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TOPIC: Friday night woes

Friday night woes 08 Mar 2008 10:10 #17798

  • Narrow Gauge
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I have a three screen in an aging mill town. Friday nights the kids are much worse behaving than in my other theater 35 miles away.
What do you do for crowd control on Friday nights? In the past I have used police officers and extra ushers yet when I do this I end up working for little or nothing and still have the stress. Any thoughts on how to control the kids and still make a profit?
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Re: Friday night woes 08 Mar 2008 10:30 #17799

  • Santikos
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I was having this same issue at one of our locations. We had a student price $2.00 lower than the adult price that we eliminated. 25% of the teenagers started going to other theatres, with the increase in ticket cost we added another police officer and after three months the theatre became the place for families and couples to go and get away from the mobs of teenagers. With the price increase the theatre is doing 15% more in attendance than before.

Richard
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Re: Friday night woes 08 Mar 2008 11:42 #17800

  • rodeojack
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I'd go along with Santikos on this one. Our drive-in suffered the same problem. $5 carload pricing in two of our fields gave the kids a dark, cheap, relatively unsupervised place to congregate. Along with that came problems with alcohol, attitude, vandalism, and complaints from the customers who had come to watch the show.

The fix was to go strictly per-capita. We have two price levels... general and child(senior), and our child's price is not rediculously below our general rate. Over a season or two, our customer issues nearly vanished. There was a little whining, gnashing and grumbling, but the end result was a growing, happier customer base that no longer had to deal with the kids' party attitude. There were other positives about dropping carloads... booking being among them, but the change in our crowd was very noticeable. It's sure a lot more fun for us now.

The lesson for us? Your customer will generally respect your product and facility in ratio to what he invested in being there.

Oh... just remembered. We once had a small, single screen indoor theatre in a logging town. Looking for that extra buck, we had a dollar night on Wednesdays. The place was usually filled to capacity, but we also had the noise, vandalism and security issues. Being in an area with competitive high schools added to the problems. A lot of the dollar crowd don't spend much in concessions, either. We dropped the dollar night and things calmed down a lot. Then, the landlord sold the building to the power company, who turned the place into a garage... but that wouldn't help much in your situation!


[This message has been edited by rodeojack (edited March 08, 2008).]
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Re: Friday night woes 08 Mar 2008 12:14 #17801

  • NSCInemas
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I worked at one location a 20 screen in an upper middle class area. When I started they had major problems with teenagers and pre-teens disrupting the shows, fighting, and causing vandalism. This theatre already had 2 or 3 police officers on during the weekends but the place was still out of control. I instituted a new policy where anyone who was asked to leave;

1. Was NOT issued a refund or passes. You broke your end of the agreement that the ticket implies by violating our clearly posted code of conduct.

2. Were required by police to show I.D. or give a name and address which was written down and given to theatre management.

3. Theatre managment would send via certified mail a "No Tresspass" letter stating that "this person" is no longer welcome at "this location" due to "this incident" that occured on "this date" and that if they entered the property they would be arrested for trespassing. If the person was a minor (which most were) the letter would be sent "To the parents of"

4. Keep a copy of all trespass letters and the signed certified mail reciepts. If the person is caught causing trouble in the theatre again follow through and have them arrested

This works on many levels. Word spreads very quickly that not only will they lose thier money but thier parents will be notified and they also risk trouble with law enforcement. From what we saw this did not stop them from coming to the movies (and that wasnt really our intent) what it did was make them be on thier best behavior so that they would not get caught and also influence thier friends to behave so thier friend would not get arrested. Once the theatre gains a reputation for not taking BS the families and adults will start to return, and they are the ones that spend the most money. We saw our attendance increase and our concession sales and percapita increase as well as vandilism and disruptions lower dramatically. The important thing is bieng consistent and having everyoe on the same page. During my time there no one was ever arrested for trespassing as they made sure to act like Angels when they came back. The beauty is that they will still come back and spend thier money but that they are so afraid to get caught in the building that they are on thier best behavior! Poetry in motion
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Re: Friday night woes 08 Mar 2008 19:00 #17802

  • Mike
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My article this month in Screentrade

“Don’t Tase me bro!”

I was in civilian gear intently watching No Country for Old Men in one of my theatres when a young man answered his cell phone, put his feet up on the seat in front of him, and was talking loudly into his Bluetooth earpiece and waving his brightly lit cell phone. I walked over and said quietly, “I’m sorry but if you need to use the phone you’ll have to take it out to the lobby.” He looked at me and said, “And who the &%^$ are you?” I said, “I’m the #@!& who owns the movie theatre.” Enough said.
Every day in all movie theatres we are faced with this and other kinds of behavior that at the least require us to manage the situation. There’s an old saying in the movie theatre business, “The show starts on the sidewalk.” It was coined to convey your theatre should be spectacular and make patrons feel like they were somewhere distinctly different than home. Theatre owners spend millions to make their theatres stand out and setting and enforcing a tone is just as important as sconces, carpet, and lighting.
For five years I owned a busy bar and became adept at making people feel at home, safe, and that the atmosphere from one day to the next would be something they could rely on.
When patrons visit our theatres they want the same thing. The public does not hire on to be our policeman. They’ll help, hopefully, and let you know if there’s a problem but no paying guest should ever be expected to confront unruly or uncaring patrons. I always tell staff that customers that movie goers are in a delicate state, they started suspending disbelief when they decided to come to the movies. They want to be transported and entertained, not bothered and aggravated. A managed, safe, predictable, and reliable atmosphere that provides for a relaxed and quality viewing enjoyment is what our visitors want.
At least most of our visitors want that. Others; not so much. Don’t forget that even those who arrive and talk loudly, use bad language, text message their friends, or move to better visit a prospective girlfriend are also your customer. They may be behaving badly but treating them like enemy combatants is not good for your business either.
Our most egregious problem clients are young adults. There always seems to be a steady supply of manic 14 year olds. After fifteen years of business I also know that the very same kids that I once asked to leave grew up very quickly and became good customers who were themselves bothered by kids talking. What I drill into the staff is that a talking teenager is someone we need to talk with and not the enemy. We do not threaten to Taser them. They may aggravate us but they are not the enemy. They are customers and we hope they’ll be back and behave better next time.
We ask people to leave or correct behavior for a few reasons. Number one: It deals with the issue. But working with a customer who needs to be spoken with also has spin off benefits. The event is observed by others and few people want to be asked to leave a theatre. It encourages others to behave. It also sends a clear message to all customers that you are protecting your theatres atmosphere and all of your customers. They know they can count on you. Lastly there is a long term positive residual effect from actively controlling problems. Kids in particular learn that they cannot misbehave.
Problem customers are all not oblivious and annoying. Some are standing in your lobby yelling at you because of a hundred real and imagined infractions. If it’s a slow night and you have a few dozen in the house your problems will be low. But when you start packing the house with sold out shows human emotions will start to bubble. That’s when calm and effective communication skills will calm and ease most situations. Where there are people there’s issues. The more people, the more issues.
Learning how to talk with people, listen to them, and solve their problems in such a way that it is resolved in your theatres interest is a critical theatre operations. This does not mean that you “win” every argument. I suggest that your goal is to resolve issues that leaves the customer happy enough, even if they have been asked to leave, to come back again. Your theatre does not need a couple of hundred people walking around telling everyone they’ll never go to your theatre again. You may win the argument but lose your business.
Lastly, training your staff in proactive and positive conflict resolution and calm and effective communication is as important as “up selling” or asking “would you like butter on that?” How you handle tough customers, no matter if they are right or wrong, will impact your business. Make sure you get it right. And stop kicking my seat. I’ve got a Taser and I’m not afraid to use it.



Michael Hurley
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Re: Friday night woes 08 Mar 2008 19:04 #17803

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This is a tough one. The theatre in question is in a small town and others of our theatres are in big cities. So: what works in a small town seems quaint in a large city.

That said: the toughest business you will ever open is your second location. It will challenge your management like nothing else.

I think that a combination of the two suggestions: raise prices and "bar" people just like at a bar.

Make up a flyer and give them notice. And then start throwing out a few a night and banning them. Even chuckleheads will get the message eventually.

Do it with kindness and love: they are your customers and they'll be back.

Michael Hurley
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[This message has been edited by Mike (edited March 08, 2008).]
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Re: Friday night woes 09 Mar 2008 10:32 #17804

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The biggest problem is that once you have the reputation as a place where "kids" (teenagers, tweens) hang out and act up then adults, and families WILL stop coming. They don't want to be harrased and have to deal with all the cell phones, and talking, and throwing things in the auditoriums, and the congregations by the bathrooms, and the long concession lines because the kids are trying to scam refills (I spilled my drink etc...)

Famllies, and people on dates are the ones who spend the big money (dates because the guy doesnt want to look cheap in front of a girl so they will buy the extra large everything) If you drive them away, you will lose a lot of revenues as teens most likely wont have as much money to spend.

If you build a reputation as a SAFE place where couples and families can come and enjoy themselves in PEACE and have a good time without being harrases then you WILL sell more tickets, and concessions.

You need to set up and enforce rules;

1. No Loitering, You're either in your theatre or off the property. Do not show up an hour before your show expecting to hang out with your friends in the lobby, or blocking the entrance/exit doors outside.

2. No proffanity, or yelling allowed.

3. Proper dress required. Proper dress is at managements descretion.

4. NO REFUNDS if you are asked to leave.

I am sure you can come up with some others those are some basic codes of conduct to start you off. We had a one sheet sized poster printed of out "code of conduct" and had it clearly posted in one of our poster cases near the box office.

Remember your theatre is PRIVATE PROPERTY you can throw out a kid who is yelling and swearing, or wearing a shirt that says "****" on it without having to worry about the first amendmant
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Re: Friday night woes 09 Mar 2008 16:11 #17805

  • jacker5
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You could not say it better NSCInemas. A theater I am looking at has the same problem with the kids on the weekends. Families and adults stay away because of it. It has absentee ownership and it has ballooned the problem. I was there for a weekend and seemed to get the problem under control they just needed a lil jolt in there antics.
If an adult stand there and baby-sits there good.
Plus cut and dry you interrupt your out. The owner was so impressed he has enforced it to and the problems have decreased.
All you need is al lil authority and muscle without getting to nasty and physical and things can be brought under control.
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Re: Friday night woes 09 Mar 2008 22:41 #17806

  • tricity
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I am also in a small town and have to deal with the middle schoolers on Friday nights.
I have extra staff that night and always have one or two people who babysit the auditoriums (I have four screens) with the kids.

Kick out the one or two worst kids and the others will straigthen up.

I hate Friday nights.
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Re: Friday night woes 11 Mar 2008 06:05 #17807

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For those that got rid of the student price..was that just for Fri/Sat night or was that every day??. Do you still have a child price?? For us child prices are until they turn 15 as 15 is when they can start to work and also the cut off age for kids going to the movies alone for MA15+ movies (In Australia) but most of our problems on Friday are the under 15 crowd. Right now I have 2 boys banned til July and 5 who aren't allowed to come to any movie unless accompanied by a parent.
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Re: Friday night woes 11 Mar 2008 11:55 #17808

  • BurneyFalls
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I eliminated the student price when I bought both theatres--one was over ten years ago. I have a child price for kids 12 and under, but they have to be accompanied by a parent to get that price. If they come in without a parent they pay full price. The older brother or cousin doesn't count.

I started kicking kids out right away when I bought the places and I now have to kick a kid out maybe once a year.
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Re: Friday night woes 11 Mar 2008 22:49 #17809

  • revrobor
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Years ago I owned a 600 seat single screen and experienced the same problem. I shut the show down, got on the stage and told the crowd that the show would not resume unless it was absolutely quiet. I warned them that if it happened again I would close the theatre for the night and there would be no refunds. You could have heard a pin drop. The kids that are causing the disturbance don't understand "kindness and love". Be firm. BTW, I had printed on the back of my tickets "Subject to the posted rules of the theatre" and they were posted in the lobby.

Bob Allen
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Re: Friday night woes 12 Mar 2008 10:13 #17810

  • NSCInemas
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Ive had to stop shows twice in over ten years.

The first time was at a dollar house where the nine o clock show was all college kids who had come together to see a horror flick. They got so rowdy the could be heard in the lobby and adjacent theatre and some drinks were thrown at the screen. We tried to get them to calm down without stopping the show but we finnally did and told them we would not restart it until there was absolute quiet and everyone was sitting properly in thier seats facing the screen. Ten minutes later they realized we were serious and we didnt have any other problems that night.

The second time was a late show of an urban movie at a suburban megaplex. we had a few couples come and ask for refunds so I went in to investigate. I found people throwing food and drinks, screaming and yelling, running around the auditorium. We decided for the everyones safety to stop the show and raise the lights. We tossed about half the house who we had seen throwing food and other things (smoking, drinking alcohol). After that we posted two ushers in that house for the rest of the show.

I think it is really a last resort to ever stop a show. But when safety becomes an issue I think you have too. It's one thing when teenagers cause a ruckus, but when adults do it thats just sad, it really really is.

Just to add a funny story... One sunday evening this lady was really drunk in one auditorium. Other customers came out to complain that this lady would not stop talking and had gotten nasty with them when they asked her to be quiet. I went in and found the presentation in the trailers so I asked the woman politely to please stop talking... well she started to yell at me and insult me and swear at me, I finnally asked her to come out into the lobby with me. After telling her I would call the police she finnally got up and shouted to the entire auditorium "IM GOING TO CALL YOUR BOSS TOMORROW AND TELL HIM YOU GRABBED ME AND THREW ME DOWN THE STAIRS!" So after she went out in the lobby and continued to carry on the police were called to remove her. The next day I was just getting up for work when my DM called me at home. He asked me to come in a few minutes early so we could talk about why I threw a customer down the stairs, needless to say I was very nervous. I got to his office (which was in my theatre) and he sat me down and started to laugh! He told me that our maintenance man was there with his daughter to watch the show so he had called him first thing to tell him what really happened so when that lady called him he told her to screw but he decided to play a joke on me!
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