My experience has been that they will charge you - this is called "four walling". They will charge you a fixed amount per screening ( a screening is one 75-120 minute period, usually) and then they give you the money from ticket sales for your screening.
For example, if they charge you $175 for a screening, and they sell 25 tickets @ $5 each thru the box office, they will return the $125 ticket sales to you and your net cost for the screening is $50. They always keep 100% of concessions, which helps keep the cost they charge you from being higher than it already is... make sure your screening fees include box office charges or they may hit you with an additional fee for selling tickets thru the box office. In some cases they will only give you a percentage of the ticket sales, like 50% or 75% and then the rest is a "box office/projectionist" charge. Remember to ask about "projection" or "projectionist" fees...
You will be very lucky indeed if you get a local theatre, even a mom and pop or arthouse, to screen your film without upfront fees. Of course if you can get enough people into the theatre, you can break even or maybe even make money by 4-walling.
Originally Posted by aplusjimages
Has anyone gone to their local theaters (not the big AMC's, but the small mom and pop theaters) and asked if they could screen your work? What about local colleges or museums? I'm planning on asking, but would like some pointers on how I should present it to the venue owners?
Josh of aplusj