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TOPIC: 3-4 Movies Per Screen

3-4 Movies Per Screen 19 Aug 2001 15:11 #24562

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I sort of thought I shouldn't have mentioned that we run 3-4 movies per day on a single screen because I thought I might get questions and the answer is a whole topic in itself. Oh well. The questions came and I thought everyone should read the same thing.

Yes, we frequently run 1,2 3 or 4 movies per day on the screen, BUT there are many trade offs here. This is a matter of survival.

First rule: always have the permission of the distributor - do not play it cool and think that they won't notice. I know that they check up sometimes to make sure that we are meeting our contract terms.

Second rule: You can't do this if you are opening up the movie at least through week 2 even if the movie is a dog. Occasionally I see a distributor cutting a deal to get their newest film on the screen while their older film is still playing, but this is rare.

Third rule: You must play every film every day. You must have special permission to play a film only on weekends and this is usually only given after you have played the film every day for the 1st week you had it. This means that you must run more shows than you are running now possibly? You will work harder and hopefully smarter.

Since we are a moveover house we are picking up film that has already run in this market at maximum dollars for X number of weeks. If it is a hot film we will not even see it for many weeks and we may be required to run it exclusively for the first week. Example -Pearl Harbor was 4 weeks old and we agreed to run it exclusively for 1 week. Then we were allowed to mix with Atlantis (notice that both were same studio - that makes a big difference) Sometimes permission is never granted to mix a movie that we thought they might let us mix after first week - Saving Private Ryan was never approved for a mix and we exercised our lack of a contract to dump it even though we felt it would have continued to do well in the evening spots for weeks. It just couldn't carry the whole theater by itself.

Fourth rule: You must be willing to change your pricing as required by the distributor if you want to bring in movies as early as possible. Warner Bros, Fox and New Line require higher prices in the evening because they don't recognize the moveover run and we must meet first run guidelines. If you think that your customers will not tolerate price changes you will either charge the higher evening price all of the time or do without those distributors until their movies are available at bargain basement terms.

Fifth rule: You must always know what what movies are out there and how well they are doing - Pick your movies carefully to match your particular market. Teen flicks do not go very well with our strategy because teens do not wait to see a movie - they gotta be able to talk about it with their friends immediately. Kids movies and couples movies are the mainstays because these groups will either repeat viewing the film or delay seeing it for a while. Sequels are often played out before they make it here, but only you will know what your audience wants to see. Buy a poster and hang it in your lobby - you will hear the comments and know whether there is any interest out there. 102 Dalmatians passed the poster-o-meter test with flying colors so I was not surprised to see it become a huge success here. I know exactly what happened to it when it was first released -it was Grinched!!!! The first runs dumped it in time for us to get it Christmas week and we kept it for 10 splendiferous weeks, mixing it with Unbreakable first, then Rugrats in Paris, Meet the Parents, The Grinch, The Family Man, Vertical Limit, The Emperor's New Groove and Miss Congeniality in various combinations. Everyone still wanted to see it after Christmas because they had already gone to see The Grinch in time for Christmas. I don't expect this opportunity to come along again, because everyone involved will learn from the mistake.

Sixth Rule: Be prepared for unusual comments and problems from your customers - they have never seen any movie theater do this and don't always understand why you change movie times each day or how to read your REALLY CLEAR AND DESCRIPTIVE SIGNS.

If you run movies this way you will find that you must run movies at the times that they will show best. Generally, the ratings will tell you how to do this. Start the day with your G or PG film, then run through the PG-13 and finish up with R rated film. Believe me, it sounds simplistic but it works very well. We have even tried running matinees of R rated shows so that people could get the bargain rates but hardly anyone shows up. You know from experience that no one shows up for the 9:00 Rugrats in Paris after the initial release week so why run it? If the studio won't permit a mix then you can cut the show, but they can often be persuaded to help you out and mix with an older R Rated show. Eventually they might let you have the 7:00 show spot for which you bring in a new film. You will get a feel eventually for what works and what doesn't.

Seventh Rule: You have to ask permission to do this because no one is ever going to offer to let you do this unless they have a real dog on their hands. Don't insult them and ask to mix their brand new hot movie. Wait until you have observed that their movie is somewhere below the Top 5 and probably closer to number 10. Occasionally good things happen outside of that range but these are the prime candidates. You must learn to study the market and know what it looks like from the distributors point of view so you can sell them on your needs. We don't always win and have skipped some major movies because we didn't feel that their movie was strong enough to run exclusive and they never compromised the terms - Example - The Lost World and Star Wars - Phantom Menace never made it here.

Eighth Rule: Always deal fairly with your customers and keep their likes and dislikes in the back of your mind. We have brought in art films and dicey releases to keep certain demographic groups happy but we can also please ourselves. If they ask you whether you are going to get a certain film you can tell them whatever you know at that time. Most of the time you don't know but you do know which films are on the top of your want list and sometimes you can give them a guess about when something might come in. Not every film will hold up its time slot but you only have to keep them for a week and you probably made someone happy.

OK I am just as tired of typing as you are of reading. I hope I haven't bored anyone and that this is helpful to you in some small measure.
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Re: 3-4 Movies Per Screen 19 Aug 2001 19:16 #24563

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That is one of the all time best posts! Thank you for all that information. Even knowing much of it I am amazed to find new tidbits. Thanks for a great explanation ofn how you do it. What sized city are you in?

Mike Hurley
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Re: 3-4 Movies Per Screen 20 Aug 2001 11:56 #24564

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Mike:

Size of city ...hmmm .... that is a tough one. I could tell you the truth - I think that the official city size is 30,000, but that doesn't fairly describe our competitive market. Next city down (with 16 plex) is officially 20,000. Lots of people around. We are at fringes of Cleveland Metro area with Akron to the east. That said - advertising is expensive and it is very difficult to convince people to drive by their 16 plex playing the same movie to come to our cheaper and nicer alternative (we think!)

I also forgot to mention that I wasn't kidding about changing the showtimes everyday. We can carry the 4th movie over the weekend and then drop it on Sunday (Distributor knows we are doing this). Airborne will often be there on Monday to pick it up. We might then have one that is running weekend to weekend and will be kept, but not run again until Friday.
The Monday - Thursday schedule can then shift to 6:00 and 8:00 to accommodate the movies that are left and the people who want to see them earlier- so they can get home and go to bed so they can go to work the next day. You don't have this problem if you are only showing one movie in the evening. Schedules are flexible by necessity here! We have tried Mike's method of rotating the early and late movie but are not sold on it because we think people are less capable of coming to the right movie at the right time. They come for one movie and find out that it is running tomorrow at that time. Lots of fun. We more or less have trained people to watch for the time slot. Their movie might be in a different time slot next week however!
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Re: 3-4 Movies Per Screen 21 Feb 2003 12:10 #24565

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bump
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Re: 3-4 Movies Per Screen 06 Aug 2004 15:04 #24566

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Bump for Leeler.
This may be more than you bargained for as you don't have a first run theater sitting on top of you that wears out the movies before you get them. However, it does have the advantage of getting more film into your town that you might not have wanted to do exclusively. The problem here is that it requires a long term pattern where you bring in something like Shrek 2 and run it all day week 1. Week 2 you try to get a mix for the 9:00 show if they will let you. Week 3 you try to get the 7:00 show for another movie. If you can get your hands on another kids movie you will eventually try to share that as well on the afternoons as Shrek 2 is aging. You keep everything as long as it justifies its existence in your theater only shipping everything out when the next hot movie that requires exclusive terms comes in and you start over. Perhaps an alternative approach for those slow spots in October and May/June. This is also how we got art film on the screen. It didn't have to carry the whole theater by itself.

As we are now a 4 screen first run we don't live by this schedule any more. However, we learned a lot and still use what we learned to our advantage in booking the 4 screen. Our predecessor didn't run more than 4 movies - ever. We run 5 - 6 movies here reasonably often. This week is not a good case in point as we are saving face by running Thunderbirds with Cinderella Story. Both are matinee pictures. Thunderbirds gets the 1st & 3rd show while Cinderella gets both the most popular matinee and the 7:30 show. Neither is scheduled after 9:00 as neither would run so the screen will go dark about 9:15 this week while the rest of the building is running until 11:30. The Village, on the other hand, is just the movie to run with a kids picture as it plays like a horror film with the biggest crowds at 9:00, 2nd biggest at 7:00, dead in the afternoon. However, we know better than to suggest a mix to Buena Vista at this time.
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Re: 3-4 Movies Per Screen 06 Aug 2004 17:12 #24567

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Thanks Beckwith. Great posts. How do you physically show that much film? You must have two projectors and can run the prints that way or something. I'm on platters and I can do two and no more at any one given time without a bunch of extra effort. That said, though I thought the studios really didn't like to do this very often. Have they softened up a bit? I'd like to do this on a semi-regular basis (maybe once every four to six weeks or so) to bring in some film I wouldn't otherwise be able to get. I have been booking films for a week only (Thursday through Sunday) and always move on after the week is up.I have a pretty small population to draw from so I really can't see the advantage to holding a print for another week, but who knows. Maybe I should be more flexible in my thinking and hold it the second week and mix it with something else or something.....Hmmmmm, food for thought.
"What a crazy business"
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Re: 3-4 Movies Per Screen 06 Aug 2004 19:21 #24568

  • Larry Thomas
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Leeler,

I would bet money (yours, of course...not mine!) that, for example, a 2nd week of SHREK 2 would mean more to you than films like TROY or THE FOG OF WAR.

LT
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Re: 3-4 Movies Per Screen 07 Aug 2004 13:58 #24569

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How do you physically show that much film? You must have two projectors and can run the prints that way or something. I'm on platters and I can do two and no more at any one given time without a bunch of extra effort.

I run a 5-screen we typically have 7-films running. Next week we will have 5-morning films, 6-7 regular engagements and 1-midnight film. So we will have potentially 13-prints on hand. What we do is have a rack next to each platter. Then we can clamp up films and move them to the rack when we need the space on the platters. Sometimes we will have 4-prints in one theatre and need to have 2 on the racks and two on the platters. Yes it is a pain in the butt however we make it work. It only adds an extra 2-3 minutes to the time you need to be in the booth.

With a single screen, the preferable method would be to use two projectors, 6,000-foot reels and an automated changeover.

One Imax booth I was in had two 5-teir platters and a 5-shelf rack nearby. That meant that they could have one DMX film built up and 4-short features all on the platters, with 4-more films in the racks. So they could run 9-films in a single screen. They used a small forklift to move the films around.
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Re: 3-4 Movies Per Screen 08 Aug 2004 16:28 #24570

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We converted a changeover house to a platter house and have always been glad that we did so we are running with the same configuration as you are.

Print storage: Necessity is the mother of invention but I'm sure you can also invent a similar solution without spending a ton of money. Clamps are good and a worthwhile investment. We use them. My spouse has woodworking skills and sufficient equipment to buy 2 1/4" pieces of plywood and cut them to serve our purposes. All of our platters are Christie AW3's without removable brains so that may change your requirements when looking at these specifications.

When we know that we are going to move a print we can run the show onto one of these boards which has been cut to shape like a donut. Round outside (39.5" diameter) with an interior round hole (13" diameter) to fit over the platter brains. The platter ring is on top of the board and connects through to the platter using the normal 2 prongs. This board is placed on the takeup platter and the takeup is threaded normally. When the show is over the board can then be picked up and moved down between the legs of the platter which gives you a whole new storage area. We use clamps to keep the film secure and leave the platter ring in. When the film is needed again, you can just pick up the board and put it back on the platter. Two of our platters were built in 1979 and have U shaped legs but the slightly newer ones have V shaped legs. This works best with the V shaped legs. Nevertheless the floor area underneath the platter is a fairly safe area that you can use to your advantage even if you have a tiny booth with no extra space for prints. You might have to invest in extra platter rings depending upon how many you have now. We had 4 rings when we ran the single screen. All of these moves require two people for safety, however you can enlist one of your employees to help for the 2 minutes or less that it takes to shift the prints.

Our other board is U shaped like a horseshoe magnet. It is principally used to move prints from one platter to another but also to move a print off the platter when we don't have time to run onto the other board. The print to be moved is clamped, then lifted up enough to insert the horseshoe board underneath. The board slides in on the outside of the platter ring and brains. Two people lift the board with print off the platter and place it either on the new platter or between the platter legs. (Preferably on the doughnut shaped board for complete support.)

Also, I'm not sure about the size of your platter, but the normal size diameter platters can usually hold 2 movies. The second print is just run behind the first one. You must schedule your print runs so that your first movie is the one on the inside. If the first movie does not run for some reason you can't show the second movie so you want to make sure that the first one runs even it you have to run it dark through the projector. This is actually the easiest method for handling multiple prints and we did it routinely.

I understand that there are Goldberg reels out there which can be purchased to move prints off the platter also. They are pricey and we have not really looked into whether they work with platters that do not have removable brains. We have evolved systems that worked well enough for us that we just haven't felt the need to look further.

Each theater owner has to do whatever works best for his/her theater. Distributors don't love mixing their film on your screen with everyone else. However, they will give permission for you to do it when the films are old enough or not performing well. Distributors don't like licensing their film for one week either but they will do it. Deciding what to bring in and when is the tough part of the business. We often felt that licensing a film for a single week had its drawbacks because people don't react that fast or may have other priorities that prevent them from coming on the particular week that you scheduled the film. However, mixing film has its drawbacks too as the film is often older and they may have forgotten what it was about or driven to see it elsewhere. It is possible that you might be shifting your profile from late first run to moveover/second run in the minds of some distributors which could make it more difficult for you to get something on the break that you would play exclusively. Distributors like categories. We like to be whatever we have to be to make a profit and do that best that we can for our customers.
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Re: 3-4 Movies Per Screen 27 Aug 2004 17:42 #24571

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Originally posted by BECKWITH:

Fourth rule: You must be willing to change your pricing as required by the distributor if you want to bring in movies as early as possible. Warner Bros, Fox and New Line require higher prices in the evening because they don't recognize the moveover run and we must meet first run guidelines. If you think that your customers will not tolerate price changes you will either charge the higher evening price all of the time or do without those distributors until their movies are available at bargain basement terms.

Just a question on thsi rule, I'm intermediate run and pickup prints directly from first run in my city from Fox and New Line and have a one week wait on WB, but the big thing is pricing. They freak if I ask anything about pricing and whether it affects the timeline for me to get a print. Usually this is in regard to something that may not have played in our market. What has been your price point that they want you to be at? I recently went from $3 and $2 to $4 and $2.50.
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Re: 3-4 Movies Per Screen 27 Aug 2004 22:39 #24572

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Hmmmmmmmm, this is definitely food for thought. I think I would need to see a demonstration of the "platter board" concept you've come up with. My platter decks are only 48" so I think they'd only hold two very short movies.

I guess I'd also like to understand how you think this helps. Do you think you truly sell more tickets this way? Any idea how many more? I have a very small market and while I'd like to be able to have the flexibility (especially in the summer when so many titles are available) I wonder if it'd pay to do it......

I'd love to be able to hold stuff over that is playing well and keep a more fluid schedule. How does that phone call usually go with the studio rep? "Uh, I know I said I'd play your movie this weekend but I've decided to hold over last weeks movie instead......"
"What a crazy business"
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Re: 3-4 Movies Per Screen 02 Sep 2004 06:31 #24573

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We use a platter board as well. Not sure what exactly the material is, but its not plywood. We only use it when we need to move a larger print that our clamps wont fit on. Its made of the same panels that are used on the back of entertainment centers, or on the back of a desk, only thicker.
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Re: 3-4 Movies Per Screen 02 Sep 2004 15:34 #24574

  • John Pytlak
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If you use a homemade "platter board", "cookie sheet", or "doughnut" to carry the print, be sure it is made of a material that will not scuff the edge of the print, or generate debris. Smooth masonite or plastic laminate (e.g., "Formica") works well. If you store the print, cover it to keep it clean and dust-free. If your board is made of non-conductive material, occasionally treat it with a conductive antistat like "Static Guard" to minimize static buildup.

John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Customer Technical Services
Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Eastman Kodak Company
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Telephone: +1 585-477-5325 Cell: +1 585-781-4036 Fax: +1 585-722-7243
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John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Customer Technical Services
Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Telephone: +1 585-477-5325 Fax: +1 585-722-7243
E-Mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Website: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion
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