Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Bully of the Century?

Theater operator cries 'foul'
State says it has the included complaint with ongoing probe

go to original article ... or email me for article text
"'Century Theatres has shut us out of 100 percent of the major studio releases since we opened our doors," said Mason, who opened Cinemas Palme D'Or with three business partners in October 2003. "But they haven't stopped there.'

Mason contends Century, which has theaters throughout California and 11 other states, has been using its "circuit power" to steal arthouse, foreign and documentary titles since it began showing some independent films last fall in Rancho Mirage."
Century Theaters has been one of my favorite theater chains for a few years now. Ever since I started researching them, I've always appreciated their local roots, their diverse film offering, their commitment to bringing films to underserved markets, and their deliberate way of doing business.

This compaint seems to be an unfortunate side effect of that last point. Century makes careful deals with distributors in order to assure a favorable position with them. It's a tough arena and asking for exclusivity seems like a solid way to prevent yourself from getting screwed by the distributors. But when it ends up locking out neighboring theaters, then I would have to quetion the wisdom of keeping that clause around once it's started to cause (multiple) problems. And it brings me to my third movie theater belief.

3.) Be a part of a community

You'd never convince me that anyone was ever worse off by being a good neighbor. Which is no coincidence. Aside this being one of my firmest philosophical alignments, one _always_ directly benefits from a joint association whether we're talking about forging military alliances, helping friends, exchanging business, or splitting a meal. And theaters, in particular multiplexes, ar superbly positioned to be the anchor of fantastic communities of happiess and society (and consequently commerce). My favorite examples of this are the dining and shopping communities that sprung up in my hometown (or close enough) of McAllen, TX and in my college getaway location, Union City Plaza. Union city had, literally, one of every restaurant you could imagine.

Theaters naturally bring traffic and more importantly people who are either currently or about to engage in huge emotional exercises. In other words they're ripe for experiences and services that a number of businesses would be well suited to provide. So many theaters (Century included) are guilty of policies that don't allow outside food or beverages into a theater to try to force people to buy teir concessions (which they unfortunately live and die by). They should be encouraging people to keep their neighbor businesses in the black and swimming in green. Better business mean happier moviegoers. And rules like the above only breed resentment in loyal customers. And never keep outside food out.

But I digress. Theaters, like any business, really, need to reach out to not only the businesses that compliment them, but their competitors. Competitors not only make you better at what you can do, but their familiarity with your game can make them the most powerful allies you could have. Big and small theaters should have no problem working together to jointly foster a culture of moviegoing in their shared community. They should advertise for each other and for their specialties. I dare say that this would be a more productive use of resources than filing complants and mounting defenses.


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