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The future of the Jewel Theatre

Update February 27, 2023

The owners of the Jewel Theatres are temporarily holding off on listing the theatre until a few other options can be reviewed. Please watch The Popcorn Scoop and our social media for further announcements. Thank you for your support!

January 13, 2023

Thank you to everyone who came out to the sessions on January 11th to talk about the issues the Jewel Theatre is facing. The outpouring of support that Tuesday night was truly amazing, and staff and owners very much appreciate the passion and show of support for the theatre.

The sessions were prompted by the theatre having been dealt several big blows within the past month. These issues include:

  1. Primary popcorn machine failure - replacement $12,000.00

  2. Severe staffing shortages

  3. Fatal projector malfunction - New laser projector $60,000.00

  4. Upcoming furnace replacement - $50,000.00

So, to answer some of your questions:

Q: What? The popcorn machine is down?!

A: The big one up front, yes. BUT! The back-up popcorn maker was installed last fall for just such an emergency! This secondary machine is running so we ARE NOT OUT OF POPCORN. The big kettle has made two trips to Edmonton for repairs, and was just picked up today after additional repairs from a local welder. We have ordered a new popcorn machine, but delivery on those is at least 20 weeks. A new machine is $12,000.00.

Q: Why wasn’t a new projector a priority purchase?

A: At the time of purchase, the projector had every indication it could be repaired and would have the ability to operate for several years and faced with down time due to COVID, there was no better time to tackle auditorium renovations, leaking sewer pipes, drainage issues, and the other findings of the 94-page building inspection report. The 70-year-old building needed a lot of love.

Q: What is the issue with staffing?

A: Staffing shortages are a much more serious problem than most people realise for restaurants and theatres. Attendees for Tuesday night's sessions understood this to be an issue across the province and Canada and that it is not going away anytime soon. The Jewel is particularly struggling because it offers mostly evening and weekend employment, and nobody wants to work those hours right now.

Some critical issues with staffing that the Jewel has experienced:

  • quitting with no notice

  • stresses remaining staff to cover extra, last minute shifts

  • when too short-staffed the Jewel and/or Reel God Coffee has to shut down for the day/night which causes remaining staff to lose hours

  • customers get upset with last-minute changes in operational hours and services and complain about service inconsistency

  • the Owner/Manager can’t fill shifts, train new staff, and manage the theatre, while fulfilling other company responsibilities all at the same time

  • The offer of high pay doesn't resolve staffing issues.

  • too few qualified applicants

  • resumes listing numerous jobs in short time period

  • applicants are unable/unwilling to provide work references

  • high expectations of "flexible schedule" that are unachievable with staff shortage and theatre business model

"As of last quarter, there were around 100,000 job vacancies in Alberta,” StatsCan said.

Joel Dryden· CBC News· Posted: Jan 06, 2023 12:07 PM MST

Key Findings from the Alberta Chamber of Commerce:

  • A majority of Alberta businesses continue to experience staffing shortages of significant or moderate nature.

  • Four-in-ten businesses say their workforce needs will likely increase in the next six months, and 45% expect this to be the case for the year ahead.

  • Almost half say they are already or are considering hiring outside the province in order to meet labour shortages.

  • Three broad areas stand out as barriers to recruiting staff: a lack of applicants; the lack of candidates with the right qualifications such as interpersonal and technical skills; and a combination of wage-related issues including not being able to afford the going wage rate, budget constraints, and competition from other employers.

  • Three-in-ten businesses say they have invested in capital equipment and/or other technologies to overcome skills shortages.

  • This sector is among the most likely to report labour shortages and faces specific difficulties in hiring at the entry level and the high school educated.

  • Private sector businesses are far more likely than public sector/NGOs to report significant labour shortages and to expect to increase staff in the next 6 to 12 months.


Q. Do you hire teenagers?

Yes, whenever we have openings! The theatre needs people over 18 years of age while guests are in the auditorium and to close the theatre late at night. This is not just about the Jewel Theatre’s liquor licence, it’s also part of Alberta labour laws and responsible theatre ownership.

Q: Can you get rid of the alcohol licence?

A: Yes, however, this doesn't solve anything. When choosing a theatre, young people have two key requirements: alcohol service and comfortable seats. The investment in offering liquor has already been made, so it doesn't make sense to not provide this service, especially when there’s no gain for the theatre. The theatre does well on alcohol sales during events.

Q: Can't you show more than one movie a week?

A: Unfortunately, no. When the Jewel Theatre commits to a movie from a studio, we are not allowed to show anything else on the screen. Sometimes a studio will insist on at least a week’s showing, while other times (as in the case of Avatar: The Way of Water), they’ll only give you the movie if you commit to showing the film a certain number of times over the course of 3 or 4 weeks.

Q: Why can't we get all movies on their release date?

A: One-screen theatres aren't usually given this option, because we only want a film for one week. Historically, attendance numbers decline at the Jewel Theatre after the first week and if a theatre doesn't commit to at least two (and sometimes 3 or 4) weeks, you can't get a movie on its release date. If there was higher attendance, we could get movies on release date for one week, but right now the numbers don't give us that pull with the studios.

Q: How much do you have to pay a studio to show a film at the Jewel Theatre?

A: It all depends on the film and how long it has been out. For example, with Avatar: The Way of Water, Disney Studios kept 65% of every ticket sold. But if it an older movie it could be as low as 35% or a flat fee of $250.

This is the breakdown of what the Jewel Theatre made and what Disney Studios made from one adult ticket of Avatar: The Way of Water:

Evening Showtime Adult ticket: $11

Disney %: $7.15

Jewel Theatre %: $3.85

Matinee Ticket: $7

Disney %: $4.55

Jewel Theatre %: $2.45

The Jewel Theatre does not make enough in ticket sales to cover the overhead of the theatre. Guests saw a movie, Disney Studios made money, and the Jewel Theatre covered all the overhead. The Jewel Theatre survives solely on concession sales.

Q: Why the coffee shop?

A: The theatre clearly needed another source of income to get through difficult times and poor movie attendance. Reel Good Coffee was added to compliment the Jewel Theatre and solidify another revenue stream for the theatre. It also keeps the doors open all day to allow the community to enjoy the theatre in a different way, to make use of the space that wasn’t being used during the day, and to ensure more hours are available to buy popcorn, and to purchase movie tickets. It also allows us to offer more matinees, because the Reel Good Coffee supervisor is already on site with the coffee shop. Matinee attendance was very low, but was just starting to pick up when the projector broke.

For instance; the movie Nope had a total of 54 guests over eight showings with 58% of ticket sales going to Universal so clearly the theatre operated at a loss that week. But, sales from Reel Good Coffee covered all overhead that week.

Q: Can we just volunteer to help the Jewel Theatre stay open?

A: The owners are very touched by this, and are overwhelmed at the number of people who have offered. The Popcorn for Charity program has been a HUGE success for the theatre and the community. However, the theatre is privately owned and as such, should financially support itself.

Q: What happens now?

A: It’s bad news, good news and great news.

The current owners have decided to sell the theatre, and are unable to offer showtimes for a while.

The good news? Reel Good Coffee will remain open until further notice to help support the theatre during this down time. All gift cards can used at Reel Good Coffee to purchase our famous popcorn, coffees, Banff Tea Co.’s amazing teas, our Italian Sodas, theatre candies, baked goods and, starting next week at Reel Good Coffee, Righteous GELATO! Reel Good Coffee is open 8am to 3pm Tuesday through Saturday so come by for a game of movie trivia, to see our licence plate collection and enjoy a quality coffee.

The great news? The new state-of-the-art laser projector (ordered today) and the new popcorn machine and new furnace are on their way. This means almost all the renovations, repairs, and work has been done so the new owners can walk into a turnkey business that is ready to go.

There is great hope ahead for the Jewel Theatre, and with the community’s support, new owners will be able to keep the legacy - and the fun - alive for many years to come.

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