The iconic Star Theater of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia is up for sale.
Star Theater owners Jeanne Mozier and Jack Soronen have decided that after 40 years of showing movies every weekend, it’s time to call it quits.
Asking price? $350,000.
“It’s been 40 years that Jack and I have been doing this every weekend and we feel it is getting about time we have to retire,” Mozier told Talk Radio WRNR with Rob Mario and David Welch. “We do it ourselves, which is one of the issues with trying to sell it. Somehow, people think they are going to do it the same way we do. And it’s like – I don’t think so. We had other jobs.”
“We’re hoping that the Star will find its next owner. This is a building where movies have been shown for 90 years and we are only the third owner in 90 years. That is amazing. People need to understand – this is a rare opportunity to own this property.”
How has the business changed over the years?
“The big change was when it changed to digital in 2013 or so,” Mozier said. “The movie industry said to all of it’s theaters – if you want to keep being a theater, you have to go digital. And that was a $70,000 investment for us just for our one screen. You can imagine what these multiplexes had to pay. But it does make life a whole lot easier – so Jack now just has to go upstairs and push a button.”
The technology went from the flame in the projector to digital in 13 years.
“I used to go to Washington every week to exchange the movies,” Mozier said. “The movies came in these giant metal cans. They were on reels. With the old projectors, with those carbon arc projectors, Jack had to be up there in the projection room all the time. You had to switch back and forth between projectors every twenty minutes. That’s how long the reels were.”
“That doesn’t happen anymore. Now, UPS delivers the movie in an embedded hard drive. No more Washington. Which is good because traffic has gotten out of control.”
“Having a single screen, single owner theater is extremely rare. There are probably not 200 of them in the country. I deal directly with the studios. Most studios deal with a booker who handle dozens of theaters.”
“When home videos appeared in the 1980s, that changed the model. It accelerated the time when movies became available. Then there was the whole notion of so many opportunities for entertainment. How do you get people to get into the movie theaters? It seems like it’s a human experience to be in a theater with other people.”
“Our price is $5 a ticket. Our tourists will come in and say – $5? Do you know how much I have to pay where I live?”
Mozier said that the Start Theater pays a percentage of the gross to the studios – 35 percent to 65 percent – depending on the movie, depending on the studio.
“Disney is the worst – they get 65 percent,” Mozier said. “When you are showing a first run movie, they take 90 percent. And you are committed to showing it for several weeks.”
“We will do everything in our power to see that the Star continues to operate as a movie theater,” Mozier said. “If somebody wanted to do this, they would probably expand the times and number of nights that a movie was being shown. We limited it to Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We were too busy.”
“It would be nice to travel,” Mozier said. “Before we came to Berkeley Springs, we traveled around the country for a year. It would be nice to be able to do that again and not have to worry about getting back for the movie on the weekend.”