Several stories have appeared in local media recently about financial troubles at the Drexel Theatre. Owners Jeff and Kathy Frank haven't given details publicly, but according to an article in the May 15 Dispatch, they've met with Bexley mayor John Brennan to discuss ways to make the independent theater more fiscally stable.

Several stories have appeared in local media recently about financial troubles at the Drexel Theatre. Owners Jeff and Kathy Frank haven't given details publicly, but according to an article in the May 15 Dispatch, they've met with Bexley mayor John Brennan to discuss ways to make the independent theater more fiscally stable.

Some prominent supporters joined their discussions at a private meeting on Sunday. "There's a real consensus of people in Bexley that want the Drexel to stay open, and they want to help," Jeff Frank said in a phone interview this week.

In the Dispatch piece, a couple of initial suggestions were mentioned: offering more discounted or free admissions and making the Drexel a nonprofit organization, which is being considered.

While the supporters' intentions are sound, lowering prices seems counter-productive for a cash-strapped business. And going nonprofit in this time of squeezed government and corporate giving could just invite a different set of problems.

Five more suggestions came to my mind. They won't answer all the concerns of the struggling art-house cinema, but as with personal belt-tightening, every little bit helps.

1. Concentrate more on concession sales

The Drexel, like Studio 35, offers dinner and a beer with your movie. But there's no signage in the Drexel lobby to remind patrons that carryout is available from the adjacent Radio Cafe. Actually, signage of any kind is sparse, as are the candy displays.

Concession sales are a crucial part of any successful theater. While art houses aren't the snack cash cows multiplexes are, the cinema-drafthouse concept has helped some of them succeed.

2. Loosen the showtimes

On Saturday, a Drexel screening of Is Anybody There? started at 4 p.m. and ended at 5:45 p.m. On the same screen, a showing of Earth was scheduled for 5:45 p.m. As Drexel regulars know, tight showtimes like these are not uncommon.

Some people like to grab a seat before hitting the concession stand, an option made impossible by this habit. It also leaves little time for trailers and creates potential for ill will among customers standing in the lobby when they expect to be seated in an auditorium.

3. Bring back on-screen advertising

The last on-screen advertising program at the Drexel had its technical problems, but that shouldn't nix the idea entirely. It's another income source and it can be done simpler.

Try handling the advertising in-house. Among the theater's supporters there has to be an experienced salesperson willing to petition local businesses and a graphic designer who'd work for movie tickets.

The theater just needs to supply three basic DVD projectors, managers committed to updating the program as needed and enough time between shows to let the ads be seen.

4. Put one screen on a calendar

According to Jeff Frank, independent distributors often make booking decisions at the last minute because they have limited prints to cover the country's screens. As a result, the theater often doesn't know what new indie films are opening on Friday until Monday, leaving only a few days for promotion.

If the Drexel chose not to jump on the first opportunity to show select films, and instead locked in one-week engagements at a later date, these could be promoted in advance through a printed and online calendar.

It might mean that local movie lovers would have to wait a little longer for certain films, but they could plan in advance to see them, as with the Wexner Center film schedule. And the Drexel's other two screens would still be free to show anything.

5. Update your Facebook status

Facebook is not the corporate teen party of MySpace. Your mom's probably on it. Its multi-generational appeal and easy updating make it a solid promotional tool to spread the word about last-minute film bookings (same goes for Twitter). The Drexel has a Facebook page, but it hasn't been updated since May 1.

Got more suggestions? E-mail mstarker@columbusalive.com.