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Friday, June 20, 2008


According to the U.S. Department of Commerce the number one reason customers stop dealing with a business is because of indifference, rudeness, or lack of service on the part of the employees (see inset).

All businesses - but particularly service oriented ones, and certainly cinemas - must be constantly attentive with regards to practices that are what I term - "mildly hostile" - towards their customers. These are the small annoyances that by themselves may not garner sufficient weight to motivate a customer to cease dealing with your business but tend, over time, to compel customers to look elsewhere to satisfy their needs.


1% Die
3% Move
5% Buy From Friends
9% Prefer Competition
14% Judge All Like Businesses The Same
68% Indifference, Rudeness, Lack of Service By Employees

Examples of mildly hostile customer practices are fairly widespread particularly in the retail/consumer products and services areas and I'm sure each of you reading this are fully aware of what I mean and can recite horror stories from your own experiences in the retail jungle.

As cinema owners/operators, being aware of mildly hostile practices requires constant vigilance for, like wrinkles and graying, their precise beginnings are hard to determine until the day when their grim evidence is impossible to refute.

There are a myriad of mildy hostile customer practices, and include such things as:
  • Employing under-qualified staff
  • Poor & unfriendly service
  • Thoughtless policies, such as inconvenient show times
  • Slow response in resolving customer queries and problems
  • Inconsistent service standards
  • Messy, semi-clean facilities
  • Untrained staff

Many of these practices are derived from weak, ineffective management which usually emanates from a tolerance for poor staff performance. Others may come from a company's fuzzy notion of customer satisfaction or from inconsistent service fortified by a lack of corporate support and funding for proper staff training.

Remember; it's not only blatant mismanagement and major mistakes that cause customer dissatisfaction and defection, but also those practices that are mildly hostile but which over time cause customer departure.

Before ending I would like to mention a trend that has developed over the last several years in corporate America and is worth mentioning. That is the creation and staffing by large organizations of a position called Chief Customer Experience Officer or CXO. A CXO is a senior level executive charged with evaluating, directing, and overseeing the customer experience effort and its implementation throughout the entire organization. The CXO position started to appear in 2005, and now, almost 25% of the largest 100 U.S. corporations have a CXO.

Reporting to the CEO, the CXO's responsibilities cut-across all product, service, and distribution channels and they have significant input into the corporation's marketing, promotion, and advertising activities. The CXO position will quickly become relevant for both large and mid-sized companies, in both the services or manufacturing sectors, and you'll be hearing more about this new and critical position as time goes on.

Reprinted from Spring 2008 Screentrade Magazine

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Now that I have your attention, let's talk about something less provacative but, nontheless, serious and perhaps even dearer to an exhibitor's heart. Drop Your Shorts is one of over 25,000 film festivals held annually across the globe. Forget Cannes and Sundance. We're talking about Toronto's Hunk of Junk Fest, Tokyo's Short Shorts, Sydney's Homebrewed Fest, Hollywood's Scream Fest, and London's Food Film Fiesta. The list and topics are endless. So with all these film festivals why should I be writing about cinemas sponsoring their own digital film fest? Because - it's an easy way to make money and (perhaps more importantly) connect your cinema to the local community in a very positive way. Film festivals fall under my current pet business premise for cinemas: Think Global / Act Local.

  • Advertise locally that your cinema is sponsoring a film festival. Start the promotion at least 6 - 8 weeks before the Festival. You should be able to get free local press coverage before and during the event. Also use the Cinema's website and in-theatre notices.
  • Charge entrants a minimal submission fee - say $15 - $25. Limit all submissions to 10 minutes or less and accept only DVD formatted entries.
  • Shortly after the deadline submission date review each submission for integrity (you set the entry rules), and then compile the accepted works onto a single "Festival" DVD.
  • Form a 3 person judging panel (awards will be given). Staff the panel with people who know something about the cinema or have local stature - professors/teachers at local schools or universities are a good source, as are local media people (radio, TV, press). You'll find most are ready and willing to assist.
  • Determine where and when to hold the Festival (provide a name). Have it at least two or three presentation times over a two/three day period - preferably weekend mornings/early afternoons.
  • Produce copies of the Festival DVD which would be available for sale during the Festival and through your Cinema's website.
  • For the presentations, use a video projector that is putting out 50 - 100 lumens of light per foot of picture throw. This is your benchmark projector size.
  • Give out awards - trophies, certificates, cash prizes - and have a number of awards, by: age group, submission genre, length of submission, etc.
  • Sell concessions!


The key in having the community participate is to get the word out early and often. If promoted properly you'll be surprised on the number of entries submitted. Get local schools involved. Another good idea is to link up with a community arts group as co-sponsor - this will provide a promotional jump start and further encourage local participation. The trick in having a digital film fest is not to get too fancy or too complicated. This is all about reinforcing the link between the cinema and the local community - it's that simple but that imperative.

Being a big proponent of cinemas offering up a full range of "alternative content" - be it a film festival or an in-cinema video gaming initiative, over the long haul cinemas will have to gravitate toward the use of non-movie entertainment to survive. Single theatre operation or chain it doesn't matter, sponsoring a digital film festival is easy, straight forward, and profitable - try it!