Heating up summer: Tradeshows and blockbusters keep the season busy


Summer business is in full swing, and attendance year-to-date is up roughly 7% from last year at the time of this writing. We started out with a stellar first quarter and then summer didn’t start as strong as we had all hoped. But there’s lots of good product still in the pipeline, and most are hopeful that we will end up ahead of last year. (Surely the fourth quarter has to be better.)
During the summer, we are busy running promotions and managing high attendance, but also traveling to tradeshows that help us run our business. Why? Because every successful company will attend to present-day demands but never stop planning for the future. So let’s take a look at what the summer months offer you.

Starting in May, we had a big kickoff with some huge films like The Avengers, which was a smash hit to say the least, and also one of our biggest tradeshow events, the NRA (National Restaurant Association) annual show, followed by the annual candy show of the National Confectioners Association. We also had ShowCanada in Winnipeg. It was a busy month, but I saw many fellow theatre associates at these shows. Why? Consumer trend-setting doesn’t sleep, it is constantly changing. Being on top of what’s new and exciting is not an option for our industry; it’s a recipe for success. May business was good, not as big as we had hoped for, but it definitely launched the summer.

June offered up the additional blockbusters of Prometheus, Snow White and the Huntsman, and of course Brave and Madagascar 3. Last year had Transformers 3 in this time frame, which performed very well and made the 2011 comparative number higher. But overall, June was steady.

June brought two shows attended by our theatre personnel at roughly the same time: the National Association of Concessionaires (NAC) annual convention in Tampa, Florida, and CineEurope in Barcelona, Spain.

The NAC convention draws from many businesses but is well-attended by the theatre industry and this year offered a sold-out tradeshow which included new exhibitors such as Dunkin Brands and Trinchero Family Estates winery. CineEurope was well-attended by the European market, and the Barcelona venue is a treat. Both shows are popular in spite of the hectic summer business in June; again, future planning never stops and the need to be in the office is only trumped by the need to be out engaging with peers and discovering new ideas.

July now moves us to present/future tense. How will July business fare? At press time, the new Ice Age: Continental Drift and The Amazing Spider-Man were expected to perform very well. I have heard that The Dark Knight Rises is an amazing film and will delight everyone at the box office. So I think July attendance will hold up and the concession business will match it. If these aren’t three concession films, I don’t know what are. The summer promos that accompany them are also numerous and varied, so July business should hold its own. The convention events aren’t so numerous in July, perhaps because this is in fact the peak vacation time in the U.S. Starting with Independence Day, we just like to vacation in the month of July. This year that is apparent from the lack of any cinema-related tradeshows. So a hiatus from the shows will be felt.

August is always the unknown. Will there be a surprise holdover? Will ShowSouth be well-attended? Will everyone in the state of Texas actually melt? These are the questions; the only known factor is that most schoolchildren across the country go back to prison, I mean class, and the cinema business can be good, bad or downright ugly. This year the slate of product includes some big films such as the new version of Total Recall, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days and The Bourne Legacy. The concession business may do quite well, as these should all play well with promotions.

We do a very large part of our annual business in the summer months, and seemingly a large part of travel as well. CinemaCon really kicked off the season this year, taking place right at the dawn of summer. So it feels like we have been revved up and in motion for a couple of months now.

What is the takeaway? Attendance, concession revenue, business contacts, networking, problem-solving, and idea generation for the future are all intertwined and happen at the same time. Even at the peak of our business, we get down to business and discuss our challenges and our innovative thoughts at industry events. We work hard during summer business, because we are always putting in double time. My daughter says it’s not fair that adults don’t get to take the summer off like kids do. Having them at home just adds another layer of chaos to finish off the insanity. Or maybe it’s just the heat…

E-mail your comments to Anita Watts at anitaw@reactornet.com.