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TOPIC: Independent Theatres or Large Corporate Giants?

Independent Theatres or Large Corporate Giants? 04 Oct 2001 02:24 #2078

Okay, I hope this does not stir up alot of controversy but I am curious to know if anyone who posts on this site has ever worked for a large corporate theatre chain and then made the move to a smaller theatre independent company? And if so, which do you prefer and why?

I worked for the big giants for almost 14 years and in May, after working mega hours and going through a major burn out I decided to get out of a business that I once loved because I hated everything about it, well, not so much the theatre business in general, but the unnecessary stress and unimaginable expectations and non support that the big corporate companies have put on their managers.

I took the summer off and done some traveling, taking in movies in small towns that had small theatres and I made the decision that I would only go back into the business IF I could find a small independent chain to manage for...well I found it and the difference between the big guys and the small guys is like night and day.

I feel soooo much better about my job, the business and myself. I no longer have to worry about a ton of little stuff in order to get one thing done. I no longer work 60 hours per week and what seemed like endless doubles on holidays and weekends. I no longer have to spend big $$$ on dressy clothes and sport coats only to have them ruined in days from oil and butter stains. I could go on and on....

I can manage a theatre the way I like and not have to constantly run and check a policy manual that consists of two or three volumes of redundant paragraphs.

Best of all when I call the home office, the secretary and owners know me by the sound of my voice and I am no longer a "theatre number". The support that I get is great and everyone is so friendly.

I have a friend who was a manager for Regal Cinemas and she had been with the company for years and years. Regal offered her a new 16 screen and she said it was total hell. She could never keep staff, her inventory was always short, Assistant Managers went left and right and her Distrit Manager was no support at all. She hardley ever had a day off and on some of her days off (she only got one per week), she had to get up at 4 AM to be at the theatre by 5 AM just so she could work alone and not be disturbed and catch up on her paperwork. Isn't that just insane? She went on to manage a theatre for an independent owner and she feels like a brand new manager.

Another friend who has been in the business for ten years, left her small company to go and work for Century Theatres. She went to San Francisco and completed their (what seemed like endless) Management School that lasted for 5 months. Century stuck her in a 14 screen and after being there for less than two months, she quit because of the endless hours and unrealistic demands and stress that the company put upon her.

I know that I have rambled on and on but I was just wondering if anyone else has ever been in this position and what others comments are. Why are these big companies running their managers off? I am sure that there are some good qualities to these big companies and maybe it really depends on where your location is and who your District Manager is as well. I know that I feel like I did ten years ago, full of energy and positive feelings.

I just wanted to voice my opinion here and see others reactions to this topic. Thanks for letting me vent...
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Re: Independent Theatres or Large Corporate Giants? 04 Oct 2001 06:55 #2079

  • Larry Thomas
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In the interest of politeness and reasonable taste, I cannot post my opinions of anything corporate here, as the language would be completely unacceptable

However, big congratulations on making the move to something that enhances your enjoyment of the business.
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Re: Independent Theatres or Large Corporate Giants? 04 Oct 2001 09:07 #2080

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I would think that being an independent theater owner would be the less stressful of the two positions. As a patron to both types of theaters it is evident just by observation that the independent theater has a more people to people feel and the managers are the kinds of people you would like to know. I personally never liked working in a suit, so that's a turn off right there. I think employees work best when they are comfortable, and you can do that and still be in good taste. Well, as a patron to the two kinds of theater houses, that's I see.
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Re: Independent Theatres or Large Corporate Giants? 04 Oct 2001 10:06 #2081

  • Mike
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I would bet that different people will have different experiences in a corp vs. a indie set up. It would always be the same when you compare a small owner operated enterprise to a larger company. It all comes down to magaement. Working for an indie would / could be a different kind of HELL that you'd never find at a big company. It all comes down to who is running the show. That said: there does seem to be a significant amount of manager and employee abuse in the corporate exhibition world: high/high/high expectations coupled with low pay. Why is that? In our theatre what I know is that people LIKE to work at a movie theatre and be a part of movies and exhibition. Does that love of the job lead to abuse and bad corporate policy?


Mike Hurley
www.bigscreenbiz.com
Michael Hurley
Impresario
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Re: Independent Theatres or Large Corporate Giants? 04 Oct 2001 12:42 #2082

Mike,
You are right when you said there was a large amount of abuse in the corporate exhibition world. Why? I have no idea, maybe its because everyone is stressed and it all kind of rolls down hill.

Managers are threatned with thier jobs for the most stupid things (example: when "pearl Harbor" was set to open all of the managers, along with the DM had a meeting, we were given all the golden rules and guidelines about what trailers/commercials to put on, not allowed to move it to another house, etc, every other sentence after each rule read'failure to follow these policies will result in immediate termination'. It was just not on "Pearl Harbor", but other stuff too. Now why, must these guys feel they have to threaten managers jobs in order to get their points across? By the end of the meeting all of us managers were confused on whether or not we still had a job or not. Our positive energy went right down the drain and we did not even want to show the print.

The corporate guys need to work on and improve their treatment of managers especially when it comes to matching the pay with the hours worked.

Like you said Mike, it depends on who is running the show.
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Re: Independent Theatres or Large Corporate Giants? 04 Oct 2001 17:35 #2083

Eric,

I worked for the big corporate giants and am now in the process of attempting to build my own theatre.

I too felt threatened and unappreciated being a GM for the chain. I guess there are a lot of people up the corporate ladder that feel those of us that were and are on the front lines just don't matter. All that I felt was cared about was numbers. Now grant in everyone one wants good numbers, but you must have the great customer service ro allow the money for the numbers to roll in. Now when you ask your DM for improvements on the building to help with the customers experience and you are told "we are the only game in town, they have to come here" There is something wrong with this mentality.

I recently read an article in Boxoffice by Dan Harkins of Harkins Theatres about customer service. He was right on about what needs to be done in this industry. I would work for him in a heartbeat.

It was sad to see the deterioration of the facility I was in.

I once got grilled by my DM about why I bought sheetrock to fix the large Hole in the wall that looked into the Women's room.

DM: "what did you buy sheetrock for on ..."

ME: " because the wall in the lobby fell in"

DM: " Why did the wall fall in?"

Me "because there was a small plumbing leak"

DM: "Why was there a leak?"

ME: " because the plumbing is old and it fialed."

DM :"Why didn't you stop the leak"

ME:" because it had been leaking so slowly for ten years before I got this theatre that no one knew it was leaking"

I had to justify $10 worth of sheetrock and I did the labor!

Sorry for rambling but I am with you Eric I am glad you made the move and that you enjoy it.

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Re: Independent Theatres or Large Corporate Giants? 05 Oct 2001 00:36 #2084

  • Ken Layton
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The best theaters to work at are either mom-and-pops or small regional chains. They're more personable and listen to what you have to say---none of that corporate B.S.

The big chains are going broke because of their greed to control markets by overbuilding and forcing out competition.
They have a "management by remote control" and "one size fits all" philosophies. Very cold and impersonal to work at/for a chain.
You have to go through 12 different people just to get a light bulb!

Stick with the little guys and you'll be happy.

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Re: Independent Theatres or Large Corporate Giants? 05 Oct 2001 01:34 #2085

Wow, seems like everyone so far sees my point of view on this situation and I am glad that my feelings are not isolated. I bet the stories of manager abuse from corporate staff is astounding. Im so glad I made the change.
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Re: Independent Theatres or Large Corporate Giants? 05 Oct 2001 12:46 #2086

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I worked for five years for the Landmark Theatre group. I had the time of my life, but it was also my introduction to the corportate way of thinking. But they weren't too corporate.

I then worked for six years for United Artists Theatre Circuit. They were very corporate but still they had a soul. but after six years they were becoming more and more corporate so I left.

I know a manager who had been working for them for 20 years when her theatre was closed due to cut backs. She was terminated just like the rest of the employees and no one from corporate ever called her.

I now own a theatre with a friend of mine. We are trying to be the anti corporate theatre. But I am certain that as we grow and own more theatres some of that corporate stuff may creep in. But for now, we are pretty cool.
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