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Exhibs: Get a grip

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

Every year at awards time there’s a little-known feud which develops between movie exhibitors and members of the various film making guilds.

Many ads for movies, which are up for nominations, carry the invitation for guild members to be allowed free seating at theaters showing these films. This happens once a year, during the nomination process, and it invariably upsets many theater chains resulting in small squabbles and stand-offs at the box office.

Last month there was an article in Variety claiming that theater chains are calling for an end to this practice. As a member of both the DGA and the WGA, I would like to address the exhibitors directly.

Without the tireless effort of the many guild members you would have no product to put up on your screen and your business would be nothing more than a candy store. Those guild members who are lucky enough to land employment on a film don’t have time to go to the movies because they work twelve to sixteen hours a day, long into the night, to do their jobs. Once the film is finished they are usually unemployed for six months or more.

Many guild members take their voting responsibilities seriously, and when you have mouths to feed and mortgages to pay the cost of seeing the hundred or more films, which are up for nomination, is simply impractical. Allowing some members a free seat is not too much to ask.

With all the megaplexes and countless screens out there the days of sold-out houses is a thing of the past. As a former theater owner I know for a fact that it costs nothing to put someone’s behind in an empty seat. There’s no percentage to pay to the distributor because there was no sale of a ticket. Plus you get to keep 100% of the concession profits from what these people spend. So where’s the gripe?

Once these guilds make their nominations it’s obviously good for your business or you wouldn’t be proudly boasting in your display ads that you are playing the nominated films. And everyone knows that once a film joins the award elite its revenue goes up substantially. From where I sit it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

Instead of complaining over a few seats the exhibitors should learn to look at the big picture. Everyone in this business is working together for the same goal: to keep good product coming to the local theaters.

The next time you are negotiating to book a hit picture because you want to sell more five-dollar popcorn and five-dollar Pepsi, please remember where that film came from.

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