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TOPIC: Does it work to guilt your customers to coming?

Does it work to guilt your customers to coming? 10 Apr 2014 12:17 #40778

  • rufusjack
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I have seen many theater operators to what seems like to try to guilt people into coming to their theater. I admit that I have done this before. I have tried hard not to do so because I do not feel it works.

Here are some examples I have seen:

"Please folks, if like this theater being open; please wait to see ***** movie. Not only will you save a lot of money but you will help this theater stay open."

"Matinees at 1 and 2 today for both films. No one came. What happened to 'We're glad you're here and that the theatre is open again?'"

"We ask that you please support us by waiting to see the film when we get it."



Does this work?
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Does it work to guilt your customers to coming? 10 Apr 2014 14:26 #40779

  • BusyBee
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I don't. I always remember "The Parable of the Tire Tracks in the Snow" whenever I complain about business. In the little town I grew up in there was a little service station. To make a long story short, the owner would drive his car around the lot, the pumps and the garage a bit at the start of every day to make it look like a busy place even though it sometimes wasn't. He didn't talk about business being slow, he wanted it to be perceived as being busy. This is something my parents taught me at our business when I was young, and something I was reminded of by other small businesses I worked for but it's also something that carries over into my life. I'm not going to be a Debbie Downer. Fake it 'til you make it.

However, when I have one on one conversations with people, I do discuss with them that all I have to show the studios is my numbers so if they want good movies on the break they've got to be part of those numbers.
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Does it work to guilt your customers to coming? 10 Apr 2014 18:08 #40780

  • Mike
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that's not quote guilting.... real guilt tripping should never be done... no one wants to hang out with a struggling or dying business... do a great job and they will come to you. I have seen old dirty crummy theatres badgering their customers.... it does not work. There is a reason some go elsewhere. But telling them to "wait" that's really fine by me...
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Does it work to guilt your customers to coming? 10 Apr 2014 18:38 #40781

  • Bob Nash
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Great points Mike. Changing or dropping show times at the last minute also doesn't work.
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Does it work to guilt your customers to coming? 11 Apr 2014 05:15 #40782

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As many of you know, we purchased our main competitor a couple of years ago. The trials and tribulations of that are another story. the real story is what it did to our single screener. After taking the six-plex digital and doing other things to improve it, we've done so, at the expense of the single screener. Our numbers are down by a quarter from where they were years ago. We're struggling with what to do about it. If they're going to the six-plex instead of the single, then fine, but if there is something else at work then we need to figure out what the problem is and what to do about it. We've been discussing the idea of reducing ticket prices and becoming a true second run type house (five and six weeks after the break). I just want to be careful not to siphon off too much from the six screener. It seems like the younger generation has abandoned the single screener in favor of the six-plex. Perhaps we should cater more to the senior crowd (daily matinees is one idea) and of course, movie prgramming. We just wrapped up Mr Peabody and had Non-Stop last week and both did much less than I thought they would. We're opening up Divergent today and I'm afraid it might be another down week. Any ideas? :S
"What a crazy business"
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Does it work to guilt your customers to coming? 11 Apr 2014 11:49 #40785

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leeler wrote:
As many of you know, we purchased our main competitor a couple of years ago. The trials and tribulations of that are another story. the real story is what it did to our single screener. After taking the six-plex digital and doing other things to improve it, we've done so, at the expense of the single screener. Our numbers are down by a quarter from where they were years ago. We're struggling with what to do about it. If they're going to the six-plex instead of the single, then fine, but if there is something else at work then we need to figure out what the problem is and what to do about it. We've been discussing the idea of reducing ticket prices and becoming a true second run type house (five and six weeks after the break). I just want to be careful not to siphon off too much from the six screener. It seems like the younger generation has abandoned the single screener in favor of the six-plex. Perhaps we should cater more to the senior crowd (daily matinees is one idea) and of course, movie prgramming. We just wrapped up Mr Peabody and had Non-Stop last week and both did much less than I thought they would. We're opening up Divergent today and I'm afraid it might be another down week. Any ideas? :S

I do not believe you can lower prices by much if any. $4/$5 is pretty darn good. I have seen a couple of theaters say that have felt pressure from the studios to raise prices up to $4/$5 level. So I doubt you should do that.

My experience with going after the senior citizen matinee crowd is not good. Not enough come to the movies to make it worthwhile and they certainly spend very little at the concession stand. Oh and you better have a senior citizen rate or hear the complaints.

As far as the younger generation goes, that was a big part of the buzz at Cinemacon. The younger audience is just not going to the theaters as much as before. I think it was -15% or so. Chalk that up to economy, smartphones, facebook, netflix, etc.

Are the bigger on the break movies doing much worse than before? Or is it across the board. I recall you play 5-6 movies on the break each year.

BTW, I also think you are one of the best operators in the industry.
Last Edit: 11 Apr 2014 11:50 by rufusjack.
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Does it work to guilt your customers to coming? 11 Apr 2014 13:52 #40788

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There are a number of theaters in Eastern Iowa that charge less than $4/$5 and they have been doing fine. One is the one Bob used to manage which is about 50 miles west of mine. They charge 99 cents apiece and do quite well. I'm not proposing going that far but maybe splitting the difference. I have my booker seeing what the studios would do about it. I'm guessing it would be no big deal but some of them may have an issue, we'll see. We have backed off from opening things on the break but it doesn't seem to have hurt our numbers. It is such a small town (again, no stoplights in the entire county) that after the first week, everyone who wanted to see the show has seen it so opening things on the break (particularly if we own the first run theater in the area, too) seems a little strange to me.

As far as me being one of the best operators in the industry, I'm flattered you think so but I think it has more to do with luck than skill.

"Better to be lucky than good!"

In any case, we may try a few things to get them not to forget about their hometown theater. For instance, in the lobby of the six screen I'm thinking of adding a poster case that advertises the movie the single screen is playing with the words "Come visit our sister theater" or something to that effect so it'll attract the people who come to the bigger place (at least in theory).
"What a crazy business"
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Does it work to guilt your customers to coming? 11 Apr 2014 13:55 #40789

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We don't do guilt. It's not a winning strategy. Instead, we are very upfront about our schedule and encourage people to see movies elsewhere if we aren't playing it, but also let them know if we plan to bring it in off the break. I had recently posted a fairly long bit on our facebook page about concessions. I didn't try and make it a poor little us post, I laid out the facts about where theaters need to be to stay open as well as thrive. We are on the thriving side of the concessions per cap equation already and have seen a 18% bump in per cap concessions since that post. We don't hide, we education and inform and continue to be rewarded with great crowds.

And I believe truly that if we do our job right, if we provide customer service above and beyond what people would ever expect, we can build a large group of customers who will choose to wait a couple of weeks if they know we will be bringing it in. We actually play most stuff on the break, but we are a four screen so we have to juggle content.

Honestly though, blaming your customers for the consequences of your bad business decisions (like not converting to digital day one) is pretty shameful. Interesting that such people continue to champion their rightness on when being film only would start to bite operators (My booker says I'm good til 2015!). I want everybody to do well, but I'm not sad that such hubris is apparently causing a business to fail.
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Does it work to guilt your customers to coming? 11 Apr 2014 16:35 #40790

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Leeler,

I think where the money is for a vintage theater is the 30-60 crowd, not the seniors.

I have a circa 1938 theater that was twinned very kindly in the late 70s.
There is a Regal 6-plex in town that is first run, we are mid-run.
A majority of my customers are 30-60 as well as couples with young kids.
Movies like Anchorman, Twilight, etc. do absolutely nothing.
But give me a Meryl Steep movie or a Disney movie and watch them pour in.
The adults that come like that there are almost no teenagers that come here.

I've always dreamed that if I could buy the Regal and thus have control over the whole market, I would program the two theaters as if they were one.
I would play the teeny-bopper and horror movies at the 6-plex and put the serious movies as well as a few art titles at my historic two-screen.

Just my 2-cents worth...
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Does it work to guilt your customers to coming? 12 Apr 2014 08:42 #40794

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I love this board. It is great. Lots of good ideas come from here.

I guess your statements have got me thinking about the future of this (the single screen) place. When we bought the six screen across the river we basically ran the single screener the same as before, which might have been short sighted. We ran it like most single screeners are run, bringing in 52 movies a year, four weeks after the break, appealing to the widest possible audience. Perhaps (and I'm just spit balling here) it should be run as a quasi art house to cater to a different demo than the six screener. I rarely have the luxury to play art in the six screener, there are just too many first run type movies for the masses. When I do manage to bring something in there it never does very well because we haven't cultivated that type of moviegoer and they get their art house fix somewhere else (where I have no idea since we are all alone out here in the sticks). I've really never played art at the single screener and don't really know what I'm doing with that sort of mix.

What I DO know is that business at the single screener is down by about a quarter from where it was several years ago when the single screen was digital and the six screen was film. Since taking over the six screener two and a half years ago (jeez, that went fast) we have improved nearly every aspect of it and brought it back to a more profitable stage. Our attention was largely on just the six screener and we let the single screener just chug along without doing much in the way of strategic planning for it. I would like to change that and consider some other options that would better serve the area and our business as a whole. I welcome any and all ideas anybody has.
"What a crazy business"
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