Opening a Theater

In an era where digital streaming services are at everyone’s fingertips, the allure of the big screen and the communal experience of movie theaters persist, holding a special place in the hearts of many. There’s something undeniably magical about the cinema experience—the anticipation as the lights dim, the collective laughter and gasps, and the immersive sound and visuals that transport you to another world. With the global movie theater industry generating over $33.9 billion in 2023 and projected to grow, the dream of opening a movie theater is not only alive but thriving.

Whether you envision a cozy, community-centric venue or a state-of-the-art multiplex, starting your own movie theater can be a rewarding venture. This guide aims to navigate you through the essential steps, from conducting market research and understanding the competition to dealing with the financial and legal aspects of the business.


Conduct Thorough Market Research: Understand your audience, the latest trends, and what sets you apart. The resurgence of moviegoers highlights the demand for enhanced amenities like luxury seating and diverse concession options.

Analyze the Competition: Know what other cinemas are offering and their strengths. This information will help you succeed in the market.

Understand the Financial Commitment: Opening a movie theater requires significant investment. From leasing or building your venue to equipping it with the latest technology and comfortable seating, be prepared for the upfront costs and ongoing operational expenses.

Choose the Right Business Structure: Decide whether an LLC, corporation, partnership, or sole proprietorship best suits your venture, considering factors like liability, taxes, and fundraising.

Register Your Business and Handle Taxes: Obtain an EIN, register for taxes, and ensure compliance with all tax obligations to avoid future penalties.

Set Up Your Accounting Systems: Implementing a reliable accounting system is crucial for managing finances, from daily transactions to taxes.

Additional Steps: These include creating a compelling business plan, securing financing, obtaining necessary permits and licenses, designing a memorable moviegoing experience, and marketing your theater to attract customers.

Finally, Join NATO: Joining NATO and your state association provides new movie theaters with invaluable access to a wealth of industry knowledge, insights, and advocacy efforts. This membership ensures theaters are well-informed about best practices, emerging trends, regulatory changes, and technology advancements. Furthermore, these organizations advocate on behalf of their members, addressing issues of mutual concern such as legislative matters, marketing strategies, and First Amendment rights, thereby helping to shape a more favorable business environment for movie theaters at both national and local levels.


Opening a movie theater is no small feat, but with passion, dedication, and careful planning, it’s within reach. By understanding your market, standing out from the competition, managing your finances wisely, and creating an inviting atmosphere, you can turn the dream of owning a movie theater into a reality. Remember, you’re not just selling tickets to a movie; you’re offering an unforgettable experience that can’t be replicated. As you embark on this exciting journey, let your love for cinema and community drive you toward creating a space where stories come to life, memories are made, and the magic of movies continues to enchant audiences for years to come.

Become a Member

Our Membership includes the largest cinema chains in the world and hundreds of independent theater owners too. Find out how you can be a part of our exciting organization today!