BLACKFOOT — The Blackfoot Movie Mill has yet to open its doors, but it already has thousands of fans.
Owner Kent Lott says they have been renovating the former Blackfoot Motors building at 369 West Bridge in Blackfoot where the new theater will be located, and he’s been posting weekly Facebook videos to keep the public updated on its progress since November. The videos have drawn as many as 24,000 views in a week — that’s pretty impressive for a theater in a town of roughly 12,000 people.
“It’s really been powerful. Everywhere we go somebody asks about it,” Lott said. He hopes the weekly updates will help people who have been following the theater’s progress feel like they’re coming home the first time they walk in the doors.
“We want people in the Blackfoot area to feel like this is their theater because (they’ve been) watching it week to week be built,” Lott said.
And hopefully, it won’t be much longer before people can walk in the doors of the highly anticipated movie theater — the first to grace the community in roughly five years.
Lott said they’re hoping to open the Blackfoot Movie Mill in time to show “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” on June 22. But he’s not yet sure if they will be able to make the deadline. If not, they should be able to open sometime in July. The Blackfoot Movie Mill will ultimately be a seven-screen theater although it will only have four screens when it opens its doors. Work on the other three will continue this summer. The theater will show first-run movies, allow people to select and reserve their seats, and will offer cutting-edge technology.
Lott said they will use laser projectors, which offer a brighter and clearer picture.
“There’s not very many in the Western U.S.,” he said.
In addition, the theater will offer 7.1 surround sound. Lott believes such technologies will help draw people to the theater from not only Blackfoot, but surrounding cities.
“We want the Blackfoot community to be a place where people come,” Lott said, adding that currently too many people are leaving the area to find their entertainment.
He thinks the theater could be a catalyst for change in the city, leading to more restaurants and other forms of entertainment. He appears to be right. Businesses have been expressing interest in the area.
“We have quite a few businesses that are interested in relocating to the entertainment district where Mr. Lott is at and we are currently working with those,” said Julie Ann Goodrich, Blackfoot’s economic development and business retention specialist. She says that includes businesses from restaurants to convenience stores.
While a lot rides on the success of the theater, Lott has experience in the business. His family also owns the Paramount Theater and Centre Twin in Idaho Falls.
The Blackfoot theater will be their largest. Still, Lott believes their efforts to save some costs on the facility while offering quality technology will help the theater be more successful. Lott said their technology cost them more up front, but will be easier to maintain in the long run. He was also able to take advantage of signs and other equipment he’d purchased from theaters that have closed, including the former Plaza Twin Theater in Blackfoot.
Choosing to renovate an existing building will also help with the startup costs.
Lott said they’re paying about 30 percent of the cost of a new building by renovating, which gives them a big advantage up front.
“That’s why we’re excited to be in Blackfoot. The overhead will be low (so we can) pass that savings on to our customers,” Lott said, adding that he hopes that will also help draw more people there.
Although they haven’t set their prices yet, Lott said they want to make their tickets and concessions affordable so families can go to a first-run movie and even get snacks if they want to.
“We want families to come,” he said. “We want (them to be able to) create memories and enjoy family time together.”
There has been a lot of community interest in the theater in recent months. Lott said people have already been contacting them about making reservations for birthday parties or wanting to buy tickets.
The theater isn’t offering either of those services just yet. But people can continue to follow the theater’s progress and find out more on the Blackfoot Movie Mill’s Facebook page.
“We’re just so excited,” Lott said.