David vs. Goliath
At first glance, a small town like Brunswick seems to offer
nothing more dramatic than a tiny restaurant on Maine Street or an ice
rink on the Brunswick mall. But underneath the homegrown fabric of our
Maine community, a silent battle rages- a battle over entertainment.
John Favreau bought the small, one-screen Eveningstar Cinema on Maine
Street the same year that the Hoyts Corporation opened its ten-screen
multiplex in Cook's Corner. Since then, the owner and manager of the independent
theater has struggled to keep business up under the presence of the much
larger-and much stronger-commercial giant. "Those first two years
were hard," Favreau said in an interview.
Today, however, the Eveningstar is still glowing from the success of
its two previous films, Amélie and In the Bedroom,
and continues to fill up its seats and sofas with Gosford Park-yet
another in its tradition of critically-acclaimed films-this month.
Favreau attributes the Eveningstar's continued success to its growing
link with the Brunswick community. "I have a good feel for what people
want to see," he said. As owner of an independent theater, Favreau
has the distinct advantage of being able to book films according to community
interest. Hoyts Brunswick, on the other hand, takes its movies and showtime
orders from Boston.
Favreau added that the Eveningstar has been part of Brunswick for over
twenty years, which is long enough for it to find its own niche audience-an
audience that doesn't necessarily cater to what Hoyts has to offer.
Hoyts Cinemas currently operates 103 locations with 917 screens in twelve
U.S. states. Hoyts Brunswick, as part of such a powerful corporation,
gets the movies that are advertised on television-the films that get nationwide
attention and are therefore likely to make good money. Because Hoyts Brunswick
has to fill up its ten screens week after week, it operates under a kind
of block booking, a system which books films in large blocks that range
from the great to the mediocre.
Due to clearance laws, Hoyts Brunswick and the Eveningstar cannot show
the same movies at the same time. "There's no competition,"
Favreau said, "which is bad for the audience because prices don't
go down." In addition, since Hoyts Brunswick has more access to the
more commercially advertised films, its block booking buying power allows
it to take some of the quality movies that the Eveningstar would want
"If there's a diamond in the rough," Favreau said, "I
can't get it." One example is the surprise foreign hit Crouching
Tiger, Hidden Dragon. "We wanted that one," Favreau said,
"but they took it."
However, since the Eveningstar books its films months in advance, it
sometimes beats Hoyts to some anticipated films. "Shakespeare
in Love was probably our most successful film," Favreau said,
recollecting night after night of packed houses for the Best Picture of
1998 at his one-screen theater.
When asked what attracts people to his theater, Favreau replied, "There's
a different atmosphere here-people come in, they know each other-it's
It is this sense of community-manifest in its homely atmosphere, comfy
sofas, modest popcorn bags, and an honest acquaintance with the local
people-that makes the Eveningstar an integral part of Brunswick, and a
smart provider of quality films that the community appreciates.
"I've had a great opportunity to connect with the community," he said, smiling from the wooden desk in the Eveningstar's tiny loft projection room. "It's been a blast."