On Sept. 17, the Farmington Civic Theater started showing new releases, after previously operating as a second-run theater.

On Sept. 17, the Farmington Civic Theater started showing new releases, after previously operating as a second-run theater.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Farmington Civic becomes first-run movie theater

By: Mark Vest | Farmington Press | Published October 8, 2021

 Farmington Civic Theater General Manager Scott Freeman said he had been thinking about showing first-run movies for “quite some time,” even before the theater officially made the switch Sept. 17.

Farmington Civic Theater General Manager Scott Freeman said he had been thinking about showing first-run movies for “quite some time,” even before the theater officially made the switch Sept. 17.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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FARMINGTON — Local movie lovers may have noticed a change when checking for show information or driving by the Farmington Civic Theater in recent weeks.

After showing second-run movies for “many decades,” on Sept. 17 the Civic switched to being a first-run theater.

With the change, residents will be able to see newly released movies at the Civic instead of having to wait for them to be shown weeks after their original release date.

It could be said that the change brings the theater full-circle, as it started off showing new movies when it opened in 1940.

Civic General Manager Scott Freeman isn’t sure exactly when the theater transitioned to showing second-run movies, but according to him, it has been that way at least as far back as the 1980s.

“Now, we’re back where we started,” he said.

Making the switch is something he said he has been thinking about for “quite some time.”

“The early thinking started when we were realizing that the film companies during the past year-and-a-half were making their product, or their titles, available earlier and/or concurrently with the release of the movies at the theater. You’ve got Disney+, Peacock and HBO Max, which were getting first-run product right when it went to theaters or very soon thereafter,” said Freeman, who has worked at the Civic since 2010. “(That) hurts every movie theater when that happens, but for what most people consider us — the terminology as a second-run theater — it hurt theaters that operated that way even more. … If they’re getting that opportunity, many are (going to) take it and watch the movie earlier, whether it’s initially at the first-run theater or on these other streaming platforms.”

Freeman added that, “I’ve had some discussions through the years anyway, and that’s what made the decision a pretty easy one.”

Due to factors such as schedule availability and simply wanting to see a movie for a second time, Freeman understands that there is a customer base that has enjoyed the Civic being a second-run theater.

“I do realize that we have customers that liked coming to see movies later, and there are different reasons for that,” he said. “That was something that was in the back of my mind, but the goal of switching over was to provide the movies early in the run, which seems to be most people’s preference and still keep the prices attractive for our nice two-screen theater in downtown Farmington.”

The current price for a movie at the Civic is $5.75 for matinees and $8.50 for ones that start after 6 p.m. The price is $5.75 for seniors 60 and older and children up to 12 years of age, regardless of what time a movie starts.

The charge was previously $5 for matinees and $6 for general admission after 6 p.m, with seniors and children charged $5 regardless of start time.

Despite not having fully gotten the word out about the change, Freeman said that on Sept. 17, which was a Friday, “Our attendance was the best it’s been in a little over a month.”

He wanted to be at the theater for the first weekend of the change to check for feedback.

“We weren’t soliciting anything, but we were overhearing it,” Freeman said. “I didn’t hear anybody utter a negative word about anything, so either we’re getting the word out effectively and they came in because of that, or they think it was a good choice.”

Freeman isn’t the only one who has taken notice of how things have gone since the theater’s transition.

“Most reactions I’ve gotten are positive,” said Civic Assistant Manager Lisa Marculewicz. “They don’t seem to mind the price change at all. They’re very excited to see a new movie for cheaper than the other places.”

Current Livonia and former Farmington Hills resident Ami Sardesai said the price for new movies at the Civic is a “plus.”

However, that isn’t enough to make him a proponent of turning it into a first-run theater.

“It was nice to see some older ones there,” Sardesai said. “That was kind of what made that theater unique. I can go and see a new movie at so many other theaters.”

Freeman shed further light on how switching to a first-run theater has changed things at the Civic.

“This is a very different way for me to think about managing the theater, because I’m able to plan much further in advance,” he said. “The current way we do things with the first-run theaters, we have to play a movie for at least two weeks. If it’s a success, that’s great; if it’s a bomb, we’re stuck with it for two weeks. … Also, hitting specific dates, like the movie’s premiere, that’s something that we have to plan around as well. So, we’ve already got the movies scheduled or planned up through December, which is very nice.”

Marculewicz has been pleased with how things have been going since making the switch.

“It has been very exciting for me and very straightforward,” she said. “It’s kind of nice to only have two movies instead of our usual five that we’re juggling. So, it’s kind of been a little bit easier for us, I think.”

Despite being a “little nervous going into it,” Freeman thinks that the change that was made with the Civic, which is owned by the city of Farmington, was the correct decision to make.

“I wouldn’t (have) made the change if I didn’t think it was best for the theater and something that is interesting and valued by our customer base,” he said. “I think as more people become familiar with it, they will like it. The people that have been exposed to it already seem to have given us the thumbs up. The whole goal is to keep the theater running smoothly and profitably, as basically a department of the city in Farmington, so the taxpayers don’t have to subsidize it.”

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