Thursday, December 31, 2009

How does this all work, anyhow?

It started with a question: "How can I find a new audience for vintage films?"

I still enjoy them immensely -- Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons, silent comedies, serial chapter endings and B-films of all genres. There are many like-minded fans out there who already watch Turner Classic Movies, buy DVDs of classic films, rent from Netflix or watch free downloads. How about everyone else? How about the next generation? How can I get one child to watch one Felix the Cat or Buster Keaton?

The surprising answer was Café Roxy -- show movies wherever people gather to eat, drink and have fun! Everywhere and anywhere means bowling alleys, American Legion posts, sports bars, ice cream parlors, pubs, cafés, coffee houses, restaurants, libraries and even neighborhood movie theaters. Attract audiences to public places where they can enjoy the films together while they eat or snack on popcorn, hamburgers, beer and soft drinks.

In theory, venues in every city can benefit by an idea that will generate publicity, good word of mouth and new patrons. Small towns without theaters can bring back the movie-going social experience. My goal is to help anyone try movie shows once and then succeed in the long run. Here is what I have come up with to make Café Roxy inexpensive, attractive and easy to try:

1) Show FREE movies! Make money off food and drink sales. Free = Fun! Free = Affordable for Families! If it's a free show in a place you eat/drink anyways, seems like one might give the movies a try and bring the family. In the spirit of FREE, I offer a free Roxy sampler show of shorts.

If you are a movie theater where people expect to pay, then only charge $1 or $2, which sounds like a bargain, and profit off concession sales.

2) Café Roxy offers VARIETY PROGRAMS with shorts, TV shows, commercials, trailers, cartoons and serial chapters. If a patron doesn't like the cartoon playing, it will be over in 6 minutes. Matinees contain cartoons, shorts and serials before the main feature. It seems reasonable to come for the shorts, follow the serial each week, then sample the feature and walk out if you don't care for it. However, anyone leaving early likely did eat or drink something, which was the main idea.

3) Colorful POSTERS. The posters make the event sound exciting. Posters are instant advertising that merchants can print out and put in their window or on their website. If you use the poster shown here on the right, will an audience come to watch?

4) PUBLIC DOMAIN films. None of the Roxy films are protected by copyright so you don't need to pay royalties. The DVDs are yours to keep and use forever after the initial purchase. Proof as to why each film is in the public domain is included.

5) Youtube TRAILERS for Saturday Matinee and Cartoon Brunch that can be linked to from any website. This is just one more tool that some are using to promote their showings.

Put it all together = Café Roxy. Show movies anywhere.


Each venue has it's own special challenge. You need an area to show the films and you need a large screen TV or video projection system or banks of TVs everywhere. Movie theaters are ready to go since they video project the pre-shows with ads for local merchants and those trivia quizzes. Every sports bar is equipped and could easily try Movie Night or a Cartoon Room. Many pizza places, ice cream parlors and bowling alleys might have party rooms with video in place.

Tailor shows to your audience.

Ask your regular clientele which film programs they would attend. Make sure a few friends will attend the first show and then open it up to all with the poster invitations. If there is a senior center next door, program classics from the 1940s. If you are on a college campus, try Reefer Madness or Plan Nine from Outer Space or a film society series of Film Noir classics. Will this program featuring The Most Dangerous Game attract the college students it is aimed at? Neighborhood theaters with families might try the Saturday Matinees. Coffee houses -- try Cartoon Brunches.

Do not run continuous films as they will quickly lose their appeal. Schedule shows at specific times and promote them with the posters. The hope is to gather audiences who will enjoy the films together. The dream is to inspire the next generation. Vintage films can be fun!

Café Roxy is an idea in search of entrepreneurs who think outside the box. Let's work together to figure out what will work for you!

-- Ron Hall
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