The Big Ten’s Gain Remains the Joyo Theatre’s Loss

By at July 5, 2012 | 10:00 AM | Print

The first Nebraska game I watched at the Joyo Theatre in Lincoln was Nebraska-Kansas 2007 (a 76-39 Husker loss). Despite the score, I had a good time watching the Big Red on a movie screen.

Over the next couple of years, I made sure to catch a couple games there every year. As it turns out, the theater was the product of a hardworking guy whose Husker football events hit a wall when Nebraska joined the Big Ten.

Dwight Carter bought the Joyo in 1998 and immediately realized there wasn’t much point in showing movies while the Huskers played football.

He had an epiphany – Why not just show the games instead?

Only twenty or thirty people showed up initially, but this took place a handful of days out of the year. After all, the number was larger than any amount of moviegoers who’d show up.

Besides, Carter didn’t purchase the theater to make money. He operates Joyo because he loves it and because it has a place on Havelock Avenue in a neighborhood with a personality all its own.

Business has been tough over the years, but Carter’s seen the Starship 9, Lincoln’s other second run theater, close while the Joyo stayed in business. His hard work would soon be rewarded.

The advent of pay-per-view games was a tipping point for Carter. Like restaurants, the Joyo began bustling on gamedays. Crowds swelled to 100 and kept growing. Sometimes there were as many as 200 people kicking back to take in a game.

Carter put his kids and grandchildren to work behind the counter as he always did. They also set up chairs in the back, so the larger groups could sit together. The concessions money began to offset the cost of cable and Carter was able to start upgrading the restrooms in the old theater.

Even as the team suffered under Bill Callahan, the Joyo was prosperous.

Realizing the value of what he had to offer, Carter began having a small cover charge for pay-per-view game entertainment on the big screen. Seeing the opportunity for a double-whammy deal, this charge included a voucher for a free movie ticket at a later date.

He would eventually have a raffle drawn at the end of the third quarter by an old, white-haired man from down the street named Ron, a tradition the entire crowd loved. The winner received half of the raffle money and an occasional gift certificate to the Engine House Cafe.

Just as Carter began to carve out the Joyo’s niche, Nebraska moved to the Big Ten conference. He immediately knew things were due for a change because of the conference’s network.

There was a higher cost for the commercial cable package that he had to carry for the entire year and there would be no more pay-per-view games. Everyone could just stay home and watch the games on ABC, ESPN or BTN.

Last fall was hard on Carter. There was a large crowd for the Wyoming game which was shown on the Versus network as opposed to BTN, but other gatherings were sparse. After the 2011 season, the plug was pulled on the Joyo’s Husker features.

Carter’s experience is a perfect example of how fans are almost spoiled by the plethora of networks willing to carry nearly every major college football game. This writer even watched a little bit of Central Michigan-Akron on ESPN3 last year.

Outside of the game versus Idaho State, there is legitimate reason to televise every one of Nebraska’s 2012 contests. Would it be so bad if that insignificant contest were only available via pay-per-view?

Even the NFL puts games on the league’s network. This has angered fans who then have to stop by a sports bar for high interest games.

Such outrage was what made BTN a part of every basic cable package within the conference footprint. I actually know an Iowa State fans still upset over the 2008 Iowa-ISU game airing on BTN.

While Husker fans admittedly come out winners in the end, a special tradition at an old theater on Havelock Avenue in Lincoln, Nebraska is one of the lone, vaporized casualties.

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