What age do you consider to be a senior?
Do you serve alcohol?
No. We’re primarily a movie theatre and we have traditional movie theatre concessions.
Why do you show some films on DVD?
It is always a priority for us to show our repertory films on 35mm and usually we are lucky enough to find good prints through the studios themselves or various archives. However, if neither a 35mm print nor a DCP (digital cinema package) is available for rental, and it’s a film we feel is important to show, we will show it on DVD or blu ray. This happens rarely.
For example, in April of 2008 we showed Terry Gilliam films for our classics series. Our committee decided that we really wanted to show Time Bandits as one of the films, but there was no 35mm print available to rent. We decided to go ahead and show the DVD. We try to be very careful to note when a film will be shown on DVD in our email newsletter, on our website, and in the notices we send to the newspapers.
How do you schedule your feature films?
One respondent to our survey had this to say about our features, “The only thing that has annoyed me is when I see previews of films that never show up for viewing.” Many others echoed that frustration. We get frustrated too. We show trailers for films that we hope to bring to the theatre. Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned. Print availability, distributors’ booking requirements, and a film’s imminent DVD release (which seems to be earlier all the time) are some of the factors that determine if and when we can get a film.
Like everything else, this part of our work is a balancing act. We need to bring in films that significant numbers will come see so we can pay our bills; not keep them so long that we lose patrons who are ready to see the next film; and bring in enough truly independent film so that we can provide a home for diverse programming and continue to differentiate ourselves from the multiplexes. We have discussions every Monday with our film booker to make the best choices we can about film scheduling. Planning on a week-to-week basis allows us the most flexibility, and the best chance at bringing in all of the films you want to see.
A good example can be made of Juno. Originally the distributor required a four-week booking which is impossibly long for us because of our one screen. So, while many of you called to ask if we could bring the film in, we couldn’t justify such a long run. Several weeks into the film’s release, we were able to negotiate a two-week booking, so we went for it. At this point, many of you had already seen the film elsewhere, or wondered why we brought in a film that was playing at the Regal. That’s a valid question, and yet we had a fantastic turnout for Juno, and were thrilled to see people who had never come to the theatre before, particularly older teens and young adults.
How do you decide which concerts to book?
We are always open to your opinions on which artists we should book at the Colonial. It is important to understand that there is a limitation on who we can afford based on the number of seats we have. The Colonial is half the size of the Keswick, which is why you see such a difference in our programming. We continue to test the limits of our ticket price while at the same time not completely out-pricing our friends and neighbors in the community.
What is Baby Night?
Baby Nights are on Mondays and are an earlier screening of our weekly feature film – at 6:30pm instead of 7:30pm — during which parents and their infants are welcome. A parent may, for example, nurse their baby to sleep while watching the film. Please note that these screenings are not films for children, but rather a screening of our feature film for that week.
When is the parking situation going to improve?
Phoenixville is becoming more popular and with that comes more people and more cars. We’re all understandably frustrated by the increased congestion in town, and the seemingly diminishing parking spaces. But, the town is addressing it — a parking authority has been established. Go to the Directions section for details.
Why don’t you have a family membership?
All tickets to our children’s films are already priced at the member level – $5 for film and most live programs. We also offer a free small popcorn to kids under 13 who sign up for our PopCard and bring their card to any children’s program. In addition, members at the Producer level and above can bring their children who are students to films and receive the $5 member price for the student, as well as for themselves. We think this pricing structure offers all the benefits of a family membership which would have to be priced at about $200.00.
Why is your Oscar party for members only?
Another respondent to our online survey of a couple of years ago wrote “Stop excluding non members from participating in events. They’re paying customers and are interested in supporting the Colonial. I have a lot of friends who were looking forward to participating in the Oscar Party this year. Now they’re not interested and won’t participate. They too don’t want to be forced into membership. Too Bad.”
Our membership program has been a crucial way for us to build relationships with our patrons, and to generate contributions that sustain the day-to-day operation of the theatre. The theatre is owned and operated by a non-profit corporation, The Association for the Colonial Theatre, and fundraising, whether through membership, our annual appeal, or grant applications, is critical to our sustainability and growth.
Inherent in all membership programs are member perks or privileges. Ours include free movie passes, discounted film tickets, and free refills on popcorn and soda. Most organizations also offer an annual member party, and after much discussion, we decided that our Oscar party was the ideal event to serve as our member party.
The Oscar party is the only event that has been reserved for members, and even so, we welcome everyone to “join” us – if you’re not particularly interested in membership, you can consider that contribution simply as your ticket to the party. We think you’ll find it’s well worth the price.
What are your plans for the continued restoration and renovation of the existing theatre and 225 Bridge Street?
In November of 2011, ACT purchased the historic bank building at 225 Bridge Street. The decision to make the purchase was made after careful planning and analysis of our present situation and our ability to grow and continue to serve the community. In addition, the real estate market and the plans of “The Phoenix” owners Journal Register made it an opportune time to make such a purchase.
Our board of directors and many leaders in our community participated in an Expansion Study and Business Plan led by Webb Management to help us make two important decisions: first, whether the purchase and expansion was viable; and second, how we could best utilize the space for maximum community enjoyment and cultural vibrancy.
The next step involved hiring Carnevale-Eustis Architects, who worked with Cosler Theatre Design, Inc., to imagine the best design for the building based on our programming needs. Their design also incorporates the final renovation of the existing Colonial auditorium,
The result of that work includes a large lobby towards the front of the 225 Bridge Street building which will accommodate patrons from our live events in the Colonial during intermission. Two additional spaces (one toward the back of the building and one on the lower level in the front of the building) will allow for additional film viewing and smaller live events. All in all, this expansion will allow ACT to bring many more people to Phoenixville and insure that ACT can continue to build a diverse and exciting programming schedule.
Special thanks to our visionary donors who made the purchase of 225 Bridge Street possible.
The Andersen Family
The Archie W. and Grace Berry Foundation
Century 21 – Norris Valley Forge
Ted and Debby Flint
Stephen H. and Julia B. Kalis
The John Lazarich Foundation
Meacham Family Foundation
Marian and David Moskowitz
Ken and Moira Mumma
Suzanne V. Norris
The Norris Family Charitable Fund
Elizabeth Norris and Tim Buckley
Phoenixville Federal Bank and Trust
Rotary International of Phoenixville
MaryLouise A. Sterge
Kirsten Van Vlandren
The planning necessary to make crucial decisions was supported in part by a grant from The William Penn Foundation and the “Bringin’ Back the Bacons for Conservation and Culture” event in the fall of 2011.
We are currently working with The North Group on the continued planning of our expansion. If you would like to hear more don’t hesitate to contact Mary at 610.917.1228.
So after all these years, why are we still looking at peeling paint and plaster?
The renovation process at the Colonial Theatre has been phased in to allow for a relatively young organization to grow its patron base and ultimately its donor base. Our decisions about what to do first have been strategic, and are based on the experiences of organizations that have renovated hundreds of historic theatres across the country.
What the other organizations learned (sometimes from making incorrect decisions) was that it is harder to fundraise for components of the project that patrons can’t see or are not directly affected by. They also learned that if you proceed to the auditorium and lobby restorations before addressing the less “sexy” parts of the renovation, people will think the work is complete and their contributions are no longer necessary. ACT struck a balance to this theory by tending to renovation issues such as the roof, office space and utility upgrades on the one hand, but also recognizing that a renovated façade adds curb appeal and grows audiences and comfortable seats and adequate restrooms keeps patrons coming back.
Now that the final phase of restoration is on the horizon (see above), we can’t wait to learn what the original colors were in the theatre and see this gem restored to its original beauty. With your help and support the Colonial will become the premier historic theatre in our region.