Church in a Movie Theater

Lots of people call and e-mail about how church in a movie theater works, so I thought I would write my thoughts here.

1.  We love meeting in a movie theater.  It makes us immediately different from every other church.  We play to that in our marketing and try to take advantage of "church at the movies."  We print it on t-shirts and signs and most of our outside advertising.

2.  The most important thing hands down is your relationship with the local manager.  He or she can make life great or make life miserable.  From the beginning, we’ve gone out of our way to do more than what is expected.  We give gifts.  We check in for no reason.  We ask if we’re doing everything we can do.  In return, our managers take care of us.  We haven’t had ANY problems with Carmike – we love working with them.  We do not have a contract, so things could change for us quickly, but so far – so good.

3.  The most stressful thing is being out on time.  Movies start at different times based on what’s out, so we have to be out anywhere from 11:30 to 1:00.  Most of the time, movies don’t start until 1:00 so we’re okay, but in the summer, that all changes.  We have to alter what we do.  Going to two services was tough, and we have to stay on time with our services.  We would love to do three services, but time doesn’t allow it.

4.  Our guys get to the theater around 5:30  to start setting up (first service is at 9:00).  We set up a stage, lights, sound, a video projector (we use their screen), and a whole bunch of kids stuff.  It takes a lot of time, but it looks good.  We set up a bunch of stuff in the lobby to make it feel like a church.  As my friend Gary says, don’t let being portable turn into an excuse for being lazy.  Ridgestone does some of the best sets I’ve seen.  It can be done, but you have to work at it.  I guess we don’t HAVE to use a backdrop on Sunday, but we set up some truss and a backdrop every week because it’s little touches that really make a difference.  Our sound team actually unbolts a couple of chairs to fit in our insanely huge sound board.

5.  We use the front of theaters, hallways, the birthday room, and the lobby.  What you use depends on the particular theater you rent.  For kids, we use the front of theaters and it’s tough overcoming the darkness and the space.   We are looking into some ways to step it up in this particular area.

6.  The theater we use for adult worship has 282 seats, 260 of which are usable for us because of our setup.  We outgrew one service and started a second one back in January.  Our 10:15 service is still full, so we’re making the decision about what to do next.  I wish the theater was bigger.

7.  We use a lot of lights in our adult service.  However many lights you think you need, double it.  We use a lot, and we still need more.  Movie theaters are very dark.

8.  We set up an info table and a resource table in the lobby.  We use an iPod and a big speaker dock thing to play music in the lobby. 

9.  You need some great people to pull off a good setup.  We have awesome volunteers.  I don’t know of a church that does portable very well that doesn’t have great volunteers.  I don’t know of a good church period that doesn’t have great volunteers.

Anybody else that does church in a movie theater have anything to add?


3 comments so far

  1. Jim Botts on

    Excellent ideas. We meet in a movie theater too, so I’ll have to pick your brains for some other ideas…if you’ve got some time.

    Jim Botts

  2. Jason Martin on

    What kind of lighting are you using…when you say alot of lighting??

    • Michael on

      about 8 leiko lights hanging from a truss, and 8 intelligent lights. in the beginning, we used par cans, bringing in a generator for extra power.

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