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Conduct a site suitability study

In the previous lesson, you ran a report of demographic and recreational expenditure data about your proposed movie theater's trade area in Des Moines, Iowa. Based on that information, it seems as though the greater Des Moines area might be a good fit for a new theater. Before you make a decision, however, you'll conduct more research based on demographic trends. In recent years, Des Moines—like many cities in the American Midwest—has rejuvenated its downtown through a successful urban renewal program. The resulting influx of college students and young professionals into downtown has increased apartment construction and renovation. These apartment dwellers have created a demand for more entertainment options within walking distance.

As part of your research, you want to measure whether this pedestrian population could have a favorable impact on your proposed business. This time, you'll compare the demographic attributes of your theater's area in Des Moines to successful theaters in the American Midwest. Some of these cities have large downtown populations and some don't. By identifying the ones that do, you could discover cities with populations more apt to frequent a downtown theater. Instead of creating a 20-minute drive-time area, you'll use 5-, 10-, and 15-minute walk times to conduct your analysis. (Generally, people are willing to walk up to 15 minutes to reach a destination.)

Create walk-time areas for the theaters

First, you'll download a spreadsheet with locations of the theaters you'll use in the comparison. Then, you'll import the spreadsheet into your project and create walk-time areas of 5, 10, and 15 minutes for each theater.

  1. Download the Uptown Movie Houses spreadsheet to an easily accessible location, such as your desktop. The spreadsheet downloads as read-only, so you will have to save the file with a slight alteration, such as adding your initials.
  2. If necessary, sign in to Business Analyst and open your Des Moines project.

    If you closed the app and opened it since the previous lesson, the map extent may have reset. If this is the case, continue with the steps, because the map will reset after you load the spreadsheet.

  3. On the ribbon, click Add Data.

    Add Data

  4. Click Import File.

    Import File

    The Import File pane opens.

  5. For Select a file to import, click Browse. Browse to and choose the Uptown Movie Houses spreadsheet.


  6. Click Import.

    Business Analyst scans the spreadsheet and identifies locational fields that can be used to place the lines of data geographically (or geocode) in the spreadsheet. In this case, fields for the street, city, state, and ZIP Code were found. The fields seem to correctly match to columns in the spreadsheet, so you do not need to change anything.

    Match fields


    If the values in the fields and columns are unmatched, you can click the drop-down menu under Columns to identify values approximating to the values under Fields. For example, Postal under Fields would equate to ZIP under Columns.

  7. Click Next.

    The map extent changes to show theater locations in or near Omaha, Kansas City, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Toledo, Detroit, and Indianapolis. The spreadsheet also included a location for your proposed theater, Brick House Movies, in Des Moines.


    Depending on the size of your browser window, you may not be able to see all the theaters. If necessary, pan and zoom until you can see all eight markers on the map.

    Eight theater locations in the American Midwest

    Additionally, the Import File pane changed to provide options for the appearance of the points in this layer.

  8. For Choose a label (site name) column, check Open labels for all points.

    Open labels for all points check box

    The map now displays the name of each theater above its marker. The information displayed depends on the menu above the box that you checked. By default, it was set to Theater Name.

  9. Click Next.

    The next pane provides two options for saving an imported file:

    • Save only points, the first option, is for displaying points on a map. Use this option when you would want to import a layer so you could quickly turn these points on or off.
    • Create and save sites for all points, the second option, is necessary when you want to create rings, walk times, or drive times, around points on a map. This option enables you to run reports, view infographics, and compare locations.

    For this lesson, you'll choose the second option.

  10. Click Create and save sites for all points (max 100).

    Create and save sites for all points

    After selecting this option, you can add drive- or walk-time areas. You want to compare the theaters based on 5-, 10-, and 15-minute walk times. You'll use these three text boxes to create all three walk-time areas at once.

  11. Click Walk Time. Accept the default values of 5, 10, and 15 in the three text boxes.

    Walk-time areas

  12. For New Layer Name, type Des Moines Suitability Study.

    New Layer Name

  13. Click Apply.

    It may take a moment to create the layer.

  14. If necessary, after the layer is created, pan or zoom out to see all eight points. (You can pan and zoom the map by dragging the cursor and rotating the mouse wheel, respectively.)

    If you use the zoom buttons on the right side of the map, click the Pan and Select button to return the mouse to its original pointer.

    Pan and Select

    At the full zoom extent, you can't see the walk-time areas around each theater.

  15. Zoom to Des Moines and confirm that walk-time areas exist for 5-, 10-, and 15-minute intervals.

    You can zoom the map by searching for the Des Moines location (200 Court Avenue, Des Moines, IA, 50309, USA) using the search box above the map.

    Des Moines walk-time areas

Perform a site suitability analysis

Now that you've created walk-time areas for several theaters around the American Midwest, you'll perform a site suitability analysis. The goal of this analysis will be to determine whether your property is a suitable site for a theater compared with successful existing theaters in the other seven cities.

  1. In the Import File pane, click Suitability Analysis.

    Suitability Analysis button

    The Suitability Analysis pane opens with information about performing a suitability analysis.

  2. Read the information. Then, click Get Started.

    The first step is to select the sites that you want to use in your analysis.

  3. Click Add sites from project.
  4. If necessary, check Site Name to select all eight movie houses in the layer.

    Site Name check box

  5. Click Next.

    Next, you'll choose the demographic variables to use in your analysis.

  6. Click Add Criteria and choose Add variables from data browser.

    Add variables from data browser

    The Data Browser window opens. You'll search for population and income, the two demographic variables that you saw in the Recreation Expenditures report.


    Demographic data is updated periodically, so the available variables and values may differ from those specified in the lesson. If necessary, use the most recent data.

  7. For Browse by Category, click Population.

    Population category

  8. For Popular Variables, check 2018 Total Population (Esri).

    2017 Total Population (Esri) variable

    Each time you enter a variable, the Selected Variables value increases. You'll add two more variables before applying them to the layer.

    Selected Variables

  9. In the Data Browser window, click Categories.

    Categories button

    You return to the list of categories.

  10. For Browse by Category, click Income.

    Income category

  11. For Popular Variables, check 2018 Median Household Income (Esri).
  12. Return to the list by clicking Categories.

    You now have selected the variables of population and income. You'll add a third variable: Tapestry.

    Tapestry Segmentation classifies neighborhoods in the United States into one of 67 unique segments based on demographics, income, and lifestyles. These segments provide detailed summaries about each neighborhood so you can compare the populations that surround each theater.

    For this lesson, the Metro Renters segment is particularly relevant to your theater. People in this highly educated segment are young singles and couples working in their first jobs, renting or sharing apartments, and loving city life. They buy movie tickets and bicycle to work. Proximity to Metro Renters may help your business because that population is willing to walk or take cabs.

  13. In the list of categories, click the button to move forward in the list.

    Button to move forward

  14. Click Tapestry.

    Tapestry category

    Unlike the other categories, the Tapestry category does not list any popular variables.

  15. For Other Options, click Show all 'Tapestry' variables.

    Show all 'Tapestry' variables

    This category contains 158 variables. You can choose to add variables for all Tapestry segments or only those that you choose.

  16. Click the arrow to expand 2018 Tapestry Market Segmentation (Adults). (Don't check the box.)

    2017 Tapestry Market Segmentation (Adults)

  17. Scroll through the list and check 2018 Metro Renters (3B) Tapestry Adult Population (Esri).

    Metro Renters Tapestry Segment

  18. Click Apply.

    The Suitability Analysis pane adds parameters for each of the criteria you chose.

    Criteria in Suitability Analysis pane

    Business Analyst automatically balances variables; in this lesson, the three you chose for the suitability analysis are weighted at 33 percent each. (The table results are displayed at the bottom of the page.) If necessary, however, you can change the weight to make certain variables more important in the analysis.

    The results table contains scores for each theater based on the criteria you choose for your suitability analysis. By default, the table shows the scores for the 15-minute walk-time area. In this example, given a 15-minute walk time area, Brick House Movies has a final scores of 0.45. It is ranked fifth among the theaters.

    Brick House Movies rank and final score


    You can expand or reduce the results table by dragging the top of the table.

  19. At the top of the third column, click the arrow next to 15 minutes and choose 10 minutes.

    10-minute walk-time area

    Now all eight rows within the table reflect 10-minute walk times. Brick House Movies jumps to third with a score of 0.52. Only Reel Brats (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) and Rooftop Movies (Royal Oak, Michigan) have higher scores. The rest of the table shows the individual scores each location received for each variable.

    Brick House Movies received a low score for population but scored high for income and the presence of the Metro Renters segment. These results indicate that although the overall population in downtown Des Moines is relatively low compared with other cities within the table, the proximity of Metro Renters to Brick House Movies increases its overall score.

    In fact, if you look in the Metro Renters score column, you will see that Des Moines, with 0.74, ranks second behind Milwaukee. You can infer from the suitability analysis that the high number of Metro Renters near Brick House Movies offsets advantages of cities with larger populations and higher incomes. Your analysis could also mean you've identified a successful location for an upscale movie house despite downtown Des Moines having a smaller and less affluent population than the other cities included in the analysis.

  20. Change the time to 5 minutes.

    Brick House Movies is now second with a score of 0.61. It is now second to the Milwaukee theater, which is also adjacent to a large population of Metro Renters. Now, in addition to knowing that your area meets the minimum site selection requirements for a movie theater, you've discovered that your theater location has high suitability compared with several already existing and successful theaters around the American Midwest.

Adjust the criteria

Your suitability analysis allows you to increase or decrease the weight of criteria in regards to the final score. For Des Moines (a city with an extensive skywalk network), you'll adjust the value of the Metro Renters segment criterion to reflect the increased likelihood of residents walking up to 15 minutes to attend your theater. The skywalk system also augments an existing network of bicycle and walking paths already within the city.

  1. In the Suitability Analysis pane, for the Metro Renters criterion, increase the weight to 40 percent.

    Metro Renters weight


    You can adjust the weighting by dragging the slider or by typing directly in the box.

    As you increase the weight for the Metro Renters segment, the value of the other variables decreases to 30 percent each. The results of your adjustments are automatically reflected in the results table.

  2. In the results table, change the time from 5 minutes to 15 minutes.

    Weight results

    Des Moines now has a score of 0.47, which is a couple percentage points higher than when the variables were equal.

  3. Change the time to 10 minutes.

    Brick House Movies has a score of 0.55 and is ranked second.

  4. Change the time to 5 minutes.

    Brick House Movies still ranks second, but now with a score of 0.63.

    Assigning weights is based on judgment; determining the perfect weight for a perceived variable is difficult. However, by experimenting with weights, you gain information about the impact—or just as importantly, the lack of impact—of a particular criterion. In your case, you've decided that your property's proximity to a sizeable Metro Renter population is one of your location's demographic advantages.

  5. In the Suitability Analysis pane, click Reset weighting to reset the variables.

    Reset weighting

  6. Close the table.

In this lesson, you researched the feasibility of opening an upscale movie theater in downtown Des Moines. You learned that the area exceeded the minimum thresholds for site selection criteria involving new movie theaters. You also compared your theater's location to several successful theaters throughout the American Midwest based on three criteria. You found that your theater compared favorably to the others, especially when the criteria were weighted toward certain demographics. Based on these exercises, you now have better information about your proposed business venture. Now, you can make a more informed decision about the future of your property.

Although the workflow you followed in this lesson applies to Des Moines, it would work just as well with any other United States location you choose. The workflow would work the same whether you wanted to start a sports bar in Gainesville, Florida; open a doughnut shop in Springfield, Oregon; or design a golf course in Peoria, Illinois. The difference between Des Moines and those cities would be the data included in your analysis.

Finally, now that you've discovered that an uptown movie theater would work in downtown Des Moines, which genres would you want to show inside Brick House Movies? This movie story map, based on Esri Demographics data, details which types of movies Iowans prefer as well as which communities buy cinema tickets.