Phantoms, Paddingtons & Penguins: Cinemarketing initiatives raise funds for wildlife and restore a Wurlitzer

Cinemas Features

The Penguins of Germany Pitch in for World Wide Nature…  In partnership with Twentieth Century Fox of Germany, the kinos of Cineplex in 63 cities donated two cents (European) for every ticket sold at any one of the group’s 87 locations showing Die Pinguine aus Madagascar to the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF). The very cool collaboration—check out the in-theatre spot at—began back in 2008 with Kung Fu Panda. The sequel followed suit, as well as Mr. Popper’s Penguins and German animation film Konferenz der Tiere. Jointly, more than €19,200 (US$23,800) was collected in support of WWF’s mission “to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth.”

The Phantom of the Byrd…  “You see it rise, imposingly and almost magically, from the orchestra pit at the Byrd Theatre, cutting a conspicuous figure and announcing, once it begins to be played, a boisterous presence.” No, the Richmond (Virginia) Times-Dispatch was not talking about Lon Chaney or about Todd A. Schall-Vess, the 1928 movie palace’s general manager. The fitting description was reserved for its marvelous and Mighty Wurlitzer that–in the capable hands of house organist Bob Gulledge–delights audiences every Saturday night with its “glorious sounds.”

As with many things so tried and treasured, the Byrd’s Wurlitzer has been in dire straits to be maintained, repaired and otherwise restored. Bringing renowned organist Michael Britt to Richmond for a live accompaniment of the 1925 classic The Phantom of the Opera, this year’s fundraiser collected over $10,000 for the pipe organ’s preservation.

“It was a huge success and Michael Britt was amazing,” Schall-Vess tells us. “It’s easy for a contemporary audience to get fidgety during a silent feature, but not that night. The last ten minutes of the movie were magical, you could have heard a pin drop. Our guests were on the edge of their seats…and Michael is the reason that they were. He created a musical bridge between the past and the present. I feel he helped people understand Lon Chaney’s genius and how the craft of the theatre organ lifts this ‘flick’ into sheer artistry.”

The work on what originally cost $37,500 to custom-build, transport and install–plus another $17,500 for the organ console lift–for a combined $763,673 today is showing great results. “The organ certainly plays better than it did 40 years ago.” Gulledge told the Times-Dispatch, noting that some 40% of the restoration work has been completed. “We’re getting there, but we’ve got some work to do.”

At press time, Gulledge was preparing the Byrd’s traditional Christmas sing-along, paired on Dec 24 and 25 with screenings of It’s A Wonderful Life.

Hitting the Trails with Paddington…  Looking to become another classic at the cinema, not just for the holidays, a Peruvian bear named Paddington has journeyed into the hearts of moviegoers worldwide. After waddling past Mockingjays in his adopted home of England, Paddington received a big embrace in Germany and met a mouse named Chuck E. Cheese in America. The entertaining family eatery (575 locations in 47 states and 10 countries) offered a special Paddington-themed travel tag with purchase of any meal or game token package. With every additional visit, guests received three more tokens. According to Tom Leverton, chief executive officer of CEC Entertainment, this pairing of two beloved characters “creates more anticipation and excitement for the upcoming movie.”

The same can certainly be said about the fantastic initiative that Studio Canal and London & Partners set up across London in partnership with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and sponsor Barclaycard. Bearing 50 exclusive designs of our furry friend, “The Paddington Trail” stretched from Heathrow airport to the O2 and took in some of London’s key landmarks such as the Royal Opera House, the Museum of London, the Horse Guards Parade and, of course, Paddington Station.

Several statues greeted moviegoers heading towards nearby cinemas in Leicester Square (“Blush,” designed by Nicole Kidman) and Piccadilly Circus (Ben Whishaw’s “Special Delivery” on Glasshouse Street), in Notting Hill (The Coronet & Electric Cinema, with “Dapper Bear” by Guy Ritchie) and on the South Bank close to the Tate and Globe, near BFI London IMAX (“Shakesbear” by Michael Sheen). In addition to Kidman and Whishaw, the film’s Hugh Bonneville, Peter Capaldi and Julie Walters also contributed designs, as did Benedict Cumberbatch, Stephen Fry and Emma Watson. Sandra Bullock’s astronaut bear, which was inspired by Gravity, was appropriately suspended from the ceiling at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

Tune in again next month for more examples of creativity in film and theatre marketing taking flight.