Friday, May 15, 2009

I've Done This Before

I went to my usual neighborhood theater this afternoon (Willow Creek on Shelard Parkway in Plymouth, Minnesota). The guy at the box office looked a cut above the typical teen-to-twentysomething that normally mans the booth. I said "One for 'State of Play,'" and before he could say, "That'll be $6.25," I had laid down a fiver, a single and a quarter. He was genuinely surprised and made a comment like, "You're very prepared." "Yes," was my reply, "I've been here a few times."

That's not what I wanted to say. I keep track of the movies I see but I don't memorize my stats. If I did, I would have been able to instantly reply, "Yes, I've been here a few times. This will be my 692nd viewing of a movie at your fine establishment." The drama addict in me would love to have seen his jaw hit the floor. Unfortunately, I tallied my stats several hours after seeing the movie.

In case you're wondering, the count started in 1994. I didn't make Willow Creek my usual haunt until 2000, when I saw 49 movies there (out of 122 that year). My peak for the theater was 101 in 2005. You can thank Joss Whedon's "Serenity" for enough repeat viewings in 2005 to help me eclipse 2004's 100.

I wonder if the Manager of Willow Creek would really care if he found out that I was one of his best customers. Why not? Well, I'm also one of his worst. I almost always go to a matinee and almost never buy anything at the concession stand. Theaters pay most of the box office take to the distributors so they make next to nothing off ticket sales. Their highest profit margins come from concessions, especially pop and popcorn.

If I chatted with the Manager, I might suggest the following deal: I get a laminated unlimited access pass to the theater and I agree to purchase concessions equal to or exceeding the cost of the tickets I don't buy. It's a win-win scenario: I have the same out of pocket costs and he shifts his revenue to extremely high margin products. Like I said, win-win, except that, from the distributor's perspective, it's fraud. Except for that one little detail, it's a great plan.

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