June 19, 2009
| by Tom LeBlanc
TheaterXtreme can now join Circuit City and Crazy Eddie on a list of electronics retailers that have come back from the dead.
It would stand out on that list, however, for a couple of reasons: Not everybody has heard of TheaterXtreme; and it is known for a much different approach than the list’s high-volume inhabitants.
TheaterXtreme was a promising franchiser of home theater installation stores with as many as 16 non-corporate franchises scattered around the country and a handful of corporate owned stores. It filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and shut down its corporate operations about seven months ago.
At one time TheaterXtreme had a plan to roll out its unique home theater store concept into mall locations. In essence, this would have provided consumers with a well-known audio/video step-up option from Best Buy and Circuit City (which was still in business at the time).
That might still happen, since JC International bought TheaterXtreme’s intellectual property, trademarks, logos, operational procedures and rights to its enterprise resource planning platform. The purchased was approved by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge on May 28.
With Tweeter on its way out, the future once seemed bright for TheaterXtreme to position itself as a specialty home theater provider. Then things fell apart.
It struggled to secure funding necessary to operate its growing legion of franchises and was burned on three different occasions by failed mergers with Circuit City.
Although lack of funding and some bad timing tripped up the company, incoming CEO Robert Cribbs says the business model was always sound. Cribbs is also the CEO of JC International.
The business model was indeed sound, according to former TheaterXtreme CEO Scott Oglum. As evidence, he points out that several of the non-corporate franchises continue to thrive even after corporate TheaterXtreme went under.
Is Luck Changing?
For JC International, a specialty furniture company with retail ambitions, “the time is right to re-launch a truly visionary retail concept,” Cribbs says. “Re-Launch,” by the way, is how TheaterXtreme describes its mode on its Web site.
If indeed the TheaterXtreme concept of bringing home theaters to the masses is being re-launched, the timing is interesting.
With Circuit City and Tweeter stores gone from the market, Best Buy and Walmart have been locked in a public relations battle. Both aim to fill a perceived void in the market by offering more educational and interactive in-store experiences.
TheaterXtreme always had a profound, interactive in-store experience complete with home theater vignettes. It was part of the business model that Cribbs and Oglum say was so sound.
If part of TheaterXtreme’s demise was due to bad timing, perhaps its comeback will benefit from good timing.