2017 to be a big year with big changes to the Byrd

RICHMOND, VA, December 15, 2016 –  As we approach The Byrd Theatre’s 88th birthday on December 24, The Byrd Theatre and Foundation is delighted to announce a multitude of big changes coming to the Virginia landmark.

As of December 13, The Byrd is now processing credit cards, for the first time ever, with a new point-of-sale system. This new, technological addition was made possible by a generous grant from the CultureWorks Grant Program. In the coming months, the new P.O.S. will also allow the theatre to have online ticketing, sell Byrd merchandise, accept donations and facilitate theatre memberships.

Starting on January 1, the theatre will implement a modest price increase, going from $1.99 ticket price to a $4 admission for all second-run and family classics films. The Byrd’s repertory film screenings including “Big Screen Classics” and midnight movies will remain at their current $5 price. The new pricing structure includes a $1 facility fee which will aid in the maintenance and restoration of the theatre. This is the first price increase in more than 20 years for the theatre and is a necessary measure to keep the theatre operationally sustainable.

Also coming in Spring 2017, the Byrd will implement facilities updates that include installing the first ADA restroom, a wheelchair accessible seating area and new seats in the center panel of the main auditorium. This will be the first phase of a multi-year approach to full seat replacement.

The new seats will be consistent with the theatre style yet wider, and include cup holders. Rows will be spaced further to provide more legroom.

“This is a culmination of many efforts starting back in 2014,” said Gibson Worsham, Byrd Theatre Foundation President. “And new understanding of our position within the larger industry.”

Where films once waited months after exiting theatrical release before coming out on DVD and rental, it now happens almost instantaneously. Growing popularity of streaming services is narrowing the window of opportunity for a second run business.  Since 2011, The Byrd has suffered dramatic declines in attendance as a result.

After 2014’s numbers were reported, showing a second consecutive year of significant loss, the foundation began a deep audit of the film industry and the theatre’s position within that market.

Utilizing the Virginia Rehabilitation Code, the foundation also developed an effective, incremental strategy for significant improvements at the theatre. Rather than a single, comprehensive restoration which would require closing the theatre for a long period of time and take years to secure funding, the foundation can execute the most important and desired projects as funding becomes available.

“Based on our understanding of the theater’s restoration needs and our analysis of the film industry, we have become much more strategically focused and intentional in moving forward.” said Gibson.

This incremental restoration plan, coupled with the findings of the industry audit and alignment to 2015’s Strategic Plan, focused the foundation on four immediate, necessary tactics:

  • Building a programming portfolio to offset declines of second run.
  • Facility modernization, with credit card processing and online sales.
  • Attention to comfort and accommodations, prioritizing accessibility and seat replacement.
  • Appropriately updated pricing.

New programming, as previously announced, has made remarkable progress in launching and expanding five series. The additional three tactics look to be completed by June 2017.

Prior to 2014, the foundation concentrated on rehabilitation of the theatre. “We’ve raised and spent over $1 million since 2007,” said Grant Mizell, Foundation Vice President. “The foundation has aided in transforming the Byrd, without anyone taking much notice and without any negative impact on operations. New roof, Dolby sound system, digital projection, new heating and air conditioning, and about 40% restoration to the Wurlitzer, making it the mightiest it’s been in 40 years. New initiatives will continue transforming not just the building, but the entire organization.”

“Armed with updated information and a strategic vision, we are excited to begin publicly addressing much of the community wants and needs for the theatre. This is a big step forward in the future of the Byrd”, said Colleen Flynn, Byrd Theatre Foundation Secretary.

The Byrd Theatre Foundation depends on community support to accomplish its goals. Donations to help the Byrd continue its 88 year legacy can be made at byrdtheatrefoundation.org.

In 2007, the Byrd Theatre Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, was formed to purchase, preserve, and maintain the historic Byrd Theatre, which opened in 1928. The Foundation is executing a revitalization plan to achieve the vision of elevating the Byrd’s landmark position among American theaters as a center for film that continues to provide the broadest possible public access to exceptional cinematic experiences.

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