Monday, September 05, 2005

Gimme two tickets... animal style

Hide and sneak
The chance to belly up to the (movie) bar blunts an old challenge

go to original article ... or email me for article text
"For many of us, the pleasure of drinking "adult beverages" in movie theaters used to involve bulky jackets and spacious purses. It's amazing how many cold beers one could cram into the deep pockets of an Army jacket or a roomy handbag.

Once inside the dimly lit theater, phony coughs and sneezes were broadcast to cover up the "fwoooosh" that accompanied the twirl of a twist-off or the flick of a flip-top. Slouching as low as the movie theater chairs would permit, we'd slug back the brews in long, refreshing gulps.

The best part was seeing how far down the theater the empties would rattle and roll before stopping abruptly at the feet of another moviegoer. Good times."

We'll call it the in-n-out return customer relationship. In-n-Out (a california burger chain for those of you who might be unfamiliar with the business) has an extremely popular "underground" menu of items and modifications that are not available on any printed material. All I know how to do is order a burger "animal style" to get them to put grilled onions on my burger. To be honest, I don't think I can even taste, the difference, I just do it to feel cool doing it.

Which is exactly the subtle loss that many businesses face when they make the mistake of openly offering too many services to their patrons. Besides the overhead of having to advertise and support all new services that come up as a result of popular demand, by "mainstreaming" a service, you destroy the fun of it for the people who wanted it initially.

What in-n-out does is genius. It will make any modification to it's food products that anyone could possibly conceive. It trains all its employees to be prepared to serve all these options, and even gives them institutionalized names. But it never advertises them, or makes them publically available. It boils down to this: For the people who want these things, there is no reason that they shouldn't be able to have them. But when people come to in-n-out they should be coming to buy burgers, plain and simple. The simplicity of the 10 or so offerings on the menu keep people focused on what the business is about, and their institutionalized flexibility gives people no reason to complain. Meanwhile, the restaurant itself does not allow itself to get sidetracked with all of it's peripheral offerings. It doesn't divert time and attention in trying to promote new services or making other ideas profitable. It sticks to it's core competency and never has to ride any fad or style trains.

And it's perennially cool to eat there.

A lot of movie theaters get this wrong. They try to milk new concession opportunities for all they're worth and when the novelty wears off, they find themselves stuck up a creek. Like now. Rooted in a business that relies on foot traffic to sell concessions, they're in some unfavorable negotiating positions with the studios who are failing to provide them with enticing films to bring in the headcount, and with those same people they're trying lure in. All because they rode the concessions train too long and too hard, and now they don't have any other way to run their businesses. One might say they made too many concessions along the way...


Puns may not be cool, but going to the movie theater should be. And somewhere between getting people to come in the door and making buck at the end of the day, the theaters need to be concerned with their "indie" fan base who like sneaking around the theaters and working the system in little ways that keep them coming back. Whether it's sneaking in booze, or getting double features out of a well timed afternoon, theaters need to realize that these attitudes are actually incentives for people to come. And as long as those practices can be kept from becoming disruptive (like in n out does) they'll have a stronger business by taking them into account and paying them service.


At 2:30 PM, Blogger hollyg said...

hey! puns are cool! in fact, you should have "pun day" at your movie theater...a whole day of "punny movies"!


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