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TOPIC: Do drive-ins have special rules?

Do drive-ins have special rules? 30 Mar 2004 14:17 #7986

  • Adam Fraser
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I was wondering if distributors have special rules for drive-ins regarding splitting product on one screen. It seems they can run double bills with much newer features than we could ever do.

For us (1 screen) to be able to split, the movie has to be more than 4 weeks old, sometimes older.
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Re: Do drive-ins have special rules? 30 Mar 2004 18:56 #7987

  • muviebuf
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Yes today drive-ins have their own set of rules. Years ago drive-ins were the lowest of the low on the pecking order scale. Not today.

The deals they make for drive-ins today are enough to make the average indoor owner scream foul. Not only doubles put ridculously low percentages. Sometimes the second features are at 5 to 10%.

When it comes to playing games with the reported numbers it gets even more bizarre! Lets say a drive-in opens a feature for two weeks 50%/40%. They then hold over that feature for a third week fro 10% as the second feature to a brand new top feature that the drive-in is paying 50% for. Lets say the new feature goes through the roof. The holdover company sometimes claims the full gross in its "reported" fighure for publicity comsumption - even if they only are entitled to 10% of the gross.

And depending on the contract with the new feature studio the drive-in may even be able to deduct the cost of the second feature from the first features gross. This is the way they used to do it many years ago although this practice is phasing out as the deals get juicier.
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Re: Do drive-ins have special rules? 30 Mar 2004 21:31 #7988

  • outaframe
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BUF <> Jeeze, does that stink!... I remember when the second feature of a double bill, was flat, then the cost of the second picture was deducted from the billed total, as figured to be the % of the combo, but THIS deal you mention is REALLY rotten... Talk about favoritism!...
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Re: Do drive-ins have special rules? 31 Mar 2004 09:19 #7989

Folks, I would not get my panties in a wad over the percentages that you think Drive Ins pay. In most cases you miss the mark by and incredible amount. There are splits, but not near the cheap ranges that you are reporting on this board. Not even close!
Steve Wilson
Holiday Drive-In Theatre
Mitchell, Indiana
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Re: Do drive-ins have special rules? 31 Mar 2004 10:11 #7990

When a drive-in moves a picture over to second feature status for a much lower film rental, the studio will be collecting a much higher gross from being paired with a new main feature than they would if the picture had continued its run as a main feature. 10% of $20,000 is alot more than 35% of $2,000, which is why the studio goes along with this. If the picture were to remain as a main feature, it would not be allowed to run below 35%.

In some cases, the studio does this to boost the opening gross for their own picture. They are able to maintain their screen counts by holding more prints, while also receiving more film rental due to a substantially higher gross, and are able to report the entire gross even though they are essentially tagging along to a picture that is opening on the break. The studio wins, the drive-in wins, and the drive-in patrons win.

Is this seemingly preferential treatment fair to the hardtops? Who is to say what is fair or unfair in this industry. There are certainly different rules for drive-ins than there are for indoors. There are also different rules for indoors in one market or region to other indoors across the country.

Most drive-ins operate seasonally, from early May through Labor Day, and they need every edge they can find to make the most out of a very short season. The world is a much better place with drive-in theatres, than without them.

Rick Cohen
Transit 4 Drive-in
Buffalo, NY www.transitdrivein.com

"As long as there are sunsets and stars at night, there will be drive-in movies."

[This message has been edited by Transit4DIT (edited March 31, 2004).]

[This message has been edited by Transit4DIT (edited March 31, 2004).]

[This message has been edited by Transit4DIT (edited March 31, 2004).]
"As long as there are sunsets and stars at night, there will be drive-in movies."
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Re: Do drive-ins have special rules? 31 Mar 2004 13:06 #7991

  • outaframe
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No panty-wadding, and no axe to grind with drive-ins, but it DOES p*ss me off the way the @%&#*@^ distributors manipulate things!... The fact that NOTHING in this world is fair, is a foregone conclusion, but if the playing field were level, EVERYONE would benefit in the long run... A realistic (and fair) pricing structure for ALL would most likely result in lower ticket prices, and put more fannies in the seats (cars in the parking ramps)... AND this is the crux of the problem, the population continues to increase, but the % of moviegoers continues to decrease... The ancillary markets are growing exponentially, but exhibition is being phased out... Moviegoing was MASS entertainment, once upon a time... AND drive-ins aren't unique in being affected by the seasons (and weather conditions): indoors in any four-season climate ALSO are at the mercy of Mother Nature and what's going on seasonwise...
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Re: Do drive-ins have special rules? 31 Mar 2004 14:41 #7992

  • rodeojack
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Drive-ins license their pictures in ways that, hopefully, creates a "relatively optimized compromize"... a deal that works for the studios AND the drive-in.
I wouldn't characterize it as "favoritism" or "special"... different, maybe... but then, so is the way a drive-in operates in the first place.
This isn't really any more unusual than the fact that first-run, sub-run, discount, art and repertory venues all license their pictures under different conditions.

If indoor theatres could only run one or two performances a day... maybe for only 5 or 6 months a year, their deals with the studios would probably look more like what the drive-ins get.

I have both kinds of venues, and I think the package is tailored well enough for both. For drive-ins, the deals recognize the fact that the vast majority have run double features since drive-ins were invented. That practice has largely been dropped from pretty much all mainstream indoor operations I'm aware of. One major reason is that you're cutting your audience count in half... or looking at it another way, doubling the cost of entertaining each customer. For all but maybe a few on the fringe, indoor houses wouldn't touch a typical drive-in deal with a 10-foot pole.


Looking at Adam's post again, I think his point may have been missed entirely.

First-run indoor theatres are required (by virtue of our master licenses) to dedicate one show to one screen. This means that you can not run anything else on that screen without the studio's OK. You CAN adjust the number of performances you run in an auditorium, but you can not add performances and give them to a different picture.

On the other hand, there ARE conditions under which a studio will let you "stack" a screen. This is not the same as splitting product. Under a "stack", you may share a screen between two or more prints. This is generally allowed after a picture has fulfilled its 2-4 week obligation. Other theatres in your area that may be running the same show, and what they're doing with it can also have an effect on whether you'll be allowed to stack your screens.

Under a "split", a studio is assuming that you are presenting a double feature... showing both pictures for the same admission. Under this condition, they'll split their percentage demand between the two shows. If you're charging separate admissions, they'll be treating your bookings as unrelated, thereby not qualifying for the kind of "split" that's more common at drive-ins.

Anything from Sub-run and beyond is generally not subject to the one-screen, one-feature rule.
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Re: Do drive-ins have special rules? 31 Mar 2004 16:44 #7993

  • muviebuf
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I operate a restored historic single screen theatre. If I want to open a picture on first run national availability (which I could do if I choose) then I have to meet the same terms and conditions as the multiplexes in my area. I am not so much concerned with the admission price as the required playing time. In my vastly overscreened market I simply cannnot play a single picture by itself for several weeks. (Thus I am forced into second run.)

So should I have special terms and conditions like the drive-ins? I have argued this point with the distributors for many years. These pleas fall on deaf ears. It is the primary reason that so many of the single screen theatres have closed - the unwillingness of the distributors to work with (and help save)what is in reality a speciality market - but which is refused to be recognized as such.

Am I jealous of the drive-ins and their speciality deals? YOU BET!


[This message has been edited by muviebuf (edited March 31, 2004).]
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Re: Do drive-ins have special rules? 31 Mar 2004 18:19 #7994

  • outaframe
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Well stated, BUF, I know where you are coming from: we're in the same boat...
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Re: Do drive-ins have special rules? 31 Mar 2004 18:36 #7995

  • rodeojack
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I seem to be missing your point. You two seem to be very unhappy with the way the studios market films to drive-ins. What kind of deal do you think you should get?

If a drive-in booked a single feature, like some drive-ins do, their deal would be very similar to what an indoor house would pay.

Flat second-features are still available, though most consumers don't want to see them. We used to be able to book, and sell them to the public because they couldn't see them on TV anywhere near as fast as they do now.

You can not book two movies and sell them as single features, while trying at the same time to get a "drive-in deal". Drive-ins can't sell their shows that way, either.

On the other hand, were you to offer double features to the public at your indoor theatre, it's likely that you could book them pretty much like drive-ins do. I used to do that myself.

The point, as far as the studios seem to take it, is that the same general percentage... maybe even a bit more, goes out of the drive-in's boxoffice for a given patron. The only real difference is that we're doing it on a single presentation of two pictures, where the indoor house does it with one.

MOVIEBUF: You have a good point about the plight of single-screen theatres. However, there are many single-screen drive-ins that have exactly the same problem. If I had only one screen here, I'd probably be closed. The factors that caused your situation include the phenomenon of multiplexes, 7-day bookings, 6-month windows to video and, rather than overscreening, oversaturation of many markets with too many prints. The public can find a given picture at many more locations, and with more start times to choose from than was possible 30 years ago in the single-screen days. All of those factors would create massive problems for me, were I to attempt first-run operations with only one outdoor screen. What kind of deal could I get out of the studios for that? Probably not much, since many drive-ins already deal with the problem.

... so again if I'm missing your specific point, what is it exactly, that stinks about how drive-ins book as opposed to an indoor? Please also explain how you'd want to sell your shows, because I don't see how your deal is all that bad.


[This message has been edited by rodeojack (edited March 31, 2004).]
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Re: Do drive-ins have special rules? 31 Mar 2004 22:59 #7996

  • RoxyVaudeville
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rodeo, I'm curious as to what part of the country you are in. I have owned and booked theatres here in Pennsylvania for almost 40 years now,indoors and drive-ins,first run and 2nd run, and I have never come across the term "stacking". "Spliting" here is when you play two different pictures on the same screen independent of one another and charge a separate price for each. Double features haven't been done in this area at indoor theatres as a general policy for over fifty years. Actually, double features were never really accepted in this territory at any point in this industries history and most first runs stayed single feature policy even when it was the norm in many parts of the nation to present double bills.

I think that the unfairness that seems to exist between how pictures are released to drive-ins verus how they are released to single screen indoors is more a question of availabily of product rather then cost.

Drive-ins that operate first run can usually get product for as little as a 2 week run, or in the spring and fall... two weekends, while a single screen indoor would have to play the same film for 4 weeks, 7 days a week. Most single screen theatres today are located in small towns that can't support a 4 week run. Many could manage a 2 week run, but don't often get that opportunity. Even then the 2nd week would often be a loss-leader just to get the picture. There has been a change in the right direction over the past several years where some companies such as Sony and Paramount have offered some of their lesser pictures for two week deals. Universal has recently packaged their summer product where if you play their three major summer releases back to back you can play each one for two weeks. Of course by doing that you have commited half your summer to just one studio, and as a single screen that's a risky thing to do.

In answer to Adams question, yes they do have special rules for drive-ins whereby they can move a feature after two weeks to the 2nd billing position at 10 or 15%, therefore allowing the screen to be available for a new feature for top billing. If you ran double features in your indoor, maybe you could do that as well. I don't know of anyone that has tried that. I don't think a first run double feature policy would work at indoor theatres.

oh...and to Steve Wilson. I book 2nd features into drive-ins at 10%, 7 1/2% and even 5% all the time. However, to be fair, one must remember that those low percentages must be added to the 50, 60 or even 70% paid for the first feature. On the other hand if your not playing on national avail,it is not uncommon to book two 2nd features
, both at 10%, giving a total of 20% film rent.

[This message has been edited by RoxyVaudeville (edited April 01, 2004).]
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Re: Do drive-ins have special rules? 01 Apr 2004 15:24 #7997

  • rodeojack
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Roxy: I'm located just west of Seattle.

Having heard from a couple other operators, it seems the "stacking/splitting" issue is more a matter of terminology than anything else. I haven't heard anyone use the term "split" unless it referred to a booking package (like at the drive-in), and "stacking" is what we've always termed playing two pictures on one screen, yet billing them separately. No biggie I guess... as long as we know what's being discussed.

Through my association with the national drive-in owners' group, I've learned that booking policy over the country can vary quite a bit, depending on what branch you're being served by. Up until this year, for example, none of the majors would book a picture on the break for a 3-day run. This was something we had to plan for during the early and late fringe parts of our season, when we don't run full-time. At the same time though, I noticed ads for drive-ins on the Eastern side of the country that were not only booking on the break on 3-day runs, but were also running a triple feature AND selling the whole thing at carload prices. I couldn't get anyone to talk to me about a deal like that.... not that I'd want to... but it was a fairly stark example of how some areas have policies that aren't available to me.

Another example I could point to is your ability to book two "second features" and run the package at 20%. I'm not sure I could do that here, either... but it would be interesting to hear what kind of combos you'd be putting together and how old they'd have to be to get that kind of deal.

As for the length-of-run; it's not uncommon up here to see indoor houses go in for 3 and 4 week commitments, then have the studios let them drop off at 2. Some of our areas are so over-screened that the picture has all-but died after 2 weeks. Whether the studios could rein in that kind of oversaturation (or want to) is unclear, because a lot of that overscreening is being done by the major chains. A multiplex is more likely to hold played-out pictures longer, just to keep their screens lit, even if it means a week or two with several no-shows during weekdays. A single, or smaller multi would have a hard time with a deal like that, and 2-week runs are more common in those houses.

However, you are right about places where there are maybe only one or two screens in town. A friend of mine has a large single & pretty much had the town to himself until a small twin was opened, about 10 years ago. For some time, most of the decent stuff went to the twin because they could (and did) open at 11 and ran until nearly midnight, while my friend stuck to his original schedule of only one show per day. The studios naturally gravitated to the screens that would give them the most exposure. Of course, in this small town, everyone who's interested sees the show in the first week or so, so holdovers aren't much better for the twin than they are for the indoor. In that case, 3-week runs are highly unusual.

As for moving pictures into a second, lower-percentage position, we also do that by practice, though we negotiate those deals individually, rather than expect a title to draw a particular price. As others here have observed, a second feature that books with a combo can be purchased for less than that same picture would cost at an indoor. I experience this regularly, as I have both. However, rather than look at the pictures individually, I've always considered the drive-in bookings to be package deals, once they've been formulated.
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Re: Do drive-ins have special rules? 01 Apr 2004 16:33 #7998

  • outaframe
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RODEOJACK <> Like ROXY, I've been at this for a while, and CAN play SOME pix (but certainly not all) on the break, for 2 weeks, and sometimes even with a REAL holdover, but the distributors keep demanding the firm 4-6 weeks, even on stuff I wouldn't consider for more than a week...
Like I said, no axe to grind with drive-ins, but with the distributors about AFTER the break... Back before HBO, VHS, cable (not CATV) and satelite, there were fewer pictures made, and CONSIDERABLY fewer prints, AND first runs were ONLY in major markets... Then, the same prints trickled down to secondary market first run, and finally to sub run... The secondary first run terms were a bit softer, and playtime a LOT more flexible (a situation that a one screen can live with)... AND playing anything TRUE sub run was ALWAYS negotiable down to 25%, sometimes even flat!... The window to Broadcast TV was in years (not months)... IF you didn't buy the picture as secondary market first run, you could later buy it as early sub run, and AFFORD to promote it locally (and sometimes even weedle some co-op advertizing money)...
NOW that situation has changed... AFTER the 4-6 week first run, secondary market first run and sub run are the ALL the SAME... They take ANY playdate with FIRM terms, minimum 35%, and the video window is nipping at your heels!... You are locked into firm terms (with a minimum dollar amount for a playdate), no advertizing help, and a minimum dollar amount that COULD amount to MORE than first run on the break, IF the picture bombs in your location... YET, they sell the SAME picture to a drive-in for double bills at a ridiculously low %... All those prints that stack up after the initial break ends just sit there 'til they're scrapped, but FIRM TERMS won't be lowered (unless it's a drive-in double bill)... Like ROXY, I have no love of double bills for an indoor, and don't intend to get into that situation... BUT I do have an issue with the distributors who won't cut you any slack with second wave/subrun terms, no matter what!...
The screen splitting issue is another bone of contention... IF you honor your contract, and play the picture you booked as you contracted to, should you want to play a different film as a special matinee, late show, etc. it's NONE of the damned business of the distributor whose picture you're playing in your regular time slot, alloted to them... BUT they want to control everything during your contract playdate...
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Re: Do drive-ins have special rules? 04 Apr 2004 16:48 #7999

  • rodeojack
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Sounds like you've been around, Roxy! Back during the days you describe, we were playing double features on Thursday, Friday, Saturday... another double on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, then two old flat pictures on Wednesday (BUCK NITE!). The local indoor ran the same schedule, but did only singles & closed on Wednesday.

As for control of your business, you've sure got that right. Part of the raging debate over digital has a lot to do with the studios' control over where, when and how you play their pix in your theatre. At least one business model even had them with a tie into your POS system. I think they're still "negotiating" those issues!
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Re: Do drive-ins have special rules? 17 Apr 2004 14:36 #8000

  • muviebuf
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Kill Bill 2 and The Punisher as a double feature for a weekend only at the drive-ins. Now just how does an indoor compete with that?

[This message has been edited by muviebuf (edited April 17, 2004).]
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