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Thursday, 12 January 2012 08:45

Buying Local Loeks partners with Greystone for theater seats

Written by  Kym Reinstadler
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Buying Local Loeks partners with Greystone for theater seats Courtesy photo

WEST MICHIGAN — Businesses in West Michigan do business with other local companies all the time. It’s a common practice — not the stuff of movies, except maybe in the case of Loeks Theatres Inc. and Greystone Public Seating LLC.

Loeks Theatres’ new IMAX in Portage will have extra wide leather seats for a luxury look and feel when the theater debuts next spring. Those seats — like 800 seats in four theaters at Loeks’ Muskegon Celebration! Cinema and 450 seats in two theaters at Loeks’ Mt. Pleasant property — were manufactured in 2011 by Greystone Seating of Zeeland.

“We prefer to do our business in West Michigan,” said Roger Lubs, vice president of facilities and construction for Loeks Theatres Inc., which has its headquarters in Grand Rapids.

“We know that buying from West Michigan companies is investing in West Michigan — and in the lives of our guests,” Lubs said.

When it comes to renovating theaters in Muskegon and Mt. Pleasant, or adding the IMAX theater at Celebration! Cinema in Portage, Lubs said Loeks had little difficulty choosing Greystone’s bid over over proposals from companies as far away as Mexico and Russia.

“Greystone builds a fantastic, durable chair,” Lubs said. “The quality is there.”

Greystone Public Seating formed in 2010 to rescue the brand’s assets, which trace its roots back to Visteon, a spin-off of Ford Motor Co. About 11 years ago, current Greystone President Gaylord Stanton was with Visteon and helped sell chairs to Celebration for installations in eight theaters in Muskegon. Now, he’s head of the company as the new ownership continues to maintain relationships with past clients.

“The new chairs use the same exact fabric as the old ones did and, for the most part, they look identical with the exception of some fabric fraying,” Stanton told MiBiz. “We are very proud of the way the 11-year-old chairs look and also the fact that a Grand Rapids-based company chose our company for two Michigan remodels this year.”

Longtime local supporters

Lubs said doing business with local companies can be harder to reconcile with the bottom line when it comes to contracting maintenance, heating and air conditioning and plumbing services. As construction starts slowed to a crawl during the recession, contractors based in bigger cities have courted distant markets, offering attractive pricing packages to companies such as Loeks, Lubs said.

Resisting cutthroat discounts from distant vendors is integral to the business philosophy at Loeks, a locally owned and third-generation family-run business, Lubs said.

Loeks was an early member of Local First, Grand Rapids’ affiliate with the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, which supports “buy local” campaigns nationwide. More than 550 businesses are members of Local First, which in 2010 became BALLE’s Midwest hub.

Local First’s message is simple: If customers buy from local businesses, and local businesses buy materials and service from other local businesses, West Michigan’s economy and tax base will grow and local communities will thrive.

Lubs said Loeks recently hired Ann Arbor-based Zingerman’s, an innovative community of mostly food-related businesses, to guide it through a strategic planning process.

“You could hire a consultant from anywhere, but we wanted to go with another Michigan company that’s known for its unique visioning,” Lubs said.

Loeks Theatres aspires to continue opening new theaters in West Michigan, but hasn’t pinpointed where or when, Lubs said.

The movie business in West Michigan tends to mirror national trends, Lubs said.

According to the National Association of Theatre Owners, total cinema sites declined by about one-quarter to 5,942 in the U.S. in 2009.

Despite fewer sites, box office receipts show a 40-year upward trend that has not been significantly diminished by DVDs or other technologies that allow families to watch at home, NATO said. The association opposes efforts of premium on-demand services to show films that are still in theaters.

“As long as Hollywood releases great movies, our business is good,” Lubs said. “It’s really a product-driven business.”

Digital revolution

In 1990, Loeks Theatres operated 54 screens in 11 West Michigan locations. The average screens per location was five. In 2011, Loeks operated 150 screens in 11 locations, and the average screen count per location jumped to 14.

Lubs credited the Loeks family for being early adopters of digital projection, which provides more consistent quality than 35-millimeter film. It also opens the door for 3-D technology. Going digital in 2007 also allowed Celebration! Cinemas to show — via satellite feed — live opera, concert and sporting events.

Marketing alternative content is different than marketing mainstream movies, but Loeks Theaters believes West Michigan audiences for these events will grow, Lubs said.

Read 3035 times Last modified on Monday, 13 August 2012 13:43

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