I had an interesting conversation with Jeff Fairchild of Fairchild Cinemas last week.
His theater is one year old. Doesn't it seem longer?
To celebrate Jeff told me that from Monday, May 12 through Thursday, May 15 they'll be giving out free popcorn and soft drinks with your movie ticket. He's also giving away prizes at the end of each movie, including a couple of flat screen TVs (an odd thing for a theater to giveaway considering the competition angle). I've seen theaters give prizes and stuff away during opening week but never after a year in business. But Fairchild's theater is not exactly the norm and that's what came out of our conversation. In a business where mega corporations rule, Fairchild Cinemas is unusual. He's a solo act competing against two giants. Between them, Regal and Carmike Cinemas have thousands of screens around the nation.
Jeff Fairchild owns a Tri-Cities theater and one in Moses Lake. Yet, he competes and does very well. There are two reasons. The first, Fairchild Cinemas is a state-of-the-art theater. Although those classy theaters of yesteryear are my preference, for a modern theater and even by modern theater standards, Jeff's is gorgeous. In itself, that is an attraction to Tri-Cities moviegoers. The second reason, Jeff Fairchild does well and will continue to compete with the big boys is because he gets any movie he wants. Regal and Carmike are practically next door to each other.
Competition limit agreements mean they share product. For example, Carmike got Iron Man, and Regal was stuck with Made of Honor. On Friday, the order was reversed. Regal opened the week's premiere movie, Speed Racer and Carmike booked What Happens in Vegas.
Because a river separates Fairchild Cinemas from its neighbors, it got all four films.
Over the years, I have made many good friends at both Regal and Carmike. From the people who book their movies in Los Angeles and Columbus, Ga., to the people who manage the theaters. Both chains have huge pluses. Regal deserves kudos for being the first to bring a multi-plex to the Tri-Cities. They dumped the dinosaur that sat on the edge of the Columbia Center Mall and put a state-of-the-art movie theater smack dab in the middle of what has become downtown Tri-Cities.
A couple of years later, Carmike opened. They have ventured into two unique areas. The Tri-Cities Carmike theater is one of the first in the nation to have a majority of its screens go digital. Carmike also continues to book fringe films such as this week's Snow Angels, movies that normally are seen only in markets like Seattle and Portland.
All three Tri-Cities area theaters have something to offer, but there is this part of me that really admires Jeff Fairchild.
It's always good to see David take on Goliath and win.