I started this morning by participating in a panel put together by Gary Meyer, one of the cofounders ofLandmark Theatres and one of the directors of the Telluride Film Festival. Together with folks from the Alamo Drafthouse, LA's Cinefamily, and Miami's O Cinema, we all talked about how we pay attention to customer service in our theaters particularly with an eye towards creating a special experience. I was able to talk a lot about the Nick's special place in Columbia, serving as much more than just a movie theater, but also as a place where people have gathered for decades to share ideas and passions.
Next, Isaac and I went to a panel on repertory programming, featuring last year's Indie Grits juror Sarah Finklea (of Janus Films) and Seattle's Clinton McClung (the guy who started the sing-along craze years ago by coming up with the Buffy sing-alongs. We are really excited about launching more rep programming at the Nick and getting to hear some of the really great ideas our peers are implementing around the country is really inspiring. (And by the way, our "And I Feel Fine" series got a shout out from one of the panelists as a creative approach to rep programming).
I simply love the Art House Convergence . It's an incredible opportunity to have a little "check-in" with the field, learn from peers across the country and share our accomplishments (and occasional failures) from the past year. The past few years have really seen the prominence of the Nick shoot up, and when we first attended this conference we saw ourselves as maybe a bit behind the curve. We are now often seen as leaders due to our successful Move the Nick capital campaign, the opening of the new theater and the transition to digital.
With last night things kicked off with your typical conference socializing and catching up with friends from across the country, and things really got going this morning. Russ Collins, from the Michigan Theatre in Ann Arbor, MI, welcomed all of the delegates this morning showcasing the theme of this year’s Convergence: The Brave New American Art House. Stressing the importance of being community focused, mission driven theaters Russ spoke enthusiastically about our roll as community builders. The cinema, he said, can no longer be seen as a new art form, but the specialness of the theatrical experience, seeing films on a big screen, is still a great experience. It's up to us to continue to provide that.
Juliet Goodfriend, from the Bryn Mawr Film Institue presented one of my favorite parts of each Convergence - the unveiling of survey data collected from attending theaters. The Nick was singled out as being one of only a handful of theaters to have participated in the survey every year (yes, we try to do our homework). The data covers everything from ticket sales, revenue breakdowns, seating capacity, programming offerings and more. My favorite statistic is always how much ticket sales increase with the adding of additional screens. The big take away again this year is that we should all plan to add additional screens, not additional seats, to generate more revenue. It all just makes us so excited about the eventual opening of our second screen. Other data of note is that the Nick’s per capita concessions sales figures are about on par with our peers and our ticket revenue for only a single screen is also near the national average.
Ava DeVernay with members of the cast of Middle of Nowhere.
I just had the chance to chat with Ava DuVernay, director of Middle of Nowhere (playing at the Nick through Thursday). I'm really excited that she's here at the Convergence this year and am looking forward to her panel on race and the art house.