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Top Gun sequel launches people back to Salmon Arm movie theatre

Salmar Community Association experiences year of challenges and recovery
Salmar Community Association members gathered at the Salmar Classic for the association’s annual general meeting on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

It was a challenging year for Salmon Arm’s movie theatres, but also one of recovery.

Supply chain issues, increased costs and limited/underwhelming movie releases contributed to another difficult year for the movie exhibition industry, in Salmon Arm and throughout North America.

“The profit sharing between distributors and exhibitionists such as the Salmar has skewed very heavily in Hollywood’s favour,” explained Salmar Community Association board chair Chris Papworth to association members gathered at the Salmar Theatre.”We are no longer surprised to see our share of box office receipts to be in the range of 30 cents on the dollar. Gone are the days of a 50-50 split between theatres and Hollywood.”

Continuing his speech that opened the association’s annual general meeting on Thursday, Nov. 24, Papworth noted Hollywood productions are expensive and time consuming and often new movies will take two to three years to complete before they hit the big screen.

“The development pipeline will increase products going forward but this takes time,” he said.

Supply chain issues also impacted the Salmar’s operations.

“Cup, lids, especially lids, popcorn bags, popcorn concession items and parts for critical equipment went out of stock periodically from our regular suppliers,” said Papworth, adding staff was resourceful in tracking down and ordering needed items.

Inflation was also a challenge.

“Rising concession and operating costs are challenging,” said Papworth.

“We buy a lot of butter. A lot. And butter is a lot more expensive.”

Despite all of this, there were wins in 2022.

For the Salmar Grand, comparing this year to last, association treasurer Chelsea Kraft said it was a night and day difference. More than $375,000 was made in box-office receipts this year, compared to about $140,000 last year. The concession saw a similar dramatic jump in sales.

And while movie theatres continue to face competition from the proliferation of home streaming services, Papworth suggested cracks are beginning to appear in the “let’s stream everything for a monthly subscription” model. Helping sway things in favour of movie houses were exclusive theatrical releases.

“For example, Top Gun: Maverick was a massive success,” said Papworth. “It showed exclusive theatrical releases can still be enormously financially rewarding and that audiences are more than ready to return to the cinema in large numbers.”

In fact, the sequel to the 1986 Tom Cruise hit was the Salmar’s most successful movie of 2022, followed by Minions: The Rise of Gru, Thor Love and Thunder, Jurassic World Dominion, Elvis, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Ticket to Paradise, DC League of Super-Pets, Uncharted and Where the Crawdads Sing.

Papworth noted the Salmar experimented with other movies on the big screen that proved to be popular draws.

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“A first for the Salmar to my knowledge, we had a limited time release of a Bollywood production that had enthusiastic patrons willing to drive five hours to see it…,” said Papworth.

“As another first, and with special mention to one of our supervisors, Alex Idzan, a recent trial anime showing was surprisingly successful… Anime is a genre of animated films made popular in Japan. Also very popular with a key demographic of our patrons and they attended in droves.”

Behind the scenes, Papworth noted the Salmar recently experienced a change in management. Joel De Boer, who joined the Salmar as general manager in late 2019, recently resigned from his position to pursue other opportunities.

Former Salmar office administrator Jodi Jones is now general manager.

“Her first job at age 14 was as a Salmar concessionary,” said Papworth. “Jodi is passionate about the Salmar and her new role and we’re so excited for her.”

There were also changes on the Salmar board with longtime members Jim Downs and Brian Sansom stepping down. Downs joined the board in 2006 and Sansom in 2010. Filling their positions are Regan Ready and Kathryn Vennard.

Despite the “gloom and doom” of his opening speech, Papworth closed the meeting with an optimistic and enthusiastic view of the year to come.

“The Salmar is not immune to the challenges facing the movie business, but we are not idling,” said Papworth. “Our manager Jodi is excited to try new ideas to generate business while maximizing efficiency.

“The Salmar will adjust to changing customer trends while respecting our core mission to provide entertainment to the community and return profits to support local charities and non-profit initiatives. We are excited for the future and we are committed to the long-term success of the Salmar.”
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