A Kerasotes Milestone

Columns

One hundred years is a lifetime (if you’re lucky), and very few companies in the motion picture industry can boast of reaching that milestone. Kerasotes ShowPlace Theatres can. Founded in 1909, the Chicago-based circuit has grown from very modest beginnings to the sixth largest theatre chain in the United States, with 933 screens in 94 locations.

What sets this circuit apart from most is the two brothers, Tony and Dean, who own and manage the business. They are intelligent, innovative and well-liked by their employees. They believe in customer service and learned that at an early age from their father and uncles. The Kerasotes brothers believe that “the key to dealing successfully with your patrons is to give them an experience that leaves them happy.”

The term that the brothers use to describe this approach is “show service,” the idea that the customer experience comes first. They instill in their employees the belief that their job is to make sure the customer has a good time.

In 1999, the brothers moved their circuit from Springfield, Illinois, to Chicago and that is when they changed their business plan and started to enter bigger metropolitan markets and retrench in existing markets that could support a larger, more modern complex. Today, their theatres are 78% stadium seating and they have one all-digital complex with more on the way. Digital allows them to do more screen advertising, bring live sporting events and opera to their locations, and gear up for 3D.

FJI is pleased to acknowledge the singular success of the Kerasotes team with an in-depth anniversary profile inside this issue. Congratulations to Tony, Dean and their entire organization.

A Robust Quarter
Give them value and they shall come. A few good movies certainly don’t hurt, and the public’s response has led to a robust first quarter for the motion picture industry. Not only are the industry trades writing about the new year’s performance, but the lay press and all major media outlets are taking notice of the movies’ strong showing in these challenging times.

The National Association of Theatre Owners has been constant in their argument that the comparative bargain of the moviegoing experience is what keeps this industry strong. And now, in a tough economy, the public’s support has proven the argument that the movies are perhaps the best value for one’s entertainment dollar.

As of mid-March, box office was more than 13% ahead of the same period in 2008, surpassing $1.88 billion. And it’s not just because ticket prices are higher—attendance has also jumped by nearly 10%.

This is not rocket science. People want to be entertained, forget their troubles and be with other people. The studios have done their part to support this surge by releasing movies that are happier, scarier or just less depressing than what came previously. Lighter fare has returned the masses to the theatres and for that we should all be happy.



MPAA Budget Takes a Hit
Budgets for all businesses are being cut, so it should come as no surprise that the budget for the Motion Picture Association of America is also being scaled back. You can interpret this any way you like, but the truth remains that the lobbying efforts of the MPAA are integral to the viability of the six major studios that fund the organization.

True, the staff is being reduced and the organization may never be able to do everything they did in the heyday of Jack Valenti, since the studios all have their own major lobbying efforts and anti-piracy teams with their own resources to pick up the slack. But even if its budget has been cut by $20 million, the MPAA remains an important industry voice.

MPAA chairman Dan Glickman cites two recent legislative gains that prove the Association’s relevance: bolstering federal safeguards on intellectual property, and getting a requirement for on-campus anti-piracy efforts inserted into higher-education legislation. An MPAA effort to add industry-friendly measures to the economic-stimulus package failed, however.

The MPAA still has a strong docket and is an integral part of studio lobbying efforts on issues such as film and TV production incentives, anti-smoking legislation and intellectual-copyright protection, and its rating system is a cornerstone of its theatrical public relations. But with the current economic outlook, leaner times may be ahead for this important trade group.

Off to Las Vegas!
As movie executives head to the annual retreat in Las Vegas known as ShoWest, there is a quiet feeling of jubilation that the economy has not negatively impacted their business. Quite contrary, the industry has witnessed a surge at the box office that is unprecedented. Everything hitting the nation’s screens is making money and holdovers have added to the pie.

With the industry evolving over the past few years, management of ShoWest has adapted well and changed their format. International Day is now a part of the main body of the convention, and seminar topics have crossed over from the domestic market to the international. Although major parties are no longer the norm, studios are pouring their dollars into filmed presentations that truly are the backbone of the convention. The Walt Disney Company, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros. will all be showing upcoming product.

All 3D systems that are available to the industry will be seen in action at ShoWest, and digital cinema, alternative content and environmental issues are part of the major presentations. Jim Gianopulos of Fox and Alan Horn of Warner Bros. will be making key addresses to the attendees, and the trade show will be full of new technologies and goodies for the concession area.

This is a time for the industry to come together and be thankful for the continued patronage at our theatres and the lighter fare from the studios that is making the box office robust.