Clayton Kearns and Shane Maxwell have done it all at Andover Cinema. They’ve sold the tickets, made the popcorn, cleaned the theaters and owned and managed the building itself.
The young entrepreneurs decided that the timing was right to sell the theater they have owned since 2008. At the age of 30 and the age of 29 respectively, Maxwell and Kearns are stepping away from a place they have worked for the past 13 years.
Cinema Entertainment Corporation (CEC Theatres) will own the building effective Nov. 13, but the Andover Cinema name that the community has grown accustomed to since it opened May 12, 1999 will remain, according to Tony Tillemans, vice president of CEC Theatres.
Within a month, all 10 theaters will have new digital projectors and sound systems. Cosmetic upgrades such as new high-back rocking seats in the theaters and new carpet will be coming into play after the holiday season, Tillemans said. Each of the 10 theater screens will be getting larger as well.
“We are excited about our entrance into the Andover market, and we look forward to bringing great movie entertainment to this community,” said CEC Theatres President Bob Ross.
Tillemans said the Andover Cinema will not be open for movie showings Nov. 13 and 14, but the ticket office will be open for those wanting to purchase tickets in advance for the new “Twilight” movie showing at 10 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15. The theater will reopen as normal that day.
Since its inception in 1955, CEC Theatres has remained a family-owned business. Andover Cinema will be the 19th theater it owns.
The St. Cloud company now has 10 locations in Minnesota. The Owatonna theater location manager for the past 10 years will be managing Andover Cinema, Tillemans said. There are also CEC Theatres in Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska. Hudson, Wis., has the closest CEC Theatre to the Twin Cities metro area.
Digital conversion had impact
Major film studios such as Paramount and Warner Brothers will soon stop sending out film reels so they can save billions in production and shipping costs, according to Kerns and Maxwell. Instead, movies will be shipped over lightweight computer hard drives or through satellites.
Audiences benefit from the conversion to digital because there is a better image and sound quality, but Kearns said many small theaters are closing because of the tremendous expense of buying new equipment.
Maxwell and Kearns said that Andover Cinema was the first theater in the north metro to get a digital projector in 2009. It now has two projectors. They anticipated it would have cost them approximately $600,000 to put digital projectors and sound systems in the remaining eight theaters.
Kearns and Maxwell received approval for a 25-year amortization loan to buy this equipment and make other cosmetic upgrades to the theater. Before they signed the paperwork, they decided to keep their options open and spread the word that they could sell the building if the right offer came along.
Phone calls from multiple theater companies began pouring in around early September. They talked to some large national chains, but Kerns likes the fact that CEC Theatres is family-owned and was interested in being a member of the community.
Maxwell likes that most, if not all, of the CEC Theatre’s managers were once cashiers, an usher or at the concession stand before working their way up the company ladder. This is exactly what happened with Kearns and Maxwell.
Kearns was among the first people hired to work at Andover Cinema when it opened May 12, 1999. He was 15 years old at the time.
Maxwell also applied, but was told he was too shy. He apparently broke out of his shell because he was hired after the summer blockbuster season and began working at the theater Sept. 14, 1999 when he was 17 years old.
Even after they went to college, both continued to come back when they were on break. In 2007, the former general manager and owner was ready to step away. Kearns and Maxwell had been there for eight years, so they had a lot of ideas and felt they could be great business leaders.
They both took on the general manager role in 2007 and were ready to purchase the business by February 2008.
Maxwell, an Andover resident, said working at the theater has been his security blanket because he has done it for so long. He plans to take some time off before deciding what he wants to do next.
Kearns, who lives in Blaine, is very active with the MetroNorth Chamber of Commerce and is doing some work for a public relations firm.
This sale is bittersweet for Kearns because he has so many good memories of the theater. He started dating a co-worker named Kari when he was 16 years old and they got married two years ago. He loves the Andover community and both owners strived to be civically involved.
They always were able to collect a lot of goods for the food shelf. Every holiday season, they let kids in for free during one moving showing.
On the other hand, Kearns understands that CEC Theatres will be able to do things that he and Maxwell would have had a more difficult time doing.
“It’s the right decision at the right time,” Kearns said.
Patrons can access movie information and show times by visiting www.cectheatres.com.
Eric Hagen is at [email protected]