BACK TO THE FUTURE – Interview with Brian Schultz – Founder and CEO of Studio Movie Grill

 

BACK TO THE FUTURE – Interview with Brian Schultz – Founder and CEO of Studio Movie Grill

Susan Kandell

Besides not being able to spend time with my family and friends in Dallas or even see my New York and Florida family, I miss going to the movies. Through advances in technology, we have options these days. Lots of options. Sure, we can watch wherever, whenever; at home, on our televisions or even on our phones (my very last resort), but it’s just not the same. Either is the popcorn.

I just needed some reassurance that I would be able to return to movie theaters – after lockdown restrictions were lifted, of course. So I figured I’d go straight to the source. I had an encouraging conversation with Brian Schultz, Founder and CEO of Studio Movie Grill. Below is an excerpted edition of our exchange.

Brian and I had a delightful conversation beginning with what it’s like for him to shelter at home with his wife and four children (two in college presently). “ You know, I actually think it’s been spectacular,” said Schultz.  Each night they rotate through the family and select that evening’s entertainment. “It’s been a great time to make dinners and just spend quality time together. Whether it’s movie night or a family walk…..it’s been a nice time to reflect”.

I wish I had more time to speak to Brian about his background in depth but a more pressing concern was the question on everyone’s mind. Daily, I get emails from folks wanting to know, “Will we be returning to movie theaters at all?” My answer to them goes back to the advent of television. When TV was first introduced there was great trepidation among studio heads about getting people back into the theater after having content delivered to a box sitting in their living room. They needn’t have worried. Yes, attendance did drop initially, but the empire struck back; theaters adapted and filmmaking improved.

So, I asked Brian what his thoughts were on this subject. “Well, first off, movie theaters, public entertainment, sports; all of it will survive. It becomes a matter of timing and being able to be flexible.”

He continued that the Studio Movie Grill will do a lot of research to figure out what steps would make people feel comfortable to come back to the movies.  “We’re going to do a great job making sure that we enforce rules in line with the CDC guidelines. We want audiences to return when they feel comfortable. We’ve actually been helping provide feedback as well to different communities on what those steps would be to create safety.”

He continued, “Movie theaters are so different. Traditional theaters are different. Recliner locations are different. Dine-in’s are different. Each one needs to do their own thing to make sure that they can respect the social distance. But the future of the movie theater industry I actually think, is actually very, very stable. But it’s a matter of time and building back. We’ve seen this in a lot of different cycles in a lot of different ways ……… the question really is what adjustments is it going to end up being – exactly as it was?  Or is it going to be kind of the new normal? And that’s what I think is still TBD”.

That’s what I wanted to hear. That’s what I needed to hear. I will actually sleep better tonight.

Now, this entire conversation may change as rules and regulations change from moment to moment depending on where you reside. But for today, it’s a hopeful message.

In the meantime, I made a remarkable discovery. The Studio Movie Grill may not be showing movies in their 36 locations, but they are still serving food via GrubHub. Don’t laugh – if you have a hankering for popcorn – you’re in luck! But that’s just the appetizer – there’s so much more. If you haven’t ordered food at your local Studio Movie Grill lately, you’ll be pleasantly surprised……and salivating. They have been continually upgrading their menu by developing  healthier, more gourmet choices so you can bring the show – including food – to your home. Go directly to the SMG website and click on your location to view the menu. It’s evident that Schultz has been busy thinking about his customers and employees and how to keep them happy. As a thank you for your takeout or delivery order of $20 or more, you’ll receive two free Studio Movie Grill movie tickets that you can use when the theaters re-open. Plus, with your order, 10% of proceeds support SMG team members at locations nationwide. Download the GrubHub app and you’ll get free delivery on your first order. It’ll also facilitate ordering moving forward.

While you’re chowing down, you can also – drum roll, please – watch a film at home curated with great care by the Studio Movie Grill. When the impact of the pandemic on the movie industry became evident, SMG teamed up with several film distributors to offer their audiences the opportunity to watch at home the films that would otherwise be playing on the big screen. The films are an eclectic mix of art house films; dramas, comedy and foreign films with some classics thrown in for good measure. Please go to the website of your local SMG and follow the directions and soon you’ll be watching movies you may have otherwise missed.

I’m impressed with Schultz’s dedication to the needs of his audience. He hasn’t been sitting around waiting for the lockdown to be over. “I’ve talked to my friends in Beijing and some other parts around the world.  There’s this kind of pent up demand to get out and we got to see that on the news a little bit. There’s a lot of different perspectives on what the timing will be. We’ve surveyed our guests and our employees, and depending on where you are and the media perspective in your area, and just like many things, (we’ve discovered) it’s not one-size fits all. And it’s the business’ responsibility to create a safe environment when you’re ready and people will be ready at different speeds.”

He did acknowledge that Warner Brothers and Christopher Nolan have been incredible partners, leading their big kick-off on July 17th with the tent-pole film Tenet, a highly anticipated action thriller. Secret agents? Time travel? Maybe we can go back in time and stop this pandemic?

I hope you’ll return to the theaters – I know I will. And I don’t necessarily have to……I often receive screeners or links in advance in order to review. But there’s something special about watching in a theater – the massive screens, the state-of-the-art sound, the concept of sharing the experience with friends, or laughing with strangers. I actually discovered I laugh more heartily with an audience in tow. And with apologies to Willie Sutton, I go to the movie theaters because….. that’s where movies are. And  the  popcorn, of course.

 

reprinted with permission of the TJP

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