Just shy of twenty years after its opening, the Regal Pilot Butte 6 Theater will show its last film on Sept. 2.
The long under attended theater shows movies on 35 mm film, a medium that is quickly becoming obsolete in the digital age.
Pilot Butte theater has historically been apt to show more independent and alternative films as well as second runs of films in opposition to the Old Mill's blockbusters and large release flicks. With the theater gone, independent film makers will be reduced to the smaller art house venues (Tin Pan Theater, Volcanic Theatre Pub) if they're looking to screen in Bend.
Russ Nunley, a spokesperson for Regal Entertainment Group responded to the Source's questions about the closure via email.
In regards to changed programing at the Old Mill Theater in response to the closure of Pilot Butte:
The Old Mill theater does have a large amount of space for a variety of films with 16 screens. Each week our film bookers take a look at the performance of movies already released and then the slate of new movies which are going to become available in the week ahead. We do not dedicate a certain number of screens to any particular niche or taste, instead we constantly evaluate and evolve to provide the movies we believe the largest number of people want to see. In a nutshell that’s how every business operates trying to predict consumer demand and match it with their supply of products. It’s just magnified in our industry since moviegoer interests change so frequently.
In addition, the Old Mill 16 does participate in the local film festival to provide our guests a taste of something different and to foster a love for all kinds of entertainment. The Bend Film Festival is just around the corner, opening in October. We are headed into the “Academy Award Season” as many Oscar contenders are released before the year ends. In the past, we would have programmed some of those films at Pilot Butte since they may appeal to an art-film audience. But Oscar-worthy films also attract a large amount of general moviegoer interest and they will be presented instead at the Old Mill this year.
At the Pilot Butte 6, Regal has programmed many alternative or smaller films. This strategy was based on the fact that the older 6-screen facility needed to experiment to grow an audience, but unfortunately those audiences were too small to sustain business. Film distributors also notice these results, and over time we’ve found that some independent films were unwilling to open in Bend since the box office track record had been poor in the past. So as you can see, the trend line for Pilot Butte had been on the decline for quite a while. —Russ Nunley, Regal Entertainment Group
The building has been for sale since mid-2011 with a deed restriction by Regal Entertainment Group that the new owner cannot operate a theater to prevent competition with its Old Mill 16 theater. The building will be demolished and replaced with a Walgreens and a Wilco, a garden supply store.
See Pilot Butte's movie times here and catch one last film at the strangely cave-like lava-rock interior theater before the curtain drops Sept. 2.