Ron Leslie’s First Intl. Theaters has purchased the Ranch Mart 4 in Kansas City from United Artists, marking the company’s first theater acquisition since Morgan Creek Prods. took a 40% position in the exhibition start-up (Daily Variety, Oct. 12).
First Intl. plans to continue running the Ranch Mart 4 as a firstrun venue through Thursday. It will close the theater for a week beginning Friday, re-opening the venue Nov. 20 as a $ 1.50 discount house.
The Ranch Mart includes a 600-seat theater equipped with 70mm projection and THX sound.
Will emphasize 70mm prints
Company topper Leslie said the Ranch Mart will emphasize showing 70mm prints whenever possible, capitalizing on its status as one of the few cut-rate theaters with big-picture capability.
As previously reported, First Intl. was founded last year under Leslie’s leadership.
The circuit currently operates 51 screens in small and midsized towns in Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.
Beyond Morgan Creek, First Intl. investors include Svensk Filmindustri and Leslie.
The Carmike blueprint
In tapping into smaller markets, First Intl. appears to be emulating a strategy successfully employed by Carmike–a circuit concentrated in less competitive markets.
In addition, the First Intl. start-up has so far steered clear of the debt burdens that have hamstrung such large circuits as Cineplex Odeon Corp. and AMC Theaters.
In addition to the Ranch Mart 4, Leslie said First Intl. is also acquiring from U.A. the Northgate Twin in Rapid City, S.D., and has started expansion of the Broadway Twin in Yankton, S.D., into a fiveplex.
The acquisitions will give the circuit a total of 57 screens.
As part of its continued roll-out, First Intl. has hired former Ranch Mart manager Joel Satterfield to the newly created position of Arkansas district manager. He will be based in Conway, Ark.