Movie wars II: Carmike fights back with $1.50 flicks

The recent opening of the Stonefield Regal 14 has hit Charlottesville movie theaters like a tidal wave, with the 4-screen Regal Seminole already closed and the downtown Regal becoming an arthouse. In an effort to stay afloat, the Carmike 6 will soon drop its ticket price to $1.50.

Carmike manager Raymond Kilburn admits he initially felt indignant after reading a recent Hook article in which Vinegar Hill owner Adam Greenbaum predicted Carmike's demise. But after visiting the Stonefield Regal, he felt differently.

"I almost had a heart attack," says Kilburn. "It's gorgeous."

Now he predicts that studios will insist their movies play in such stunning spaces.

"We've been here 20 years," says Kilburn. "We can't compare with the new theater."

That's why he's trying the second-run movie model, which he thinks will appeal to large families, college students, and the elderly– all of whom may wince at paying $10.50 for regular tickets or $17 to visit Regal's Imax cinema.

"I've seen $100 movie nights," says Kilburn. "Why pay $17 when you can get in for $1.50?"

Charlottesville hasn't had a discount cinema since the Jefferson stopped showing movies for $3 in the spring of 2006, and some question the viability of the business model in an age of Netflix and streaming video. Kilburn, however, says that seeing film on a 15-inch laptop is a poor substitute for the shared-experience of the big screen.

"Comedy is never as funny watching it alone as it is with people," says Kilburn. "The magic of the movie theater is never going to go away."

Still, challenges remain. Carmike stands in the Gardens Shopping Center near the vacancy-plagued Albemarle Square shopping center. And Kilburn says Carmike will still have to pay $3,000 to screen a film, which means he needs more moviegoers paying the discount price than ever before.

But after two decades of drawing moviegoers to its just-off U.S. 29 location, Carmike already has name recognition, and he's betting that bargain-minded film lovers will feel like they're getting a good deal.

"We're digital," he notes, "so our movies will look crisp and beautiful."

Kilburn also touts his food combos and discount popcorn buckets, and says Carmike will have three things going for it when it starts selling $1.50 tickets on Black Friday, November 23: "We are better priced, we have better customer service, and our popcorn tastes better."


Great idea. I hate paying the high prices for current releases and only went to Regal 14 when they had the $2 showings. And I will not be paying $17 for what they are referring to as "Imax" (barely seemed like an Imax screen to me). I will most definitely be checking out this new venture at Carmike.

Yeah! I've been wishing the area had a discount theater! . . . . . and I'm glad it is on the Northside of town!

$17 for a movie? Wow, what rock have I been living under? I can wait and buy the triple pack blu-ray DVD for a dollar or so more when released. I will have the movie online forever, plus a DVD copy and a blu-ray DVD copy.

This theatre is hanging on solely for the proceeds to be realized from condemnation (when roadwork goes through half the building). They will get more if they are an operating business when the condemnation occurs.

Uh, no. Customer service and overall food experience have been weak points at Carmike -- always a painfully long slow line for food, though I guess that could change now. Make Carmike a brew and view and I'm in. Otherwise, it's over.

Don't forget that UVA also offered second-run $3 movies on weekends until two years ago. Now that the Newcomb theater is renovated I wouldn't be surprised if they start it up again. If I were a student, I'd much rather walk to the student center then head out to Carmike.

Dear Confused Easily,
You have lived up to your name at least. The Carmike stands in the Gardens Shopping Center, beside the 29 North ACAC. You are thinking of the Regal Seminole Square Cinema 4 behind Kamart, which has been replaced by the new Stonefield Regal Cinema 14.

here is how they compete in Arlington...

I'm clearly not the target demographic here, as the last time I saw a moving picture show I was put off by the introduction of advertising at the start. I feel for anyone trying to make a business out of this because it is much cheaper and more pleasant to watch films at home. The beneficial shared experience of watching film has been largely overshadowed by the many negatives. My house mates will take their phone calls outside the room, for example.

I haven't been to the Carmike in years. I live in Ivy and go to the Zeus Theater in Waynesboro. The new Regal 14 is great but parking is a mess. Zeus has stadium seating, good parking, and a pleasant staff.

Confused Easily as Vanessa pointed out - you are confused. For those shocked by the price of going to see a movie, it is insane and has been for several years now. Much rather wait three months and then rent it or get it on-demand, wait another 2 months and it may play on cable. Years ago, you had to wait up to 2 years or more before a movie came out on video cassette.

I do agree - the experience of going to a movie theater, it is part of the experience but I've been to many where there were rude people who made the experience unbearable too. If society would behave itself, I might go to one again.

Like Carolyn, I frequent the Zeus Theater in Waynesboro since I live in Batesville. Concessions are better at the Zeus too, though I didn't find parking to be a mess at the Regal 14 - just put your car under the theater, pick up your ticket out front and hit the escalator going up.

I too would be more likely to go to the Carmike if they introduced beer and specialty coffees to the mix, though it'll be nice to have a discount house in town again. Saw my last full-priced feature at the Carmike this past Saturday - it's a good theater.

We also go to Zeus since we live in Crozet!! But a cinebistro or discount theater would be a GREAT addition!!!! 1.50 sounds good to me! We will be there for sure :)

Second-run movies though. Don't expect to see the latest blockbuster for $1.50.

So just like that C'ville is going from 3 new release theaters to 1? Last time I checked, monopolies were not a good thing. Seems like a lot of these other theaters are over reacting and with a few tweaks could still do fine business.

That's what I'm wondering. Will Carmike *only* show $1.50 movies. Can't they get first-run movies that Regal can't? That's the way it has been.

Wasn't Wendell Wood's martian landscape @ Airport Rd. supposed to get a 12 screen theater? Or was it 16?

This is great news! A second run theater showing quality movies should do quite well.

Well, I have to say that I would go just to see the handsome Manager. It would be awesome if said manager was an artist, you know because maybe one day he could put his art up in the theatre as a sort of gallery..$1.50 movies, plus you get to look at (and maybe buy with all that money you save on movies :) ) beautiful and magical works of art, you know, just sayin. I neither confirm nor deny any affiliation to said Manager :D

pppppppfffffffffffffftttttttttttttttt in a bag

He gone

here's what we need

Movies used to be fun to go and see in theaters when you were forced to do so because there were no other options. You could put up with the sticky floors, chewing gum under the arm rest, rude people and that tall person that invariably sits down right in front of you. Since then things have changed, I’ve changed, and the local theaters no longer have anything to offer me.


Because, frankly, the experience sucks and with the new big theater and the IMAX sound spillover, having more does not solve the problem either. The only way I see myself spending time in any of the local theaters is if I bill them for my time spent there and they comp me the ticket.

Well, what would change it for you?

Charlottesville needs a movie theater like the Commodore in Portsmouth, Virginia. You sit at a dining table with friends/family, order your dinner from the menu over the phone that sits on the table under a dim lamp, select a beverage of beer or wine, and enjoy the experience/evening. I live in the Charlottesville area, but when I visit friends in Portsmouth, we go to the Commodore for a fun evening. And it does not really matter what the ticket price is, or what’s playing, because if the experience is right, just about any movie is good. (A suggestion: Serve local brew pub beers, Virginia wine and locally grown produce.) Such a theater would be adaptable for plays, movies, or private bookings to watch sporting events and would keep the bar open after the entertainment stops for the evening. It might even have an open microphone night for comedians, or musicians. If I owned such a business in Charlottesville I would never even care what the old-tired-movie-theater-business-model is doing to generate sugar water and popcorn sales.

I am so happy that Charlottesville is getting a dollar theatre. My family makes infrequent trips to Lynchburg because of their dollar theatre. We live in Madison and used to visit the dollar theatre that was beside Guadalahara when oldest were little and then the one in Fredericksburg at 4 mile fork but Lynchburg was the only one we have known about for years. Please everyone support this. It is impossibly expensive to take a family of 3-4-5-6 to the movies at the new release prices. Yes I know it is easy to rent movies at home, but my 6 year old loves the movie experience and I don't want her to lose it!

I haven`t recently seen a movie in a theater, but Blu Ray in my home , is all I want. It is excellent.

This is exciting! Granted the allure of the shiny and new contributed to this, but when the Regal Stonefield offered it's $2 opening specials, I saw a movie there each night (The Avengers 3D IMAX, The Hunger Games & Captain America 3D (The Amazing Spiderman was sold out)) and I had a blast. I love seeing movies in the theater and the Carmike has always been a decent theater in my opinion.

I remember when I was a kid, my parents took me and my siblings to many a movie at the Greenbrier Theater. In fact, I went over 17 times in the summer of 1998 with my sister as it was 90+ minutes in an air conditioned environment when my father was being stingy with our home AC, for only $1.50. If it wasn't for 2nd run theaters, I would have rarely known the movie theater experience as taking a family of 5 was expensive and it is even more so now.

My sister is a single mom with 2 kids. I know she'll be hitting the Carmike up frequently for a nice fun evening or weekend with her kids. :)

I am single mom of three and remember going to the Greenbrier when I was younger. My mom to was single with four of us and it was great to get. The 1.50 sounds great to me who wants to pay 10.50 for seats you can hardly get comfortable in outrageus popcorn prices, for two or three hours plus gas not me. I think this could work for carmike a couple changes here or there for the younger crowd. Maybe five or six bucks for new releases and 3D and brew on weekend nights for the students with open mike awesome.

this is wonderful......finally!!! thank you carmike!!!!