At B&B Theatres, Innovation Is All in the Family

Dennis McIntire on how family-owned-and-operated B&B Theatres is using technology to keep their audiences happy—and growing

Dennis McIntire, B&B Theatres

Dennis McIntire has worked for B&B Theatres for nearly thirty years, but according to him, accepting the job wasn’t even his choice. A few years out of college, McIntire was working as a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman while looking for a teaching job. “I came home one day and my wife told me that I had accepted a position as the assistant manager at a B&B Theater in Winfield, Kansas,” McIntire says with a laugh.

“I initially argued against the idea but quickly realized she was seeing a bigger picture than I was,” McIntire says. “I then did what any good husband does; I agreed and then tried to make it look like it was my idea.” He had a personal incentive to accept the job, as well, as his wife was already working for the company. “We’ve now worked together for 28 years,” he says.

Those 28 years have made McIntire and his wife, Merrie-Pat, part of the B&B family—and it truly is a family. B&B Theatres was formed by the union of two family movie businesses run by the Bills and Bagby families, and it remains family-owned and -operated today. Its family-first ethos has resulted in a great deal of success: in McIntire’s tenure with B&B, the company has grown from 50 screens to 400 screens, making it the seventh-largest theater chain in the United States.

As executive director of development and construction, McIntire oversees each new project from the first phone call with a developer to the completion of construction. He has to take part in what he calls the “juggling act” of keeping all of the stakeholders involved in each project satisfied and informed.

McIntire typically has as many as twelve projects underway concurrently, and he credits the development team, including Jesse Baker, director of design; Jim King, director of construction; and Brock Bagby, vice president of programming and development, with helping him ensure operations run smoothly, even as the company has expanded. 

Merrie-Pat McIntire is also an important part of the development team, handling everything from administrative duties to talking through ideas with the team. “If you ask her about her job, she’ll tell you it’s like herding cats,” McIntire jokes.

McIntire and his team believe that B&B has expanded  in part due to the company’s friendly, people-first ethos, according to McIntire. “Because of our regional concept, we took pride in returning every phone call,” he says. “So if a developer called, we took a few minutes to visit with them, because even if that wasn’t the job for us, there might be something coming down the road.”

The development of B&B’s real estate capabilities has evolved considerably over the years, a move that McIntire has found exciting. “It’s been neat to see the evolution from remodeling old downtown theaters, to building new buildings on the edge of town, to now, where we’re building these monster 50,000-to 60,000-square-foot entertainment complexes,” he says. The switch to digital film in 2009 opened up the possibilities for B&B’s current, multifunctional theater complexes. “It allowed us to reexamine what out buildings were as an industry,” he explains.

McIntire and B&B have leapt at the opportunity to expand the theaters’ capacities. One example is the screenPLAY auditorium at B&B’s Shawnee 18 theater in Shawnee, Kansas, which houses a full-size playground inside the auditorium. The auditorium is decked out with a climbing playground with a tube slide, plastic animals for climbing, and a screen-side activity area for toddlers. The screenPLAY program allows families to arrive 20 minutes before showtime so children can play while music and other kid-friendly entertainment plays onscreen. Then, preshow instructions ask kids to return to their seat for the beginning of the film. McIntire says the program has been hugely successful—and he should know. “I have two five-year-old granddaughters, and they both love these screens,” he says.

In early 2017, B&B added another innovation to its portfolio with its first MX4D MotionEFX Theatre. MX4D technology creates a completely immersive experience that allows moviegoers to “feel” the movie as they watch it. The theater’s seats pitch forward or backward along with the movie’s action and simulate gusts of wind, falling snow, fog, and even scents. McIntire admits that he was initially skeptical about the technology, but he says that his son immediately saw the potential in it. “My son went to an event with MX4D out in Los Angeles, and he called me and said, ‘Dad, you have to do this. This is incredible,’” McIntire says. After working with MX4D for several years to bring the technology to their Shawnee, Kansas location, McIntire has become a believer. “We feel that with this technology, we’re enhancing the moviegoing experience, not detracting from it,” he says.

To serve customers hungry for higher-quality food and drink options, B&B started installing full kitchens and full bars into every new theatre, and retrofitting old theaters with the same amenities whenever possible. “The response and the uptick on the financial side has been very good,” McIntire says.

The addition of ultra-comfortable seats has made a big difference, as well. “Recliners are creating new moviegoers,” McIntire says. “There’s no doubt about it.” The seats are convincing even those with expensive home theaters and streaming options to make the trip to the movie theater. “I’m proud that our industry has looked around, changed, and updated,” he says. “Nobody needs to worry about us. We’re not going anywhere.”

McIntire’s love for his work and the people he works with is obvious. “There have been times over my career that I have not loved my job, but I’ve always loved who I work for and who I work with,” he says. And even though he may not have decided to work for B&B in the first place, the decision was obviously the right one. “I can’t imagine doing anything differently for anyone else,” he says.

Portrait: Jesse Baker

Prosser Wilbert Construction, Inc. is a premier commercial contractor that provides General Contracting, Construction Management and Design-Build services nationwide.  Our success is based on our ability to produce a quality, cost effective project starting with planning and design and continuing throughout the warranty period.