In May the Resident Report gave an in-depth explanation of what is (was) going on in Spanish Springs in the hope of dispelling the ubiquitous rumors surrounding it. With rumors regarding the Barnstorm Theater proliferating, we once again did some investigating.
Before we talk about the Barnstorm Theater, we first need to look at Old Mill in Lake Sumter Landing. Old Mill essentially provides the same service as the Barnstorm. For a movie theater to be profitable, it needs to fill 40% of its seats for every show. That is the industry standard. Last week, Old Mill filled 10% of its seats. Its average stays in the teens. Unless every patron spends a fortune at the concession stand, Old Mill has a long way to go before it gets in the black.
Overall, movie theaters are not a lucrative business anymore. Regal Cinemas filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September. They are slated to close 46 (of their 505) locations across the country as a result of the filing. Its biggest rival (and largest movie theater chain), AMC Entertainment, has been in the red since before the pandemic. Their ticket sales continue to be down outside of major releases like Top Gun: Maverick. In December 2016 their stock price averaged $31 a share. It currently sits at $5.75. Conversely, streaming services have filled the void left by movie theaters. Netflix added 75 million subscribers since 2019. It has nearly 74 million subscribers in the U.S. alone. HBO is seeing record profits ($7.7 billion in 2021) and has continued to grow since merging with Time Warner in 2018.
The Villages has already spent millions of dollars upgrading the Barnstorm. Just like with any business in The Villages, they want it to make money. Logically, they won’t simply let the Barnstorm just sit in Brownwood collecting dust instead of profits. They need the building to provide a revenue. And since movies are a losing business model, it is likely they will repurpose the building into a money-making venture. What that venture might be is up for speculation, but it is likely they will look at what is working in the market right now and try to replicate it. Until an official statement is put out by the office, the best thing to do is ignore the rumor mill and wait to get an answer.