Mitchell Theatres acquires Belton Cinema 8 in Belton, Mo., for its seventh theater group

WICHITA — Mitchell Theatres has acquired its seventh chain of theaters in the region, which means it now has 52 screens.

The Mitchell family’s acquisition of Belton Cinema 8 in Belton, Mo., marks its first foray into the Kansas City area, but it’s not likely to be its last.

“There could be more opportunities up there,” says Brian Mitchell.

He operates the business with his siblings, Brent Mitchell, a lawyer at Martin Pringle, and Kendra Ramsey, who lives in Texas.

The Mitchell family is a farming family that bought its first theater in Newton five years ago, and Brian Mitchell says lessons from farming are proving beneficial in the theater business.

“It’s kind of the farm concept,” he says of managing expenses by buying carefully and doing remodeling and other work themselves.

As with other theaters they’ve purchased in El Dorado, Winfield, Liberal, Garden City and Guymon, Okla., the Mitchells plan extensive upgrades in Belton.

Along with replacing things such as carpet and tile at the former Dickinson Theatres-owned Belton Cinema 8, the Mitchells will add stadium seating, digital projection, 3-D projectors and upgraded audio.

Simultaneously, the family also will reduce ticket and concession prices.

“Our business model works,” Brian Mitchell says.

He says each of the family’s theaters has exceeded projections.

“People love to go to the movies,” he says. “If you can make it affordable for them . . . what happens is you get more and more repeat customers because they can afford to go.

“For two hours, you can escape.”

That’s especially important in tough economic times, Mitchell says.

“It’s just a stress relief, so this is actually a really good time to be doing theaters.”

It’s a good time in the industry as well, he says.

“It’s kind of a crazy time right now,” Mitchell says of turmoil in the industry as theaters are forced to make technological upgrades.

“We’re trying to take advantage of what opportunities are out there.”

Mitchell says his family’s next purchase is likely to be within a month.

“We’re only going to be at 52 for a short period of time.”