We were able to catch up with Mike Olson, an exhibitor from the state of Wisconsin, for the latest installment of our Exhibitor Profile Series.
After working for other circuits his entire life, in 2004 Olson decided to build Micon Cinemas in Chippewa Falls, WI. He took the time out of his day to answer our questions about the exhibition industry as well as his own personal taste in movies.
How many years have you been in the exhibition industry?: 35
How did you get started?
Working as a projectionist for El Lago Theatre in Rice Lake, WI.
What was the first movie you saw in theatres?
"Maybe Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, they bring that back every seven years."
What is your favorite movie of all-time?
"Probably Forrest Gump. I thought that was very, very well done."
What are your fondest memories of working in the exhibition industry?
“One of the things that I enjoy the most is marketing motion pictures...I was on location at Hardee’s and they were involved nationally with Days of Thunder We had a ‘Day of Thunder’ at Hardee’s, and at four o’clock in the afternoon on a Friday we announced on this top radio station that the next 95 cars, because it was the HOT FM WIFC 95.5, got $9.50 worth of free food at the Hardee’s drive-thru and we had a major, major traffic problem.
Then the second thing would be, for the same movie we dropped sky divers from 4,000 feet in front of the theatre opening night The whole advertising thrust was: customers are falling out of the sky to see Days of Thunder.”
As an independent theatre owner, how do you deal with competition from bigger chains?
“You know, years ago it was “If you build it, they’ll come”, I think that still holds true, however, obviously the show is the thing and then beyond that: service.
We win our customers over. If they try us once, they’ll come back. We try in every way to gain their loyalty, and I know we’re getting customers from other areas... People don’t have to go to the movies. We gotta do our utmost to provide literally an event and we better thank these people. Industry wide, everybody needs to do this."
How do you market to your customers?
“We just finished with
The Love Guru. We had a guy in the lobby, one of our employees, all dressed up in that
outfit and he read people’s palms. We continuously market pictures on a picture-by-picture basis. Beyond that, we have an ongoing, successful Summer Matinée Series. Admission is 25 cents and hundreds of people come every week to experience going to the movies. They are older movies, but obviously we feel that as times are tough and people may be low on disposable income they need to enjoy a movie we make it possible for them to come out to enjoy the big-screen experience at a very low, low, low price."
What movies are you looking forward to seeing in the future?
“I’m really looking forward to
The Dark Knight. I think based on the trailer, and the audience reaction, that looks very good... It all looks good on paper, obviously sometimes when they open they’re a little disappointing. I think that [
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
] will be interesting, I’m really curious to see what that’s going to do."