Originally named the Martin Theatre (pictured here), Premiere 6, located on Northwest Broad Street in Jackson Heights Plaza, has undergone several renovations and name changes since it opened its doors on March 17, 1967. (Photo submitted)
Nothing quite tops the buttery smell of freshly popped movie theater popcorn, giggles of excitement coming from children anticipating the experience of Disney’s newest release or the rumbling soundtrack as its streams through speakers in the auditorium.
Theater-going is quite an experience, a virtual adventure some might say.
For 45 years, Premiere 6 has been bringing cinema entertainment to Murfreesboro to capture moviegoers with on-screen storylines and nostalgic atmosphere.
Before Premiere 6 found its home on Northwest Broad Street in Jackson Heights Plaza, the locally owned theater underwent several renovations and name changes. Martin Theatre opened its doors on March 17, 1967, before becoming Martin Twin in 1973, Carmike Four in 1984 and Carmike 6 in 1988. It is now known as Murfreesboro’s favorite Premiere 6 Theatre.
When the cinema flipped on its first projector in 1967, it became the second indoor theater in the county. Rocky Theatre had closed, as had Starlite Drive-In and 4 Lane Drive-In, and the Marbro Drive-In had only been in operation for less than a year.
Cinemas across the nation grew from one massive showing room to several, smaller auditoriums. Black-and-white films became colorful and sound was added to silent pictures. Eventually stadium-seating was added, along with digital sound and 3-D animation.
To maintain competitive in the market, theaters upgraded, upgraded and then upgraded some more.
The latest adaptation is transitioning from traditional film to digital projection – something that independent theaters are slowly undergoing.
Premiere 6 is no exception: Theater owner Bill Brooks recently installed digital projectors in two of his six auditoriums to provide a more vivid experience for his customers. And, with the increased demand for credit card payments, Premiere 6 will soon be equipped to accept plastic.
“Over the years, I’ve done … equipment maintenance in theaters, helping them plan for what they’re going to need to do to compete against corporate theaters,” Brooks said, adding he’s been inside theaters throughout Tennessee, northern Alabama and Mississippi – even as far away as Texas.
“I’ve kind of slowed down and don’t do that much any more, but these people still call me and we discuss movies and terms and what’s happening in the industry. The daughters of (a theater owner) I used to service in Erwin, Tenn. – a small town up in the mountains near North Carolina – called me the other day to tell me she had put in digital projection in two auditoriums.”
Brooks said, just like many other theater owners, he went digital to be as up-to-date as his competitors.
“And we are; we have newer equipment than any of our competition,” he said. “A new thing that’s going to be coming out is 48 frames-per-second to improve quality. It’s not being done yet, but our new projectors are capable of doing that when it does come out.”
He added that Premiere 6 has had digital sound for 10 years. It will continue to be digital with the upgrades, but through a different format. The new digital projects also follow a digital time schedule.
“We don’t start the movies. We program the start time, and it comes on whether anybody is sitting there or not,” Brooks said. “That improves our quality of service.”
With digital upgrades, Premiere 6 is now capable of playing 3-D movies. Because of certain regulations to play every showing of a movie in 3-D, Brooks has opted not to offer 3-D films yet to avoid an increase in prices.
The digital conversion hasn’t raised ticket prices, but when the cinema begins accepting credit card payments, costs will increase. Brooks said his hope is to begin processing credit cards by the time the new Batman movie is released.
But Premiere 6 intends to reward its cash customers, so not that only plastic customers will pay the higher ticket price.
“When we raise the price – and we’re not going to raise it as much as our competitors are at – but however much the increase is, we’re going to give that discount to our cash customers,” Brooks explained.
Concession prices will go up slightly, as the cost of oil and corn has increased. Brooks said he hasn’t raised concession prices in at least two years.
“We have offered some new items in the past two years, but we haven’t raised prices on popcorn and drinks for that long,” he said, adding that even at the most expensive time, his prices are cheaper than his competitors.
Many companies are experiencing losses in profit, and Premiere 6 is no different.
“You want to stay in business, and you want to still provide for customers, but there’s not that much money for the consumers to spend. A lot of people are out of work, and they have had price increase in the grocery store, but not payroll increases, so people are cutting out unnecessary things,” he said.
“If we raise concession prices, we run risk of people trying to slip stuff in … those people are not paying their fair share to see the movie because that’s part of the cost of providing the seats and the air conditioning and movie.”
Brooks said the movie business isn’t as fruitful as it once was, but “I’m not worried about profit right now. The economy will get better, I just need to stay in business so the customer can benefit from our business.”
But Brooks is in it for the long haul.
“One of the reasons is because we’re a benefit to the community,” he said. “If we weren’t a benefit to the community, I can find more profitable things to do with my time. But I enjoy the theater, and it really makes me feel good. People come out all the time and thank us for being there, so I’m really glad we can do that.”
Premiere 6 has two digital projectors on board and more future renovations planned, though the average moviegoer may not recognize them all. And Brooks does hope to renovate all the theaters with digital projectors.
“It’s time to do something about the drapery and the carpet, new fixtures in the bathroom and new equipment in concessions,” Brooks said, noting he updated the sign over the past three years.
“There is a capital investment every year; we just have to figure out how we’re going to work in (the cost) of having digital in every auditorium,” he said.
In the meantime, patrons can continue getting their fill of buttery popcorn, chocolate candy and ice cold soft drinks while enjoying motion pictures.