Going to the movies, seeing a film at an actual theater, involves a commitment to having a true experience -- gathering the young ones, driving to the cinema, greeting other movie-goers in line for tickets, and finding the best seats in front of the big screen.
It's a shared experience where an entire audience can laugh, experience horror, or become astonished at what it sees and hears. While it might sound a bit pretentious, that's the sort of thing that the Brown family wanted to continue to provide in Madison when they purchased the town's two-screen movie theater, performed some remodeling, and reopened it during November as the Dakota Cinema.
"I'd like to think that we provide an experience that everyone in the community can enjoy," Kelli Brown said.
Kelli and her husband Tim took over the theater's ownership on Nov. 15, 2019, and spent the next six days getting the place ready for their new start. Dakota Cinema opened on Nov. 21, and the Browns had procured two big-time movies to show on its screens -- "Midway" and "Frozen II."
"Midway," the 2019 retelling of the World War II battle, has one of the largest budgets ever for an independent film at $100 million. Since hitting the movie screens in early November, "Midway" has taken in about $122 million in ticket sales. Disney's "Frozen II" was released in the United States on Nov. 22 and had the largest worldwide opening ever for an animated film, $358.5 million. By the start of 2020, "Frozen II" had collected more than $1.2 billion in ticket sales.
It certainly didn't hurt that the new owners had two successful films for their start. Kelli Brown said that the associates from the film studios such as Warner Brothers, Paramount and Disney have provided "...good support and been very helpful."
At the start of the holiday season, the Dakota Cinema ran another popular movie "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," a story about Fred Rogers and his PBS children's show. The month of December was filled with showings of "Jumanji: The Next Level" and "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker." Brown said Dakota Cinema signed on with the distributors to run "Jumanji" for three weeks and "Star Wars" for four weeks.
Brown said she'd prefer to run a family movie on one theater screen and a more-dramatic release on the second screen to provide movie fare for a wide audience.
"I also ask people about what they'd like to see," Brown said. "That's what led us to bring in `Ford vs. Ferrari'."
Parts of "Ford vs. Ferrari" deal with the working relationship between American racing car designer Carroll Shelby and British race-car driver Ken Miles and their efforts to build an automobile that would give Ford Motor Company the opportunity to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966. Released during mid-November, movie-goers who aren't the typical speedway fans have said they enjoyed the racing scenes in the 20th Century Fox movie.
"Ford vs. Ferrari" will run for one week, from Jan. 3-9, at Dakota Cinema.
Each member of the Brown family has worked at Dakota Cinema. Tim and their sons -- Ethan, Blake and Landry -- all worked at preparing the movie theater for the reopening. Ethan and his friends have also worked as the theater's cleaning crew. Blake operates the film projectors and handles movie programming. Landry has worked at the ticket stand, selling tickets to movie-goers.
As part of the initial improvements, the Browns installed new heating for the theaters and added insulation to the building's entryway. In the future, Tim Brown said they are planning to repaint the theater's exterior, and he and Kelli are interested in installing a digital marquee at the street entrance.
Dakota Cinema is located on the west side of Madison at 1427 N.W. 2nd St., on the south side of SD-34. The movie theater maintains a Facebook page and website, www.dakotacinema.com. The Browns also regularly update the movie theater's phone-answering service at 256-4981, offering the latest information on movies and their start times.