Old Movies on the Big Screen

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1939 was a memorable year for classic films. Take a look at the list of top grossers and see how many you’ve seen. It was the height of the popularity and power of the studio system. Iconic stars were being born and burnished. The first “franchise” films were on the runway. TV was still a decade away from disrupting the universe. People went to their local theaters weekly to escape the lingering Depression, the spectre of war and the challenges of day-to-day life.

Today, we have more ways to consume multimedia content than ever before. I own many of the films on the list at left, some of which are also in circulation on Netflix, Amazon Prime and linear channels like Turner Classic Movies.

Seattle’s Cinerama Theater does a booming holiday business, showing classics like “Christmas Story”, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and “Love Actually”. More and more venues are seeing the potential value of screening the classics.

Fathom / TCM Big Screen Events

The people at Fathom Events have dipped their toes into the waters of limited engagement screenings of classic films across the country. “The Wizard of Oz” is the most recent. “My Fair Lady” has a brief run later in the month. And now “Gone With The Wind” will return to theaters for two days only, on Thursday, Feb. 28 and Sunday, March 3, playing at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. both days at participating locations.

So why would we pay to see oldies we may already own on the Big Screen?

Sunset Magazine wrote this about Seattle’s iconic venue: “Should it come as a surprise that, in a city famed for its geekiness, the historic movie house is a space age-themed Cinerama? Saved from the wrecking ball by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the 1963 theater displays original costumes from Star Trek, Blade Runner, and Batman in its lobby, and draws devotees so eager they’ll camp out overnight for showings of Star Wars and Harry Potter.”

That’s the ticket. Increasingly, our lives are less about things and more about experiences. Disney’s known that all along. The minute you cross under the Walt Disney World sign in Orlando, you are immersed in experience. Many theaters have upped their game, with reserved seats that recline and wait-staff who deliver food and drink to you, including adult beverages. It’s all about the experience.

Why wouldn’t you want to see a favorite film in this environment?

One crucial piece: The quality has to deliver on the screen. We saw “The Big Lebowski” at the Florida Theater last year. It was clearly played off of a DVD and I couldn’t help feeling that the “experience” was diminished as a result.

Fathom delivers high quality digital renderings and whoever curates the content is closely watching ticket sales to zero in on what demographics respond. Box office take is still the bottom line.

After all, that’s what it’s really all about. Create an engaging customer experience and you’ll draw a crowd. Do it consistently and you’ll create a loyal following.. and the sustainable business model to go with it.

See you at the movies!