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Mar 29, 2007

An Open Letter to Theater Owners

Here in Phoenix, we're lucky that the largest and most successful theater chain is the locally-owned and operated Harkins Theaters. Started by "Red" Harkins in 1933, the chain is currently run by his son Dan, under whom it has blossomed into a giant. When "Red" passed away in 1974, Harkins consisted of 5 locations; today, it is 300 screens strong, commanding the bulk of the Valley of the Sun's theater market, and having expanding into five states. In time, hopefully, they will grow to be a nationwide conglomerate, alongside AMC, Cineplex Odeon, and other large chains.

In short, I love the Harkins Theaters chain. I have been a 99% loyal customer to them for some 15 years now (it's hasn't always been my choice which theater to go to). They typically run a tight ship - clean, efficient and luxurious. Until a few years ago, when pre-film commercials essentially took over the landscape, they played classical music prior to the start of the trailers, a most welcome change from your typical theater's pop garbage. Sadly, that is gone and most likely won't return. As much as I like Harkins, I have some other pieces of advice for them and all of the theaters out there:

* Cross-promotion dominates marketing these days. Buy some Clorox and enter for a chance to win a trip to NASCAR! So why isn't (an uber-logical) cross-promotion going on at your local theaters - namely, why don't theaters sell DVDs?? This shocks me. Who deals with movie studios and distributors more than theaters do? Also, with the growing trend of films released simultaneously in the theater and on DVD, you'd think there might even be some incentive to push people to the theater to do both. For example, say 300 was released simultaneously on DVD and in the theater. Now, if the average price for a brand-new DVD (not from the bargain bin at Best Buy) is $19.99 or so, and the average ticket price at your local theater is $10 (except for New York and Los Angeles, at least), why not incentivize people to do both? Surely, there is a growing number of folks that have big-screen TVs and home theater audio sets at home that no longer attend the theater, but what if, after having seen the film for $10, were able to purchase the DVD at a discounted price (with their ticket stub as proof of purchase) on the way out the door? I'd do both if I planned on purchasing the DVD at some later date anyway - why not do it at the same time? There are a number of other reasons to sell DVDs at the theater as well (brings people to the theater that might not go there normally, for example).

* Why stop at DVDs? Look at what's hanging outside your local theater, trying to tempt you to come in and watch something? It's a movie poster! Enough people already purchase them that there are not only stores dedicated to doing such, but a cottage industry on eBay. Theaters seem a logical point-of-purchase as well.

* Mrs. Fletch has a request of her own. With the (well documented here) ever-growing length of movies, the need for soda or popcorn refills is ever-growing. And what's worse than having to run out of the theater and missing the movie - doing so and finding a long line at the concession stand. Therefore, she requests an express line for people already in the theater.

* I'm sure one of the larger problems for theaters (throughout time) is people (ahem, teenagers) who slip and slide their way into either the building itself or from theater to theater. Why not scan tickets at the doors to each theater? Yes, this would be an imposition to us paying customers, but if the end result is lower costs, then I think we all win in the end. One of the local theaters recently had a security guard stationed (in an ineffective position, mind you) in the hallway, checking people's tickets. Is this really the best we can do in the 21st century?

If all else fails, hire me as a consultant. I'm available at the right price.


2 people have chosen wisely: on "An Open Letter to Theater Owners"

Anonymous said...

As much time as you spend at the movies, you would be an excellent choice for consulting.

NFL Adam said...

No kidding. I still love the theater experience, but I wonder if there was a movie company that catered to people 21+, if it would do well. Because I hate kids and teenagers and that is probably the top reason why I don't go to the movies.