The Pro’s and Con’s of Planting a Church In a Movie Theater

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MalcoThis past Sunday made the fourth week in a row we’ve worshipped in a local movie theater with January 15 being our official launch. We didn’t intend to launch in a theater. I fact, we spent a great deal of time looking at retail spaces, but eventually landed at the Malco because of space, price, and availability. There’s a part of me that fell in love with the idea before we moved in, and has remained attached to it since.

Advantages of Meeting In a Theater

We know that we won’t be in the theater forever. We’re already looking around for our next home, but we’re enjoying some great advantages in the meantime, such as…

  • The rent is great, especially since we’re only paying for a few hours per week instead of the whole week. For us, it’s $650 per week, which gives us access to three theaters.
  • The decorating is done. It’s not what we would do in our own space, obviously, but it’s something we don’t have to think about.
  • We don’t have to stack chairs.
  • There is a cultural barrier between the church and the community around the church that is automatically gone. It already feels good and familiar to most people to walk into a movie theater.
  • There is a cultural barrier UP between the church plant and those who are uncomfortable with non-traditional settings. Since “churched” people are not our target, it can actually help that some people are uncomfortable with the idea of their kids going to worship in a room with a marquee that reads The Devil Inside.
  • The acoustics are great. We’re figuring out how to squeeze drums in, but the sound quality of the room is just right.
  • There’s a screen. It’s really, really big, and we don’t have to retract it after the service.
  • Kids think that going to kids’ worship in a theater is awesome.
  • We have community visibility – a prime location well-known to the community. Our theater is on what the locals call “restaurant row” in a very visible shopping district.
  • The theater personnel are wonderful at both the local and corporate levels – we love Malco‘s people!

Disadvantages of Meeting In a Theater

As I stated before, the theater isn’t our permanent home. I think it could work for some churches on a permanent basis, but for us, there are a few things that we’re thinking about long term that stand in the way.

  • We only have access on Sunday mornings until noon. We have to find other sites and spaces for membership classes, etc. We meet in homes a lot anyway, but larger, non-Sunday meetings can be a trick.
  • Altar calls are tough to figure out – not impossible – just tough.
  • As with any space rented weekly, we’re still loading and unloading, setting up and tearing down. We love it, but look forward to a sense of permanence (and trust me, we’re very patient on this one).
  • Lighting is an issue. The theater lights dim and brighten, but we still turn on the house lights for the teaching time. We bring in a lot of lamps.
  • Sometimes the movie posters in the lobby scare the children. Thankfully, Malco’s folks make a good effort at keeping those in the wing we don’t access.
  • Sometimes there is the remnant odor of popcorn… which could have fit in either category, actually.

If we had it to do over again, we’d definitely head to the Malco. It’s been pretty ideal. We’re beginning to look now for a larger, retail or warehouse space with some freedom to spread out, create our own space, and still have the flexibility of a lease instead of incurring debt this early. For now, it’s off to the movies for us, and we’re excited about next Sunday!


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About Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders. He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.


  • http://twitter.com/PaulWorcester Paul Worcester

    I love movie theaters! They are an environment people enjoy. My biggest concern is the kids space. What is the reponse from parents? Especially nursery space.

    • http://brandonacox.com Brandon A. Cox

      Paul, great question. For us, it’s worked well with kids. We use one theater as our nursery and we basically create a nursery room within the room using 3 big roll out preschool carpets and some plastic preschool interlocking fencing. We keep it super clean and colorful within that area. We do something similar with preschool and elementary worship as well, giving them their own kid-like spaces. We actually have a robust nursery attendance considering the atmosphere.

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