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Some movie theaters are taking radical new measures to woo filmgoers

Posted on Wednesday, May 24th, 2006 and updated on Wednesday, May 24th, 2006 10:42 AM

Fortune Magazine is featuring an article by Andy Serwer about what some theaters are doing to compete with the many choices that moviegoers have, not just for seeing movies, but entertainment in general. The article focuses on National Amusements and their strategy to transform their business into creating a large selection of entertainment to attract audiences. National Amusement president Shari Redstone took the author on a tour of one of their newest locations, the Cinema De Lux in Millbury, Massachusetts.
Cocktails are just one facet of Redstone's meta-strategy to transform moviegoing into what she calls "premium" entertainment. She has also dreamed up "chocolate bahs," screenside waiter service, and high-end food. She's already showing live broadcasts of baseball games - make that Red Sawx games - with kids walking up and down the aisles hawking peanuts. Meanwhile, other operators are renting out theaters to FORTUNE 500 companies for meetings or even to churches for religious services. It's all part of a mad scramble by theater owners to keep their venues relevant (and full) in our increasingly digital age. "It's an interesting time to be in the movie theater business," says CEO Steve Marcus of Marcus Theatres, a 500-theater chain out of Milwaukee. "But I don't sleep as well as I used to."
The Cinema de Lux theaters feature amenities that are still rare in the industry. "Director's Halls" feature leather rocking recliner seats, reserved seating, and other specialized services (at a small upgrade in the ticket cost). The following quote summarizes the challenge facing all movie theaters:
"We are trying our hardest to get people out of the house to see a movie," Redstone says. "We simply must give people an experience they can't get elsewhere."
From our perspective, more theaters need to embrace this simple motto. If theater management were to examine each of their locations honestly with this motto as a measuring stick, I think we would see more improvements to the moviegoing experience and less mediocrity. National Amusements should be applauded for their efforts. While I have never had the chance to attend one of their theaters, it's nice to see that steps are being taken to reinvent the moviegoing experience rather than maintain status quo.

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