Truly rural communities face problems that not so small communities do not feel. One of the larger struggles is keeping the residents money within the community. The stores that make it in these places usually do well, but when people leave for the “big city” for educational, recreational, or any other purpose, they often end up spending some time and a bit of their money there. This will put a drain on any community but can seriously hurt rural, isolated cities and towns.
Over the last few months, I have been thinking a lot about, researching, and visiting small town theaters. Theaters play a larger role in the economics of a small town than one would think. Though streaming movies from providers like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime and watching movies on demand from their television provider has become the most popular means to watch films, people still love going to see movies on the big screen. Honestly, is there much that can beat watching a movie on a giant screen with a giant bucket of popcorn that can never be finished and a jumbo pop?
People still travel to the movies. In a rural town, that actually takes planning in advance. Since it isn’t a spur of the moment decision and a moderate drive is in order, people often use this trip to do other errands. Their money then goes into the tax rolls of another community. Good for other community, bad for our rural one.
I’ve seen quite a few small, rural communities open a theater and be successful. Nebraska has been especially good at this (and the state should be bragging). It would be hard for a theater to make a profit in small towns, but these communities have taken an army of movie enthusiast and put them to work as volunteers. Though most are only open weekends and get movies a few weeks after release, people flock there weekly. They spend more time within the community and so does their money.