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3:35 AM Thu, Nov. 15th

Area's big screens are attracting big crowds

PRESCOTT VALLEY – Dave Jogerst has a hit. Jogerst, general manager of Harkins Theatres in Prescott Valley, said attendance figures continue to rise.

"The public has kind of made up their minds," Jogerst said. "It's increasing each year."

Jogerst said about 600,000 people went to the 14-screen theater when it opened in 2001. After a sophomore lull, Jogerst said attendance has increased between 12 to 15 percent the last two years.

"This year compared to last year we're up," he said. "Last year compared to the year before we were up as well. The public has kind of made up their minds."

When asked how much of those numbers were repeat customers, Jogerst said that in general about 40 percent of movie watchers are repeat customers.

Jogerst attributed the increase to people moving to the tri-cities area and a wider selection of movies that now includes documentaries, foreign films and art-house films.

"Our audience is becoming more sophisticated," he said.

Things are also rosy at the 10-screen movie theater in the Frontier Village shopping center.

Gene Harvey, who purchased the theater last summer, said attendance figures are also rising. "I'm happy to say they're just getting better all the time," he said.

Harvey didn't divulge attendance figures because he said it's too early to tell, but "it is improving all the time … the trend is definitely up, he said. "It's too early to say much in the way of percentages," though, he added.

Harvey said he is looking into running vintage classic and children film series to generate more business. "Being a small, independent company allows for flexibility," he said.

Harvey owns an eight-screen theater in Pomona and a six-screen cinema in San Bernardino, Calif.

But that isn't the only change Harvey is mulling over. "We're looking forward to doing some expanding and improving of the theater," he said. "

Harvey said improving movie choices has been difficult because film companies stopped doing business with the prior owner over disagreements.

"I knew that going in," he said. "I just had to ensure them that the theater is going in a whole new direction now. And we're getting just terrific feedback from customers."

Jogerst said there is room to add another four screens on the northern end of the theater.

"W e can accommodate nearly twice as many people as we do," he said. "So when we get closer to capacity they will look at adding those four additional screens. Not in the next year or two, but who knows what the future holds at the rate that this community is growing."

Contact the reporter at jsoifer@prescottaz.com