Career theater manager invests in Mooresville’s Movies

By Bob Sullivan
Morgan County Business Leader

Iron Man 3; The Lone Ranger; The Great Gatsby; Star Trek Into Darkness; The Man of Steel. Summer movie season is upon us, and crowds are converging upon the newly renovated theater in Mooresville to escape the summer heat and enjoy the spectacle found only at the movies. Showtime Cinemas opened June 15 last year, and sits as the centerpiece of a development boom across from Gray’s Cafeteria, located between the just expanded Ivy Tech Community College and A1 Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar. Last year, Joe Avampato started that boom when he purchased the derelict movie theatre just six weeks prior to opening their doors.

Constructed for the original Mooresville Movies in the late 1990s, the building still held the 35 MM movie projectors. While the projectors proved an asset in launching the theater, the Avampatos have since installed nearly half a million dollars in eight new state-of-the-art digital projectors and two 3D silver screens, which were all up and running by early May in time for Iron Man 3, which kicked off the summer 2013 season.

Joe explained the disadvantage of trying to maintain the projectors. “The industry is moving away from film, and by the end of the year, it will no longer support it. Now, distributors only make a limited number of film prints, and distribute them by priority, starting with the top grossing theaters, and at the bottom of their list, the independent theaters within smaller populations.” Increasingly, the studio has cut back on distributing film prints, forcing Joe to pay for a special print or not show the movie. Joe concedes, “Recently, we missed a few movies.”

With digital technology, Joe explained, movies are distributed electronically as huge computer files. There are no canisters, no threading projectors. The projectors are programmed to start and stop the films at set times. “Once the system is in place, I flip a switch at the beginning of the day and flip the switch off at closing time.” The modern technology, offers a more consistent picture and sound with competing theaters, and the supply issue to secure first run films will take care of itself. So how does Showtime Cinemas differentiate itself from other theaters? Joe uses the strategy that has served him well his entire career. “We train our staff to provide an outstanding person-to-person experience at the ticket counter, at the concession stand, and in the theater itself. That’s why people keep coming back.”

Joe grew up in Elgin, Illinois and graduated from Marmion High School. “In 1980, during my second year of college, I took a job at a Foxfield movie theater in St. Charles, IL.” This began his career of managing movie theater chains and independent screens that spans over 30 years. “Theaters and chains get bought out by bigger theaters all the time. I’d settle in for awhile, and then we’d get absorbed, and I’d have to adjust to a new way of doing things.” His management experience included seven years at Excellence Theaters as field executive, where he managed 15 locations throughout Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin.

In 1988, while managing a theater in Wisconsin, Joe met Sarah Indahl, a Wisconsin native who worked as a concessionaire at a theater Joe directed. Sarah remembered, “I quit my job so we could date, and we’ve been together 25 years.” Prior to that, she had worked at a local drive-in theater so she also possessed an industry experience background.

For Nova Cinetech, Joe oversaw the construction of new theaters, totaling 12 buildings and a total of 115 screens. “The interaction with the staff and the patrons kept me excited about work. The chain had a philosophy about working with local communities and I encouraged that in our managers.

Download the full June 2013 Edition here.


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