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By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


“Star Wars’ fans living in Northeast Iowa will need to take a short road trip to see the latest installment in this wildly popular series. “The Last Jedi,” which opens December 15, will not be shown at the Elkader Cinema but it will play in Prairie du Chien.

Lee Akin, who with his wife, Diane, owns the cinemas in both towns, said terms laid out by the Walt Disney Company led to his decision. Disney is the nation’s largest movie studio and owner of the “Star Wars” franchise. The studio is requiring a minimum four-week run of  “The Last Jedi,” which Akin says simply isn’t feasible for Elkader’s single-screen theater.

“We can fit the entire population of Elkader into our theater in the 10 shows a week we normally play,” Akin added. “To play a movie for four weeks in our situation just makes no sense.” 

Akin said the four-week commitment is a first for him. “Most studios require that a movie be played for two weeks and occasionally, three weeks for a blockbuster-type movie. In some instances, if a movie does very well the second week, you’re obligated to keep playing it. This type of system makes the most sense to me. I have no problem keeping a movie the public has shown they want to see.”

In Elkader, movies are shown soon after their initial release. Once a movie has opened nationwide, run-time requirements are relaxed, which allows Akin to change his shows weekly. A new movie every week is a better fit for his theater and the communities it serves.

Even if Akin were willing to commit to an extended schedule, the earliest the movie would come to Elkader is mid-January. “Would people be willing to wait a whole month to see it in our town? My experience says no, they would not.”

The four-week run-time commitment is not the only unusual condition attached to showing the film. In addition, according to a Wall Street Journal article, Disney is taking a 65 percent cut of ticket revenue—the largest cut a studio has ever asked from theaters. 

The Prairie du Chien cinema has six screens and serves a larger population base, which give Akin a flexibility he doesn’t have here. Often, he can show a movie there on its opening day, which he’ll do with “The Last Jedi.”  

While Elkader moviegoers won’t see the latest “Star Wars’ films, Akin does plan to offer family entertainment over the holidays. He’s currently negotiating to show “Ferdinand,” a 3-D animated film based on the beloved children’s story, “Ferdinand, the Bull.”

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