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Puppet Theaters / Party Place Businesses

March 29 2012 at 12:04 PM

Steve Axtell 
from IP address 76.172.114.60

 
We have some folks here that have been discussing starting a local puppet theater, and I know a few who have done it, or are working on it, that I'll invite here. Crazy Chris, John Hardman, Steve Taylor & Bob Abdou have some experience with this. Tony has found a local building that would suite very well, so let's discuss this. Tony and Chris recap your thoughts here.

I think this could be a franchise business idea...that might compete with Chuck E. Cheese.

Ax


    
This message has been edited by axtell from IP address 76.172.114.60 on Apr 2, 2012 6:19 AM


 
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AuthorReply
Tony Borders

67.161.167.228

Re: Puppet Theaters / Puppet House Businesses

March 29 2012, 12:55 PM 

To see the building I think would be perfect (in case someone wants to buy it for me) go to http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/9500-Elk-Grove-Florin-Rd-Elk-Grove-CA-95624/2122810158_zpid/

[linked image] [linked image] [linked image] [linked image] [linked image] [linked image]
Personally, I think I could make better pizza than Chuck E. Cheese. But I love their atmosphere!

I do know that buildings must be handicap accessible, thus no two story for me.
I realize that this could bring in field trips during the weekdays and birthdays on the weekends. Another option (if I were owner) would be to use it as a daycare during the week and a birthday party place on the weekends. It would require some adjusting and lots of cleaning!



    
This message has been edited by axtell from IP address 76.172.114.60 on Apr 2, 2012 6:25 AM


 
 
Tony Borders

67.161.167.228

Warehouse

March 29 2012, 1:01 PM 

I have a magician friend who ran a jump house rental place for years. When a local jump house warehouse (where kids come to you) went out of business he took it over. How did he make it work? (Lots of hard work to begin with). He lost 30 pounds in the first couple of months.

He charges admission during the school day for field trips and families. He hosts a junior high dance one night a month and a senior high dance one night a month. He has a family entertainment night one Saturday evening each month. He rents to a church on Sunday mornings. He has comedy nights, magic nights, and bands to fill in any remaining Fridays and Saturdays.

He also has a huge Easter Egg and Visit to the North Pole each year. He is a nice guy so many of his first year's entertainers came for free. He has always been good to us. You can visit his website athttp://www.amagicalplace.net.

Oh, and he has two birthday party rooms for anytime parties. The other place had those as well, but they didn't make it.

 
 
crazy chris

75.109.33.210

Re: Puppet Theaters / Puppet House Businesses

March 29 2012, 1:18 PM 

GREAT TOPIC STARTER STEVE!!

Tony...i checked out the property...its sooooooooooo cooool!!

on the topic of a "chuck e cheese" style place... i LOVE IT!!... however theres one issue that i think might come up... and thats attempting to wrangle the kids up for a show....

i think the allure of chuck e cheese has never been the actual show... its actually background noise...and luckily its animatronic...so chuck e doesnt get his feelings hurt when kids ignore him and run to play games....

so we've found that a more intimate setting...without TONS of distractions works so well to maintain the kids attention and keep the focus on the show you've worked so hard to create...

BUT.... There is a great way to make a chuck e cheese style place work... and that's by segmenting off party rooms and having various entertainers/ puppet shows available.

you could enter into a large gift shop ... say one with a jungle theme...with the axtell animatronic cockatoo up in a tree greeting everyone... the hostess in the gift shop could dismiss each party group into the various party rooms (multi tier'd pricewise) and you could host dozens of parties a weekend...all in one venue... with everything from fully catered...to bring your own snack packages

during the week you could utilize this same concept except patrons would leave the gift shop area and enter one or two different show rooms with various shows going on throughout the day... sort of like a movie theater...but with live entertainment

this particular blueprint would be HUGE in a "tourist" destination like PIGEON FORGE because you would rarely have to update your shows and they would be fresh and new to visiting patrons!!

cc

 
 

Steve Axtell

76.172.114.60

Photos

March 29 2012, 7:15 PM 

Chris... could you post photos of your place, inside and out? I'm so excited about this!

Ax

 
 
crazy chris

75.109.33.210

Re: Puppet Theaters / Puppet House Businesses

March 29 2012, 8:23 PM 

HERE YA GO STEVE!!

[linked image]

I figured it was easier to just load up a bunch of photos on my blog...

click on the photos to enlarge!!

http://sassafrassjunction.blogspot.com/2012/03/some-great-memories-looking-forward-to.html

thats just a few random shots i selected.... our place is small... but we're allready touring new properties and hope to move within the next few months!

cc


    
This message has been edited by axtell from IP address 76.172.114.60 on Apr 2, 2012 6:41 AM


 
 
crazy chris

75.109.33.210

Re: Puppet Theaters / Puppet House Businesses

March 29 2012, 8:36 PM 

Our hope is to create 4 animal related shows amd build a theater with an almost ZOO-LIKE atmostphere... kinda like going into a "Rainforest Cafe" ...with a huge gift shop and have shows every hour on the hour that are alot like the exotic bird shows you might see at disney or busch gardens... but instead its all done with AXTELL products...

We are about to premiere our EXOTIC BIRD SHOW

then after that we have 3 more shows planned over the next year

THE EXOTIC ANIMAL SHOW
THE WOODLAND CREATURES SHOW
THE REPTILE AND AQUATIC CREATURES SHOW

Just need steve to creat a line of insects and we could do a whole insect show as well!

Imagine what an amazing day a group of vacationers could have at a place like that.... animatronic toucans and monkeys singing from atop a huge tree in the middle of the gift shop.... shows going on ...private parties in adjoining rooms... it could be great!!

cc

 
 
Steve Taylor

97.120.223.252

Pandora's Box

March 29 2012, 8:55 PM 

Wow, what a great topic! Congrats Steve.

I remember as a kid taking a marionette building class at a small puppet theater set up in a strip mall in San Diego and then visiting one upstairs in Solvang CA as a kid (and loving both).

For the past five years, we've been running a "melodrama" theater that appeals to the family audience. Although not a "puppet" theater, rules are rules and boy did I open a "Pandora's box" when we got into it. There are soooo many rules, regulations and codes that it almost seems impossible to do anything like this today (unfortunately). There are insurance regulations, ADA requirements, bathroom minimums, parking minimum (got have parking, usually one space per four people your building may hold), got to be zoned correctly, etc. etc. etc.

Like Tony, we have found some wonderful buildings that could have been adapted, but in the wrong place with the wrong zoning, not enough parking, not enough bathrooms, exits, etc. And putting ONE bathroom into an existing building to meet code can cost $50,000 bucks! Whew! General assembly (as opposed to retail use) of a building has a lot more regulations over and above just opening a store to sell antiques. They even now have regulations on how much air a building must be able to pump for people to breathe. THEN, add on federal, state, city, and county laws on top of it all and...ARGHHH!

Soooo, my suggestion? Find a place that exists already, like a church, theater, etc., that's already set up for all of this and rent it out on a regular basis. We rented out a theater in September and did nine shows (a parody of Twilight called "Twi-Lite") and almost sold out every performance and did well financially...and I didn't have rent to pay the months we were dark. Yay.

I suggest that anyone start small, and grow a clientele until the time they HAVE to get a bigger/their own place. I hope this helps (but well-worth the hard work).

Steve T.

 
 
Steve Taylor

97.120.223.252

And...

March 29 2012, 8:59 PM 

And one more thought (sorry)...

Like anything in real estate, you can't forget LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. Your place must be viewable from major thoroughfares and easily accessible so people who don't care or think about going to theater will notice ya! Okay, that's it (I hope)

Steve T.

 
 
crazy chris

75.109.33.210

Re: Puppet Theaters / Puppet House Businesses

March 30 2012, 1:23 AM 

You bring up some great points Steve!!

We are lucky to be in a small town where alot of those issues do not exist...and luckily people travel sometimes hundreds of miles to visit us... so our location hasnt kept us from seeing success ...

right now our biggest issue is size... we have a great relationship with an existing theater across the street that seats 6 times the people as we do...so we have began renting it out for large school groups that we simply cant fit in our place...and it does work great!!

There's just something special about having our own place though... it's like a character all its own... with the bright colorful signage ...detailed stage... and gift shop ... it helps to make us a "brand name" and i love that!.... atleast one person a week asks us if we are a "franchise" and that makes me so giddy... because its my "baby"... hahahaha

cc

 
 
bob abdou

76.181.86.141

puppet theaters/puppet house businesses

March 30 2012, 5:43 AM 

nice topic My wife and I have decided to open up a "puppet theater" here in columbus, ohio. We found a few spaces that suit us but either the owners wanted too much or they got higher offers. We are in no hurry. I have now over 3500 vintage toys and puppets to add to the theater. We will have a permanent display with changing exhibits 3x a year. We have the name, the paperwork, the material, the know how, the energy, the money and the experience. Now it's just a matter of finding the right place. With moving to Ohio, I thought I would start this theater right away because I did not have much work...well from now till september I am 75% booked with shows. That makes me very happy especially since I just moved here. So the theater will happen it is just a matter of where and when. My business plan for the theater will have a retail toy store, museum with a room designed for a theater, birthday parties or rentals for meetings. I am very excited to do this because it's time. but just like a great joke to succeed, it's all in the timing

 
 
bob abdou

76.181.86.141

puppet theaters/puppet house businesses

March 30 2012, 5:44 AM 

nice topic My wife and I have decided to open up a "puppet theater" here in columbus, ohio. We found a few spaces that suit us but either the owners wanted too much or they got higher offers. We are in no hurry. I have now over 3500 vintage toys and puppets to add to the theater. We will have a permanent display with changing exhibits 3x a year. We have the name, the paperwork, the material, the know how, the energy, the money and the experience. Now it's just a matter of finding the right place. With moving to Ohio, I thought I would start this theater right away because I did not have much work...well from now till september I am 75% booked with shows. That makes me very happy especially since I just moved here. So the theater will happen it is just a matter of where and when. My business plan for the theater will have a retail toy store, museum with a room designed for a theater, birthday parties or rentals for meetings. I am very excited to do this because it's time. but just like a great joke to succeed, it's all in the timing

 
 
crazy chris

75.109.33.210

Re: Puppet Theaters / Puppet House Businesses

March 30 2012, 5:47 AM 

HI BOB!!

I am just a little south of you...bout a 3 hour drive!! i would love to come and visit your theater when you open it!! KEEP US INFORMED!!

cc

 
 
bob abdou

76.181.86.141

puppet theaters/puppet house businesses

March 30 2012, 5:52 AM 

Hey Chris, you are on my radar, my wife and I are on vacation soon and will be traveling to see museums and other fun stuff. Your theater looks fun, there is another puppet theater in West Virginia too, must be something in the water?? Just so you know, I will admire your theater but not steal or use your design or ideas. My philosophy is you steal one of my jokes, I'll steal 3 of yours

 
 
Tony Borders

67.161.167.228

Theaters

March 30 2012, 8:33 AM 

We do have plenty of local theaters in Sacramento. Nearly all of them have Friday and Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon shows. That leaves Saturday mid-morning and early afternoon wide open, as long as one does not disturb their set for tht night. It would be good to speak to them. They would also have most weekdays avaiable during the day for field trips. Their evenings are taken up with rehearsals.

 
 
crazy chris

75.109.33.210

Re: Puppet Theaters / Puppet House Businesses

March 30 2012, 6:50 PM 

You're right Bob!! There is another wonderful little theater up in the Martinsburg area...ive spoken to the owner Joe a few times and he has given me some great business pointers that really helped us to get started!!

I do appreciate your courtesy of not stealing our secrets... but please feel free to take our blueprint and make it your own... if you ever have any questions or just want to shoot the breeze feel free to hit me up!!

the way i see it... the more of us who are out there creating these places of joy and creativity...the more people will seek out the one closest to them...

its so funny to me how many people go to chuck e cheese a couple times a month just to appease their child and all they do is complain about how rude the empoyees are...how loud it is...and how bad it sucks... and yet they do...simply out of habit...

we are here to create an alternative...an experience that doesnt leave you feeling like you lost an hour of your life afterwards...lol

cc

 
 
bob abdou

76.181.86.141

puppet theaters/puppet house businesses

March 31 2012, 7:18 AM 

to show everybody that Puppet theaters are really rare and needs to be more, here in Columbus Ohio, Chuckee Cheese was voted the best place for family fun. Good for them but just as the other comments state, there are always complaints. Puppet theaters are appreciated, respected and a fun place to go to, that is just another reason why I'm going to start one. (besides having a place to display all my toys)

 
 
Tony Borders

67.161.167.228

Best of

March 31 2012, 7:24 AM 

I am tickled by all the magicians in the San Francisco area who have won "best of the Bay area" awards. One even advertises "Voted best show in the Milky Way Galaxy!" I think many of the best of contests are offered to advertisers in local magazines such as Parent's Monthly, or on local city websites. But it sure sounds good on a website.

I wonder what I could call myself? Voted best magical ventriloquist who also does puppets behind a curtain!

 
 

Steve Petra

68.192.137.96

award of the state

March 31 2012, 8:38 AM 

Tony, you can call yourself a Virtual Consortium of Adolescent Amusements - that distinguishes you in a singular category. Make your own award and give it to yourself. That's what others do.

This suggestion is Voted #1.... by me.

BTW - am loving this discussion of puppet theaters. Chris has got something good going and having talked to Bob Abdou, I'm very much looking forward to seeing his ideas come to fruition.


    
This message has been edited by PetraPuppets from IP address 68.192.137.96 on Mar 31, 2012 8:42 AM


 
 
Tony Borders

67.161.167.228

Toot my own horn

March 31 2012, 9:06 AM 

I often am my own worst enemy. I was at a children's pastors meeting recently with several churches represented. We were asked to introduce ourselves and tell what we liked best about working with kids. I introduced myself as a puppeteer and magician. "I like to deceive the children." Then I sat down.

 
 
 
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