Kim Bayles, owner of Kimball’s Peak Three, will expand the downtown movie theater complex within the next few months.
Come January, visitors will find a cozy wine bar to relax in as Bayles vacates his office space in favor of the new amenity.
“I have a 1,200 square-foot office on the second floor and I just felt it was silly to keep it,” Bayles said. “We’ll keep the main bar downstairs, but this will be a place for people to linger … a quiet place to have a drink away from the hustle and bustle of the main lobby. And we’ll show movies behind the bar. Typically we close the downstairs bar after the last show, but we’ll keep this one open later.”
The project comes on the heels of an expansion during August that saw the owner convert an office into a 50-seat theater.
“We needed another screen,” Bayles said. “We let films go too early. There is so much film out there that we want to try and grab it all so everybody can see it. This allows us to keep films at least two or three weeks. Then we can bring in smaller films and documentaries.”
Early on, even he thought his venture might succumb to failure.
During 1994, he purchased the building at 115 E. Pikes Peak Ave. for $700,000 and spent $1.2 million rehabilitating the more than seven decades old building, one that suffered from structural problems and was in sore need of a new roof. During the renovation project, Bayles also had the mezzanine level converted into a separate theater.
“We could have built a six-plex for that much,” Bayles said. “But I thought it was important for Colorado Springs. This was the last independent theater left. The other old theaters here were owned by the theater chains.”
Anyway, it was way more money than he had planned on spending. And following the opening, movie goers were slow to catch on.
“When we first opened up, I almost went bankrupt,” he said. “I was mad. Here I built this beautiful theater and nobody was coming. It proved to be a real lesson in how long it takes people to change their habits.”
Bayles admitted he might have been a tad naïve about booking films in the beginning, but movie viewers eventually flocked to his turnstiles, especially after he closed his previous theater, Poor Richard’s, on Tejon Street.
During the last decade, business has been good for Kimball’s. Even during the last few years, as the worst recession in 40 years succeeded in cutting his potential customers’ disposable income.
“I think the poor economy has actually boosted our sales,” Bayles said. “In depressed economic times people are searching for relatively cheap entertainment. People can go on a movie date for under $20. Of course, there is the argument about DVD rentals, but the theater is different. There are no distractions like pets and children and the telephone. It’s still very much a unique experience where people are in a similar frame of mind in the theater. It’s a distraction-free zone.”
The wine bar on the second floor will be built by Murphy Constructors, the same company that renovated a vacant office into the complex’s third theater during August. Much like he did with his earlier expansion, Bayles will finance the project through theater revenue.
“(Loans for small businesses) just aren’t out there,” he said. “Even though we’ve been in business for 15 years, the Small Business Administration thing is such a black hole. It’s tough out there.”
Scott Prater covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.