It’s the final curtain call for Fort Huachuca’s Cochise Theater. The staff will project its last movie on the big screen Nov. 30. The building, located in front of the Post Exchange and next to the bowling alley, is closing doors to movie patrons due to financial anguish.
“I believe most people will understand the need to close a facility if it will lose $38,160 annually,” said Col Dan McFarland, U.S. Army garrison commander.
There were a couple of issues driving the decision to close the operation, fulfillment of the mission to the military Families and operating costs of maintenance and improvements, stated Jeff Willis, general manager, Fort Huachuca Exchange.
“The Exchange has a dual mission to provide quality merchandise and services to its customers at competitively low prices and to generate earnings which provide a dividend to support Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs,” Willis added.
Movie distributors are moving quickly from film to digital. This is cost effective for them, Willis said, but not for the movie theater owners. The transformation would cost the Army and Air Force Exchange Service thousands of dollars to upgrade projectors and equipment inside the theater.
Average attendance at the theater is roughly 15 – 25 adults; which is less than 10 percent of the post population. Operations costs are not covered, so it isn’t cost effective to upgrade with low attendance levels, according to Willis.
“Basically, this means we are unable to fulfill our mission to return earnings to the Army and Air Force to improve troops quality of life and support FMWR services. The improvement would cost $150,000, adding additional deprecation cost expense approximately $2,000 monthly,” stated Willis.
This issue isn’t exclusive to Fort Huachuca, but affects other locations worldwide. Despite the closure, the theater will still be available for official functions and other purposes.