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TOPIC: booking strategy

booking strategy 01 Apr 2004 09:58 #24340

  • leeler
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OK, let me try this out on you all.

First, a little background:
Small one-screen theater in rural northeast Iowa. Nearest competition is 6-screen 35 minutes away. Closed since 1996 and reopened last November. Done good, strong business since November with minor exceptions (ie the Scary Movie 3 debacle). I am open thursday through Sunday and change movies every week.

My present philisophy has been to book movies that have been out for 4+ weeks. This has allowed me to get the best terms and still play them to an audience that hasn't seen them due to the remote location. My advertising goal then is to let my customer base know what movies I'll be getting as far in advance as I can so that they don't assume I'm not getting it and drive to go see it. I have created flyers and placed on my website the next 6 weeks worth of movies to get far enough ahead of what is currently being released.

My question is do you think this is an effective strategy for the long term and if not, what else should I consider?

[This message has been edited by leeler (edited April 01, 2004).]

[This message has been edited by leeler (edited April 01, 2004).]
"What a crazy business"
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Re: booking strategy 01 Apr 2004 11:17 #24341

  • mumbog11
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"Done good, strong business since November..."

Sounds like it's very effective!
/mumbog11.
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Re: booking strategy 01 Apr 2004 11:54 #24342

  • muviebuf
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The real question is what is the alternative? If you play the pictures on national availablity what is your minimum playing time. If it is 4 to 6 weeks (such as in my area) then forget about it - you cannot tie up a single screen with one picture for 4 to 6 continuous weeks in a small town. (Of course the northeast usually is more strigent than the midwest).

Remember too that distributors frown on a
'bouncing' policy. You can't be first run one week and then second run the next.

Sounds like you are doing the best that you can do.
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Re: booking strategy 01 Apr 2004 13:45 #24343

  • outaframe
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LEE <> I've seen your website, and observed what you were doing, as far as advertizing ahead to hold your audience... I'd say you're doing a whale of a job, and doing the optimum in your market... I noticed that the most distant playdates are listed as "tentative": that's ALWAYS a safe bet, and allows you some wiggle room... Your early second run buying policy is sound and sensible for this location, and probably the only way it will make any money, as you can't afford the high first run %, and longer playdates within the limits of your grossing potential... I'm surprized that Scarey Movie tanked there, but every location is different, and now you know what to avoid in the future... I DO question the 4 days a week operation: your only expense for those other 3 days is the utilities, and payroll (for probably one person)... AND there is some value in having your audience know that whatever night they want to see a movie, you'll be there... Mid-week nights can sometimes be VERY big, especially when some other local activity has taken away from your previous weekend's biz... Sure, it's a grind, and confining, but so is a 9 to 5, and THIS is a lot more fun!... For someone who walked into this cold, I'd say you have done an exceptional job, and deserve to take a bow!...
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Re: booking strategy 01 Apr 2004 13:54 #24344

  • leeler
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Thank you very much!

The only reason I haven't opened up more days per week is that I actually live in the theater building five days a week and need to spend at least a little time with my wife. We're working on a scheme to allow her to quit her job and move up here with me but it hasn't happened yet. Keep your fingers crossed.

That actually seques in to my next question. Knowing all that's happened above and adding in the fact that a sizable camper community migrates here each summer how should I expand my hours for the summer? matinees everyday? evening shows? late night shows?
"What a crazy business"
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Re: booking strategy 01 Apr 2004 14:19 #24345

  • outaframe
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When you get fully settled, and are living in your building (with the "boss") {the IDEAL situation!} all the time, the 7 days-a-week will be a breeze... You know your operation better than anyone else, but one showing per weeknight, and the weekend (only) matinees will probably be the optimum schedule... Summertime campers are outdoor types, and that means daylight activities... When the sun goes down, THEN they are ready to come inside and see your movie... Sounds like you have the best potential possible!...

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Re: booking strategy 01 Apr 2004 15:16 #24346

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My movie theatre as a youth in Cape Cod was open only in the summer. Their show times were 7 & 9 with a 2:00 PM matinee Saturday and Sunday. Also if it was raining all morning without hope of clearing up in the afternoon, they would open for a 2:00 PM Rainy Day Matinee.

If you spread the word in the camper community that you will do rainy day matinees, I'll bet people would come to expect it and show up even without advertising.
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Re: booking strategy 01 Apr 2004 15:23 #24347

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Another friend of mine in Telluride has a single screen theatre. He plays an "A" Feature Friday, Saturday & Sunday. This is usually just like you, 2-4 weeks out and only has to play one-week. Then on Monday-Thursday he plays an "A" Feature in the early slot and a "B" Feature in the late slot. The "B" Feature can be last week's "A" Feature or a smaller film where you don't expect too much. Also you can run an "Art Film" series a couple of days per week, say Tuesday and Wednesday where you show your "A" Feature early on Tuesday and your "Art" Feature late on Tuesday and reverse the order on Wednesday.

But your core booking strategy is sound.

[This message has been edited by Large (edited April 01, 2004).]
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Re: booking strategy 01 Apr 2004 22:24 #24348

  • RoxyVaudeville
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It certainly seems that OUTAFRAME and I have gone through all the same phases of this great industry. When I read his posts there is usually not much more that I can add, if anything at all. So all I can do is say ditto to his above remarks.

I will add that I have found that a weekday matinee on Wednesday has proven very successful here in my small town. It took awhile to catch on... probably about a year, but now I've been doing them for over twenty years and that matinee is sometimes my best weekday showing. Most of that audience is senior citizens who don't want to come out at night and want to avoid the kids and families on the weekend matinees. Of course thay don't buy ANYTHING to eat or drink. The per capita for that show is usually 25 to 35 cents, but that is one show that pays for itself from ticket sales. I usually do between 50 to 100 people at a $2.00 ticket, so an average b.o. gross is $150.00 while my expenses to run that show are about $30.00. At 35% film rental I'm left with $97.50 from which I deduct my $30.00 in expenses and the profit before any concession is $67.50.

I also would recommend that once you're settled in that you give 7 day a week operation a try. Just one show a night of course, except during the summer with daylight savings time, you might have a better change on getting that camper crowd in when the suns going down, therefore a 9:00 PM show might be in order.

Oh... and by the way, what is your website address? I'm looking forward to checking it out.
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Re: booking strategy 02 Apr 2004 07:54 #24349

  • leeler
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Thanks for the thoughts, everyone. I have been toying with the idea of weekday matinees as well as late shows. My usual show in the evening is at 7 o'clock. The problem with that slot is that everyone has just had dinner and my per caps suffer. The good side of it is that I can then do a 9:30 or 10 o'clock show afterwards which I do on Fridays now. If I were to move to a 7 day a week lineup then I might consider the following:

Thursday 7pm
Friday 7pm & 10pm
Saturday 3pm, 7pm & 10pm
Sunday 3pm & 7pm
Monday 7pm
Tuesday 7pm
Wednesday 7pm

I like the idea of rainy day matinees too and might consider implementing them. The above schedule would probably do well. This is only three more shows per week then I do now.

BTW the website is far from finished. It's just something I slapped togethor. I plan to work on it a bunch more. www.elkadercinema.com

[This message has been edited by leeler (edited April 02, 2004).]
"What a crazy business"
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Re: booking strategy 02 Apr 2004 11:19 #24350

  • BurneyFalls
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I am in a somewhat similar situation here and am always open Friday through Monday. I initially tried the Thursday through Sunday days also, but changed it because of newer movie print availability. I often get movies when they have only been out for two weeks. That wasn't as easy when I was open on Thursdays. My showtime is also at 7:00 and I usually have only a 1:00 Sunday matinee--only because I like to play on Saturdays and a matinee ruins that for me. I know I could make more money and please alot more patrons if I opened on Saturday afternoons, but I am selfish on Saturdays.

When the big blockbusters start rolling out next month, I open them and have shows every night through September. I just booked Shrek II for two weeks and will follow that with Harry Potter 3 for probably three weeks. I do lose money on the second or third week, but the first week's concession sales and the exposure/hype more than make up for that loss. By September I am VERY TIRED of working everyday--and those Saturdays riding my dirtbike or paddling a kayak help my sanity.

Sometimes I stack/split movies and play one sometime around 4:45 and the other at 7:00. I do that when nothing great is out and I know neither will do that well. The combined gross makes for a good weekend.

I have also done a couple double features just for the heck of it. They were movies that had been out for some time, but not yet hit video. They also worked out well and I got a pretty good deal on the movies; not as good as what the drive-ins get, but not shabby--17 1/2-20% each.

Sounds like you are doing well. Enjoy.
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Re: booking strategy 02 Apr 2004 14:08 #24351

  • muviebuf
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Burney I would be interested to know what films you can get indoor for 17 1/2 percent. In my area the lowest you can seem to get indoor is 30% no matter how old the picture is.
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Re: booking strategy 02 Apr 2004 15:15 #24352

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That's why I hate the 7:00 show time. I know it's a classic, but it cuts right in to the dinner hour. And 9:30 can be too late for small towns.

I like 6:00 and 8:30. You can get off of work at 5:00 make it home, pick up the kids and make it to a 6:00 PM show then go to the pizza place before it closes at 9:00 PM. Or Have dinner at 7:00 and still make it to an 8:30 PM show after dinner.

My local small town cinema has shows at 6:50 PM. I can't get off of work, drive 35-miles home and make that show time. When I go to the show on Tuesday (my day off), The movie gets out at the same time the pizza shop closes down.
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Re: booking strategy 02 Apr 2004 23:46 #24353

  • RoxyVaudeville
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leerer,

Thanks for the website info. The website has all the important stuff. Eventually, you might want to make it a bit more artistic, but for now it's fine. It has the one additional element that is missing from so many theatre sites... pictures of the theatre. Your pictures are great. People who have never been there get to see what looks like a comfortable and clean theatre with a nice large screen, and a large well stocked refreshment center. Those pictures do a lot to help sell the theatre.

Nice marquee, by the way. I have a question about the marquee. Is your theatre on a one way street, or why do you only put the show playing on only one side? And if it is a one way street, don't pedestrians see the other side, and depending upon where they are and where they are going, possibly only see the "other" side. I consider the marquee as one of, if not the, most important medium of advertising. In small towns everyone goes by the theatre sometime during the week, if not every day. There is no cheaper source of advertising then your marquee, make the best use of it. I actually think putting up the entire weeks showtimes make it too cluttered. I only put up the current days showtimes. We change it every night. That would give you another line for starpower.

"Example"
Steve Martin in
"CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN" PG
TODAY - 2 00, 7 00 & 9:15 PM

and don't crowd the showtimes too tightly together or people can't read them when driving by.

I'm one that has always been fond of a 7:00 PM show for small town theatres. But every town is different. You'll learn what is best for your situation. In my area there is one other subrun theatre in another small town on the opposite side of the metro area. They run at 7:30 & 9:45 while I run at 7:00 & 9:15. I can't get people out after 9:30 no matter what. Even 9:30 scares people away, so whenever I have a show that must start at 9:30 I still advertise it for 9:25. That 5 minutes makes a big difference. That other theatre only does half the business that I do, no matter whether they play ahead of me, with me, or behind me. So my early show being close to dinner time doesn't seem to make a difference.

If you have a 7:00 PM show, why would you run the 2nd show so late, at 10:00 PM? Most shows could be on by 9:15, and even some by 9:00.

It seems that you are off to a pretty good start, so keep up the good work.
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Re: booking strategy 04 Apr 2004 16:10 #24354

  • leeler
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Hmmmm, the marquee updated every day......

Sounds like a drag. Do you really think it's more effective that way? I figure people can only plan their lives about one week in advance so that's what I put on the marquee. I think if I were to put one days worth then they might make plans for when I'm showing something a few days from now. Anyway, it's something to consider. I put the showtimes on the side facing the bulk of the traffic. There are no stoplights in town (or for the whole county for that matter) so I point it towards the center of town. I use the other side to list the next two movies coming. I point this towards the opera house and the high school. It really lights up the whole town at night when you can see the neon and the chaser bulbs more readily.

Ian, I like your idea about the 6pm and 8:30pm showtimes. I think that might work better and not kill off my per caps like the 7pm one does. Maybe I'll give that a try.

The reason I've been waiting to 10pm to start the late show is that it just takes that long to get everything turned around again. For example, this week I'm playing Miracle which has a running time of 135 minutes and I probably have about ten minutes of trailers showing before that. That puts it at about 9:25 when the crowd leaves (and I do mean crowd, this movie has been packing 'em in. Two sellouts so far!) Then I do a quick five minute run-through the auditorium to clean up as best I can (usually the credits are still rolling at this point) and thank everyone for coming. The I race up the stairs and rethread the projector. By this time it's around 9:35 or so and I can sell tickets and dish out popcorn for the late show. I don't see how you guys do it any faster unless you have a lot of help. I have a couple of volunteers help me with popcorn and soda but that's about it. Now, on a typical 95-110 minute movie I can probably make it a little earlier and I might but I thought I should remain consistent with my showtimes and not keep jacking them around. Do you think that's a mistake?


[This message has been edited by leeler (edited April 04, 2004).]
"What a crazy business"
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