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TOPIC: To book or not to book?

To book or not to book? 23 Jun 2000 08:27 #446

  • Mike
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We book our own theatre but I'm wondering what others do. Do you think that bookers get better settlements for theatres? Can they get films that an individual may not? Are they indebted to their connections in the film co. office to play pictures that a theatre owner would prefer not to? Thoughts?

Mike Hurley
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Michael Hurley
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Re: To book or not to book? 24 Jun 2000 00:13 #447

  • RoxyVaudeville
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Booking:

I currently book thirteen, that's twelve in addition to my own...two of those are drive-ins. Five are first run, six subrun, and two are discounts. Most are in small towns (under 5,000 pop), but three are in markets of 100,000 to 600,000 and one is in a 50,000 market.

I am a no frills discount booker (just like a discount broker in the stock market). I always tell my clients that they could probably do everything I do themselves and save that expense if they want to. I ask them what they want and then I get it for them. I don't push particular films or distributors, but I do argue their individual situations to try and get them the best deal and shortest playing time. If they ask my opinion on a film, I'll give it, and if I think a film is a sure winner I'll recommend it, but I don't push the issue.

So why do people use me, you ask, if I tell them they could do it themselves? It is because all of these exhibitors do this as a part time business. They have other business', or professions, or another full time job. They either have the theatre as a hobby, or want to insure that their community continues to have their own theatre, or just want a 2nd income. They don't have or want to take the time to call all the distributors to find out what's available and what the terms are etc., etc. They would rather just make one or two phone calls a week to a booker and be done with it.

However, what I do give as a little extra is advice on theatre management. Hey, after thirty five years of running theatres I do believe I have a wee bit of experience, and don't mind parting with that knowledge. Anything about advertising, promoting, equipment, building maintenance, remodeling(I'm also an architect by the way), or anything to do with theatres I will advise on.

The point is that I think that if you have the time and interest, there is no reason not to book your own theatre. I think that you can do as well as anyone else. If your an absolute novice just starting out, you probably should use a booker until you get your feet on the ground, once you get the feel of things...take the big step and do it yourself.
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Re: To book or not to book? 25 Jun 2000 00:27 #448

  • Avalon
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When i opened my theater three years ago, I booked myself. I figured after 20 years of working in theaters, I'd do just fine. The movie companies were not too interested in me. After a year and a half of booking my own films, i got a booker. yes, there are lots of times i wonder what the weather is like on his planet. there are times i play crap i never would have booked myself. there was a tense moment when i refused shipment of a film when i found out it was rated "X". but, for me, a booker works. it's one less thing i have to mess with. movie companies take calls from him they never would have from me when i was newer. when the precentage gets inflated between booking and billing, he handles it. whne a shipment is lated, his secretary can raise ten kinds of hell with Techni-boo-boo. i do a lot of different things -- not exclusivly art films -- and if i call him for a subrun print of something, it's usually not a problem. i think i have the advantage of having done it myself before -- at a time in a theater's life when booking is the most difficult -- and i can do it again. so, i do have a choice whether to have a booker or not. for now, i choose to have one.
Paul Turner
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Re: To book or not to book? 29 Jun 2000 15:52 #449

  • Mike
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Thanks for the the excellent and well thought out perspectives. I appreciated Roxy's in particular because even as a booker he advocated that if you have enough time and energy then you should do it yourself. And Avalon made just as much good points by saying that a booker is essential to him.

In our case we were brand new 5.5 years ago in an established business and we went into it so quick that we absolutely needed the booker we inherited. "Bud" Sculley was an ancient and he'd been in the biz back into the 20's. He went along with us somewhat but feely gave advice. For someone new in the business no one will teach you more than your booker. This is a business that (at least before the internet!) has no written words. Everything is learned by touch and voice. There are no manuals. No books. No instruction manuals. If you're new I don't really think you can do it alone. Learning where to get trailers and materials, clearances, terms, allowances, splitting, showing clean, lost prints, deliveries... I can't imagine trying that on your own! Once established and learning our way we were about three years in... working with Peter who we inherited when Bud died... Peter's favorite expression was when I'd mention a film we wanted, he'd yell "No business!". Pete always wanted the pics that did business but we played a lot of dogs to keep somebody happy. I really started studying, calling the distribs, I called theatre owners, talked to everybody...made sure I had every phone and fax # and dove in. I have enjoyed it almost every minute. There have been times I did not get a picture but we're not the biggest grossing place... how can I blame the? Other times; I have no mixed loyalties so I know exactly who I'm working for. I don't have to decide like Job... I'm in it for The Colonial. I keep very friendly relationships. I send everybody candy and post cards, a coffee mug. A T shirt is always nice and work to stay on their good side. And most importantly: pay on time! Nothing will make you less likely to get a film or get your phone calls returned. Pay on time. And tell them you pay on time. I'm an indie. Without the film companies... I'm a big dark house with a lot of seats. To book or not to book....Yes and no.
Michael Hurley
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