Nov. 30--To paraphrase the late vocalist Andy Williams, it's the most wonderful time of the year for Marcus Theatres, the cinema division of Milwaukee's Marcus Corp.
Chief Executive Officer and President Greg Marcus recently talked about the importance of the holiday film season for his company, which also operates Marcus Hotels and Resorts. Among other things, we learned about his love for movies, and his brief stint in the film industry.
Here's an edited transcript of that interview, which took place at the company's Pfister Hotel, in downtown Milwaukee.
Q.How big is the holiday season for the film division at Marcus Corp.?
A. The movie theater business has two very busy times: the summertime and then the holiday season.
Q.This year, what are you pinning your hopes on?
A. Well, the big one starts (the week before Thanksgiving), "The Hunger Games" sequel ("Catching Fire.") It should be great, should be big. We've got "Frozen," it's the animated Disney movie, which looks really solid. You've got "The Hobbit" (sequel, "The Desolation of Smaug") coming out. You've got "Anchorman 2." "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," that looks good. "The Wolf of Wall Street" looks interesting.
And the fun thing is, you never know until they show up how they're going to do. And there's always surprises.
Oh, you know what looks great? It's "Saving Mr. Banks." It's a Tom Hanks movie about the making of "Mary Poppins." And Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney. Colin Farrell. Emma Thompson. Great cast.
Q.What happens when you get a big release and it bombs? As an exhibitor, is there anything you can do about that? Or, at that point, are you just at the mercy of the product that's just been shipped your way?
A. That's the business, yeah. There's an old saying: In the movie business, everything is research and development, except for sequels. Which is why the industry does love sequels. But you need to have a mixture of both (sequels and new ideas).
There's nothing more wonderful than being in a movie theater full of people when it's a good movie. Everybody gets so excited, it feels good. And they applaud at the end.
Q.Now, regarding hotels, summer tends to be your busier season. How big is the holiday travel season?
A. It's our weakest quarter for our hotels. First of all, we're a northern climate, so summer is bigger for us. And second of all, we tend to be more group-oriented, business-oriented hotels, which doesn't lend itself to holidays.
That being said, what we do at Grand Geneva (Resort & Spa, in Lake Geneva) really is spectacular. It's called Christmas in the Country. The whole resort is just lit up beautifully. And it's become very successful for us over time. They do a Christmas show. Sometimes you'll find people singing carols in the lobby. We have sleigh rides, and hay rides, and the trolley that you can take around the resort and experience the lights.
Q.So, on a personal basis, any travel plans or movie plans for the holidays? It sounds like you want to see that "Mr. Banks" film.
A.You know what? I see everything. I'm a huge movie fan. I actually went to film school. But I dropped out. I didn't finish.
Q.No kidding? Where did you go?
A. I was at the USC film school for a little while. I went and got my accounting degree and then my law degree. And then I said to my dad (Steve Marcus, then Marcus Corp. CEO and now company chairman) I'd like to go to film school. What was he going to say? "What are you going to do if it doesn't work out?" I was a lawyer and an accountant. I had some fallback positions.
Q.So you went to film school at USC. Were you thinking about directing?
A. Producing. I actually went to work in the industry for some producers and spent a couple of years out there. Had a lot of fun. But I made the decision ultimately that it wasn't for me.
Q.Any films out there that would have your name on them?
A. Nothing that has my name. But I was part of the industry, and worked for some very high-profile producers. It's a very tough business. The thing I didn't like was this feeling of constantly being out of work. If you were in the studio system, you might be an executive at a studio and then you've got a job that you're going to all the time, hopefully.
But if you're making movies, now you work on a film. You could take a couple of years on one thing, what if it doesn't work? And when you're working on it, you're thinking, "OK, when I'm done with this, what am I going to do next?"
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