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Living Room Theaters surprised by older clientele, wants more students [Video included]

Founder Ernesto Rimoch did not expect his on-campus movie theater to resonate more so with an older demographic

Taylor Craig

Taylor Craig, Video Journalist

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When Ernesto Rimoch, founder and CEO of Living Room Theaters, was asked by Florida Atlantic faculty in 2007 to build one of his theaters on its Boca Raton campus, he did not expect his clientele to consist primarily of the elderly community.

Rimoch had anticipated the screenings of independent and foreign films at his theater to resonate more with a younger crowd.

“I think we’ve been surprised by the fact that most of our customers are from the community,” Rimoch said. “We are, unfortunately, a little bit disappointed by how many students actually use  or come to the movies.”

As the demand for tickets to a Living Room Theater show grows, movie-goers must order their tickets ahead of time and pick them up prior to their movie. Taylor Craig | Video Journalist

As the demand for tickets to a Living Room Theater show grows, movie-goers must order their tickets ahead of time and pick them up prior to their movie. Taylor Craig | Video Journalist

Susan Reilly, who was the director of multimedia studies at FAU when Rimoch was looking for a new location for his theater, approached the former filmmaker with the idea of a joint venture.

“I had been looking around for a movie theater company to build theaters for us because we were film people showing movies on PowerPoint screens,” Reilly said. “We wanted a real film screen, you know? A theater.”

Both Reilly and Rimoch toured the campus for possible locations for construction, a project that would be partially sponsored by the state as an investment in attracting students to the university.

“His original idea was that it would be for students,” Reilly said.

After construction was completed on campus in 2010, an older demographic of Boca Raton took notice of the small scale local theater that was largely ignored by nearby students.

Cynthia Stein, the theater’s manager, believes that the absence of blockbuster films is the primary cause for a lack of student interest.

“I think that it’s mainly because of the films. We show arthouse and independent films here, so you’re not going to find the next ‘Captain America’ playing,” Stein said. “The majority of our films are very story driven, more so than special effects or action based.”

JoAnn Messori, a senior in the community who has been attending various movies at Living Room Theaters for the past two years, has a preference for the kind of films that are presented.

“Most of the independent films I’ve seen have been very good,” Messori said. “With foreign films, probably every senior in the world has closed captioning on their TV, so they’re used to looking at words on the screen.”

Across the table from Messori and her soup of the day sits her friend Carolyn Nepa, who shared a similar dish and perception of the films shown in the theater.

“I find that I like these films better because the other films, mainstream, the hype and the advertising is so big that when I get there, I’m usually disappointed,” Nepa said. “Because they’ve done so much advertising and spent so much money that you think you’re going to see a fabulous film. I’ve seen much better films here.”

Despite offering a variety of food specials and being located on campus, Living Room Theaters struggles to capture the attention of FAU students. Taylor Craig | Video Journalist

Despite offering a variety of food specials and being located on campus, Living Room Theaters struggles to capture the attention of FAU students. Taylor Craig | Video Journalist

The two exchanged opinions on the lack of student presence at their favorite movie theater as well.

“The same reason I come here is why I feel the young people don’t come. The advertisement out there [in society] and the publicity out there for all the films piques their interest,” Nepa said. “The power of advertising.”

“I think we scare the students off, actually,” said Messori. “The first few times I came, I really expected to see all sorts of young people here and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anybody under 50 heading into theaters.”

Kaitlyn Laichak, a first-year graduate student, has spent years at FAU and never felt the inclination to attend one of the Living Room Theaters’ film screenings.

“I haven’t really looked to see what they offer so maybe if it was publicized a little bit better maybe I’d consider it,” Laichak said. “I really don’t know what they’re playing.”

An older moviegoer, Rachel Aronson believes that younger people simply don’t have any interest in the type of movies screened at the on-campus theater.

“I know my son, who’s in his 30s, he likes sci-fi movies. He likes those unusual movies that are more [about] aliens,” Aronson said. “We’re the older generation so we like the old movies, basically. The more educational movies.”

Despite relying on his mostly elderly audience for financial stability, Rimoch continues to book films that he thinks have a strong potential for younger viewers.

“I’m always looking for [films] that I think would be worthwhile for the students,” Rimoch said.

One film Rimoch is currently looking at is “Girl Asleep,” a coming-of-age Australian film that he describes as a “modern-day ‘Alice in Wonderland’” because he thinks it would resonate with a younger audience.

“We are open to any suggestions, if there is anything students don’t like or would prefer. Send us any suggestions, any questions, any requests and we’ll try and do our best,” Rimoch said. “It’s difficult to understand why students don’t take more advantage of what is here, but I hope they learn about us and come over.”


Now Showing

Living Room Theaters specializes in independent and foreign films that seem to have resonated with the older community in Boca Raton. Taylor Craig | Video Journalist

Living Room Theaters specializes in independent and foreign films that seem to have resonated with the older community in Boca Raton. Taylor Craig | Video Journalist

Don’t Think Twice Ÿ Drama/Comedy 99% Rotten Tomatoes Score

Turmoil strikes a New York improv troupe (Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Mike Birbiglia) when one member leaves to star in a television show.

Mia Madre Drama/Comedy 90% Rotten Tomatoes Score

An Italian filmmaker (Margherita Buy) tries to cope with her mother’s terminal illness (Giulia Lazzarini) while working on a new movie with a bombastic American actor (John Turturro).

Indignation Drama 77% Rotten Tomatoes Score

A Jewish college student (Logan Lerman) falls for a young woman (Sarah Gadon) while clashing with his dean (Tracy Letts) in 1951 Ohio.

For FAU students and faculty, ticket prices are $5 on Mondays and Tuesdays and $6.50 on all other days.


Let’s Do Lunch!

Paris Le Cordon Bleu-trained Executive Chef Denux Attelus helped revamp the dinner menu and create a new lunch menu that he thinks will satisfy all types of customers. Taylor Craig | Video Journalist

Paris Le Cordon Bleu-trained Executive Chef Denux Attelus helped revamp the dinner menu and create a new lunch menu that he thinks will satisfy all types of customers. Taylor Craig | Video Journalist

Cynthia Stein, the manager of the Living Room Theaters at Florida Atlantic, hopes that the revamped dinner menu and the new lunch menu will increase student interest.

This expansion into lunch service was made available by the loosening grip of FAU’s food and beverage provider Chartwells, according to Susan Reilly of the School of Communication and Multimedia Studies.

“Now students are going to walk by Monday through Thursday and we’re not going to be this dark, empty building,” Stein said. “So that might help.”

Executive chef Denux Attelus, who was the primary creator of the new menus and dishes, joined Living Room Theaters in December of last year after leading the kitchens at Florida International University in Miami.

“He’s actually a Paris, Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef,” Stein said. “He’s been in the industry for 25 years so he’s fantastic.”

After adding dishes like mahi-mahi, fried risotto and braised pork to the new dinner menu, Stein believes they were still able to maintain a fair and moderate price for their meals.

“Our highest price for our dinner is still $16,” said Stein. “It’s nothing outrageous.”


Taylor Craig is a video journalist with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @taylorcraig.

2 Comments

2 Responses to “Living Room Theaters surprised by older clientele, wants more students [Video included]”

  1. Jared Miller on September 28th, 2016 6:18 pm

    I remember when they first built the theater and I saw what they would play I knew no college kids would come. I think I saw 3 movies at most when I was at FAU. PSYCHO when the theater first opened. A anime film and Super which was bloody super hero comedy. Its also the fact that the real movie theater is right down the road and with netflix people don’t go that much. I think if they had more classic movies shown it would do more for the college kids. Have one night for movies like animal house for example movies college kids will go see not these foreign art films.

  2. Brandon Walker on October 12th, 2016 12:19 pm

    I’ve never been attracted by the types of movies they play at the Living Room. I always thought it would be cool if it were more like any other theater. Having a free movie theater on campus that shows popular mainstream movies, I’d even be encouraged to bring a few friends here to watch movies instead of going to the Regal in Boca. Students go free (or get a discount), friends pay regular ticket prices, win for the students, win for the theater/university.

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