Business Q & A

Five questions with Bill Warren

There are a lot of things going on with Bill Warren that the movie impresario never thought would happen.

Warren, 56, is a shell of his former self — down 91 pounds in day 300 of what he refuses to call a diet.

"It's a lifestyle change," he said, throwing his head back and roaring with laughter.

He has one of the nation's top 10 theaters financially in Moore, Okla., perhaps Warren's biggest success to date.

And perhaps even more shocking, the Old Town theater he thought would never run in the black is making a profit.

"And it'll never lose money again," Warren said, his eyes flashing.

How's business at the Old Town Warren?

"We're 15 months in and it's doing good. Attendance is up about 33 percent, and it's making some money. Not big money, but yes, I did tell you I'd be happy if it just broke even. So I'm happy.

"I think the all digital helped. Getting out of the sports bar business. That's not what we're experts on. It's just turned out to be a more popular venue. We've got better management running the restaurant."

Where does the Old Town Warren now fit into a developing downtown Wichita?

"A theater in the downtown area is very, very important to the city of Wichita. That's obvious, and it's actually important to any city.

"I remember reading in your paper that the downtown consultants said most cities would kill for a downtown theater like this.

"It's important because of the people you draw, and it's an amenity for the people living in the downtown area, and I knew that when I got in, so once again, we never thought this would be a good money-maker. Wichita has been good for us and our goal was for this to break even.

"It is profitable, and it will continue to be profitable."

How's the progress on the IMAX theater expansion coming at 21st and Tyler?

"We are about 60 days out, and we will be open Dec. 17 with 'Tron.' "

Where do you go next with IMAX if this project succeeds in west Wichita?

"Moore is possible. They've talked to us about that. We're definitely going to expand in Moore. We're just not sure what exactly we're going to do there yet.

"Moore is important. It's one of the top 10 grossing theaters in the United States right now. I think most people don't realize the theaters we operate in Wichita, this is not the way theaters are in America.

"Most are just fairly average, what I'd call McDonald's interior fast food kind of stuff. No one spends the type of money and runs the kind of operation we do, and I think it's successful because people in Oklahoma understand that.

"Every major theater company in the nation is in Oklahoma, yet they see the difference between us and the other guys."

How and why did you lose all that weight?

"Some people have drinking problems. Some people have smoking problems. I had a problem with sugar and carbohydrates. So, it was a matter of getting it under control and changing my lifestyle.

"It works out to about 9.7 pounds a month since I've been doing this. I'm taking it off slow, and I'm not on a diet. I'm just on a program where I trim down on the carbohydrates and eliminate most of the sugars.

"I still eat popcorn. I love popcorn. But, I have to pass on the butter."

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