Manager Raymond Kilburn has revamped both the atmosphere and business model of Carmike Cinemas.
Carmike glows on a summer night.
Sometimes the Hook blows it, and when that happens, we try to do everything we can to correct that mistake. So, after accidentally publishing an outdated review of the Carmike theater in our Annual Manual, we decided to check it out for ourselves. We were impressed.
The bright marquee lights on the front of the Carmike Cinemas behind Albemarle Square are enticing, but it’s the sign below the lights that has been steadily drawing moviegoers since last November.
“All seats, all shows $1.50.”
When Raymond Kilburn took over as manager in the fall of 2012, the theater switched from first-run, full-price movies to second-run, discount films, which have already been shown in traditional big box theaters. The movies usually make it to Carmike about four to eight weeks after their premiere. Kilburn, who is also an artist, wanted to spread the word about the discount theater after making the switch.
“We’ve had great responses from people,” Kilburn says. “They want us to stay around as long as possible.”
With low ticket prices and affordable concessions, the theater provides customers an alternative to the pricey, albeit brand new stadium-seated Regal 14 at the Stonefield shopping center.
“Regal is top dog in the movie theater world,” Kilburn says. “It’s just a lovely theater. But here you can but a movie ticket, popcorn and a drink for the cost of just a ticket over there.”
Ticket prices haven’t been the only change at Carmike.
“I’ve been putting my low budget into cosmetic renovations,” Kilburn says, adding that the building was built in the early ‘90s. The result is a sparkling lobby, clean bathrooms and comfortable seats. And with digital technology the movies are clear and high-definition.
Kilburn’s plan of appealing to budget conscious teens and college students appears to be working as a showing for a 7pm screening of Man of Steel on a Monday drew around 40 viewers, many of them young adults.
Sara Weintraub, a rising third year at UVA, says she’s been to the theater a couple of times this summer and plans to keep it up.
“You can’t beat $1.50 movies,” Weintraub says with a laugh. “I’m definitely going to come back during the semester.”