Theatre to increase offerings

ABOVE: Fairmont 5 Theatres is offering some free holiday movies and is looking to expand more of its offerings as well.

FAIRMONT– Fairmont 5 Theatres has been open for about six months and over that time has welcomed thousands of guests and showed a variety of films. The theatre is currently showing a string of free holiday movies for families and has plans to remodel in the coming future.

Rob Mayer, owner of the theater, expressed satisfaction with how business has been going considering they haven’t done much in terms of remodeling yet.

He pointed out that projects like this take time to put together and that they’re still working on developing a plan that they’re happy with. Then they need to take it to the city for approval.

Mayer said his goal is to get something moving early next year, though he said it’s tentative.

While they opened with just two screens initially, all five are now open and showing films. Mayer said in order to get the others going, they had to procure equipment that was broken.

“We upgraded the sound systems in theaters 1, 2 and 3. We’re not done with that yet, but we did as much as we could do without the rest of the remodel because there’s stuff behind the screens and speakers that would go on the wall and it doesn’t make sense to put those up until we tear open the walls,” Mayer said.

One of the big factors of the remodel is new reclining seating. Mayer explained that before installing the seats, they would like to invest more and put in stadium style seating.

“That’s the premier movie experience that you can have today,” Mayer said.

While putting the reclining seats on a sloped floor would work, and would be easier to clean, Mayer thinks the stadium style would provide for a better experience.

Right now, the theatre employs 10 staff members and one seasonal staff member, not counting Mayer and part-owner Tom Struthers.

They currently offer concessions which includes regular theatre fare like popcorn and candy, but they’ve also been looking at adding more.

“At this point it’s just a matter of making a decision on what. Hot dogs are something we’ve talked about and potentially pizza. We could even go more complicated that that if we wanted to,” Mayer said.

He said the staff is excited about adding more options and that they’ve been in touch with Martin County’s Public Health Sanitarian, Tim Langer, about getting licensed to add food.

“There’s two times of year when it’s crazy. Summer and right now. We thought it’d be best to wait until early next year to get going on that,” Mayer said.

He said upon re-opening in May, they were most focused on getting people used to the fact that there was a theatre again in town as it had been closed for two years.

“In my opinion, that process takes years,” Mayer said.

However, he said they’ve been doing well and that by showing “Top Gun: Maverick” as one of their first movies, they saw record attendance.

“We had literally thousands of people come to see Top Gun. In fact, from the numbers I have going back to 2010, Top Gun was by far the highest attended movie that that theatre has had,” Mayer said.

He pointed out that big studios have struggled to put out movies in the two years following the pandemic which leaves theaters short on product, and especially product that people in small town Minnesota want to see.

“Some of the stuff does really well in New York and Los Angeles, but doesn’t appeal to the Midwestern sensibility,” Mayer said.

He said that most small towns don’t do well with the horror genre but that he was surprised that it was well-received in Fairmont. Mayer said he was also surprised with “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” as he though it would do better in Fairmont. He said it did well at the Milford Theatre in Iowa which he also operates.

“Every community has a distinct taste in movies. Top Gun hit the spot though for Fairmont, I can tell you that,” Mayer said.

A new thing for Fairmont this year which the theatre is bringing is free Christmas movies.

“That’s something we’ve done even when I was a kid down in Milford. I guess they’ve never been done in Fairmont. A lot of towns have this kind of program set up so we’re really excited to bring it in,” Mayer said.

The free merchant matinees are holiday movies sponsored by area businesses. Mayer said the idea has been really well-supported by local merchants.

Area businesses cover the cost for the movie. Mayer pointed out that there are multiple costs associated with showing a film. It’s not just the film rights, but also advertising, labor and additional electricity costs as they’re shown earlier in the day.

“Those sponsors step up and help make that possible. It’s a substantial expense. It’s usually around $5,000 to put these on every year,” Mayer said.

The five presenting sponsors are First Farmers and Merchants Bank, Minuteman Press, Replay, Guaranteed Rate Mortgage and Kinship of Martin County. There are also about 40 local supporting sponsors that have helped make the program possible.

Tickets are available at a wide variety of businesses across town.

“They get to hand those out to their customers kind of as a thank-you to their customers for coming into their store,” Mayer said.

They’re still recruiting sponsors so if there are businesses in town not on the list that want to hand out tickets or display posters, Mayer said they’d love the help.

The first movie was “Sing 2,” which was shown over Thanksgiving weekend. Mayer said the attendance for that was within their expectations.

Next up, “The Grinch” will show today and Sunday, Dec. 4. Other movies include “Sonic The Hedgehog,” “Elf,” and “The Polar Express” which will all show at various dates and times throughout the month of December.

A full list of dates and times for these movies, along with the sponsoring businesses, can be found on the theatre’s website at fairmont5.com.

Mayer said he’s confident that they’ll be able to offer even more movies next holiday season.

“We like being involved in giving back to the community in every way we can,” Mayer said.

He said they recently agreed to have a pig statue outside the theatre as part of the Going Hog Wild in Martin County project.

“If there’s ever an opportunity we have to get involved, we go for it. In a small town, that’s what it’s all about,” Mayer said.


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