Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Closure Of Hollywood Bar & Filmworks

Ted Bulthaup, owner of Hollywood Bar & Filmworks takes out a full page ad in the Star today to let Indianapolis residents know why it is closing after 15 years of operating on South Meridian Street. He has a lot of things to say about Mayor Peterson (D) and Melina Kennedy (D), and none of them are very flattering. It really is depressing to hear a small business owner like Bulthaup explain how everything in this city revolves around what the Simon family wants, and when those interests collide with the small business owners in downtown Indy, the Simon's always prevail.

Parking demand after the new Conseco fieldhouse opened, Buthaup explains, drives up parking costs so much during special events that many long-time customers of businesses like Bulthaup's no longer come downtown for their entertainment and dining. Attempts to get parking concessions from the city to help these small business owners were unsuccessful, leading to the ultimate demise of Hollywood Bar & Filmworks. At the same time these small business owners were seeking relief, Mayor Peterson and Melina Kennedy awarded the Simons an $11 million taxpayer give-away so Simon employees could park for free in their new corporate tower shadowing the State House.

I highly recommend you take the time to read what Bulthaup has to say. The Star chose to keep its readers in the dark as to what's really been going on in this meaningless report in today's paper. Curiously, the Star article says nothing about the challenges Bulthaup and other small business owners downtown have had in getting their problems addressed by the Peterson administration. I know the Star was one of the original investors in the Simon family's Circle Centre Mall--they used to provide a disclaimer whenever they reported on any news item involving the mall. I'm not sure how that investment was handled after the Star was purchased by Gannett.


Anonymous said...

Gary, I saw this today and had exactly the opposite reaction. As a small business owner myself, my first thought was "he's closing his business but he has money for a full page ad?" Parking was the least of his problems. The concept was never popular here, the food or service wasn't great, and he didn't have great marketing presence or listings with the other theaters. Case in point? Hollywood Bar and Filmworks was never listed on Yahoo Movies (which is a hugely popular way to check movie times online) -- I always had to check their show times seperately.

People didn't know about the theater, or remember it, and when they did, they couldn't *find* it because of the upstairs location with inadequate signage from the street level.

With reasonable, almost always available and very cheap parking just a block away in the Circle Center Nordstrom garage (yes, even during Pacers games and music concerts), I think his blaming of Peterson, the city, and the parking situation is bitterness, plain and simple. "It's *your* fault I'm leaving! It's your parking's fault my business failed." I thought it was a very ungraceful exit.

Gary R. Welsh said...

braingirl, it's been a long time since I've been there--not really my cup of tea. It was okay then, but it's been awhile. There is a valid point on the parking issue though. Huge parking concessions were granted to the Simons to benefit their mall. Before you moved here and before Circle Centre mall opened, Union Station was thriving. Originally, the plan called for a walkway over the street connecting the mall to Union Station. The Simons said no. As soon as the new mall opened, Union Station businesses died, along with several others along South Meridian. The cheap parking for Circle Centre mall is coutesy of the taxpayers who dropped hundreds of millions into this private project. I don't mind paying the parking in the mall's parking garages, but if there's a special event going on, I specifically avoid downtown and the higher parking charges. If you park in the mall and have a receipt for shopping in the mall, you still get a parking break during special events. If you park and dine at these other businesses, you pay top dollar for parking.

braingirl said...

Gary, thanks for the clarification. Yes, I know it's been different with the Union Station project dying, but I've been downtown numerous times in the past year when there were special event at the Dome or Conseco, and they weren't charging special prices at the mall (pink ticket requireing a receipt). Additionally, not kidding -- it's a *block* to $3 for three hour parking every other time of the year.

I get that it's an issue and that there are old resentments over subsidies, but I just don't think the parking was what caused his business to fail. He had other problems -- not the least of which was the place as impossible to find (even if you could park out front) and there's a major 8 screen theater just two blocks away. (Again, not his fault and something I'm sure he's very resentful about.) He is away from the residential base downtown and, frankly, a lot of people I know refuse to brave the slightly scary mobs of club goers on S. Meridian on your average Saturday night. He was right in the middle of that. If all those club goers can find places to park -- and spend money drinking and dancing at Tiki Bob's, I just don't think he can blame his failure solely on parking.

At the end of the day, you do what's best for your business and he had to close. I'm sorry to hear it. But spending another, what $15K?, for a full page ad in the local paper for sour grapes was just uncool.

Anonymous said...

I thank him for investing the 15k, if it cost that much, to advise the community about the parking problem. What he did was called "an angry exit" and he exercised his civic duty for the rest of us who cannot afford to do such.

I have an office downtown and get pissed off everytime I find the parking meters all covered up with the bags so we can't park in front of our own office during these special events.

It happens so often it's ridiculus. Yet, the mayor and the police department allows certain club owners, the same ones who owns Savoy, 300 East and a multitude of other clubs around town, and the police officers that work for them, to actually block off 4-5 parking spaces with cones outside the club at night. This happens weekly, sometimes several nights a week, right next to city hall, the Guvernment and the Vault nightclubs, while professionals who rent office space can't park there...those spaces are reserved for the club owners and police officers. It's really humiliating for us business owners to drive past all the coned in parking spaces and park blocks away at night...and then have to walk past all the thugs lined up in front of these clubs as well as the growing homeless that wander downtown Indianapolis.

First class-city? Bart is turning this town into Detroit.

Anonymous said...

He'll be a guest on Abdul's show tomorrow morning at 9am.

Anonymous said...

Not to throw more cold water on Bulthaup's argument, as someone who has written about business -- especially entertainment -- in a previous life, I suggest another reason why his theater is going out of business: The DVD sell-through window.

Thanks to BitTorrent piracy and the desire of Hollywood to profit off the once-booming DVD business, the studios have shortened the time between 'first-run' or initial theater release, and the release to home video and DVD. You can actually get a video of a film within two months of its box-office release.

As a result, second-run houses such as Hollywood Bar and Filmworks aren't getting as many customers. Think about it: The average person (especially busy adults aged 25 to 50 with children who aren't reliable filmgoers anyway) can rent or buy a DVD and willing to wait to do so.

Hollywood Bar and Filmworks was a nice spot. But the only good reason to go to go there was for busy unmarried couples without kids to get a dinner and a movie at the same time.

As much as parking may be an issue, the economics of the film business probably had more to do with the spot's demise.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Rishawn, I think his customer base is a little different. Any time I've been there, it's been with a group of people. And it seemed like everybody else there were with groups. People are there for the party as much as seeing the movie. The technology really doesn't work against the concept of his place.

Anonymous said...

When I travel downtown for dinner or such I always check to see if its likely there will be event parking. If there is an event, it is typically cheaper or the same price to valet park at the restaurant. When we were going to Hollywood we had to really check since they are so close to Conseco.

You can always park at the mall, but you'll need to spend the 20 bucks to get comped the non-event price.

I heard the guy on WIBC this morning and he has some good points.

At some point, Bart needs to think about the economy he has created downtown using the citizens' taxdollars.

Gary R. Welsh said...

This item from the Indiana Daily Insight will help get your blood boiling about our hard-earned taxpayers being handed out to the Simons:

The Wall Street Journal reveals that "Democratic activist and businesswoman Bren Simon, wife of shopping-mall magnate and Indiana Pacers co-owner Melvin Simon, is looking to sell a mansion in Los Angeles's Bel-Air neighborhood for $17.5 million, $4.5 million more than she paid for it last year. The 18,000-square-foot home was built in 1995 and modeled after the Petit Trianon at Versailles. It has nine bedrooms, a library, a gym and a pool. A spokesman for Ms. Simon says she spent more than $1 million remodeling the house and added a small adjacent lot for parking. Ms. Simon runs MBS Associates, a property-management and development company in Indiana, and is known for raising money for Democratic candidates. Earlier this year, she and her husband held a fundraiser at their Indiana estate that featured Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. Her own contributions this year have included $50,000 to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and $25,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. A spokesman said Ms. Simon bought the property so she and her husband could visit their grandchildren, but found the three-story house did not suit Mr. Simon, who turned 80 last week; they recently bought another home nearby, at the Bel-Air Country Club."

Anonymous said...

But in order to lure groups or couples (and there were plenty of them the last time I was there), you have to have films people want to watch. And the studios will always go for the money at the expense of smaller players such as the second-run theaters; the DVD market (not the technology as you think) is far more lucrative source of revenue (and requires handing over less of a cut than the 50/50 split with theater owners) than the Hollywood Bar and Filmworks and Cinema Grills of the world. They'll skip the second-runs. Again, the DVD sell-through dates shrink the ability for a Filmworks to make money either off the tickets or more often, off the food and booze.

The food costs are another matter altogether. Filmworks wasn't selling mere popcorn, but actual meals, which means actually prepping food. The costs of doing this isn't cheap.

Some businessmen always love to say that the reasons behind their failure have to do with matters other than either their own management problems, being overleveraged or betting on the wrong segment of the market. That's life. This isn't to say that governments can't snarl up the profit-making ability of firms; just that there's often far more mundane explanations for business failure than fantastic stories of big fish versus little guys

Anonymous said...

Simon envy. It's amazing.

These guys arrived in town in 1957 with a convertible and $400 between them. They built a business that is the envy of the retail world.

The downtown mall is a project in which they own a majority interest, and manage. Their new downtown headquarters is nice, and I, for one, don't give a flip about the "park space" they took up to build it. That park space was partially occupied by one of the ugliest fountains in the free world.

What I do care about is the lousy negotiation job the city did to land the headquarters downtown.

That being said, the parking issue is a non-starter. Almost always, there's plenty downtown. And more often that not, you can park for three hours for $1.50, thanks to the Simons' subsidy. And they know full well that not everyone who parks there uses the mall.

Ted B. is a whiney arrogant malcontent whose full-page diatribe was a wander through revisionist history and crying over spilt milk. Good riddance.

Anonymous said...

Wait til Monday...Ted has another ad coming out.,..should be interesting

Jay said...

Downtown Indy is increasingly unfriendly to those who aren't able to afford Pacers or Colts tickets, tickets to special events, parking fees, new housing, etc.

My partner Scott and I have sworn off downtown activities on many nights due to not being able to find a place to park.
Whenever there is a home game, or a large convention in town, downtown becomes almost unmanageable since every lot suddenly fills up and charges a lot more, and mysteriously nearly every parking meter has a "No Parking" cover, like ANON 9:21 points out.

If parking, housing, and events downtown are geared for the haves, the havenots are going to stay in the suburbs. Without decent public transportation, and complete disregard for the middle-class downtown, this situation will just get worse.

Gary R. Welsh said...

On those No Parking bags over the meters, I've noticed they often put those up a full day before the No Parking order actually takes effect, but people assume the No Parking order is already in effect if the meter is bagged--since you can't put any money in the meter.

Anonymous said...

Check out this excerpt from a recent Indianapolis Star Article.

"Unlike his theater in Indy, which normally screens second-run films, Hollywood Blvd shows first-run movies. The setting is spectacularly original yet evocative of the famed Grauman's Chinese Theatre."

The Chicago theatre is actually out in the suburbs and has four screens. It's located in a strip mall with plenty of free parking.

Anyone starting to see the real reason why he failed downtown? He considers Indy as "second-run" compared to Chicago.

I won't be surprised to learn he is opening a new theatre in Carmel some day.

Anonymous said...

It was a huge issue that their showtimes never showed up in local movie listings. I often considered going (parking had nothing to do with it) but their showtimes were impossible to find. Lately, you had to go directly to their website and dig around.

Plus, for the money, I'd just as soon go to any of the huge number of other downtown restaurants in the same price range and have a decent meal. And after dinner, it's a lot easier to go get a cocktail at MacNiven's than sit through a two-hour feature film.

Anonymous said...

Jay and Scott need to look a little harder for parking spots. I've never had any trouble, except during the hardware conventions and that FFA thing. But we were alerted to that, and we could make alternate plans.

AI, here's a little known fact: in many cases, when meters are bagged, the agency or organization that requests it, must reimburse the city for lost parking meter revenue. I doubt that holds up for the Colts and Pacers. (But it should)

These whiney people sound like tottering old farts, whining about no parking. Park a few blocks away and walk if you can't get in a garage. Take a cab. I'm downtown three or four times a month over the last ten years and have only occasionally run into parking problems. Am I just lucky? I doubt it.

The lack of good public transport is a real issue, though. Maybe, someday...

Ted lost business because his staff was surly, his food was inedible, and his theatre, if you knew what was playing, was three flights up.

Someone on another blog pointed out there is a cinema grill on W. 86th St. that appears to be very successful. The concept is brilliant.

Ted needed to get a bucket of bleech water in there oh, once or twice a week. His staff often mirrored his assbag foul attitude.

Who needs it?

Anonymous said...

I, for one, am very thankful for his posting in the Indianapolis Star today and Friday. I've been very interested to read his ideas, opinions and experiences, as I was not aware of any of them previous to this. Frankly, I was quite suprised by the closing of HBFW, although I have to admit, I've not been there for many years.

In fact, I can't even remember the last time I went downtown, although I live 10 minutes away. Parking and traffic congestion are my usual reasons. I have no reason to fight it when I can go to a less busy, free parking restaraunt also 10 minutes away. When I first moved here in 1995 when Circle Center first opened, I loved going downtown, now, it's just such a hassle.

I really do hope that this editorial will help Bart and his pals on the IDI will take these issues into greater consideration for the betterment of Indianapolis. I know I am.

Jim in MI said...

I always enjoyed going to Hollywood Bar & Filmworks, and I was very disappointed that it closed. I am a single man and always went by myself when I was in Indianapolis on business. (I live in Michigan.) My expenses were always reimbursed by my company, but I certainly wouldn't have paid $3 for parking. I probably found free parking somewhere. (I routinely walk several blocks in order to avoid paying to park.) I actually patronize 2nd-run movie theaters all the time; I refuse to pay the ridiculous prices for 1st-run movies, but watching a film on a DVD isn't the same as seeing it on the big screen.