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TOPIC: two booking philosophies

two booking philosophies 06 Oct 2004 10:31 #24612

  • leeler
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Ok, I have been approached by a studio who is interested in me playing one of their prints on opening date. We discussed it for awhile and he got me to thinking about my booking philosophy. Business has been down for me all summer long (other than a few bright spots) and has really tanked in the last few weeks. I currently book prints between 6 and 8 weeks (sometimes longer) after wide release. I always get very good terms at this late date and I always have a very wide array of movies to choose from. I can usually pick out the winners by this time too. This studio rep suggested that I would get roughly the same terms if I were to basically cut my lead time in half. I am NOT in a very competitive market by any means. I am the only theater in this county and we have a small population.

This studio rep said that there were basically two schools of thought on booking in my situation. The first is to book farther out and generate a calendar to let everyone know about the movies I will be getting in the upcoming weeks and hope they don't first go elsewhere. This has been the method I've been using so far. This has the advantage of being very easy to do. I am VERY rarely ever refused a print for when I need it. Trailers and one-sheets I need to order well in advance of booking the print. I can run the trailers then for weeks before getting the print in and the entire region should have a really good idea of what I'm getting in the weeks ahead. However, any good buzz about a film has likely worn off by that time. There is also the very real possibility that my customers will have gone elsewhere to see the movie before it comes here.

The second method he mentioned is to book things in the 3 to 4 week timeframe and to play whatever is hot at the moment. I can certainly see the advantages to that method where there is still some national advertising going on to benefit from and the public is far less likely to go elsewhere to see your movie. However, there are a number of drawbacks to that method too, I think. First of all, I will likely pay more for films than I currently do. The rep says I can often times get film for 35% in that timeframe but not always. I think it will be more difficult to do as well. I will probably get turned down a fair number of times. I am, after all, a very small fish swimming in this sea of sharks and I have no clout to speak of whatsoever. Trailers and one-sheets will be harder to get as I may end up looking for them AFTER the film has gone out nationally. Still, all in all, this is likely to bring in more business.......

What's a guy to do?

Your thoughts, as always, are appreciated.

Leeler



[This message has been edited by leeler (edited October 06, 2004).]
"What a crazy business"
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Re: two booking philosophies 06 Oct 2004 11:06 #24613

  • puzzlegut
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I know your situation because we have used both philosophies of booking for our single screen theater. Four years ago when we bought the theater, we started with the first philosophy by booking movies a month at a time. By doing so, we created flyers that listed the movies we were going to have so people can take them home and know what we were showing. This had some advantages in the since that people can plan on when the movie will show up and it allows us to see how the movies perform nationwide before getting it. However, as you pointed out, there were some disadvantages as well. Some of the eager beavers might decide to go else where to see the movie if it isn't playing at ours right away.

I think things started to change for us when we were able to open Spiderman and Men in Black 2 at our single screen and only play the movies on our normal weekend times. It was because of this that we were able to talk some of the studios into getting movies a little sooner. From that point on, we were able to get movies that were only out for 3 to 4 weeks. Most of these movies were for 35%, though there were a few that were a little more (depending on the movie, generally only really big movies). We were also able to open movies such as the 007 movie (the one with Halle Barry), Shrek 2, Spiderman 2, and Shark Tale. Also, since we bought our 4 screen, we self curcuit most of our movies from our 4 screen to our single screen, which saves on shipping and handling.

I think the second way has worked the best for us. But you also have to keep in mind that within the 4 years that we have owned our single screen, we have created a really good reputation. We put a lot of money back into the theater and have kept our concessions and tickets ($3) low. This has allowed for a loyal customer base that tend to come almost every week, no matter what movie is playing. Also, a lot of the studios have told us that our grosses are extremely good for our type of theater. I think this also helps us to get the movies a little sooner.

I hope this helps. I know that the second one has worked for us but that doesn't necessarily mean it would work for everybody. I think as long as you have a loyal customer base and fairly decent grosses, then you might be able to go with the second one and hopefully get ahead. Let me know if you have any questions.
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Re: two booking philosophies 06 Oct 2004 15:05 #24614

  • muviebuf
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Keep in mind that you must have one price policy and you must stick with that at all times. The studios generally won't allow you to be $6.00 one week (if you open on national availability) and then $3.00 the next for a older picture.

Generally in my area you must be charging at least $5.00 to be considered first run.

[This message has been edited by muviebuf (edited October 06, 2004).]
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Re: two booking philosophies 06 Oct 2004 19:16 #24615

  • BurneyFalls
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I pretty much get everything 2-4 weeks out, and occasionally open on the break. I still put out flyers, usually for two to four weeks in advance. As far as getting one sheets and trailers, I usually order anything that even looks like I may play it well in advance and just store them. That way I have them if I need them. I used to wait, but trailers were seldom, if ever available that way. There should be a useful trailer recycling program to help out the smaller theaters.
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Re: two booking philosophies 06 Oct 2004 19:18 #24616

  • outaframe
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LEE, that's the way I USED to (and still TRY to) book mine (the short time frame - your new philosophy) and I would recommend it as your BEST way to go IF they will allow you to maintain your current ticket prices for day & date openings, NOT require an EXORBITANT guarantee or advance, NOT require more than a two week playdate, and allow you to pick what you want for the day & date pictures... IF the picture REALLY has legs, you can hold it over, and you already know what won't play there... You'll likely be stuck with an occasional turkey, and they will probably pull a print on you now and then at the last minute (leaving you scrambling,) BUT your grosses WILL rise exponentially... Your film costs will ALSO rise into the overall 42-45% range for the year's average, but the NET is what you're interested in... Running part first run and part early sub run is as GOOD AS IT GETS!... It can be "ulcer alley" but it's also the fun and excitement of the business, and pays you the best returns... GO FOR IT...

[This message has been edited by outaframe (edited October 07, 2004).]
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Re: two booking philosophies 07 Oct 2004 12:00 #24617

  • leeler
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I can't help but wonder if there isn't a middle ground somewhere. Call me chicken but I'm not sure if I'm ready for "ulcer alley". How about shooting for four weeks out? Sometimes it'll be three and sometimes it might be six. Once in a blue moon I might even go for opening before the break. Does this sound like it might work? I admittedly don't know what I'm doing but that sounds like it might be more feasible to me.... I just have a hard time thinking of this place as getting prints that quickly, especially at only $3.50 a ticket which I really want to stick to.
"What a crazy business"
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Re: two booking philosophies 07 Oct 2004 15:05 #24618

  • muviebuf
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I would be very surprised if you can get a print on national opening at $3.50 a ticket.

Heck my WB rep claims that for his company anything under $4.00 is "discount" and must wait for the national second run release. (I still don't understand how you got Harry this summer).
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Re: two booking philosophies 07 Oct 2004 16:27 #24619

  • leeler
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Nevertheless the studio rep came to ME to open a print nationally. He, I'm sure, knows my ticket prices well as I am working on my tenth film with him (and I'm still less than a year old). Perhaps being in this area without much competition changes the rules or something, I really don't know. I didn't have a hard time booking Harry Potter 3 or Shrek 2 or Return of the King or Spider Man 2. I don't know what the answer is but the rules seem to operate differently here for some reason. In any case, does a $3.50 ticket price change anybody's answers above? Do you still think I can open things within a month old?
"What a crazy business"
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Re: two booking philosophies 07 Oct 2004 21:18 #24620

  • muviebuf
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I have long since learned that you cannot assume anything when it comes to this business (or any other business for that matter). How do spell assume? Ass of u and me.

I think you would be amiss if you did not confirm your pricing of $3.50 with the studio rep - especially in a first run national break situation.

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Re: two booking philosophies 09 Oct 2004 20:28 #24621

  • leeler
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Well, I've talked to several of my reps about my dilemma and they suggested that I go for the 3 to 6 week old product. One item of concern for them was that I open prints on Thursday currently. The other is that I am only open 4 days a week. (I currently run Thursday through Sunday) and that might be a problem for prints. After giving it a lot more thought, I have decided on the following:

1.) Burn off the older prints that I have booked and/or advertised and keep with the old philosophy until the holidays are over.

2.) As soon as the holidays are over begin opening seven days a week and hire an extra hand.

3.) Once the product that is being released before the end of the year is burned through start booking in the 3 to 6 week old timeframe.

I think this has the advantage of letting me get through the rest of the winter with the good product coming out in November and December and then, when things start to dry up in January and February I can become more selective and shorten things up and hopefully, keep the winter momentum rolling somewhat.

Comments?



[This message has been edited by leeler (edited October 10, 2004).]
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Re: two booking philosophies 10 Oct 2004 14:53 #24622

  • puzzlegut
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Leeler,

Our single screen only charges $3.00, is generally open on the weekends (Fri-Sun), and generally only does one showtime at 8PM (sometimes two if it's a new movie). Even with our set up, we have been able to get movies that are only out 3 or 4 weeks. We have even been able to open Spiderman 1 & 2, Men in Black 2, the 007 movie with Halle Barry, Shrek 2, and Shark Tale. We were also asked to open other movies such as Parates of the Carribean and Stepford Wives. We were also asked to open the Incredibles and we are seeing about also opening SpongeBob. Even with all of these new movies that we opened at our single screen, we only had to show it during our normal days (Fri-Sun) at our normal time (8PM). However, we do decide to add a 5PM show for the first two weeks of the movie to help bring in more people. Even though we had to show Spiderman 1 and Men in Black 2 for a full 4 weekends (we still did well for the entire run of both movies), we were only required to show the other new movies for 2 weekends.

I hope this helps.
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Re:two booking philosophies 28 Nov 2008 12:55 #30439

  • leeler
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I thought I'd resurrect this old thread.

Same issue. I guess I don't learn well or I'm too chicken to follow through with things. I currently book about six weeks out. Sometimes less and sometimes more. I keep a calendar of showtimes and market it to my customers. It is popular and keeps getting asked for. However, I keep hearing things like "Oh, I saw that one. It's good". This makes me wonder if by booking so far out I am giving up on some business. I think I could fairly easily book in the three week to six week old time frame but I wouldn't be able to know weeks in advance what I'm playing and so my marketing would change and possibly be less effective. I could also open on the break more often, This would alleviate the need for people who have to see the movie right away but would be more expensive, too.

What do you think?
"What a crazy business"
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Re:two booking philosophies 30 Nov 2008 12:03 #30441

  • rufusjack
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Leeler,

IMHO (and I have no research to support this), I do not believe many people will be driving 20 miles (I believe that is your closest mega) on a regular basis to see a movie.

IMHO, 3-4 weeks is better than 6-8 weeks. If you are grossing enough to occasionally get movies on the break you should be able to get the 2800+ location movies on its 3rd if not 4th week. Do you have a mega within an hour drive that regularly gets multiple prints? You maybe be able to pick up their 2nd or 3rd print of films on that 3rd week. You may have to drive to go get it, but you also pick the film up already madeup (saving time and you are saving shipping).

You should with a 75% success rate be able to tell people with a 2-week period what you will be getting. How this might work. 1) Tell studio 3-4 weeks out you are interested in playing the title. 2) Remind studio of your interest the week ahead. 3) Start telling customers if you think the movie will be a hit. 4) If the movie is a hit, re-affirm on Monday after release. Seldom does a mega need multiples after 2 weeks certainly not 3.

Do your homework. Know everything about the theaters in your area. Know their grosses (through Rentrak). Know as much about their booking as they do so you can anticipate what they will be playing and how long they will keep a film.

For example: I had a studio tell me a 6 week old film was not available. I found at least 3-4 theaters wihtin a 60 mile drive that was dropping the movie. I got the movie by pressing just a bit and knowing what should be available.

I would have to believe a movie will perform better that is 3-4 weeks olds with 2 weeks of marketing vs a 6-8 week old movies with a month of marketing. You cost of film rental should be no more than 3-5% points higher if any.

Personally I do not understand why move-over is not treated better by the studios as that group is 100% profit for the studios. I was unable to play Quantum this weekend while the mega by me kept its 2nd print to play just 2 shows (shows that were 30 mins off of the other schdule times and played 6 shows with the other print). Yesterday (Sat) the theater ave. 12-15 people per show. The studios should be pulling multiples IMHO after 2 weeks in most situations.
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Re:two booking philosophies 30 Nov 2008 15:26 #30442

  • leeler
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Do the studios dictate what to do with multiples or do the plexes?

I am currently playing Madagascar 2 (we played it last week also) and that was only two weeks old when I got it from a nearby theater (not a plex but a single of a large chain). It was also my most profitable movie in the five years I've been open. Having said that, however, I go back to the first madagascar and I did very well with it when it was four weeks old.

The closest plex to me is about an hour and a half drive (either East, West or South). Certainly doable but not something I'd look forward to on a cold Thursday night after their evening show ends. I do that kind of thing now on an occasional basis (maybe once every other month) but we'd be talking about doing that more often then not if I went to this type of schedule.

Furthermore, there is the advertising complications. I would miss one of my newspaper deadlines (the deadline is on Thursdays) and quite possibly the other newspaper as well (Monday noon deadline) which would mean I'd have to rely on the web, e-mail newsletters (more and more subscribers every week!), and possibly look into radio advertising and dump the newspaper altogether. This is something I've been thinking about now as I spend a bunch on newspapers but it makes advertising what I will be getting even tougher.

I wonder if changing would make a large difference in the teen population who seem to like getting out of town anyway. I have the movie Twilight on my schedule but since there is so much product out there that I haven't yet shown I put it in my first open spot which is in mid January. At that point it will be seven weeks old when I play it. I'll still get the middle aged folks who are curious but every teenager interested in seeing it will have done so by that time, I'd wager. This is a small subset of my customer base but for a movie like Twilight it could be very important. My question is, if I played it on week three would I be making a difference with them or will I still lose out?

Any way you slice it this would be a major change for me....

Any more thoughts?
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Re:two booking philosophies 01 Dec 2008 16:27 #30448

  • Mike
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Playing films six to eight weeks after opening seems very old school to me and reminds me of the day when people would wait. They do not want to wait now and they are always focused on the next big thing. Booking 6-8 out is specializing in the big thing from two months ago. IMHO you always want to take advantage of the press and publicity surrounding a film. At a minimum I would try for week 3 and up. It still leaves you the option of first run for 2 weeks occasionally. Mad 2 was a 2 week deal for twins and singles. Bolt was a 2 week deal for singles. If your issue is keeping it cheap above all then you are not allowing your customers to share in the excitement that comes with first run films. I know that in my two small town theatres people really love being with the USA national release dates.
Michael Hurley
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