Allen Theatres has reduced prices and instituted technological improvements since taking over Durango Stadium 9 and Gaslight Twin Cinema, said Nathan Allen, the company's vice president of finance.
The theaters have changed management several times in recent years. Allen Theatres follows Marwit Capital, a California venture capital firm, and Trans-Lux,
Allen Theatres has had an eye on the Durango properties for many years and placed an unsuccessful bid on them several years ago, Allen said.
"We've had an interest in Durango for quite some time," he said. "Durango's a great location; just the real estate in Durango is great to have."
Allen Theatres owns Animas 10 in Farmington's Animas Valley Mall, and Allen 8 on 20th Street. Allen also has theaters in Gallup, Las Cruces, Roswell, Clovis, Carlsbad, Hobbs and Cortez, Colo.
The company has approximately 400 employees, Allen said.
Durango Stadium 9 has nine movie screens at Durango Mall, and the Gaslight has two screens in downtown Durango next to the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad station.
The theaters dropped the full price of a movie shown after 6 p.m. to $9.75, down from $10.25. Tickets for earlier movies for adults fell to $7.25. And the surcharge for a 3-D movie dropped to $2, down from $2.50.
Allen said other improvements are coming.
"We do have plans to update," he said. "We're going to start with our projection and sound and then move out to other areas," such as the lobbies, Allen said.
Jack Llewellyn, executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce, praised the move.
"Any time a local ownership takes over a business, I think that's wonderful," he said.
Local owners often can "pay a little more attention to the needs of the community, Llewellyn said.
"It's great to have a company come across the state line, so to speak, and become part of the Durango community," he said.
Theaters are battling not only each other, but the increasing availability and ease of high-quality digital movie-watching at home.
U.S. and Canadian moviegoers spent nearly $10.6 billion at the box office in 2010, down slightly from the year before, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners. The number of admissions also slipped.
Allen said he provides an experience that movie buffs can get only in a theater.
"We've tried to stay on top of new equipment, and just to provide the best presentation so people want to go to theater," he said.
Durango also has a one-screen theater, The Back Space Theatre, that shows independent films.
Allen Theatres was among the first companies to use digital projectors, he said.
The company traces its lineage to 1912, when Nathan's great-grandfather Frank Allen showed silent movies at Allen Opera House in downtown Farmington.
"The Allen family is very prominent and respected in the community," said Dorothy Nobis, president and CEO of the Farmington Chamber of Commerce. "They're not exactly rookies to this. They know what they're doing, and I think Durango is extremely fortunate to get owners of this caliber."
Having an experienced owner with a little clout could benefit moviegoers, Nobis said.
"They're going to get better movies," she said.