By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The owners of the Havre Cinema 1 & 2 plan to reopen a remodeled facility - with two more movie screens - after a three-month closure starting in February.
"We hate to shut down, but there's nothing we can do," said Gary Dupuis, general manager of Polson Theatres, which owns movie theaters in Havre and eight other Montana towns.
Dupuis said the company will create four smaller auditoriums to take the place of the two it now has, with slightly less total seating. The lobby, bathrooms and other parts of the building will be remodeled.
Havre Cinemas now has 506 seats. It will have about 490 after the remodeling, with one theater having seating for 160 people and the other three with about 110 seats.
"We're bringing the Havre Cinemas into the new millennium, so to speak," Dupuis said.
The remodeling is scheduled to begin early in February. Dupuis said the company timed the remodeling to avoid the major film releases over the summer and during the holidays.
He said he expects the theater's business to increase by a third with the additional screens.
Dupuis said there's not enough parking on the street to accommodate the extra business. Parking needs generated by the new theaters can be met by the parking lot next to the Town Square on First Street, he said.
Bear Paw Credit Union, which owns some of the spaces on the eastern edge of the lot near its automatic teller machine, does not reserve parking there and it can be used by theater-goers, said April Baiamonte, a vice president at the credit union.
Alan Pearson, president of the Havre branch of Wells Fargo Bank, said the spaces owned by Wells Fargo behind the bank near Town Square are available during the day but generally are not open to the public at night.
Signs there say vehicles parked there between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. will be towed at the owners' expense.
The bank hasn't done much to police the parking lot because it hasn't been a problem, Pearson said. If a large number of vehicles started parking there after business hours, the bank might take action to enforce the parking restrictions, he said.
Dupuis said he doesn't see why having vehicles parked on the lot at night would be a problem. That is something the people of Havre and the bank have to work out, he said.
Brian Jenkins, who manages Radio Shack next door to the theaters, said Wednesday the theater expansion will be good for his business.
"We benefit from them, I know that," he said. "Anything to bring traffic downtown is a good thing."
Jenkins said Radio Shack picks up extra traffic particularly when the theater shows matinees on weekends and holidays.
He said he doesn't think the expansion will cause more parking problems.
"It's always a problem anyway," he said.
Havre used to have more theaters than it does now. When Polson Theatres bought the Havre theaters in 1988, the purchase included the drive-in east of town, equipment from the closed Village Cinema at the Holiday Village Shopping Center, and the Havre Theater, which was located on Third Street where Hill County Title is now. Polson Theatres closed the drive-in and Havre Theater.
Having four shows in three separate locations was inefficient, Dupuis said, adding that four theaters in one building will be much more cost-effective.
Dupuis added that Polson Theatres has planned for several years to remodel Havre Cinemas.
The change will allow a wider selection of films and give the company more opportunity to keep movies longer, Dupuis said. With the new arrangement, the theater can bring a major movie to the main auditorium for a few weeks, then move it to one of the smaller auditoriums.
The larger auditorium will have full-stadium seating, with rows of seats on platforms with two steps between platforms. The smaller auditoriums will have easy-stadium seating, with smaller platforms requiring one step between them.
Dupuis said smaller theaters with stadium seating are much more comfortable, especially if someone is sitting through a long movie.
The theater will build handicap-accessible restrooms and seating, compatible with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Dupuis said.