GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — John Bloemeke likes movies.
From the Academy Award-winning “Everything Everywhere All At Once” to “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,” he’s seen just about every film you can find in theaters right now.
But then again, that’s his business.
It started when he was 16 years old and growing up in Durham, North Carolina.
“I worked at a Carmike theatre. And I just had so much fun,” he told me recently. “And even when I went to college, I continued to work part-time at the theatre and just loved it.”
He continued to work for Carmike after getting a mathematics degree from North Carolina State University. Eventually, he became a district manager supervising about 25 theatre complexes across four different states.
After spending 24 years with Carmike and another year with the company after another chain, AMC, purchased it and discontinued the Carmike name, Bloemeke decided to break out on his own. Among other things, he didn’t think the major chains were modernizing quickly enough.
“Supervising all these locations, you really start to see that if I were making the decisions, this is what I would do,” he told me. “And because of my experience, I would know the impact of those upgrades.”
So in 2017, he left and started his own company, Golden Ticket Cinemas. But he also found a niche. Golden Ticket specializes in finding outdated, sometimes abandoned theatre complexes, mostly in small cities, then upgrades and reopens them.
The first newly-refurbished Golden Ticket theatre complexes were in Washington and Lenoir, North Carolina. They were two locations Bloemeke used to supervise when he worked for Carmike.
“There’s not a lot to do in these small markets,” he told me. “You talk about Nebraska, Montana or South Dakota, there’s not a lot to do in those places. So movies are kind of a central part of the community.”
In fact, if you do a “Golden Ticket Cinemas” web search, you’ll notice Bloemeke’s theatre openings usually generate a lot of attention in these small towns. The mayors attend the ribbon cuttings and give speeches. The chambers of commerce post videos on their Facebook pages.
It’s a strategy that’s not only helped Golden Ticket survive the pandemic, it’s helped the company grow. Currently, it has 15 theatre complexes with a total of 125 screens up and running in 10 states.
Today, Bloemeke and Golden Ticket plan to modernize and reopen a theatre complex in their largest city yet: Greensboro, North Carolina.
The company’s signed a lease to operate what used to be the Brassfield Cinema 10 in the Brassfield Shopping Center at the corner of New Garden Road and Battleground Avenue.
One of the major theatre chains closed Brassfield in 2020 as the pandemic was raging and everything was locked down. That company ripped out just about everything inside: the seats, screens, projectors, speakers, concession stand. You name it, it’s gone.
“To be honest, everything that was here was dated. They did us a favor by taking all this out,” Bloemeke told me recently as he took me through the lonely building.
But structurally, the building’s fine. It even has relatively new heating and air conditioning. So Golden Ticket can focus on adding things like heated reclining seats, a new concession experience featuring 18 beers on tap as well new food choices including burgers, pizzas and wings.
At the same time, traditional movie food won’t be forgotten. In fact, the new popcorn machine has already been delivered.
Bloemeke even expects the new laser and digital projection equipment to arrive soon.
“I see potential,” he told me. “If this is a facility that has been successful in the past, let’s maximize that potential.”
Adding to that potential is the fact Brassfield’s a good distance away from its nearest competitors. It also sits in a shopping center that’s going through a revival, of sorts, with the recent arrival of a Trader Joe’s. It also sits in the fast-growing Interstate 840/Battleground Corridor.
Golden Ticket plans to utilize the original ten auditoriums to show films that include all the current popular blockbusters as well as some retro productions and children’s movies.
“Our pricing will be competitive, if not lower,” he said. “We offer discounts on Tuesdays, reduced-price concessions on certain days. “We try to make it accessible to anyone and everyone.”
Bloemeke says customers will be able to buy tickets and choose seats off the company website and the Golden Ticket app for mobile devices.
You can also expect the complex to incorporate Golden Ticket’s name and branding.
At this writing, Bloemeke’s waiting on the City of Greensboro to approve the architect’s renovation plans. After that happens, he hopes to have the operation up and running within a matter of months— ideally, late summer/early fall. Definitely by the end of the year.
“This is a place where memories are made,” he told me as we were finishing our conversation. “And not only do we want to make memories. We want to make memories where it’s just fun, and they keep coming back for more.”
The words of a true movie fan!
To read more about Golden Ticket Cinemas, click here.