FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- Summer fun is around the corner and part of that excitement revolves around what movies will be hitting the big screen this year.

Starting June 1, Wood Theater expands its schedule to seven days, as opposed to its current five-nights-a-week. According to theater manager Jim McKane, Jr., who has headed the theater since 2007, the move will be on a trial basis and include a 3:30 p.m. matinee on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, in addition to evening showings of 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

A bold, yet, smart decision considering the theater's recent success, McKane says. Last year, Fort Belvoir was in the top five in total sales among all AAFES theaters and has continued that success into 2009.

With dedicated patrons coming from all over the National Capital Region, McKane is expecting even greater success at the box office this summer.

"We cater to all branches of the military and we get great participation from those who use our theater. Our sales have been phenomenal," McKane said. "The first two months of this year were 50 percent more than it was the previous year. The summer depends on what Hollywood puts out, but I think we can pull it off. We have a good track record."

Besides a steady clientele, McKane credits the theater's ability to receive movies an average of two weeks after their initial release. That's a big advantage in attracting families, particularly in the Washington, D.C. area, which McKane said has the highest average ticket price in the nation.
At movie theaters like Regal or AMC, tickets cost approximately $11 for adults and $7 for children. At Belvoir, prices are set at $4 for adults and $2 for children. Snack stand prices are also 26 percent below off-post theater prices, McKane said.

Combine all that with state-of-the-art Dolby Surround Sound, and Wood Theater's value comes as no surprise - especially to McKane. Once a projectionist during his days as an active-duty Soldier at Fort Campbell, Ky., he knows all to well the potential Belvoir has in providing quality entertainment at a reasonable price.

"When I left active-duty in 1991, I joined the Army Reserve and got involved with AAFES management. I once managed theaters in Frankfurt, Germany, and, along the way, I learned the core value of risk taking," McKane said. "As a manager, you have to take calculated risks in order to achieve success. That's what it comes down to in this business."

To get an idea of the public's show time preference, McKane said AAFES recently conducted a survey and discovered that 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. were the two ideal times to watch movies. He also learned people would be open to using the theater seven-days-a-week.

Based on another core value of "providing as many options as possible" to military families and retirees, McKane believes the additional showings make all the sense in the world.

"AAFES is big on training and I recently taught a class on theater management to a group at Fort Meade. The first thing I told them is how important it is to get to know your audience," McKane said. "At Belvoir, we have a family-guest based audience. If you can find out what they like or dislike, you'll do a lot better in the long run. Other than that, pace yourself and have fun. It's a great job for that and that's why I love it."

An individual must be an ID card holder to use Wood Theater. It is in Bldg. 2120 on Abbot Road. For more information, call 703-806-5237.

Page last updated Thu May 21st, 2009 at 11:00