At ShoWest 2008, I was struck by how much in common we industry members have yet how different we are. Ours is an unusual fraternity crossing a wide, and wild, group of players. In my 14 industry years, I’ve come to know a great many fellow members and can tell you the pack of theatre owners covers the spectrum. So, what is it that attracts people to Exhibition? Often, members of a niche group seem cut from the same cloth. I once was a courier working in the diamond district in New York City. While diamond dealing shares with Exhibition a reliance on verbal contracts, it lacks in diversity while our cup runneth over.
We comprise both big-time and small-time operators. Our religious practices reflect every sect known to man. We show art films and teen-horror docs or first-run, sub-run, secondrun, foreign films, or we may never put a subtitle on our screens. Some can thread up while sleeping and others never touch a projector. We are black, white, brown, thin, hefty, laconic and thoughtful. We may shoot from the hip, or else be shy, retiring, sharp as a tack or as thick as the proverbial brick. We are kind and considerate and short-tempered and blunt. There are more than a few of us who are raking in the profits while some of us wonder if ever we will. Some own hundreds of sites, some a few, while others just want to buy a theater or two, and more than one would like to sell. There are theatres in urban areas that employ armed guards and small town theatres that seem to run a day care center.
Whether you own the grandest theatre in London’s Leicester Square, a movie palace in Beijing or a smalltown prairie twin in the Dakotas, the Exhibition world is a complete mystery to all except those who have been in the business. We’re as lonely a business owner as there can be. Nobody knows the troubles we’ve seen or how much we enjoy putting on a show and filling seats.
Exhibitors love one another as long as we are nowhere within competitive range. Once this little geographic detail is solved it’s old home week and maybe when we get to trade shows and conventions we become drunk on all that camaraderie and understanding. Understanding one another does not mean we sing from the same page, though. So, next time you imagine everyone thinks and acts as you do, think again. We can be grateful that, come any trade show, we have the opportunity to hang out with people who understand what we do for a living. It’s a very good thing to spend time together.