Wyatt Werner, the man behind Boise Classic Movies, dreamed of opening his own laid-back theater after he moved here from Oregon six years ago.
I like watching movies in cool places and love drinking beer, he explains. Im from the Portland area, and we have McMenamins everywhere.
After toying with business models, Werner came to the conclusion that: 1) It takes a large quantity of cash to open a movie theater; 2) He really didnt need to open a theater of his own.
The historic Egyptian Theatre was just sitting there in Downtown Boise. Waiting for him.
All Im really trying to do is drink beer and watch movies in a cool place, Werner remembers mulling. Why dont we crunch numbers and figure out how many people we have to get in there?
Mimicking the Groupon tipping point formula, Werner came up with BoiseClassicMovies.com.
He offers a potential screening at the Egyptian. If enough advance tickets are sold the magic number is 200 the flick tips: People are charged $9 for their printable tickets, and the movie happens.
If fewer than 200 buy, nobody gets charged. No movie shows.
The debut film, which I mentioned briefly in this column in May, was The Godfather. I suggested, cheesily, that it might be an offer cinema buffs cant refuse.
In reality, I wasnt so sure.
Three weeks prior to the screening, it had sold a measly 13 tickets.
Was it even the right selection?
I just threw The Godfather out there, Werner acknowledges with a laugh. I thought, Even if this doesnt really work, Ill at least get to watch The Godfather at the Egyptian. I felt pretty good about that.
By the time the projector rolled, 330 Francis Ford Coppola fans had bought in.
Then everything started rolling. Werner made the process user-generated. He allowed people to vote for the movies to be screened.
In July, The Big Lebowski sold out the Egyptian: 750 seats. Rear Window attracted 360 in August.
Families piled in for The Princess Bride in September another sellout. And about 360 turned out again for Psycho last week.
Werner, co-founder of the semi-annual idea geyser Ignite Boise, was confident he could generate online buzz for Boise Classic Movies.
Still, he admits, I wasnt terribly confident it was going to work. It seemed like it should work.
Now its essentially on cruise control. Based on suggestions, Werner chooses five movies to put up for vote each month. He secures rights to screen the winning film. (Older movies usually cost a few hundred bucks.)
Then Werner splits the door with the Egyptian and takes a small cut of beer and wine sales.
About 150 to 200 diehards buy tickets no matter what film is showing, Werner says.
Why would they do that, you ask?
Its completely different than going to a movie anywhere else, Werner explains. People cheer at everything. It can get raucous in there.
At The Princess Bride, the place went bananas when Inigo Montoya killed the six-fingered man.
Theres just like this sense of Were all here to watch the same thing for the same reasons, and we all love it for the same reasons, Werner says. So, yeah, people are having fun. Its kind of funny.
Most movies show on the second Thursday of the month, but there are exceptions.
An experiment a $20 movie marathon is being offered for Saturday, Oct. 27: Poltergeist, The Shining and one of the greatest films ever made, Evil Dead 2. It looks scary scary that it might not tip. It needs 400 buyers and was running behind at press time maybe because of the price tag?
On Tuesdays between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Werner plans to offer holiday films such as A Christmas Story, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation and White Christmas.
The next regular monthly Boise Movie Classics screening is Casablanca on Nov. 1.
After that, who knows? Go to the website. Suggest a movie. Vote.
The list Ive already got is long and getting longer, Werner says. Someone today wrote and said, I want to watch Brazil.
I dont know if 200 people will go to Brazil, Werner admits, but, man, I love that movie.
Michael Deeds columns run Fridays in Scene and Sundays in Life. He co-hosts The Other Studio at 9 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River; he appears Thursdays on Channel 6 News.