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Who's going to call?
Brown brick walls cover the small theater, as sunlight squeezes through the stained glass window and into the dimly lit lobby. Banners hang, fliers are passed out and dull posters are displayed in shiny cases. The lobby is filled with the commotion of leaving costumers who dash off to their other activities. The smell of yellow salted popcorn fills your nose cavities as workers fill the purple colored bins for the customers’ enjoyment.
Every square inch of this Emagine Theater in Rochester Hills is covered in promotion for the upcoming event of “Ghostbusters.” The 1984 classic will be shown for one special night this Friday. Comedian Ernie Hudson will be strolling into town to sign autographs while hungry fans wait to see the star. This one-day event might not be interesting to some, but this is just a small section on an otherwise large canvas. Behind the scenes is an interesting tale of how and why these events are created.
There was a series of events before the Ghostbusters screening was created. Emagine contacted Columbia pictures to show the feature. Columbia pictures then contacted Hudson to make an appearance at Emagine. The projectors will be programed to fit the new content and are ready to go after the keys come in. The keys are like a digital DVD that’s been placed in a computer file.
“Content is actually imported into our server through satellites or on a hard drive,” Emagine Manager David Golonka said. “From the server we port them onto each projector.”
Golonka showed the humming projectors as movie-goers sat in their seats. After the keys come in and they’re on the server, the next step is to press play on a screen no bigger than a phone’s. This event will be similar to all other events that have been at the theater.
During these events, the managers will try their best to keep everything running smoothly. Over 100 tickets have been sold. The managers seem more on edge when these events happen according to Emagine employee Jesse Zuber. Zuber worked the exclusive event when the Mayor of Rochester Hills visited the theater for the State of the City Address.
“You wouldn’t want your theater to start having problems,” crew leader Jesse Zuber said. “They were making sure that the staff was consistently doing small maintenance.”
Popcorn flowed out of the makers that day. Tables lined the lobby as guests poured into the theater to watch the Mayor’s speech. The concessions pumped out popcorn and drinks, as ushers dragged them down the theater’s hallways. The atmosphere was thick with the busy bee workers consistently moving. The managers looked on as they were making sure the employees were providing the costumer with a high-end experience that Emagine strives for.
The upcoming “Ghostbuster’s” event will be organized a same way. Hudson will sit at the table while eager fans pour into the lobby. Ticket sales haven’t been that high, but that’s not the real focus of this event.
“Our main goal is to get people aware of our brand, called Brand Awareness,” General Manager Dan Kelly said. “We want to make sure people experience Emagine.”
Pulling people away from the competition is what Emagine is trying to accomplish. Kelly explains the limited-time event might pull people away from their biggest competition AMC, and give those guests an opportunity to experience a different brand. These events allow customers to try a different brand than they’re used to, and it will show what Emagine has to offer over its competition. Emagine is trying to distinguish itself by setting a different direction and tone for its theater. This is why Emagine decided to have serve alcohol to its guests. The workers are at the front lines to give the customer enough incentive to come back.
Word of mouth is important in Kelly’s eyes. Once a customer has a great experience with Emagine, he or she will have it in his or her mind that Emagine is a great company. Emagine theaters have to compete with companies that have been around for years. AMC and MJR have established their audience.
Emagine has just updated its experience. A different dress code was introduced for employees, while the theater undergoes renovations in both the theaters and concessions. Also some Emagines have a bowling alley, while others have a premium membership. Though do these events and new techniques really help with drawing people in?
Emagine’s competition has also tried to innovate new ideas into their theaters. Both AMC and MJR have introduced bars into their theaters. These new strategies in theaters are just another way of theaters trying to evolve. At least this is according to Program Director Kyle Edwards at Oakland University. Edwards believes that this event is just another way of drawing people to the theater.
“It might get people out to the theater that wouldn’t otherwise. Those might be people that saw ‘Ghostbusters’ in the theaters, or those who saw it on TV and wasn’t able to see it in the theaters,” said Edwards.
Edwards sees these events as a way of drawing people away from the competition, just like Kelly did. Is the constant competition the real threat to the theater industry? Edwards explains that the real true threat of theaters lies beneath the surface. The expanding age of digital content is what Edwards believes is the greatest competition for theaters these days. These events are for reinstating that the theater is still a relevant place to go watch a movie.
“Theaters are still important, relevant places and that you can see things you couldn’t see anywhere else. Theaters like Emagine might be interested in creating these events to kind of reinforce the idea that it’s a special experience to go to the theater and see a film,” said Edwards.
As movies start to become more accessible online and prices skyrocket, more and more people have been staying away from the theater. Edwards sees the high-end experience as a way of getting costumers to enjoy coming to the theater, but how far can they go before pushing away customers as well. Like Kelly, Edwards believes that theaters are trying their best to give a new experience to their customers. This new experience seems to be weeding out the younger or cheaper crowd.
This is definitely true with college students. Kayla Landspager is a college student at Oakland University who weekly goes to the movie. Because she’s a college student, her budget for the movies is low. She says that the high-end experience is nice, but that’s not enough to pull her into Emagine.
“The recliners are cool but not worth $12 movie tickets in my opinion. Maybe if I wasn't a broke college student, I would think differently,” said Landspager.
Landspager shows the true split between the two classes of people. She even stats that she would think differently if she was not a student, but she would rather go somewhere else that’s cheaper. How far can this high-end experience go before pushing people away?
The new Emagine in Birmingham shows how high class the theater is trying to go. The Birmingham Platinum has just opened while making the consumer swallow a hefty price to come to the theaters. They’ve introduced an exclusive high-end membership costing over $300 dollars annually.
Edwards says this “new experience” is just a ploy right now. How long can they keep this up? There might be a day where the theater business has raised prices too high. Edwards explains this could cause theaters to start to die out as content online rises. The “theater experience” might one day consist of turning on a home entertainment system.
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