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TOPIC: Will Wed. openings return?

Will Wed. openings return? 16 Jul 2004 00:53 #24520

  • RoxyVaudeville
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Most of you are either too young, or too new to the business to remember that there was a time when movies almost always opened on Wednesdays. Throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s that was the practice. Even earlier then that... back in the 20s and 30s, films opened on Saturdays, Sundays (where Sunday movies were allowed)and even on Mondays. I'm speaking here of theatres that ran a picture for a full week as most first runs did in the larger towns and cities. Small towns and subruns usually changed 2, 3, or 4 times a week. Opening day changed often throughout the history of this business, and for many reasons, but the longest period to remain in use prior to Friday openings were the Wednesday openings.

I don't remember exactly when the change came. I believe that the first runs began Friday openings about 1979. Subruns held onto the Wed opening for another year or two. I know that throughout 1979 and 1980 I seasawed back and forth between Wed. and Fri. openings depending upon the picture and the distributor. By the early 80s everyone for the most part had made the switch to Fridays. What was the reason for the switch you may ask? Advertising dollars! Back in those days newspapers were still the main media for advertising movies. Today newspaper ads do not "sell" movies, but rather just list where and when they are playing. Even the large co-op ads today do very little to sell the picture. There is usually one piece of artwork, the same as on the one sheet poster, the star names, the title, and maybe a few words or one sentence to suggest what the picture is about. Back in the "good ole days", newspaper ads used several different pieces of art, and included a good deal of descriptive copy to inform readers of the films plot line or theme.

In order to sell movies through newspapers back then it was necessary to place an advance ad in the Sunday paper prior to the Wed opening. Then on Tuesday a large ad was placed declaring "Starting Tomorrow!" On Wed another large ad appeared touting "Starts TODAY!". Thursdays ad was rather tiny, but on Friday another large ad appeared to draw attention to the film for the weekend. Saturdays ad was still a decent size, but not as large as Friday. Sundays ad for the current attraction was small, but then there was the other ad on Sunday advertising the new show to open on the following Wed. Mondays ad was as small as one could possibly be, usually 1 inch.

Just to give an idea of the sizes that were used, and of course it varied from market to market, the following is an example of what often appeared in most cities (other then Philly or Pittsburg) in Pennsylvania.

Sun advance ad - 2 col x 4 in
Tues - 2 col x 6 in
Wed 3 col x 6 in
Thurs - 1 col x 2 in
Fri - 3 col x 8 in
Sat - 2 col x 6 in
Sun - 1 col x 2 in
Mon - 1 col x 1 in
Total - 79 in. @ $3.00 to $5.00 per colume inch depending upon the year. In 1970 I remember paying $3.50 per inch for ads that appeared in BOTH the morning and evening papers. That of course is for a first run house. Subruns would usually only use 10 to 15 inches per week.

As you can see, money was spent twice to advertise the film. For the midweek opening, and then again for the weekend. Since the studios were paying the lions share of the co-op, they decided that if they opened pictures on Fridays that they would only have to do it once, and thus save a lot of money. It was also thought that since most of the business comes over the weekend that the people who viewed the film over the weekend would go to work or school on Monday and hopefully give the picture good word of mouth. Having films play through Thurs gave people more time to "get the word" and go to the theatre before the film left.

Now how does all this have anything to do with my topic...Will Wed. openings return?
In recent years it has become the practice to open blockbuster movies on Wednesdays. The studios have found that they can jump start the business and get a larger first week gross with the Wed opening. With the advent of ultra wide openings on up to 7 or 8 thousand screens in 3000 or more theatres, everyone that wants to see a film during it's first week... can. Back in the 60s and 70s films opened on 500 to 750 screens nationwide. It took a while, but the studios eventually learned that it paid to produce all those extra prints to fill all those megaplex screens, because most of the gross would be garnered the first week or two at 70% and 60%, or 90/10 if earned.

Now with the Wed openings on blockbuster films it has been proven that the first weeks gross can again be increased during that 70% rental period.

If Wed openings continue to prove that a larger first week gross is the result... how long will it be before the studios return to Wed as the normal day to open new films.

Oh... and the argument used for the original switch... "advertising savings" doesn't apply any longer as newspapers aren't used to "sell" films any longer. I don't know if this was a national policy, but there was NO co-op advertising for Spiderman 2 in our area. Our metroplitan daily ALWAYS has co-op ads for all new releases for their first several weeks at least. But nothing for Spiderman 2.
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Re: Will Wed. openings return? 16 Jul 2004 02:04 #24521

  • CharlieBo
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Wednesday openings are a bookers nightmare,especially for second run theatres.They usually have early Monday ad deadlines,and it can take a full Mon or more to see if a print is available.Keep it on FRIDAY!!

By the way,if memory serves me right,the first national release to open Friday was a Disney title,in the early 60's.Can't remember which one.
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Re: Will Wed. openings return? 16 Jul 2004 10:30 #24522

  • RoxyVaudeville
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Yes, Wednesday openings can be a bookers nightmare for subrun, but they don't have to be. Simply refuse to book Monday for Friday. When the film comes available, book it for the following Friday of the next week rather then the Friday after the Monday that you learn of it's availability.

There are two schools of thought here. One that suggests that the sooner you get a picture, the more business it will do, and therefore book it immediately upon learning of its availability. The other is that you will do more business if you hold back just long enough to allow yourself time to promote the film, allowing adequate time to inform the public when you will have it.

I subscribe to the 2nd of the two. Holding off one week will not effect the overall grossing potential of a film.

There is one exception to that rule, and that is for holiday bookings. Obviously, if a major film (especialy a family film) becomes available for a holiday period I will book it quickly to take advantage of the extra shows that can be scheduled during the holidays, due to the fact that people are more available and in the mood for entainment over holiday periods.

The proof is in the pudding, as the old saying goes. The city that my town is a suburb of, has three subrun theatres serving it. Mine is in a suburb on the northside, another is in a suburb on the southside, and there is one neighborhood house directly in the city. The house on the southside is in a slightly more affluent community then mine with a population of slightly over 11,000, while my community has just under 10,000. The neighborhood house is in a city of 110,000. This neighborhood house is still considered a discount house and therefore is forced to play late, while the southside house and mine are on the same availability. The southside theatre always books Monday for Friday with the belief that getting the film quickly will produce a larger gross for one of two reasons. Either because the film is still well known or because playing it before the other subruns will direct more patrons to his theatre as people don't want to wait any longer. I on the other hand want my current patrons to see the poster for the next attraction, and the trailer as well. I also want to get maximum exposure through my website and e-mail newsletter by listing the dates that films will play.

Both theatres are well run and well maintained, and are pretty much on a level playing field. We charge pretty much the same for admissions. I have some shows that are less, while he has other showtimes that are less then mine. However, even though I almost always play after that theatre, I almost always gross twice as much.

As to which day I actually prefer to open films... I'm not really sure. They both have their advantages. For subruns where we never get new prints, a Wednesday opening has the advantage of allowing us to get another print before the weekend, should the original print be in bad condition. Since I deal with several weekly newspapers that publish on Thursdays, the Friday opening is best.

Actually, I would suspect that if the studios were to return to Wednesday openings in order to squeeze more gross into that first 70% week, it wouldn't impact subruns anyway, as there is no reason why the subruns couldn't continue to open on Fridays, just as some (very few) still open on Wednesdays now.
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Re: Will Wed. openings return? 16 Jul 2004 13:10 #24523

  • rodeojack
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Some of you guys remind me a LOT of the person I grew up working for. I'm from a small logging community... 5,000 or so, and a county that had something like 16,000 back then. We had a single indoor and a single drive-in. We ran one show on Thur-Fri-Sat, then another on Sun, Mon, Tue. Wednesday was BUCK NITE!... that is, until someone got up on the sign and changed it to *UCK EVERY NITE! The next week, it was BARGAIN NITE... $1.50...


My friend still grouses over everything starting on Friday. He had his whole week pretty much organized around Wednesday or Thursday starts. He still runs his drive-in on Thur-Sun, and I don't expect him to change that.

Newspaper advertising? WHOOOOOO... now there's a dinosaur that's making oil. Over the past 19 years, we've gone from 2-column display ads every day to single-column directory ads... maybe 2". My newspaper budget is pretty much the same as it was 19 years ago (much to the chagrine of the paper), though the paper's overall effectiveness locally has dropped in near-proportion to the dollar value I'm putting into it.

They can screw up my ad and few people notice. On the other hand, if I screw up my phone or internet presence, all Hell breaks loose.

The only broadcast I do is cable. It's the only way I can do TV, focus it into my market (Seattle broadcasting doesn't do me much good), and also afford the spots! Local radio is all but gone. We have two old 1kW community AM stations, neither of which has a live body in it most of the time. Everything comes from Seattle, and their ad cost and coverage are way too high and wide for my place.

It shore is a different business, eh? ... and let's not forget the lack of showpeople in Hollywood these days. Negotiating with bean counters is one of the biggest reasons I leave it to a booker. Grrrrrrr!
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Re: Will Wed. openings return? 18 Jul 2004 05:54 #24524

  • outaframe
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Well, this looks to be another topic for the 'ol fuds, and you guys have already brought up a lot of stuff that's right on!... Yes, newspaper space now costs about 20 times what it did when I started, and readership continues to decline, so your ad budget based on yesterday's fixed cost per picture doesn't buy much ink and not many see it anyways... I don't even bother with AM radio anymore, but feel that FM has a much larger audience, and still pays off... I don't open many of the bigger pictures on the break nowadays because of the long playtimes, but if I can get two weeks on something I want, I buy it... Wednesday opening doesn't usually effect the TOTAL of the first week gross: actually, I believe that Friday openings give a slightly better total because the procrastinators seem to come to the Thursday showings... I guess they have to fit it into their schedule, and that takes 'til near the end of the week... When you only play the picture one week this is especially true... From the standpoint of covering your rear regarding film delivery screwups, I MUCH prefer Wednesday openings: there's someone to talk to, and you can get something done before the weekend, when the glut of the business will show up... Nothing is worse than having to go dark over a weekend because some lop-eared jackass loses your print!...
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Re: Will Wed. openings return? 18 Jul 2004 20:21 #24525

  • rodeojack
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Ol-Fud... I like that... thanks!


Good point on the issue of print condition though. As the labs are called on to crank out ever-increasing miles of film, it's amazing to me that I don't hear more about defective reels. As it is, I get one every couple of months, and the system is pretty good about replacing them quickly. It only works though, because I can screen on Thursday night. On the other hand, it only helps me avert a possible Friday disaster if I can reach someone who can get a reel couriered off to me on the quick.

In that sense, a Wednesday open would allow extra time to get things right before the big-buck days.
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Re: Will Wed. openings return? 19 Jul 2004 19:18 #24526

  • Mike Spaeth
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We don't run any print advertising ... pulled out of the AJC, instead we push all of our customers towards our website.

No way we were going to pay the ridiculous rates the AJC was charging (Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Our attendance has not dropped one iota since dropping the ad.
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Re: Will Wed. openings return? 19 Jul 2004 22:50 #24527

  • RoxyVaudeville
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Newspaper Advertising

This in itself would make a very interesting and informative topic.

I wonder how many other theatres can make it without any newspaper ads. The value of such ads seems to be decreasing yearly. About six years ago when our metropolitan daily had their yearly rate increase I felt that I couldn't afford to continue advertising in their paper every day. I decided to drop my ad from the Monday edition of the paper, seeing how Monday is my slowest day of the week, and I felt that it represented the least risk factor. I kept track of my Monday grosses over the next six months and compared them to both the previous six months and the same six months the year before. Business did drop, but only slightly. The average drop in dollars from B.O. and Concession was less then the cost of the ad. Therefore, I was still ahead. The next year when their rates increased again, I dropped the Thursday ad. The same thing happened. The following year I dropped Tuesdays ad. I now continue to advertise in the daily paper on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday. The only reason that I continue the Wednesday ad is because it is the only weekday that I always run a matinee, and I want to remind my patrons of that fact. During the summer months when I run a matinee every weekday I also run an ad on Monday to let people know that fact. The bottom line is that each and every time that I have cut back my newspaper advertising, the drop in revenue has always been smaller then what the cost of the ads would have been. However, even having said that I haven't been able to muster the courage to cut back any further as of yet. Eventually as their rates continue to increase I may be forced to drop another day or two. Those past six years of newspaper cuts just happen to coincide with the development of my website and email newsletter. They seem to have picked up the slack. I still continue to advertise in four weekly newspapers that surround me. One in my town, one in the town across the river, one in the town that touches us to the south, and another in the town six miles to the east of us. Three of those papers are owned by the same publishing company, so I get my ad in all of them for one rate, which is $6.25 per inch. The 4th paper charges $5.25 per inch. Those papers give me excellent coverage of my local market area of a seven mile radius around our town which covers a population area of about 35,000 people. I am able to place a decent size ad, usually a 1 col x 5 in in each one. Sometimes, I run up to a 2 col x 5 inch ad in the hometown paper. The daily paper is now charging between $50.00 to $58.00 per inch depending on what day it is.

Even the large chain theatres have cut back their ads in the daily paper. Except for in the summer months, many of them skip some weekdays as well.

So what do the rest of you do, and how do you rate the value of newspaper advertising?

I always thought that designing and laying out newspaper ads was one of the most fun and interesting aspects of this business.

Today every newspaper movie ad looks like every other movie ad, which is fine with me. It makes it easy for me to create ads that although small, still manage to stand out among the rest.
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Re: Will Wed. openings return? 20 Jul 2004 23:18 #24528

  • rodeojack
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My experience has been about the same, though I haven't yet intentionally dropped my advertising. I notice little effect when the paper screws up my ad. I'm more aggravated that they seem to absolve themselves of guilt... or interest in fixing the problem by crediting my account for the cost of the screwed-up ad.

I also lack the courage to dump the paper, though I'm often motivated emotionally to do just that. However, my theatres are in the first-run tier, so as long as the local Regal and AMC outlets feel compelled to blow their money in the local rag, I guess I'll be in there with them!

Oh... I'm paying around $19/" on contract


[This message has been edited by rodeojack (edited July 21, 2004).]
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Re: Will Wed. openings return? 20 Jul 2004 23:30 #24529

  • muviebuf
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My figure below is a blended rate because the paper charges more on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays than the other days (even with a contract). Right now with my contract it comes out to $35.00 a column inch averaged over an entire month. There is a daily one column inch minimum when you chose to run an ad.

The basis rate is charged on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednedays and Saturdays. It is more on Thursday (weekly entertainment section) then still more on Friday (special movie section) and the most on Sunday.

[This message has been edited by muviebuf (edited July 21, 2004).]
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Re: Will Wed. openings return? 21 Jul 2004 05:29 #24530

  • outaframe
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We are probably locked into newspaper advertizing for as long as there are movies, but as ROXY pointed out, and you other guys have reiterated, OH, HOW IT HAS CHANGED!... When I started, I ran daily ads and large "starts tomorrow" artwork for most every picture... The pressbooks were BEAUTIFUL, and I laid up all the ads myself and took 'em in "camera ready"... You could really promote a picture with a good creative ad, and it was dirt cheap, then... The publisher was a neighbor (and friend) and I was treated like a king!... He sold out to a conglomerate about 25 years ago, and they have changed hands 4 times, since... They have changed the format numerous times also, and added two "throwaways" along with gobbling up all weekly papers in the surrounding towns... What was originally a 6 column page is now 9 columns, and the rates are ridiculous!... What was then a 2 column ad now requires 3 columns to be the same size... A one column X one inch ad looks like a postage stamp!... I now run a small one column ad Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in the daily, and a small ad in one of the throwaways, once a week... I did design a unique format layout to set my ads apart, but the small size nearly always limits the content to print, as the artwork would be so small you could hardly see it... I don't even bother with the surrounding towns any more, the circulation just doesn't justify the cost... As far as promoting your picture and creating an audience, it can't be done via newpaper ads under current conditions: THAT element of showmanship is long gone!... I buy just enough ad space to satisfy the minimum to keep my contract rate...
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Re: Will Wed. openings return? 21 Jul 2004 15:35 #24531

  • BECKWITH1
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Cleveland Plain Dealer: With a 275 inch "contract" we pay $115 per col in on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and all holidays. We get the bargain rate of $84 on the nonholiday weekdays. They control the format completely and our 4 screen fits a 3/4" space unless we have 6 movies in here which bumps us up to a 1 inch space. So our budget includes only enough money for Fri, Sat, Sun & holidays which costs us about $1200 per month. For some reason they have trouble billing the correct rate for holidays and I keep having to call after every holiday to explain why I don't think we should be paying more than the weekend rate. Additionally they list us alphabetically which places us directly under the large Regal listings. We get many people who can't understand that we are not a Regal because "the newspaper says so." Last summer, we did not run daily ads even though we were open all day. We got along just fine. I am taking the challenge this summer and running daily ads. We are doing significantly better than last summer, but I am not sure whether that has to do with the ads, or with the movies, or with the improvements we've been making. Newspapers seldom realize that we pay attention to days that an ad is not run and compare that with
days that an ad is run . We concluded long ago that weekday ads were too expensive for the business they bring in and cut them out. We find that magnets with our telephone number are cheaper to distribute to cover weekdays.


Akron Beacon Journal: When we last used them it was a flat rate per screen of $96.32 per month. So our 4 screen would have cost $385.28 per month to advertise daily. I really miss them!

Isn't it wonderful that all those internet bureaus take their advertising for free? The only problem that I have with them is that they don't do Wednesday openings well. Case in point: We knew we were opening Spiderman 2 on Wed the 30th and we had our show schedule done well in advance. However, we expect to drop Shrek 2 to get Spidey as that was the only film off contract. As we all know, things change in this industry. By Friday, I was calling my booker asking for a Shrek save miracle as it was still our #1 film. We had to wait until Monday to find the weak hole that would allow us to save Shrek. We found it on Monday - 2 days before Spidey opened and 7 days after I had sent the weeks' ad out to the internet bureaus. If you have ever tried to send a correction to them after the initial send you will know exactly what happens. NOTHING! So all we could do was graft Shrek 2 into the line up as originally sent with as few changes as possible. Surprisingly, we didn't get any negative feedback about the movie that wasn't in the spot that Shrek 2 took. I don't think that the internet bureaus try to create this sort of a mess, it is just that the sites that they feed only get one download each week so you have to be right the first time. I couldn't have waited until Monday to transmit the schedule for Wednesday as the downloads would have already taken place and we wouldn't have had any internet presence on Wednesday and Thursday. So I guess that partially correct is better than nothing.
In conclusion, newspaper ads are still with us but only a strictly controlled budget, internet ads are great except when they are not, and the good old telephone is still my best friend.
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Re: Will Wed. openings return? 28 Jul 2004 09:18 #24532

I can remember when I was a teenager looking for the new openings in the paper on Wednesdays. I think it makes more sense changing to Friday as that's the beginning of the weekend, and most people don't work on the weekend. I can't think of any reason why they would choose to go back to a Wednesday opening.
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