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TOPIC: The ol' Booker By-pass ploy...

The ol' Booker By-pass ploy... 16 Nov 2004 22:34 #9309

  • Avalon
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Anyone else having trouble with film company people wanting to deal with you directly rather than your booker? No matter how many times I tell them I do NOTHING until my booker tells me to, they keep calling and emailing wanting payment or BORs or a commitment on a play date. Started a kill file in my email to just bounce back these emails. I wonder who decided it cost effective to hassle the owners rather than the hired-guns who represent them. I guess one owner caved and they figured this is the way to get their film rent faster. Poor dears…they must be starving…
Paul Turner
Avalon Cinema
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Re: The ol' Booker By-pass ploy... 16 Nov 2004 23:16 #9310

  • Mike Spaeth
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Umm ... last time I checked the booker handled the booking ... not the payment. They provide you with the terms. From there on out, you pay the film company, provide box office reports, etc.
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Re: The ol' Booker By-pass ploy... 17 Nov 2004 00:36 #9311

  • RoxyVaudeville
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Well... let's look at this from a bookers point of view.

First of all, like most things in this business, the role of booker has changed a great deal over the years. When I was first in business nearly 40 years ago and had a booker, everything was handled by them. When you paid the film rent the check was made out in the name of the booker, not the film distributor. All the monies from his various booking accounts went into his checking account and then he made out checks to the film companies.

After I acquired several theatres I started booking them myself, and of course paid directly to the distributors. Later as I started to dispose of those theates, turning them over to my managers, I continued to book them. That's how I got into the booking biz. I followed the practice that I had learned from the booker that I used early on, and collected all the money and then paid the distributors. It was not unusual for a client to only send me box office statements and payment once a month, with everything on one check. I then had to write out individual checks for each picture and distributor, and make copies of the box office statements as well. I eventually changed that to having them send me two copies of the BO statement and the checks made out to the proper studio, and I forwarded them on. All new accounts that I have acquired during the past five years now send their BO statements and checks directly to the distributor, and a copy of the BO statement along with a copy of the check to me.

When a client is late paying, the booker gets the call and then has to call the exhibitor. If he is a slow pay, you might get 3 or 4 distributors a week asking for money from that account. Many exhibitors are notorious for paying slow. If you have 5 or 6 or more slow accounts, you might get 10 to 15 calls a week for money. I'm getting too old to deal with that. That's not the bookers fault, it's the exhibitors fault and they should have to deal with it. So now when I have a slow pay I tell the distributor to call them directly, hassle them, not me. I pay all my film bills within 7 days, so I don't deserve to be hasseled.

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Re: The ol' Booker By-pass ploy... 17 Nov 2004 01:06 #9312

  • rodeojack
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Regarding booking:
Any call we get from a studio gets referred to our booker, period. Our booker has worked her butt off to get us where we are. She doesn't deserve the runaround, and we won't be a part of it. If something's worth running, we'll talk about it (and we frequently do), but she makes the deals.

Regarding payment:
Our booker gets the bills. She faxes us a sheet with the shows, playdates and payments due. We make a copy of her worksheet, cut the payment notices in strips & attach them to the checks. We note the check numbers on the original sheet & send them out. If a payment is questioned, which happens more often because of the studios crummy accounting, we have everything we need to track the payments... and so does our booker.

Regarding BOR's.
We email them to our booker, she sends them off to the studios, the studios send her the "dues", and she passes them back to us. That's the trail... so if I get a call from a studio for a BOR, I pass them to the booker... pretty much the same as you'd transfer a call to "accounting". She handles that for us, and I don't interfere with the "chain of command".

For us, this has worked very well for over 10 years.
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Re: The ol' Booker By-pass ploy... 17 Nov 2004 12:29 #9313

  • Avalon
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First off: Great responses. Thank you. I feel less like I’m missing something. Roxy and Rodeo nailed it. The procedures they described pretty much mirror what I'm doing now with my booker. By the way, I love my booker. He works very hard and always goes the extra mile to make things happen (I'm in the process of acting as general contractor on the building my four-plex, so I'm not at all my usual organized, prompt self). He is FAR from amused they are contacting me directly. I'm not yet what one might consider an old timer, but I've been around long enough detect a subtle shift in the movie companies' procedure. It seems many are disrespecting the relationship I have with my booker and trying to bypass him. When confronted with this behavior, their response is to tell me I owe them for this film. When I state that the terms have yet to be worked out with my booker, one film company rep told me there was nothing to work out, it was 50% aggregate (It was later worked out to 40/35/30 by another rep and my booker). The people who call for payment and the like often sound, well, stressed. They need to get this or that closed out right now. The temptation is to say, “That’s nice, sweetheart. If you do your job and send a statement to my booker, then we can get the ball rolling. Until then, I can’t help you.” I’m going to change the OGM on my office answering machine to state that if you haven’t sent a statement to my booker, do not even think about leaving a message about film rent due. I was just wondering if anyone else in Exhibition Land was experiencing the same harassment.

Paul Turner
Avalon Cinema
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Re: The ol' Booker By-pass ploy... 17 Nov 2004 13:11 #9314

  • rodeojack
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I haven't experienced anything to the level you describe.

If a studio calls for info (like a bor), or asks about money (unless it's for tracking a payment already made), we simply tell them that our booker handles all of that for us. Technically, it's true, because we don't process payments until they pass by her, and she is the contact for any BOR info from us.

If a studio tried to strong-arm me like you describe above, I'd just tell them we're happy to pay our bills. Our film payables are managed by our booker. Please contact him/her. Do you need the number??


2 thoughts... I'd also log every one of those calls, including the name of the caller & make sure the booker knows about all of them.

Also, you need to remember that since you are ultimately responsible for film payments, you want to be confident your booker is accessible to the studios and has good working relationships with them.
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Re: The ol' Booker By-pass ploy... 17 Nov 2004 14:10 #9315

  • outaframe
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It's been a very long time since I used a booker, but when I first started in the business I used the one which my predecessor had been using, then later booked it myself for a couple years... A new booking service then contacted me and convinced me that they could secure better settlements, and I used them for the next 4 years... Both bookers were quite good at getting favorable terms, but tended to block book all of their accounts, and I ended up playing a lot of product I didn't really want, so I took over the booking, and have done my own since... In both instances, the booker supplied the boxoffice statements, which I remitted to them, they settled the terms, and billed me for the rentals, but my checks were made payable directly to the distributors, and were sent to the booker to remit... Any advances or guarantees were made payable directly to the distributor, but remitted through the booker... I don't recall any instances of a distributor trying to circumvent my booker and deal directly, but I do recall that once or twice one wouldn't release a print until I paid an additional disputed rental amount on a previously played film... My contention with both bookers was that I would rather pay another 10%, or so, to get the film while it was hot, than wait 'til the rental hit bottom... They concentrated on securing the minimum rental, and that's why we parted company, but all-in-all they did a good job, and I had no major complaints with either...
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Re: The ol' Booker By-pass ploy... 17 Nov 2004 18:13 #9316

  • BECKWITH1
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We work with a big regional booker who does everything for us from booking prints, settling terms, dealing with the film cos over BOR, payments, etc. We write checks to the distributors but send them to the booker who overnight all the accumulated payments to each film co. Occasionally I get a call from my booker for an extra copy of a BOR that has been lost by a distributor. Occasionally I also get a payment type call from my booker when some film co is in a sales drive and needs their money extra fast. Don't get me wrong -we pay within 14 days and that is why I get irritated with these sales drives. Warner Bros is the worst and we unfortunately booked a WIP film for the last week of their last drive. Didn't know they were in a sales drive and wouldn't have booked the picture if we'd known. Our paying system is fairly efficient but it takes longer than 7 days to work. I'm glad I've never received a call directly from one of the film cos.
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