Monday, November 28, 2011

A Much Needed Update

Hi friends, how are you? Good?  We are doing well, also. I know I've been quiet, but it has not been the least bit quiet around here.  It's been hectic and it is only going to get more and more hectic until probably tax time. Ugh.

You know how they say when it rains it pours? Well, you could use that phrase to describe our life right now.

Well......we are installing our new digital projectors this week.  That big, scary digital conversion that I have been fearing for a couple of years now is happening this week.  It has been a roller coaster putting this deal together and filling out paperwork and signing my life away (again) and forking over money, and phone calls, and filling out more paperwork, and biting my nails and anxiety.  But with any luck, it will have been worth it.

New equipment has been arriving daily

Just like Christmas!

But it's not just that.  A month ago, Dan and I stumbled upon a great house that was for sale. We decided not to look at it because we decided to stay in our tiny house another year or two. But it just so happens that Dan was driving by when the realtor was there, so he went inside. Then he called me. So I went over. And we both fell in love (lime green and fire red shag carpets and all), so we put in an offer and it was accepted. So we are MOVING. Ah! Renovations and moving during our digital conversion and the holidays. What fun!

It's been a little complicated because Dan has been so busy working. While it is somewhat annoying to not have Dan's help right now, I am happy he has work. The economy took a big bite out of construction business here, so we are super grateful for the work. (If you need some concrete work done next Spring, you know who to call....)

Oh, and Ellie turned one earlier this month. That went by fast!
One Year Old! 





Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Quiet

I've had some people come in and ask me to blog again. I thought about it. I have a ton of things to talk about, but I struggle with not wanting to say too much. I don't do movie reviews. One, because as a businessperson I can't really tell you bad things about my product-- the movies; and two, I really do enjoy most films I watch. I am not very critical. I am always utterly amazed at the creation of film and how so many people can work together to get something coherent on screen.  Even the worst of films are fascinating to me. I am amazed by film, all the time. Maybe I will start writing reviews just to tell you what I liked best. : )

But more importantly, I've been biting my nails all summer long, nervously anticipating our digital transition. I've written previously about the off seasons, and how I've come to expect booking films to be more difficult in the fall. This fall was different. We had to wait practically forever to get "The Help," and it was clear that the reason for the wait was because we aren't digital yet. There were so few 35mm prints; all the little guys were fighting over scraps. So we waited, and waited, and it felt like a miracle when we finally got it. I think I actually said "woohoo" on the phone to my booker.  And by the way, thanks a million to all of you who came to the Eltrym to see it. I know several big groups who waited for us, and I appreciate it more than you know.

Our digital transition is finally moving. Between our lenders being extremely busy (awesome for our community), our construction business being super-duper busy, and me trying to be an awesome mother to my precious babe (trying to be a SAHM during the day and a theater manager by night), it has been tough to be diligent and keep things moving along. I don't want to say too much about it. But, I did breathe a sigh of relief this week. And then I breathed in some nice, cool fall air and drank a pumpkin pie latte.

If all goes as planned your cinematic experience at the Eltrym will be greatly improved before Thanksgiving.

Hooray!!!!

(More updates to follow)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New Website!

What do you think of our fancy new website?  I know that lots of you have noticed because I have gotten a ton of compliments via facebook and email. Thank you for the compliments!!  There are still a few things I need to fix. Some of our content pages got a little wonky when they were transferred. I had planned to edit them today (along with a million other tasks) but ended up cuddling with my cranky, teething, growth-spurting baby, who spent 75% of her day fussing around and will only nap in my arms and not in her bed (but cute as a button regardless).  Those pages will be edited soon, and new pages added. If you have any feedback-- please contact me. You can use the handy "Contact Us" form under the "Cinema Info" tab.

If you sign up for our newsletter on the homepage, you will receive, at minimum, our showtimes each week.  The newsletter will also include any other tidbits we throw in there, and maybe some coupons every now-and-again.

If you use your cell phone to check our movie times, you will notice the format has changed so now when you go to eltrym.com on your mobile, today's times are right there--no clicking around.

Soon our times will automatically be posted to Facebook on Monday evenings just as soon as I enter them into our ticketing system.

Aaaannnnddd...... the new site offers a lot of tweeting conveniences, but I don't tweet much. Maybe I will now. Eltrym does have a Twitter, which has been used one time. Follow me?

It's all very hi-tech, you know.

:)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Starting 8/5

Tomorrow, Friday 8/5 we will open "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and "Midnight in Paris."
Midnight in Paris    Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I've spent a bit of time this week reading reviews online to gauge what to expect out of Apes from a business standpoint.  "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is something of a prequel to the original 1968 "Planet of the Apes."  The things people are saying online about the film is making me really want to sit down and watch it. You might not know this, but I don't get to watch a lot of movies here at the theater because when I am here I am working, so for me to actually take time to watch a whole movie during it's theatrical run (not just bits and pieces)  is really saying something.  The interesting thing about the reviews is that people are saying that while there are things about the film that they find disappointing or not really believable, there are other factors about the film that totally make up for it and make it worth watching. It seems that at the end of almost every critical review, the poster will end with a comment like, "nevertheless, it was definitely worth watching."  Needless to say, I am intrigued.  I think I will try to sit down and watch it during the matinée tomorrow.

I've been wanting to see "Midnight in Paris" for a long time. I've been hearing such good reviews from friends and the internet that I have really been looking forward to this.  One review on IMDB described it as "a sweet, endearing and thought provoking film that will whisk you away into a sublime magical world."   It's the kind of film that has been sticking around art-houses for 7 or 8 weeks (at least my two favorite art houses that I follow on facebook).  I asked our booker about it a month ago, but figured we'd never have room for it. But we were able to sneak it in this week which is great. We will only have this film for a week, so if you want to see this, get in to see it ASAP.  (P.S. It qualifies for Tightwad Tuesday).

Enjoy, my friends, enjoy!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Here and Now

Motherhood forced me to take a hiatus from book-reading.  After Ellie turned 6 months, we put her in her own room, she started sleeping through the night, and I was back to being a book-worm.  I quickly finished up all the books I had been reading before she was born.  Recently I made my way to the last unread book in our house, something I had started and put away at least ten times.  It is Eckhart Tolle's "The Power of Now."  I finally made my way through it and found that at this time in my life it actually made sense and carried some weight.  I think Tolle gets a little creative in his interpretations at points, but the basic point is to live in the moment, to seize the day. (For those who have read it, I realize this is a very simple interpretation of Tolle's philosophy). When you live in the past you are living with the fear of your past experiences. When you live in the future, you are living with a lot of anxiety about the unknown.  This is so true of my life, in particular the experience of owning and operating this crazy little theater!  I won't go into too much detail, except to say that I have been making so much more of an effort to not let my past fears paralyze me and to not freak out so much about what is to come.  I am focused on enjoying every moment, doing the best I can do right now, and to do my best to set myself up for success in the future.

So that is what we are doing.  We have a lot going on, but I'm taking it day-by-day.  We are making steady progress toward our digital transition.  A project of this magnitude is a lot for a little business like us, but we are getting there, step by step. I have stopped freaking out about it, I welcome the change. This week we met with the Oregon Energy Trust to see what kind of incentives they might be able to offer for us to improve the energy efficiency of our big, old, drafty building.  Last but not least, yesterday we launched our shiny, new website. In my opinion, it is stellar!

Not to look too far into the future, but I am definitely making some plans to sit down and watch "Midnight in Paris."  I seriously can't wait, I have heard so many pleasant reviews from friends.

Carpe Diem!

Theater-Texters

Did you see the Alamo Drafthouse's recent anti-texting PSA? If not, here it is:

Before you watch this, I want to preface it by saying I absolutely, DO NOT enjoy "treating my customers like pieces of ****" like this lady accuses the Alamo Drafthouse of doing. Dan and I are pretty nice people and have only ever kicked anyone out of our theater in extreme circumstances (major drunkness, extreme belligerent behavior). Plus, our customers, for the most part, are pretty awesome and really do stop talking/texting once they are asked.



I can't tell you how amused I was by this PSA. I wanted so badly to be able to post this all over the world, and to get permission from the Alamo to adapt it to play it in my theaters before every show.  But as it is, the video only made it to my personal facebook page and that's it.

So here I will interject a funny story about my how naive I was buying a theater.  I had been working as a public school teacher, a long-term sub in another state, and working toward my masters in education.  I realized I didn't like the politics involved in public education. So, I took a job as a bank teller, which I loved. But when my bank was bought by another bank, I realized how insecure bank jobs can be and how much I loathe the corporate attitude of big employers. So I bought a movie theater. I was thinking to myself: the movie theater is the place where happy people go.  I can be a good boss and create jobs for good people and serve happy customers who are coming into my business to have a good time and be HAPPY.

Well I learned quickly how silly that notion is.  No matter where people go, they will run into circumstances that make them unhappy. The most common circumstance at the theater that makes people unhappy is....other people. Our number one complaint is people texting in the theater.  I think theater-texters assume they are being discreet because they aren't actually talking.  They seem to be unaware of how annoying the glaring light of their phone screen is to people sitting around them.  Actually, I think they are aware. I think everyone, every single movie-goer, is annoyed by other theater-texters, they just think it's okay when they do it. I suppose if you never stop to look at the world from the perspective of other people, you just wouldn't  be aware of how annoying your own behavior is.

From a management standpoint, theater-texters can be hard to catch.  Often times the annoyed customers in the theater won't come out and say anything.  When I walk into the theater to check, as we do throughout the show, they stop immediately before I see them.  If an annoyed customer does come out to tell me "some guy in front of me is texting" and I go into a full house, how do I know who s/he is talking about?  In theater one we have a good vantage point because we can watch people from the balcony. We catch a lot of texters from there.

So I guess I should tie this post together with a morsel of wisdom, or hope. Things are changing at the Eltrym.  Once we install our digital equipment, the way we operate day-to-day changes drastically.  Our "projectionist" won't be projecting anything, the computer will be doing that, so we will end up with extra staffing downstairs.  I can't cut staff because each person on duty plays an important role each day (beside projecting the film).  So my plan is to utilize the extra manpower a bit better.  I'm hoping to have a person that kind of "plays the field" in the theaters and hallways during seating and as the film starts up.  They will be able to monitor people better and help to resolve conflicts between guests, help with seating issues, and catch those darn theater-texters (and the boisterous "theater-talkers") by warning them during the credits and keeping an eye on them throughout the show.

Sound good?  I think so.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Half Popped

This morning I came in early to clean the theaters for an early screening.  As I working through the rows (cursing myself for wearing heels instead of my super fast and stealthily quiet work shoes) I found a pile of food wrappers someone had sneaked in (naughty, naughty).  Amongst the debris was a perfectly, unopened bag of these:


They are a manufactured variety of what we throw away everyday--the "old maids."  I love old maids. My employees and I regularly dig through the old maid tray in the bottom of the popcorn machine for the "half pops" and now I discover someone is actually manufacturing these. Well, don't judge me, but I opened it up and ate some and they just aren't the same. Eltrym half-pops are a thousand times more delicious. 

I realized I should be charging a premium for the contents of the old maid tray.  However, our new machine and recently perfected popcorn recipe leave few old maids in the tray, and half pops are very rare, like a four-leafed clover. :)

In other news: we lost our dog today for a few hours. For those hours I was wondering what in the world we would do without him. He's truly the best dog ever, and I was very nearly beside myself.  We basically put out a community-wide alert via facebook and a lot of phone calls and eventually Dan's brother found him.  Thank goodness.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Upcoming Events and Coming Attractions

My little blog has been feeling a little lonely.  I've started a number of blog posts, but haven't gotten them finished up in time to post before they became irrelevant. Bummer. Anyhow, we have so much coming up at the theater that I thought I'd take a minute to whip up a blog post. 

Starting tomorrow we are opening "Cars 2."  There are a lot of excited kids in town, and I can't wait to see their happy little faces in the theater.  We have filled up our schedule with private shows, which means we are in for a long, but happy, weekend. I have had a lot of parents talk to me about wanting to bring their little kids in but they're a bit nervous that the theater experience might be too overwhelming for the wee ones.  Well, we have a solution for you... if you are available Sunday at noon.  

On Sunday at noon we will be holding our first ever "Sensory-Friendly" screening of "Cars 2." Over the last year or so I have noticed other theaters holding sensory-friendly screenings, and I thought it is about time we offer the same to our customers.  At this special screening, the lights will be kept on during the show (dimmed a little), the sound will be lowered and kids will be allowed to move around and talk during the film.  During a normal showing, we expect parents to keep their kids seated and reasonably quiet. During this show, however, the rule is that  nobody gets "shushed."  Sensory-friendly screenings were originally intended for kids with Autism, but we think a sensory-friendly screening is a great opportunity for any people who become overwhelmed by the theatrical experience, like little kids who aren't quite able to sit still and quiet for 2 hours yet. If you'd like to read a good article about sensory-friendly screenings, please click here.  If you'd like to know about our sensory-friendly screening of "Cars 2," please click here.   

"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" opens on Wednesday, June 29th.  We'll have a midnight show at 12:01 AM for those who want to be the first to see it.  (Remember, 12:01 AM is actually Tuesday night). Midnight shows are fun, so I'll be here with my spectacular staff serving up popcorn and drinking copious amounts of coffee. Hopefully I'll see you here, the movie should let out a little after 2:30, which will get you home in time to take a  nice nap before you have to get up for work in the morning. :)

So we're going to be busy next week. The world is very excited for Transformers, I can feel the excitement through the internets.  On Thursday night we are going to squeeze in Thursday Art Night.  We'll be showing a film called "Seraphine," which looks really intriguing.  If you happen to come in for that, make sure not to get lost. "Seraphine" will be shown in theater 2 instead of TAN's usual location, Theater 1.  We're still working out what will be shown at TAN in July, but we've got August lined out already...we'll be hosting the second annual "We Like 'Em Short" film festival.  



This year the film festival will be a 2 day event, August 19th & 20th, and it's going to be a lot of fun.  We've set aside a lot more time so that we can have a much more "festivally" festival this year.  If you or someone you know has created a short film (under 15 minutes), please consider the "We Like 'Em Short" film festival.  Details on the festival and entry form/rules are here.  I, personally, enjoyed last year's short films so much.  There was so much range-- from films made by kids, to hysterical and not-so-serious films, to professional productions.  I have to say that I was thoroughly entertained and very impressed by the talent and creativity of  our filmmakers.  

For those of you who have been wanting to see the film "Atlas Shrugged" (there are a lot of you who have been pestering me about it), I worked out a deal with the Baker City Rotary Club. They are renting the film and will be showing it on Saturday, July 9th at noon. It's a one-time-only screening, so mark your calendars. Ticket proceeds from the screening will go to Rotary for all the wonderful things they do.  

Well, that's all I have on the docket today.  We'll Have Harry Potter tickets up for sale in the very near future, and you can look forward to a midnight show for that.  We are reeeeeaaaaaallllly looking forward to HP, I couldn't believe a couple of girls on staff actually volunteered in advance to work the midnight show.  I didn't have to threaten or beg anyone!


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Last weekend I came to the very edge of my sanity.  It was just a matter of sleep deprivation, but it came to a boil when I discovered that someone broke through the little pass-through slot on our box office window by breaking the little blocker we lock on there when we aren't using it.  They didn't break the window, they just messed things up a little and managed to knock my receipt printer off the counter. But what really sent me off into that no-man's-land of temporary emotional insanity was that they stole my hand sanitizer. It irritates me to no end when people do pointless, petty things like this (like ripping the door lock off the bathroom door, or stealing the neat looking switch-plates we used to have in the bathrooms).

I'm not gonna lie, I stewed about this all week, I really did. Until tonight, when I realized that I have become Milton:

Excuse me, I believe you have my HAND SANITIZER!
I best get back to work on my TPS reports.

(If you don't know what I'm talking about, then you need to go back and watch Office Space.)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Little Update (late night rambling)...

Before Ellie came along I had this silly notion that going back to work at the theater was going to be a piece of cake.  I had this image of the baby playing quietly on a play mat next to my desk while I toiled away on my office work.  When she was just a week or so old, I brought her down so I could do payroll and she promptly let me know how silly and impractical my idea of working with baby was. Her screams echoed off the office walls and I made my paychecks out in record time before we scurried back out to the car to go home.  Since then, I have learned that the only time she is really happy at the theater is when we are open for business and there are people talking and things happening.  She will not tolerate, under any circumstances, quiet office work.  Thus, trying to keep up with the same level of responsibility is tough, but Dan & I are making it work.

Now I do most of my office work from home. Despite having to work from my home office (coffee table + laptop) most of the time, I have been able to work on a number of really fantastic projects down there that I think you will appreciate as they come to fruition.  I'm pretty excited about one project, in particular, but I'm not going to tell you about it yet.  You'll see soon enough.

In other news, you know that post I wrote about going digital a month or so ago? Well, it is going to happen someday soon. It is all becoming clear now. I was not very focused about the digital dilemma when I wrote that because I was thinking about digital being, you know, the future, and quite honestly I was a little irritated about digital bursting my bubble. Well, the future is now here.  It showed up quickly, too! This past year I was 100% focused on this motherhood deal, and kind of put off the inevitable with digital.  I, like a lot of theater owners, realized recently that I don't have control over the direction our industry is headed, and I've got to do what I've got to do for my business.  I'll keep you posted on that as the situation develops.  It is a big deal, though, so be sure to support your local, independent cinemas as we make the transition both before and after we make the switch. As I say that, I want to be sure that you know how much I appreciate your patronage and support.  Without your patronage, there is no Eltrym-- the doors only stay open so long as you continue to walk through them.

I know not all of you are excited about the switch, but I promise it will be okay.  And don't worry, "digital" does not equal "DVD."  I'm both excited and apprehensive. I love film, and I'll miss it for sure. If you are a lover of film like myself, be sure to get your fill of it this summer at the Eltrym.  The clock is ticking...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Evolution of the American Cinema

I came across this article today, which shows photographs of 75 abandoned theaters around the United States.  It makes my heart hurt a little to see these gorgeous facilities closed and dilapidated, but that is the nature of business.  I can't begin to imagine how a person would operate some of these facilities for a profit as a cinema.  Scroll through those and check out how awesome theaters used to be (#2, the facade on #26,  the detail in #45 & #49, the marquee on #59).   Compare the architecture of some (not all) of these theaters to your run-of-the-mill megaplex today.  I LOVE watching films in big old theaters like some of these.  There is nothing like it! Wherever I travel, I look for the biggest and/or oldest theater around and go see whatever they are showing.

A lot of these theaters remind me of the Eltrym. Boy, am I am thankful that previous owners of the Eltrym stuck by it and didn't let it go to rot like the theaters in this article. The movie business is constantly changing and theaters have to evolve to survive.  We are going through another change now, with the advent of digital cinema. There were times that our theater could have closed and not ever reopened, but there was always someone there who wanted to keep going.  Lucky theater, lucky community. :)

Thought I'd share some photos of the evolution of the Eltrym:

Here's the Eltrym in 1951, still looking much the same as when it was built in 1940 as a state-of-the-art single screen show house:

Here's a photo of the Eltrym from 1981 (before I was born). Still successfully operating as a single screen, with much the same technology as was used at its opening in 1940:


And here is the Eltrym now, a first-run tri-plex with stadium seating and digital surround sound:





Friday, April 1, 2011

Beautiful Weather.....

.....does not make people want to go to the movies.

But that's okay, I think we all needed some sunshine.  If it rains this weekend you should come inside and watch "Hop."

:)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Digital Revolution

There are all sorts of issues facing our industry these days. You probably hear about these things in the news: Piracy, VOD, release windows, D-Cinema.  The issue that I am faced with right now and that I spend the most time thinking about is "Going Digital."

Right now, the Eltrym runs 35mm film, as it has done since 1940.  The projectors we use were patented in the 20's.  The technology is stable and safe, and best of all it is mechanical.  That is an important factor when you are located in rural America, far from any cinema techs. Because it is mechanical I can make repairs by myself. I can talk to a tech on the phone and they can walk me through how to locate a broken part, remove it, fix or replace it and how to reassemble it.  With a digital projector, that won't be possible. Why? Because I know very little about making repairs to computers. Usually when my computer starts to have problems I buy a new one.

The reason our industry is moving toward digital is, basically, to save money for film distributors. 35mm prints are big, bulky and heavy; they are expensive to produce and expensive to move around.  Studios want  to do away with this bulk and move to a more streamlined digital model. This way they can spend less on materials, shut down facilities, cut a few jobs and save lots and LOTS of money.

While it saves them lots of money, it costs your local movie theater a ridiculous amount of money to change over. The sum of money required to purchase digital projectors and convert a facility is so ridiculous that it is obscene. Seriously, I typed out the number here and then erased it because it felt dirty.  There are a lot of old theaters in our region that have been owned by the same families for years, and those families are now faced with the idea of going back into major debt to convert. Theaters owners like us are already in debt, having just purchased our facility, but we are now faced with how much debt we want to take on. Will we be able to make it cash flow? How loud will my banker laugh when I ask for that much money?

The studios have thrown us a bone, sort of, called a VPF or Virtual Print Fee.  They say they will give you payments for showing digital prints. Of course, they won't give you any concrete figures of how much money is involved in VPF payments or make any promises, and those VPFs are only available for a limited time.

It is a confusing time for a small independent theater owner.  I had one tech come here and tell me "You should go digital ASAP, it will save you so much trouble." The next tech through the doors says "Don't worry about going digital for a few more years, wait until you NEED to convert."  We pay membership fees to two organizations that represent theater owners, and they are pushing a certain financing deal--that we don't qualify for.  And I sit here all day thinking, if I'm going to spend a gazillion dollars on this place, I'd rather spend it on new flooring and seats (and replacing just about everything else we own, since we are talking that kind of money).

There is an upside to digital which is alternative content. With a digital projection system, you can buy into live telecasts of wonderful things like opera and sporting events, and broadcast them over your theater system. That is something we aren't able to do now with our media projectors, because there isn't a way for us to appropriately pay for these telecasts and pipe them into our system.

So now we are studying up on our financing options and crossing our fingers that the cost will come down a bit in the next couple of years.

And if you are concerned that your local theater owners won't pony up and will walk away and close the doors, don't worry about that.  I'm committed.

(But if you are reading this and if you happen to be a billionaire and if you happen to be interested in making a "charitable donation" for tax purposes, my number is 523-5439. Call me and lets talk.)

:)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Exit Through The Gift Shop

I finally had a chance to watch “Exit Through the Gift Shop” tonight. A random 35mm print of this film was shipped to us a few months back. I had 24 hours with it, and I so badly wanted to put it together and watch it. But, alas, that is against the rules (and I was too lazy). So tonight I watched the DVD. I’ve had a couple of hours to digest it while rocking Ellie to sleep and working on other things, so my “take” on the film might be a little premature. I’ll probably have a changed perspective tomorrow.

First off, have you ever seen “Quality of Life” by Benjamin Morgan of La Grande? It is excellent. Ben was able to come to the Eltrym to show the 35mm print of his film a couple years ago for Thursday Art Night. Before seeing his film, I had never given an ounce of thought to street art.  I mean, it’s neat looking, but I wasn’t looking for it. So after watching his film and listening to the Q & A with the audience that followed, I was fascinated by it.  Soon after Ben came to the Eltrym, Dan & I went to The Netherlands. We rode the train a lot while we were there as we traveled from Amsterdam to all the little towns close by. The graffiti along the train routes and on the trains and at the train stations was incredible. I found myself forgetting to check out the scenery that was passing by and looking for graffiti. I was amazed at what people were able to accomplish, and the risks to life and limb that they took to do it.

So anyway, back to “Exit Through the Gift Shop.” There’s this infamous and elusive street artist named Banksy. Then there’s this guy obsessed with both filming stuff, street artists in particular. The camera guy, Thierry Guetta, wants to find Banksy and film him. After finding and filming Banksy and promising to make a documentary with all the footage he has acquired and then making the film which turns out to be not-so-good, the camera guy starts making street art of his own and ends up mass producing his work and puts together this spectacular, bigger-than-life show of his own and selling a million dollars worth of his work. After helping him out quite a bit, Banksy notes that this guy is an idiot, as do many of the people that work for him; but, in the end, he sells lots and lots of his own street-style art to art collectors for lots and lots of money.  So the premise is that the film was going to be a documentary of Banksy by Thierry, but it ends up that Banksy puts together a documentary about Thierry.

The conversation that seems to take place in response to this film is whether or not this film is a real documentary or a hoax. Who is Banksy? Is the hooded figure with the disguised voice actually Banksy? Is Thierry Guetta/Mr. Brainwash real or a creation of Banksy? Is this film a documentary about Thierry Guetta or a statement about the commercialization of modern art?

As it is supposed to do, it reminds me of almost every trip I’ve taken to an art museum. You go through the museum learning about the artists and their devotion of their lives to their work and viewing their original works up close.  The value of their work is incomprehensible. Then on the way out you are routed through a gift shop where you can buy Van Gogh playing cards for $3.99. It becomes a very commercial experience.

I think that what most made me raise an eyebrow while watching the film was the narration and interview style. I felt like I was listening to a gameshow host narrate an E! True Hollywood Story. The documentary style of the film felt very, very contrived and very formulaic. If it weren’t for that, perhaps I would have taken the story at face value.  But as it is, I didn't. I just wasn't able to take this too seriously. This film, for me, also reinforced my amazement and shock that anyone, literally, can be a musical “artist” these days. Like that Barbie looking chain-smoker on the Real Housewives of New Jersey. 

A couple of things to note:

We have a resident street artist or two in Baker. You can see their work if you look around. Thankfully, they have been respectful with their work, so don’t freak out about it.

“Exit Through The Gift Shop” is available for rental at the Baker Co. Public Library. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Coming Soon

Movie studios like to find something that works and then repeat it no fewer than 1,000 times. They like models and routines and "sure things."  So it used to be you could always count on a nice family film in the beginning of March, and weak sauce in April, followed by a big blockbuster in May to start out the summer.

The studios seemed to assume people were not going to go to the movies in the spring, so they would dump a lot of odd material in March and April and then release so much good stuff in the summer months that we couldn't possibly show all the films we wanted to and ended up skipping some really great stuff.

Last year they broke the mold by releasing "Alice in Wonderland" and "How To Train Your Dragon" in March.  It was awesome. The movies were good, and people showed up. We were busy.

Though the studios are still following the routine to an extent, I think they realized last spring that good films can succeed and bring in the dough no matter the time of year.  So this year they are releasing a few more films that actually look pretty good.  They started out with "Rango" on 3/4, the same week that they released "Alice in Wonderland" a year earlier.

Starting this Friday 3/18 we'll be showing "Limitless" with Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro. It's about a writer suffering from writer's block who is given a new drug that unlocks the capacity of his brain, making him limitless.

The following week Warner Brothers is going to try out something a little bit more edgy with "Sucker Punch." In this film, a young girl who is imprisoned against her will finds her escape inside the dream world of her imagination.  It is directed by Zack Snyder, director of "300," "The Watchmen" and "Dawn of the Dead."  At the very least that means it should be freaky and neat-looking. That's enough for me.

I'm hoping to show "Source Code" on the first of April along with "Hop."

I haven't really scoped out April much yet, we'll see how that goes. Then May will start off the summer blockbuster season with a bang with films like "Thor," "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" and "Kung Fu Panda 2."

Here's a few trailers to entice you:

Limitless


Sucker Punch


Source Code

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Popcorn

Dan & I went out to visit my parents tonight, and my Dad informed me that two people he talked with this week said they didn't like the popcorn at the theater recently.  We have had a couple of complaints in the theater too, so it is apparent that we have an issue to resolve.

Let me explain...

Having perfect popcorn has been an unusual little struggle. When I first took over management of the theater in 2007, we were using the cheapest seeds and coconut oil being sold by our concessions vendor. It wasn't that bad which is why our previous excellent manager was okay with it, but I was always annoyed at how dense the kernels looked and felt. The kernels absorbed too much oil and didn't pop out into fluffy pieces. So, when we purchased the theater I decided to step it up a notch and buy Orville Redenbacher only, because the seeds are high quality and consistent.  The results were good.

Then we had mysterious bad tasting individual pieces of popcorn. It took us a while to figure out that the seal on the bottom of our kettle was cracked so the coconut popping oil was getting in there and scorching (the kettle heat only remains on for a couple of minutes at a time, so this posed NO danger), and then leaking out onto the popcorn. Well, the damage to the kettle was irreparable and they don't sell just kettles so we had to crack open our wallet and buy a brand new popper, which was super expensive (I wanted to cry when I clicked "submit" with my credit card info, but then wanted to rejoice when it actually showed up and we threw the old popper out).  Our shiny new machine pops fast and the kernels come out perfect, so we are happy.

Our new machine popping its inaugural batch.

At the same time as this was happening, I was still not 100% happy with how dense and fragile our kernels seemed to be. It seemed like they would absorb too much oil and break down into "old maids" far too easily.

So a few months ago we taste tested a new type of popcorn seed,  a mushroom type seed.  It is much fluffier and sturdy than our normal "butterfly" seed. When we taste tested I was totally sold, it was so delicious and crunchy and didn't absorb nearly as much oil as the old seeds. Maybe it was because I was pregnant that I was so enamored by it. That probably did have something to do with it, considering that after 12 years in a movie theater I really can't taste or smell popcorn.  Anyhow, I decided to mix the mushroom type seeds with our regular Orville Redenbacher seeds to make a nice mix. It actually is the best popcorn I have ever had. I would like to keep serving it, but our customers have spoken.

I think the problem is that the mushroom seeds have a bit  of a spongy texture because the kernels are so big (kind of like fat french fries, where the insides are soft and not crunchy like shoestring fries), so folks think the popcorn feels stale when the chew it, even though it is hot and fresh.  We have literally had people watch their popcorn being popped and then come out to say it is stale 30 minutes later. That's not good.

The good news is that our new popper rules, and because it pops at a higher temperature (because the elements are still new) the kernels aren't absorbing as much oil, which results in fluffier kernels.

I have 2 bags left of the mushroom seeds, so I'll mix them in with the Orville Redenbacher seeds (in a small ratio) until they are gone, and after that we will be strictly Orville Redenbacher.

Next quality control project: to come to a definitive conclusion regarding the butter topping. The butter topping is not quite the bane of my existence, but close. It's a fickle substance. I'll post on that later.

That was quite a lot of words dedicated to the subject of popcorn, and believe it or not, I have only scratched the surface. I hope you have enjoyed reading it, and have come to a much deeper understanding of the subject. I also hope that I haven't typed "pooper" instead of "popper" at some point in this post. I've caught myself typing that 3 times, and now my eyes are tired.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Major Innovations

A few weeks ago I tossed around the idea of putting out a poster bin to rid the theater of unwanted posters. The only reason I considered not doing it was because I thought the middle school aged rascals would tear through it and leave poster remnants all over the floor. I decided it was worth a shot, so I just brought up an empty box from the basement, slapped some rules on it and filled it with posters. It went over very well this past weekend. We had tons of middle school aged kids, and they ate it up and kept it neat. They were surprisingly polite and appreciative. I got rid of all the old posters I had stacked up in the lobby, and now I can start working on my stash from storage upstairs. Then we'll start unpacking the motherload in our attic crawl space.


I also converted one of the Eltrym's original poster frames into an information board where customers can read synopses about the films we are currently showing and those we are likely to show in the near future. We frequently have people come in off the street to ask about a particular film or vaguely ask about what films are coming out in the future. Sometimes we struggle to boil down the entire plot of a film into just a couple of sentences, without giving the wrong impression or telling too much.  Now, when we struggle in that way we can point our customers over to the info board where they can read more.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Oscars

Yesterday Dan & I went to Boise to pick up some inventory for the theater. After we got home I tried my best to watch the Oscars but kept getting distracted by my to-do's.  Today, I have been catching up with the awards and checking out photos of all the pretty dresses. Cate Blanchett looked like a fruit platter, while I think Anne Hathaway was stunning in each gown she wore (even the tux- but only  because of the shoes). I wish I would have watched the awards show in its entirety, as it always gives me a feeling of pride about this amazing industry that the Eltrym is a part of. I love this snippets they include about people who have devoted their lives to motion pictures, and the tribute they give to those who have passed. A great number of people are involved in getting films onto our screens each week, and each one of them is just as important as the big-name actor in the leading role.

I have to say, I could handle fewer musical interludes, especially those featuring Celine Dion. At least I can mute her. I know that she is incredibly talented, but something about her causes me to want less sound and more silence.

I knew that "The King's Speech" would win best picture and that Colin Firth would win Best Actor. Colin Firth's performance was truly memorable.  I am disappointed that "Inception" didn't win Best Original Screenplay.  Original ideas in mainstream film are so rare, that when "Inception" was released last summer, I was practically salivating waiting for it to arrive. My staff and I previewed it the night before the release, and I remember being glued to my chair and unwilling to go into the booth to adjust the volume.  Even though it wasn't the best film I have ever seen, it was still a great film and so refreshingly original.

I now have a renewed interest in watching "127 Hours," but for once, I don't want to see it here at the theater. I need to watch it on a small TV set, so I can pause it when I start to feel nauseous.  I have watched several interviews of Aron Ralston, and boy does his story induce some anxiety. Isn't it amazing how he went from being at the bottom of a cave with only one choice left in his life, to having his story be nominated for Best Picture, with the man who played him in a movie hosting the Oscars? That is just incredible!

Awards season is now officially over, so I can start anticipating all the wonderful films that 2011 has to offer.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Weekend

It is 1:00 AM and I can’t sleep, again. I have been running into this problem lately, where every night when I am organized and ready to go for the next day I end up lying in bed with my eyes wide open for hours. Ellie wakes and goes back to sleep and I’m still awake. Then when morning finally comes, I’m an absolute zombie.  So I thought I’d have a glass of wine and recount my weekend for you.

This weekend I was pretty excited because my best friend was coming into town from Portland and my sister was going to bring my niece and nephews to visit. I love when they hang out at the theater with me. We usually eat candy and popcorn all afternoon, and they might catch a movie if there is one playing that they like. On Friday I went shopping downtown to buy gifts for my friend, Jenni, since I had missed Christmas and her birthday. Sometimes I forget that shopping in downtown in Baker is such a snap. I was in a hurry with lots to get done at the theater, but in less than 15 minutes I bought chocolates at Bella and a cute little coffee mug and tea at Zephyr. 

 I had my Saturday all planned out. But on Friday night I had a night like tonight with no sleep, so I woke up in a blur on Saturday. Then I learned that one of my employees was under the weather and wouldn’t be working, so I lined up a babysitter (my mom) so Dan could help me at the theater. Then I learned my sister wouldn’t make it over because of the roads.  “That’s okay,” I thought. That would just leave more time to visit with Jenni. Our house was a wreck so I asked Dan to stay at the theater for me during the matinée so I could run home and tidy up. 45 minutes later I get a frantic call from Dan (and a missed call from a customer/friend who was watching a movie).  By the time I show up just minutes later, the picture on screen is perfect, literally pristine.  Turns out our brand new print of “I Am Number Four” came with one damaged reel.  The dye on the film was slightly smeared throughout the reel.  During all the shows on Friday neither Dan nor I had stepped in during the fourth reel, so we never saw it and not one customer said anything about it.  It’s not that bad and it only lasts for about 15 minutes, which is why nobody mentioned it.  This is my first time calling in for a reel replacement, so we’ll see how that goes.

Finally, things were under control so I was able to sneak out while the 7:00 show was playing to go have a beer with Jenni at Barley’s. I haven’t had a beer at Barley’s since last winter, pre-pregnancy, so that particular beer was 100 times more delicious than any beer I have ever consumed.  Yum.

Over beer that night and coffee the next morning at Zephyr, Jenni and I discussed all nature of drama and gossip, although our conversations these days have less to do with where we went last night and more to do with work, taxes, marriage and travel.  Jenni gets to go to Hawaii next month for a friend’s wedding, while I am terrified of being “that mom” with the screaming baby on an airplane. But oh, how I ache to travel. Staying put is hard to do.

On Sunday Dan and I watched as our friends, Arden and Lynndee, were married.  Arden spent a lot of holidays with our family over the years, and I’ve always hoped he would find his match someday. He did, and I’m so happy for him.  Love is just lovely. 

So that’s my weekend in a nutshell. Hope you all had a delightful weekend as well.

Goodnight!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

TAN: "My Kid Could Paint That"

Thursday Art Night is next Thursday, February 24th.  This month we will be showing a film that a lot of you have   probably heard about. "My Kid Could Paint That" is the story of 4-year-old Marla Olmstead, an  artist who became internationally renowned after selling over $300,000.00 worth of paintings.  While Marla received a lot of attention for her work, making her way onto TV shows like Inside Edition and The Today Show, not all the attention was positive. Eventually the media began to speculate that the paintings were actually painted by her father, himself a budding artist. In this film, the Olmsteads seek to clear their name while the filmmaker attempts to retain his journalistic integrity as he investigates this story.

The evening will begin at 6:30, with storytelling. The storytelling theme is "And They Lived Happily Ever After: Tales of Love." The film will start at 7:00. After the film, you can dance you heart out with DJ Stacks, who will be spinning music for an hour after the film.

Ticket proceeds will benefit the Baker Art Guild.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Selling Out

Selling out of seats in one of our theaters is a good thing.  It doesn't happen often as we usually only sell out our big theater a few times a year while we sell out the small theaters probably 25 times per year, give or take. I am usually a pretty good predictor of crowd size, and almost always have my films placed in the correct theaters by seating capacity and crowd size so that we don't have to turn customers away. While selling out is good for our bank account, it is not good for keeping our customers happy.

Today we sold out of our matinée showing of "Gnomeo & Juliet."  We weren't prepared for the sell-out, as all of my usual indicators (website hits, phone calls, drive-bys, previous day's sales etc.) didn't indicate we'd be getting a big crowd. But we did, for which I am very thankful.

We had one upset customer (and perhaps more that didn't say anything), which is upsetting to me. My response wasn't the best response, which got me to thinking, "really, what can I do better next time? What changes can I make so that I don't upset my customers?"  The customer recommended that I stand up and yell out announcements to the crowd that we are getting low on tickets, so that they know not to wait in line. That is a good recommendation; but honestly, things move so fast that one minute we have 20 seats left and the next minute we have none.  Nevertheless, I appreciate the suggestion and I think I'll try it next time and see how it goes.

The thing is, I went up to thread projectors at 3:18. At that time our first 2 customers had just arrived (for "Just Go With It") and the girls and I were debating on whether or not to make more popcorn. After all, we had our slowest weekend day since October yesterday and so far, we were slow again.  I told them, "I don't know what to expect, we were just so unbelievably slow yesterday." We sold our first tickets to "Gnomeo & Juliet" at 3:23.  By the time I started shows and came back downstairs, at 3:41, the lobby was packed with lots of people with grumpy faces (except the kids-they were still stoked). I never like to see a grump-face on the premises so I was perturbed all afternoon.

So here is where my thoughts ended up: we are going to sell tickets until they are gone.  That's our goal every day. Someone is always going to be the last person in line when we sell out, and the last people in line are going to be turned away. There is nothing I can do about that. That being said, I recommend to my dear customers to do what you can to not be the last person in line. Do that by showing up earlier.  I would suggest 15 minutes before the first show of the set or earlier for a huge movie like "Harry Potter" or "Twilight".  When you show up at 3:25 for the 3:40 show, you risk getting caught up in the crowd for the shows that start at 3:30 & 3:35 and shuffled to the end of the line, where you will wait for several minutes just to be turned away. It doesn't need to go down that way.

FWIW, I've heard that "Gnomeo & Juliet" is a really cute movie. One of our concessions girls watched it last night and really enjoyed it.  The kids have been very happy on their way out of the theater.  I plan to move it into the big theater tomorrow in case we get another big crowd (fingers crossed).

Friday, February 11, 2011

Poster Problems

I really like getting new posters. It's kinda like Christmas when the UPS guy stops by with a few new tubes.  I can't wait to unroll it and see what they came up with. I remember opening up the poster for "Beverly Hills Chihuahua."  That poster made me groan.  I groaned louder when I hung it up, and I groaned much, much louder when we played the film (and I watched it). Same reaction with "G-Force."

We get new posters a few times a week, each in its own cardboard tube.  These posters quickly build up in the storage area I have made for them. Then they overflow into the boxoffice. Then eventually, I get annoyed enough to organize them all and take the old ones to the basement. That's been working for awhile, but I think we have reached capacity.

For a couple of years I gave posters out to anyone who asked.  This made people happy, and it helped me keep my poster mess to a minimum. But then one day a customer totally hurt my feelings when he railed on me for damaging HIS poster by hanging it up with thumbtacks, and he was even  more angry because it wasn't the specific poster design that he wanted. He huffed out the door like somehow I was an incompetent jerk who had wronged him. That was the last day I gave out posters. :(

So recently I was looking at pictures of a theater that  I enjoy going to and I noticed that they keep a bin in their lobby with their old posters that people can purchase. Technically, they aren't supposed to do this because the posters are the property of the movie studio and not the theater. It got me to thinking that perhaps something like this would be a better way to get rid of old posters without throwing them in the trash (recycling, really) or getting into fights with picky people. I won't violate my licensing agreements with studios by charging for posters (not that they'd really care), but I'll save these beautiful posters from the dumpster and make people smile again.

So, if that sounds like a good idea to you, let me know. If I hear some positive feedback I might actually follow through and make a free poster bin in the lobby.

Monday, January 24, 2011

"I Remember Better When I Paint"

This Thursday, January 27th, is Thursday Art Night. Thursday Art Night, also known as TAN, is presented each month by the Baker Art Guild.  It is the one night a month when we show an independent film about art.  The night opens with a round of storytelling. Anyone is welcome to tell a story.  These stories are often times humorous but sometimes heartwarming or inspiring, always unique.  Then, after the show, the night closes with a dance party! Can you believe you can get that much entertainment and/or exercise for $6?!  It's true!  And that's not all...you can participate for no extra charge. If you want to tell a story you are welcome to do so, just let us know that you have a story to share. If you want to be our guest DJ for the dance party, you can do that, too! All you need to do is contact Brian Vegter to get on the DJ list.  What makes T.A.N. super worth your time and money is the fact that the ticket proceeds benefit a different charitable organization each month.

This month we will be showing a film called "I Remember Better When I Paint." This film is about the positive impact of art therapy on people with Alzheimer's.  This month's storytelling theme is "I Have a Story to Tell," and the guest DJ will be DJ Doggy B.  Ticket proceeds will go to the Community Health Improvement Partnership (CHIP). To learn more about the film, go here. To learn more about this month's TAN, go here.

Storytelling starts at 6:30, and the show will start at 7:00.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Awards Season

I love awards season.  This is the time of year when lots of really wonderful films creep up and out of the realm of the "art house" and into mainstream theaters. Usually there are a few films I didn't even know about because I am usually so focused on what mainstream titles are coming out and the buzz surrounding those films. I get so excited to sit down and watch a few meaty and/or quirky films that won't leave my consciousness for weeks.  (I say "meaty" because often times these films are a lot for my brain to digest after a steady diet of romantic comedies and action/adventures).

Around this time of year, I try to pick up a few of the titles that are getting the most "Oscar Buzz:"  We have already shown "The Social Network" and "The Fighter," which were both nominated for Golden Globes and will almost certainly be nominated for an Oscar or two. We are currently showing "Black Swan" and next week we have tentatively scheduled "The King's Speech." I have heard glowing reviews of both of these films. Please, click on the hyperlinks to learn more about those films.

Last Sunday the Golden Globe Award ceremony was held. You can view the list of nominations and winners here. Natalie Portman won the award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture- Drama for her role in "Black Swan," and Colin Firth won the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture- Drama for his role in "King's Speech."  You don't want to miss these performances!

The Screen Actor's Guild has already announced its list of nominees, and the SAG award ceremony will be held next Sunday, January 30th. View their list of nominees here.

On Tuesday, January 25th, the Academy Award nominations will be announced.  The awards ceremony will be held on February 27th. You can keep up on the Academy Awards here.

So, what film do you think will win the Oscar for Best Picture?? If I have time (which is tough with a 2 month old) I'll post my Oscar predictions after the nominations are announced next week.

--Terry