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).