Watching State Of Play in my theatre recently, I noticed the trailers were playing far too low, so I went into the booth and rousted the projectionist who duly turned it up to ‘9.5’. Settling back into my seat, and now the sound is too low. Back to the booth. No projectionist is present so I crank it up to ‘10’ but this barely reaches acceptable. Thankfully, the movie took me over and all was good until the credits began to roll and our clean-up crew turned on the house lights and barged in. After an admonishment to wait until the credits were done before klieg lights are illuminated, all is again well.
In one brief visit to my theatre I discovered much about my operation. No one told me the sound system was out of adjustment and needed attention. Four projectionists and none of them could pass the word until I tripped over the problem, plus that of the clean-up crew adding their own, impromptu lighting effects.
Formerly in the restaurant business, for years I imagined no business could be more dependent on the creation and follow-through of a thousand details. But showing movies – the art and craft of Exhibition – is every bit as dependent on policy and follow-through. A waiter’s job is to ensure the dining goes well, and each of us in cinema operations has a similar responsibility toward our patrons’ theatre experience.
Even before they arrive at theatres, a subtle change transforms patrons as they suspend disbelief and we, with the help of the filmmakers, undertake to tell them a story. The old saying remains true: “The show begins on the sidewalk”. From the first glimpse of the theatre until it recedes in the rear-view mirror, patrons have been subject to myriad details that either make or break the show and our futures. Design comes first, construction follows. It’s then that the art and craft come into play. How we maintain our theatres, what they look like, the details of carpet, lighting, seats, preshow, sound and picture quality, cleanliness, and our policies for security and comfort, all determine whether or not our customers return. It’s all in the detail and the constant follow- through along with ensuring everyone employed by you understands how essential those details are to your success and your patrons’ enjoyment. Theatre operations can often be behind the curve and that’s where you can get stung, so remember: In the absence of training and policy, your staff will make them up as they go along.
Attention to detail matters, so establish exactly how you want things to be done, train staff accordingly and follow-through with them; if we expect our staff to pass the word, what we thought were policies will result in surprising mutations, borne the way of Chinese Whispers. Just as in my theatre when lighting was added and clean-up began the very moment patrons were discovering the who, what and why of the movie they just viewed, make sure your patrons don’t have any unwanted, lessthan- illuminating experiences at your theatre.