eyed Colorado Springs while an executive with Cinemark Theaters, during its expansion in this area with the Tinseltown U.S.A. and Cinemark 16 multiplexes.

As the CFO and No. 3 executive at Cinemark, Stedman helped that company grow from a Southwestern regional chain with about 200 screens to an international enterprise operating 3,000 screens in 32 U.S. states and 11 foreign countries. As the 1990s progressed, however, Stedman opted for a lifestyle change and left Cinemark to work with a technology company. But after three years, he decided he wanted to get back into the theater business and launch a project of his own.

Stedman had enjoyed the second-run theater aspect of the cinema business and saw the need for such a theater in Colorado Springs.

"[In Colorado Springs, there is a] large market, a lot of families, and there wasn't a second-run theater anywhere in the market," he said.

He launched Picture Show, hoping its operations strategy would make it a discount theater success. His two-pronged approach includes state-of-the-art facilities, including surround sound and digital sound.

The second aspect of Stedman's approach is to attract its target market with a movie lineup that focuses on family entertainment: Ella Enchanted, Home on the Range and Scooby Doo 2 are all current PG-rated features.

In addition, the cinema shows a few R-rated movies. Picture Show employee Jim Swartz said R-rated films, however, are not featured unless they offer "educational" benefits. Swartz cited The Passion of the Christ and The Last Samurai as recent blockbusters that fit this criterion.

Because it is a family-oriented theater, Stedman said, Picture Show typically plays R-rated films only in the evenings. "Sometimes," he said, "we'll only play R-rated movies at the 9 o'clock round, not even at the 7 o'clock round."

Yet Picture Show's films are not exclusively for families, Stedman added. They also bring in movies for young adults, college students and other people in the demographic looking for a low-cost movie experience. Recent examples include comedies such as Adam Sandler's 50 First Dates and adventures such as Hidalgo.

Additionally, Picture Show frequently offers religious-oriented films to the Colorado Springs public. Earlier this year, it was the only cinema in town where moviegoers could see Luther. The Gospel of John was shown free of charge for almost 20 weeks.

Picture Show's low prices -- 50 cents to $1.50 -- enable people unwilling or unable to spend $4 to $7.75 per ticket at first-run theaters to see movies relatively recently released.

The business model of a second-run theater allows Picture Show to deliver such cheap ticket prices. Once films are no longer drawing large audiences at cinemas like Tinseltown, film companies allow Picture Show to run the movies at discounted rates.

However, the film companies demand most of the fee that Picture Show charges. Thus, to turn a profit, Picture Show must produce revenue in other areas. "We're surviving on concessions," said Swartz.

While other discount theaters have come and gone in Colorado Springs, Stedman has high hopes for his Picture Show chain. "I expect to be here [in Colorado Springs] for a long, long time," he said. "This isn't my first rodeo."

-- Michael Beckel


Picture Show at Citadel Crossing

901 N. Academy Blvd. (at Galley)

$1 for shows before 6 p.m.

$1.50 for shows after 6 p.m.

All shows 50 cents on Tuesdays


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