Sources at The Kansas City Star have learned that Overland Park-based Dickinson Theatres Inc. has filed for bankruptcy reorganization.
As Joyce Smith and Steve Rosen report, Dickinson Theatres Inc., a 92-year-old movie theater chain based in Overland Park, has filed for bankruptcy reorganization after being battered by the soft economy, intense competition in the industry and a dearth of blockbuster hits this summer.
Dickinson has 210 screens in 18 theater complexes in seven states, including theaters in Blue Springs, Leebs Summit, the Northland, Olathe, Overland Park and Shawnee.
The landlord for Dickinsonbs Blue Spring 8 complex is negotiating with another movie theater operator to take over those screens.
Two theaters in other markets – one in Kansas and one in Oklahoma – will close in about 30 days, although the company would not confirm specific locations.
However, the company’s remaining theaters will remain open during the court proceedings.
“We had some bad leases, bad contracts, and at the end of the day this will make us a stronger company,” Ron Horton, who purchased Dickinson Theatres in January, said Monday. “This is still a viable company.”
Horton, a minority shareholder and former executive vice president of film buying and marketing for Dickinson, purchased the company from John Hartley. Dickinson has about 700 employees systemwide.
Paul Hoffmann, attorney for Dickinson and a partner at Stinson Morrison Hecker LP, called the bankruptcy filing Friday in federal court in Kansas City, Kan., “an unfortunate but necessary step driven by the economy in general, and by what’s going on in the movie industry specifically.”
The industry continues to convert from film to digital projection “and there’s a cost” for all the upgrades and theater renovations, Hoffmann said.
In addition, attendance was down during the summer movie season. As a result, Hoffmann said, the company is short of cash to get it through the upcoming holiday season.
The plan calls for paying all of Dickinson’s creditors in full in five years. The company hopes its reorganization plan will be confirmed by Thanksgiving, Hoffmann said.
The movie theater chain listed $13.4 million in liabilities and $21.1 million in assets, according to Hoffmann.
“We’re asking for time, we’re not asking for forgiveness,” he said.
Movie theaters are competing for business with an ever-growing number of forces, including cable and video on demand, services such as Netflix, the Internet and video kiosks like Redbox.
To attract moviegoers and beef up revenues, theater companies have expanded concession offerings including adding alcoholic products, and remodeled older venues by putting in cushy loungers and other amenities. Theater operators also have tried to boost revenue by adding more advertising before shows.
Keeping up with digital technologies can be expensive but allows for special event programming such as live operas and sports events.
Dickinson traces its roots to 1920, when Glen W. Dickinson Sr. quit the family’s Ford dealership (which specialized in tractors) and purchased a somewhat more glamorous enterprise, a two-screen theater in Manhattan, Kan.
Dickinson’s first theater took off in the growing college community and he soon added a second location in another college town, Lawrence. By 1931, the company had grown to 26 theaters.
In 1946 it opened its first drive-in theater and two decades later its flagship Glenwood Theatre at 91st Street and Metcalf Avenue. The Glenwood was regarded as Kansas City’s premier movie house for nearly 40 years before it closed in 2000 and was later demolished to make way for new commercial development.
In 1980 Dickinson bought 25 screens from the Mann Theatres chain, giving it 71 screens in four states.
The company also has been an innovator over the years in theater sound and production systems.
Dickinson first filed for bankruptcy reorganization in late 2000 after unsuccessfully attempting to renegotiate some expensive leases on theaters that were losing money. The family-owned business also was sold that year to three top managers.