It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
Invictus by William Ernest Henley
This week myself and other members of our team as well as a friend who is an executive with Amazon presented at the 2018 NightClub and Bar Show held at the expansive convention centre in Las Vegas. The annual Nightclub and Bar Show attracted more than 30,000 industry professionals from around the world for three days of lectures, training, and site visits of top Las Vegas clubs. The show was closed to the public and only verified Nightclubs, Bars, and Restaurants could attend.
I came home exhausted and with a really a new perspective on some issues that face independent theatres and drive-ins. Nightclub and Bar owners like theatres are facing a rapidly changing demographic base. The challenges being presented by the millennial’s and millennial plus generations are daunting for them. While they do not have to deal with the juggernauts of the Hollywood studios they do have to face similar challenges when it comes to engaging and growing their customer base.
In this Nightclub and Bar community, due to my participation in the keynote address, I had become an influencer; someone who they respected and in whose opinion they would take seriously. I was hit by a barrage of emails once home. I realized that influencers were in a strong position to effect true and lasting change.
These nightclub and bar owners really impressed me for one key reason, they are taking responsibility for their own future and trying to find their own answers. This is something that all too often theatres seem to avoid doing. People in this vertical are having to chart their own path, not relying on organizations like NATO or other such industry groups. There is within this business sector a sense that in order to achieve they must be personally innovative and personally responsible for their own success. They are also embracing new business strategies to attract the millennial market base. This is free enterprise at it’s best. The movies business by its nature does have a tendency to forget about free enterprise and due to the influence of the studios acts more like an oligarchy. An oligarchy is a form of power structure in which power rests with a small number of people. These types of structures erode at free enterprise and in the long run severely damage business verticals.
There are about 65,000 bars and venues that primarily generate revenue from alcohol sales in the U.S. and nearly 245,000 casual dining restaurants that serve alcohol. They account for 75 percent of the annual $109 billion in on-premise alcohol sales.
Bars and restaurants in the U.S. are selling less alcohol as a new generation comes of drinking age and third-party services deliver beer, wine, and liquor to the home like UberEats. With the legalization of cannabis in States like Washington, Colorado, and Nevada states might also continue to pressure on-premise alcohol volumes as state regulations prohibit bars from selling marijuana products.
We were there showing how bars and other venues could embrace esports and virtual reality in order to help offset the negative trends and widen their customer base. We were amazed at how quickly the Nightclub and Bar owners got the concept. Within three hours of our presentation over 50 locations signed up to take part in changing part of their premise to embrace these new technologies in the hope of bringing these new trends into their business model. A lot of talk was dedicated to finding solutions to bring back millennials to their premises.
One of the key take aways for me was that theatres should be looking beyond the confines of the traditional theatrical business model and start looking at other business verticals. As theatres start serving alcohol and food maybe some key lessons should be drawn from what is happening in the hospitality space. Maybe, just maybe, as theatres evolve they should cease drawing inspiration from peers but look keenly on what is happening in restaurants, bars, and hotels. They are facing similar pressures and just may have a solution worth implementing.
Let me throw out an idea based on what I learned at the show. When theaters combined with concepts like esports, it can really provide a tool set to further build your millennial and post millennial audience. Remember in the USA, these represent 83.1 million consumers.
Your demographic and what you want it to look like should be the prime motivating force behind your need to continually innovate. You have to know your community and you have to know their hot buttons. I was surprised during my time at a NATO of Pennsylvania meeting when I asked a theatre owner who were the influencers he knew in the community, he told me he knew his landlord and the mayor and that was about it. That surprised me. Now, I also had a conversation with the owner of the Roxy theatre in Pa. and he was locally connected, audience aware, and frankly the kind of operator we need in this business. In today’s social media activated market every business should have relationships with locally based influencers. In the past advertisers have used celebrities in their campaigns for decades. Marketers are essentially borrowing their credibility and familiarity to sell a product. This is a tactic that may work, but in the fading light of the celebrity culture, this form of marketing is becoming increasingly ineffective. The best influencer marketing does not involve financial compensation. Instead, it requires understanding that influencers want to be recognized, have access to information and be the first to know of any news in their space they need this to strengthen their influence.
Any good influencer marketing is centered on building sincere personal relationships with influencers and sharing useful, unique, exclusive or early information. The good news is that influencers are naturally curious and want to be perceived as in the know. A marketer with an innovative product or movie should have no problem finding information and knowledge of value to influencers. Theatre owners should use these people extensively to widen their base and attract millennial’s and post millennial’s. If you look through your social media followers, chances are you’ll find micro-influences who are already interested in your business . Promoting your business through micro-influential fans can be much more effective for these reasons, for the most part they come off much more sincere that celebrities. Remember authentic is of prime interest to millennial’s.
It is time to start a serious drive in this business for the hearts and minds of the millennial audience. It’s your theatres, it’s your business and it’s your future…..define it for yourself.