Thursday, October 20, 2011

Applause for Butch Rigby, Screenland Theaters (KCMO)

If you didn't read my prior post (The Next Evolution) about the previously discussed offering of Brett Ratner's Tower Heist on Video On-Demand (VOD), a mere three weeks after the theater release, you already know that NATO was, not mincing words, pissed.

Well it looks as though Universal has bagged the idea.  Cinemark had announced a boycott, and more of the big chains were threatening the same.  Universal caved.

In my post, I talked about doing more to serve the consumer, rather than focus only on dollars.  After all, film is an art form, and being such, we shouldn't be spoon fed how we are to consume it.

The big ticket houses continue to shoot for a dollars only model, and I guess who can blame them, they are a business for goodness sake.  But by focusing on the business, rather than the show, in show business, we the movie goer suffer. 

It is a problem of uniformity.  Corporate theaters conform to a company policy, which leads to a more mild version of what the individual theater GM's could do, if given the latitude.  That uniformity is seen in shops like Wal Mart, McDonalds, and Best Buy.  That's not to say that small theaters aren't fans of making money, but if you look at each of the Screenland properties, they offer both a different theater atmosphere and a wide variety of film selection and special events alike.

Butch Rigby is the owner of the Kansas City local Screenland chain.  They get it...he gets it.  Here is a letter Butch sent out to e-mail subscribers this week.  The letter speaks for itself...there are those out there who try and make the filmgoing experience a fun one. 

I am not trying to say that the good folks at AMC, my home theater of Barrywoods especially, don't try and make the movie going experience fun.  But the suits at companies like AMC, Cinemark, and others, don't always have a grasp of how the average movie goer is entertained.  I think Rigby gets it.

To hell with uniformity, but that is only coming out of one side of my mouth.  I will continue to make AMC Barry my theater of choice.  I like the people and I like the popcorn.

But I am thankful for Rigby and theaters like Screenland.  Without them, I wouldn't have had the chance to see, on the big screen, the likes of Super, Antichrist, Troll Hunter, Conan O'Brien Can't Stop, as well as local favorites like Nelly Don: A Stitch in Time and Blackhand Strawman, both Terrance O'Malley products.  I like seeing my indie fare and I like seeing them in theaters like the Screenland.

I get great enjoyment from seeing movies at Barrywoods, talking to their staff, many of whom are now my friends.  But I think there is a place for theaters like Screenland and I wish they were given some latitude so that I, your average movie goer, will continue to have the power of choice.

Maybe I'm just salty that this VOD experiment was quashed before it started.  Like I said, I want choice in how I consume, and an embargo on new ideas doesn't help anyone.  With rising prices and more hikes on the way (Sony's proposed plan of no longer paying for 3-D glasses), something has got to give.

Butch Rigby (left)
Here is the entire note, sent out on October 12th, 2011, by Butch Rigby, owner of Kansas City's Screenland Theaters.
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I started Screenland Theatres because I love movies. Plain and simple. My colleagues love movies. We built theatres to bring movies to the screen that you might not see on a screen in Kansas City. We built venues that are unique. Fun. Interesting. "The show starts on the sidewalk". At the Screenland Armour in North Kansas City (just a LITTLE BIT across the river for those of you south who might fear crossing the "Walls of Jericho", aka the Heart of America Bridge) we decided to build a venue unlike any other in KC-and I think we did. A place where you could watch First Run Films in luxury. A place where the doors, windows and even the door handles reflect our passion for this business.

Well, the way of the world (or at least the parts occupied by the major studios) tells us that the small theatres are simply not going to get all of the first run product we need. Imagine a Wal-Mart next to a small grocery store-except in our case we don't get to sell the "Tide". In other words, we can't compete with the big theatres when we cannot get a lot of the smaller releases since they are "not booking anything smaller than an 8-plex" etc for a particular film. Time for us to adapt. Not complain-but go back to our roots. Show films that you can't see in another theatre. Be different. Think Different.

Therefore, we are going to be playing some movies that remind us of why we got into this business. Starting with "Rudy" on October 21st. Why Rudy? If you have seen it, you understand this is the kind of movie that must be seen with a crowd! It is the kind of a movie you cheer for. It is real, about real people. It is a movie that you must bring a young person to. Maybe, just maybe they will grow up fool enough to build movie theatres, or build something that no one else thought possible. Just for fun we are showing the Notre Dame/USC game on the big screen that Saturday night. After that, the weekend of November 4th, "Gone with the Wind" , restored and on the big screen. How many people have seen that movie? How many have seen it in a Motion PIcture Theatre? It is Truly an experience. After that on November 11th, the official launch of Terence O'Malley's book! "Blackhand Strawman", a compilation based upon his award winning documentary. We will be reviving the film for the weekend, as well as a special screening of "Nellie Don". Keep your eyes open in the future for his next film (premiering at the Armour) "Tom and Harry", a fascinating documentary looking at the relationship between Tom Pendergast and President Truman.

We will still bring you some of the Hollywood first runs, but we will be bringing more and more of the classics, documentary films and small independent features that brought us into this business. We will be featuring sing-a-longs, Roasts, the Big Lebowski and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Additionally, we will be selling the Blackhand Strawman books, videos and other movie merchandise, including the incredible works of vaudeville photographer "Orville Hixon.

We love this business, and we love our beautiful theatres. We simply need to put "butts in seats" as the saying goes. Let us know what we can do to get yours there.

Butch Rigby
Owner-Screenland Theatres
Well said Butch.  Well said.

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