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Discount theaters, also known as dollar theatres, dollar movies, second-run theatres, and sub-run theatres, are movie theaters that show motion pictures for reduced prices after the films leave first-run theatres. Originally, they would receive 35 mm films after they had been shown already at first-run theaters; therefore the film quality would be lower because the film was worn by dozens of showings, and the audience for the film would be reduced since it had been released weeks or months before.
At the time, VHS was just rising as an affordable home video technology. Consequently, budget-conscious film-goers might wait for a film to hit a second-run theatre instead of paying more money to see the film first-run. For example, six months after its theatrical release, Titanic was playing in budget theaters in still viable but well run prints.
As the 21st century dawned, a pair of factors conspired to drive many discount theatres out of business: 1) an oversupply of American movie screens caused by ambitious overbuilding allowed films to stay longer in the first-run theatres, and 2) the delay between theatrical release and VHS or DVD release continued to shrink. This latter factor convinced many moviegoers that it was simply not worth the money, hassle, and possible encounters with noisy fellow patrons and sticky floors, meaning dollar theatres could be in the twilight of their existence.
In cities like Portland, Oregon and Arlington, Virginia, older, discount theaters show second-run movies in an adult setting, often featuring food and alcohol sales in refurbished moviehouses.
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