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TOPIC: Do I need a new booker?

Do I need a new booker? 19 Aug 2002 12:04 #23445

  • BECKWITH1
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I need advice.

We have had the same booker for years, they are regional in nature so that most everyone in this area books through them. We don't always agree on back office procedures and sometimes feel that we have been badly treated by their staff but we have stayed because we don't know anybody else as well. As you know we have recently switched to first run from moveover and this requires some different thinking on the part of studios, bookers and theater owners. We must think a lot farther ahead then we used to and the studios have to change us on their books to first run. We are only one screen. Our competitor has always been booked by a different booker. That is no longer true. 13 new screens were brought into my booker by my new competitor. We are not sure that this is a good situation for us. While there are two bookers in the office - one handles us and the other handles them, we are not sure that our interests will be balanced fairly. I pay $55 per week - they pay $715. Who do you think is going to get the better product? We have already had one snafu where a film was delivered to us with our address and name of theater on the can, but we didn't have it booked. The competitor had booked it. Do you think that we should stay because they know enough about our business to hurt us more if we leave? Would this be a bad time to change bookers? Should we even consider booking ourselves?

Please help!
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Re: Do I need a new booker? 19 Aug 2002 12:51 #23446

  • usfrench
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Being a new twin in a non-competitive market, I may not be most qualified to answer but....

It certainly would be cause for concern if your booker now books your largest competitor and you are the smaller account by so large a margin. A conflict of interest seems inevitable. Booking being what it is today, your booker need not be located in your area, but he/she should have good relationships with the regional film reps from your area.

Booking appears to us to be so crucial, especially in small theaters, because in addition to the percentage and rental fees, small houses need to turn films more often to keep the locals coming in often. We concern ourselves less up front with the percentage we pay (nearly always standard across the nation/region) and more with getting as short a first-run as we can. We know we can always increase the run if it goes well but can rarely get out of a four-weeker after two or three weeks if it doesn't perform. This is what we have our booker focus on.

Having recently switched to first-run, your booker also has to take alot of effort to educate the studios as to your new profile, including house allowances, etc.

As booking is one of the things we can't directly control (I'm not nearly experienced enough to book for myself yet), the right booker is crucial to our existance!
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Re: Do I need a new booker? 19 Aug 2002 17:39 #23447

  • Ken Layton
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I vote for you to either switch booking companies or do the booking yourself.
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Re: Do I need a new booker? 19 Aug 2002 20:11 #23448

  • CharlieBo
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As a booker myself,this might sound self-serving,but I think you put yourself in a dangerous situation by having your booker also handle the competition.Once in awhile these situations work out(usually where the theatres are similar grossing and about the same amount of screens)but usually it causes bad feelings if not financial damage.

It really doesn't matter much where your booker is located.I'm in Arizona and book theatres in Arizona,Colorado,Maryland,Nevada,Oregon and Virginia,and am talking to potential clients in NY and St Louis.
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Re: Do I need a new booker? 20 Aug 2002 00:34 #23449

  • Larry Thomas
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As another booker, I agree completely with Charlie.

Once upon a time, I was faced with a similar situation in a competetive town. Rather than compromise anyone's integrity, I voluntarily gave up one of the accounts. Granted, it made life more difficult for me on occasion, but that was better than wondering who I was really working for (or not, as the case may be).
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Re: Do I need a new booker? 20 Aug 2002 01:14 #23450

  • BurneyFalls
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I'm with Ken. Think you should switch or book yourself. I've never had a booker and I think I have done pretty good on my own. Granted I didn't get SPIDERMAN on the break like I wanted, but I could have if I had agreed to the four week deal. All the studio reps (salespeople) are very personable and friendly. It seems to me you know better than someone miles away what your patrons want/like. As far as knowing what is going to be hot, save the $55 a month and spend it at one or two of the conventions; you'll get a good idea there--and meet some nice people, too.
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Re: Do I need a new booker? 20 Aug 2002 01:24 #23451

  • Bird
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I agree with everyone on many points...

It really dosen't matter where your booker is located. We are in Nor. CA, and our booker is in So. CA; but they do a great job for us.
Also, maybe you should try booking for yourself since you have te one screen. After all, who is going to try harder than YOU for your bookings. You can ask Mike for pointers on doing this.
I just don't belive that your main competitor should ever have the same booker as you do!
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Re: Do I need a new booker? 20 Aug 2002 10:06 #23452

  • BECKWITH1
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I think I am getting the message loud and clear here and I really appreciate your answers. This is a very difficult decision for us and sometimes the known quantity looks better than the unknown but your encouragement helps. We have had a bad feeling in the pit of our stomachs about this for the last 3 weeks since it happened without warning.

Could any of you who currently book for others address the question of whether there is anything that could be done to hurt us if we leave that couldn't ethically be done while we are still a customer?

Also, is it a mistake to go up myself against my former booker in competing for contracts on popular movies? I need only 1 new film every 4 - 6 weeks. Will they grant me the films that I need to stay in business or do I need more leverage than I can get by myself?

BTW - we are currently grossing well in our market. We looked pretty good to Sony on Spiderman compared to the performance of the competitor theater(but DIFFERENT MANAGEMENT) on Men in Black.
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Re: Do I need a new booker? 20 Aug 2002 13:39 #23453

  • Rialto
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This is an interesting discussion, but I have a question. Since I'm an arthouse guy, I sometimes hear about my bookers doing allocations in competitive zones. Since I don't play mainstream it doesn't really have anything to do with me. But it seems to me if you are in an allocation zone and you and your competition are booked by the same booker that there is an inherint conflict of interest.

My bookers did book another theatre 15 miles north of me in the same county. Since I'm an arthouse that is part of my market. However, since they played first run and I was a client first, they called me up to let me know they were considering it. I didn't object and I was very clear that if the other theatre started opening art or cross-over stuff ahead of me (I'm also in the larger town) I would be a very unhappy camper.

Things went fine for two years. Now the owner of the other theatre wants to play specialty/art stuff in direct competition with us, so my booker has resigned the account because of the inherint conflict of interest and I hope, becuase they like me better. We'll see how it goes the change happens in September.

But back to my question - what determines if a zone is done on an allocation?
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Re: Do I need a new booker? 20 Aug 2002 15:28 #23454

  • Mike
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In your case I'd be booking myself or getting a non competitive deal. Depending on your state there is a lot of protection in the anti-trust stuff and you've been getting films all along so............ you'll have to learn the biz a little but 55.00 X 52 = 2500.00.. or on the other hand since that's not a lot of money I'd probably get a new booker.

I book for myself and think I do very well by myself and with 3 going to 5 screens with a possible 1 more suddenly that's a 55 X 6 X 52 = 17,160.00 and now you're talking money that you can start to appreciate.

Michael Hurley
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Re: Do I need a new booker? 20 Aug 2002 21:20 #23455

  • CharlieBo
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I don't think there's too much your booker could do to hurt you if you left him.He could try to grab ALL the product,but if you currently have an allocation,gross comparably,and have a good relationship with distribution(reports,payments,etc)I don't think they will desert you.
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Re: Do I need a new booker? 24 Aug 2002 01:55 #23456

  • Adam Fraser
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I was just wondering... Do bookers get any kind of incentives from the distributers to book certain films? It seems like some films get pushed harder than others.
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Re: Do I need a new booker? 24 Aug 2002 13:24 #23457

  • Mike
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Booking is a very personal relationship between the film salesperson who works for the distributor and the film buyer or or booker who works for the theatre. Each has diffent needs. The salesman sells the films his company has contracted to distribute. When Sony makes a distribution deal for a film they may contract to place it on X amount of screens on opening day and keep it on those screens for Y days. They also want the most bang for the print so they first place prints in the best grossing house although... personal relationships intrude and your good bud at Sony may get you a print over a better grossing house because they like you. but not always. If you want an odder and harder to understand relationship as far as I know it would be the NY diamond biz run by Hasid Jews. Completely verbal contracts: amazing! We make agreements all over the phone, they entrust us with valuable objects in of themselves (the actual rolls of film) with an untold valkuable commodity: the movie, and then we pay! Unbelieveable. Is there another place this works as well?.... commission? The salesman is under the gun of his/her boss to place prints to the max up till they die: that is their job above all else. Is there payola? Not that I have heard of. Mostly it has seemed to me to be: you owe me for this! remember when I got you the print of Star Wars? This works both ways! "Remember when yous ent me the print of Blair Witch 2 by mistake and I played it anyway? You owe me!" Much of thsi is unspoken and understood. Oi vey!

Michael Hurley
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Re: Do I need a new booker? 24 Aug 2002 16:09 #23458

  • CharlieBo
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The booker works for you,the exhibitor,period.There is,as Mike says,a certain amount of give and take between your booker and the salesperson,but with a good booker,most "give and take" is with the clients interests in mind.I have,in over 30 years booking and buying film,never heard of incentives being given or taken,in the sense of "payola",etc.
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