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TOPIC: To Hold or Not to Hold. That is the Question.....

To Hold or Not to Hold. That is the Question..... 21 Apr 2007 11:23 #20774

  • leeler
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I have been getting pressure from a particular movie studio to hold a movie into the second week. I have so far resisted almost entirely, but I am curious about it. First off, let me back up and explain a few things.

We have been open for about three and a half years now. I do my owm booking and have made plenty of newbie mistakes in picking movies over this span. I am at a point now where I can read my audiences tastes better and my numbers bear this out. Having said that, however, I just came off my best attended movie ever (Wild Hogs). Would a second week of it have done better then the first week of a new movie? Who knows? In any case, I don't really have the luxury of holding a film after its' first week is over. I have to plan it in advance because of the newspaper ad situation.

My newspapers (I'm in ten of them) are all weekly and come out on Wednesdays. The deadline for ads is on the previous Thursday. Therefore, I can't advertise I'm holding a movie over the next week until the day before I actually play it the first week. I am in a very small market (my town is less then 1500 people and it is the county seat). This leaves me with planning a two week booking in advance as my only real viable option.

How do you know a movie will be such a hit that you'll need to hold it over? Hindsight of course makes the decisions easy but I don't have that luxury. I am doing an experiment and actually opening a movie (Shrek the Third) and I will have to hold it over at that point but I usually book films that are six to ten weeks old. I did get talked into holding over Pirates 2 last summer after it had been out for seven weeks and it was a failure. First week was a little above average and second week was well below average.

What are your thoughts on this?

Thanks in advance and sorry for the rambling post.
"What a crazy business"
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Re: To Hold or Not to Hold. That is the Question..... 21 Apr 2007 16:48 #20775

  • Larry Thomas
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Yes, Hogs would have done better a second week than opening Mimzy. And it would have been good for a third instead of Reign on Me.

Pirates last year would have done better the second week if you had played it earlier than 7 weeks out.

If, for the most part, you are not playing on the break, then you have the advantage of knowing how a film is doing in the later weeks after opening.

I've been doing this for years (as have several others here). Anytime you are seriously thinking about holding (or not holding) a film, just ask one of us. I may be a booker, but there's no charge for advice or opinions.

BTW...good move with Shrek 3 on the break. I think you'll be happy with this experiment. Although don't get talked in to playing just anything on the break.
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Re: To Hold or Not to Hold. That is the Question..... 21 Apr 2007 16:50 #20776

  • muviebuf
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You need to establish just how much you drop in a second week hold over situation. This of course requires you to hold over a few pictures to establish the percentage. At my single screen the drop was always 50%. Some pictures held in slightly better than that figure but over time the 50% became a good rule of thumb for me.

The decision was then simple. If the picture that I was going to come in with was not reasonably expected to do more than 50% of what I already had .... then I held - if only to save the shipping costs of another print and the hassles of taking apart and putting together another show.

Makes it tough when you have weekly papers but you really should be educating your audience away from newspapers anyway. It is antiquated form of advertising for our business today.
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Re: To Hold or Not to Hold. That is the Question..... 21 Apr 2007 21:36 #20777

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We gave up on trying to have actual titles and show times in the weekly papers. If the deadline is prior to the tuesday of the same week we are booking friday for. Then we just place a generic ad directing them to our phone number for movies and showtimes and more importantly to our web site.

I would say now that only about 15% or less of our customers rely on newspapers for movie info anymore.

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Re: To Hold or Not to Hold. That is the Question..... 21 Apr 2007 21:37 #20778

  • puzzlegut
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When we advertised in the newspaper, we always put in "Movies and times subject to change" as a way of covering our butt. I have noticed that the newspaper ads for the 7 screen 22 miles from us now don't even list their movies in the paper anymore, they just have a phone number and website. We also (most of the time anyway) call on Monday for Friday. If we know ahead of time what we are showing, we'll put it on our website and posters in the lobby. For instance, we are right now booked through the first of June and all information is posted in the theater and online. But most of our customers know how we book movies and will call throughout the week or check the website for information.

We were also pretty much told we had to hold "Hogs" for a second week because the first week did very well or it would not be good for us. I didn't want to because I knew we would not do near as well as they thought we would the second week. We are a single screen and 99.9% of the time, unless we open on the break, we only show movies for one week and our customers know this. We dropped by almost 70% for the second week, which would have been the fifth week of the movie. But that also established that with a movie 4-5 weeks old, we aren't going to gross much on the second week. We also didn't want to make them to mad with "Pirates" coming out soon, but we decided to open "Spiderman" and "Shrek" and pass on "Pirates" on the break.
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Re: To Hold or Not to Hold. That is the Question..... 22 Apr 2007 01:20 #20779

  • BurneyFalls
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I quit advertising in our two weekly papers about three years ago. The web, answering machine, and weekly newsletter are my advertising tools. One of the reasons I quit the paper was because of not knowing what I was going to play until after their deadline.

I often move a print from one location to the other for the reasons moviebuf mentioned, when a new print probably won't bring in any more people than the old one. Saving on shipping and make-up time is a major consideration in my situation.

Something you might consider is to double up on prints that second week providing both studios agree to the arrangement. Two mediocre films will often bring in as many patrons as one good film--just takes more of your time to make the buck. Current example: TMNT and 300.
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Re: To Hold or Not to Hold. That is the Question..... 22 Apr 2007 10:28 #20780

  • leeler
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I have tried to quit newspaper advertising in the past and the drop in attendance has been quite noticeable. This area seems to be behind the times somewhat so the papers are more important here then they are in other areas, I think. In any case, my biggest concern with holding films for two weeks is that I'll burn out my tiny audience. I get many people who come every week (God bless them) so I intentionally mix up the movies in my cue to have alittle something for everyone in the next couple of weeks. Here is my schedule:

Wild Hogs (last week)
Last Mimzy (this week)
Reign Over Me (next week)
Meet the Robinsons (two weeks)
Blades of Glory (three weeks)
Shrek the Third (four weeks) holding for two weeks

I was also looking at the rest of the year for possible two week shows. I have data for Harry Potter, POC and Spider Man which all say to me that a two week run is not warranted. They performed better then average but not substantially (of course this was after the break). The one that sticks out in my mind is National Treasure two this winter. We did very well with the first one even after eight weeks of it being released.

I guess my biggest concern is that my drop will be too big on the majority of titles and that it won't be good in the short run and it'll turn off my patrons who come weekly so it'll hurt in the long run as well.

I wonder what would happen if I had fewer movies because I was holding over the stronger ones...

"What a crazy business"
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Re: To Hold or Not to Hold. That is the Question..... 22 Apr 2007 11:54 #20781

  • rodeojack
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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, helvetica">quote:</font><HR>I wonder what would happen if I had fewer movies because I was holding over the stronger ones...
<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I think you have your area figured out quite well, Leeler.

I see the same thing at the single screeners in my area, both indoor and drive-in. If you hold, especially for more than a week, you're not offering anything new to your regular client base. If they find something else to do with their time, maybe they won't think of you when you DO bring in a new film.

I think back on how we ran the original Star Wars for 6 (good) months in a big single house, and am amazed at how much this business has changed.
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Re: To Hold or Not to Hold. That is the Question..... 22 Apr 2007 12:24 #20782

  • BurneyFalls
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I generally play about four titles a year on the break for the two to four weeks required. The first week and second weekend are great. After that, my patrons and I are both tired of the film and are looking for alternatives. But, they are quite excited that their little community single screen played the latest blockbuster on opening day and appreciate it. I think by passing the big ones and playing it later you are losing quite a few patrons for that title. You probably do lose some patrons on the extended run, and they may go elsewhere for those last two weeks. If your presentation and audience control are excellent, and they leave for those couple weeks and go to an inferior, and most likely more expensive place to see something different, they might appreciate you all the more when they return.

The whole thing might be a wash earningswise if you show something big on the break, but your patrons know you are trying to bring in the big guns when you can. (Actually, it is generally much better than a wash.)


Side note: My grandson called this morning to tell me he watched Disturbia yesterday in a S.F. Bay Area megaplex. It cost him $9.25 just to get in the door, then he paid $2.75 for a small box of Milk Duds. He now thinks my prices are pretty cheap.



[This message has been edited by BurneyFalls (edited April 23, 2007).]
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Re: To Hold or Not to Hold. That is the Question..... 22 Apr 2007 23:00 #20783

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Leeler it sure sounds like you have your market figured out well. Wild Hogs was one of those rare small town hits. That had a good repeatability to it. A rare gem of a picture these days.

We still advertise in our daily papers. It is just the weeklies that we gave up on being able to schedule in the advance lead time they require. We are still in them, but as said earlier with just a generic ad.
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Re: To Hold or Not to Hold. That is the Question..... 23 Apr 2007 00:27 #20784

  • puzzlegut
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Leeler: have you ever thought of booking your films a week at a time as oppose to booking them several weeks in advance? When we first took over the theater, we booked our films a month at a time. This was the way the previous owners booked their films. On the one hand this was nice because we were able to make up fliers for people to take home so they would know what movies we had coming up.

But on the other hand, there were several movies that we could have gotten sooner but we couldn't show them right away because we already had other movies booked. Now we generally book our films a week at a time. Even though this doesn't necessarily give us a whole lot of time to advertise (we'll have a movie booked on Monday to show on Friday), it has allowed us to get films much quicker (generally 3-4 weeks after release). Since our customers know to call our hotline throughout the week, we'll still get great attendance.

Also, by booking a week at a time, you can always chose to holdover a film if it does very well for you; you don't have to guess in advance if you'll need to book it for an additional week.
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Re: To Hold or Not to Hold. That is the Question..... 23 Apr 2007 09:37 #20785

  • leeler
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I've got to tell you that sort of model seems like the making of an ulcer to me. Kudos to all of you who do it that way. I suppose you'd get used to it and have many back-ups ready. It would also force my customers into checking my website and my phone recording (which would be a good thing) and leave newspapers for lining the bottom of bird cages where they belong. The real question would be if my customers would be able to find what is playing and respond quickly. We do lots of birthday parties and such which need to be planned out int advance and that would likely put a crimp in that. I'd probably get a lot of customers who would ask what I'm playing three weeks down the road and I wouldn't be able to answer them. I generally plan out a month in advance and have fliers ready to take home and put on the door, calendars printed up with showtimes, on screen ads, website schedules, etc. all of that would go away.

Do you really find this a better approach?


[This message has been edited by leeler (edited April 23, 2007).]
"What a crazy business"
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Re: To Hold or Not to Hold. That is the Question..... 23 Apr 2007 11:09 #20786

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When we switched our movie bookings to a week at a time (in addition to making several improvements and changes to the theater), we've noticed a major increase in movie attendance. Back when we took over the theater from the previous owners, if we had 30 people for one night, we considered that to be a good night. Now we get a lot more people coming to our theater on a regular basis. Now I won't say that the booking change is 100% responsible for the increase in attendance (as we've worked on our concession products, updated the projection and sound equipment, and improved customer service) but I certainly think it has certainly helped. And like I said, our customers know to call our hotline to find out what's playing. Even when we get a big movie at our theater (like Wild Hogs), we'll get our posters, signs, emails, and hotline message out on the Monday before the weekend and by the weekend, we're turning people away!

If I'm not mistaken, it seems like most of the big theaters won't release their showtimes until either the Friday of a new week, or a couple of days before Friday (especially if they are advertising in a newspaper). So there would seem to be enough people to either call or visit that theater's website or just show up in person to find out what's playing. And also, with the window between a film's theatrical release and DVD release getting shorter and shorter, you don't want to book a film too far out when it's very close to its DVD release.
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Re: To Hold or Not to Hold. That is the Question..... 23 Apr 2007 11:39 #20787

  • leeler
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Hmmmmmmm,

This is food for thought.

Anyone else want to chime in?
"What a crazy business"
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Re: To Hold or Not to Hold. That is the Question..... 23 Apr 2007 12:02 #20788

  • BurneyFalls
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ditto what puzzlegut wrote.
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