Episode 58 – Kent Lott, Royal Theaters
Entertaining the Generations
Kent Lott has been in the theatre business for nearly 3 decades and owner of Royal Theaters for nearly 2. “I just love it, I have a passion for it,” Kent says. He started working when he was 16 and showed a talent for projection, a job that was typically saved for a much more seasoned veteran. “In the old days, the film was flammable and it was very dangerous, in fact, they typically paid the projectionist more than the manager….to have a kid run it was just unheard of,” Kent explained of his high school days. “I worked 7 days a week during high school.”
After serving an LDS mission he worked for the Mann Theater in Idaho Falls and then Salt Lake City. When he was offered a job in Los Angeles, he declined it, and they told him to find another job. That brought him back to Idaho Falls to work at the Paramount Theater. In 1993 the opportunity to purchase the Centre Theatre was presented to him and he says, “I felt like it was the right thing to do.” Kent tells the story of coming up with the down payment and his crazy plan to make it happen. He was able to pull it off without taking outside investors. “Huge risk, but I'm a risk-taker,” he said.
When the “big” theater came to town around 2000 it decreased Royal Theatre's business by 70%. During that time he had to start a side hustle of business promotional products. It was about 2 years after the new theatre that people started coming back to The Centre. Although he never envisioned having multiple theaters, as the years progressed he had the opportunity to purchase the Paramount Theaters and he jumped on it.
A couple of years ago a representative of the city of Blackfoot reached out to Kent and they had known he was looking to expand and wondered if he'd be interested in coming to Blackfoot. After meeting with the Chamber and City representatives they went and looked at the old Blackfoot Motors building. Kent had no expectations walking in but once he saw the building he knew it would be perfect and he went to work on putting together an offer. One day during this process the realtor called him and warned him that there was another offer coming in from Bingham Memorial and if he wanted the building he'd better act on it. Due to the fact that Bingham Memorial could close faster on the purchase, the owners accepted their offer and Kent lost his perfect building. He didn't give up on his dream and approached the hospital with his idea. They saw the benefit it would bring to the Blackfoot community and decided it would be best to sell the building to Kent. Now it's the Blackfoot Movie Mill.
Currently, Kent is in the process of updating The Centre and The Paramount. The Center has an updated entrance and concession and the Paramount is getting new seating, sound, and other state-of-the-art technology.
Kent's new concern is how the coronavirus is effecting his business and what the future looks like. “I don't think we should call this the coronavirus, I really think we should call this the kidney stone virus, it's going to be painful for us all, but it will pass,” he joked. “What's going to happen when we re-open there won't be enough product to fill all of our screens. I think people are going to be hesitant to come out for a while. I don't see people flocking out to the theaters like what we need.”
The future of Royal Theatres includes Kent's son, Brandon Lott. “He's pretty passionate about it. We are a great combination between the two of us,” Kent said. “I'm the doorman and Brandon is the technical guy,” he said. Kent feels that it has been a successful family business relationship and hopes it continues in light of all of the upcoming challenges.
Thank you to James at Disruptive Productions for editing the show! Check out his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/disruptiveproductions/ .