Getting your local theater to show Ghostbusters

So, someone asked a question in the PC Facebook group (yes, there’s a group and you should join it!) and it’s a good question, one to which I gave a big answer… which told me that maybe I should move it out of the comments and into a proper discussion. I did so on the Facebook group – if you’re a member, you can join there. And I’m re-posting it here, because we’re just about to hit May and now is loads of time to set up a screening during the Summer and definitely by Halloween!

How can a person convince their local theater to bring in Ghostbusters?

The first thing to bear in mind is that it’s way easier than ever before for a theater to show old movies, as many of them have added digital projectors – and while it’s true, there’s something magic about a film print, part of the magic is seeing it with a lot of other people, and a DVD or Blu-ray copy will do. Also, they’re way easier to find – real prints of Ghostbusters aren’t numerous and have to be shipped around, meaning there can be a wait to get it, so in a pinch, show what’s easiest to get.

The other thing to bear in mind is that theaters live not on the door, but on the food they sell – old movies, they barely have to pay anything for. The door is mostly theirs to keep (compared to a new movie on opening weekend, when most of the door goes to the studios), and they only have to pay a small public performance free, usually of a few hundred bucks (another reason why digital screenings aren’t a bad idea – no extra shipping costs, just the public performance fee.)

So, any chance to pack a theater, even for one or two shows, is something theaters want – and old films can often bring in a crowd new films cannot. There are two things you need to look into then;

The first is what kind of theater you’re going to approach – and this assumes you’re not booking a screening yourself, which is, honestly, the easiest version of this. You’ve seen how theaters have matinee birthday screenings, right? You can have one of those for Ghostbusters if you want and invite whomever you want, you just have to pay for the honor. Not a bad plan, if you have a bunch of friends that will pitch in – and if you make it public, you might even be able to convince the theater to wave the cost; ie, you put money down, just in case nobody else shows up. And when they do, and they will, and they exceed the cost of the booking, you get your dough back. Everybody’s happy.

No, all of this is advice on booking Ghostbusters wherein you’re not organizing it – your championing it, and you might even help the theater with it, but you’re not paying the theater out of pocket to do it.

So, here’s what you do;

– Find out what the theater is. First-run theaters have agreements with distributors that they are making key times available to first-run films for the studios. They cannot then, give you prime times – evenings. But, matinees are open, midnight screenings are open, and if it’s not the first couple of weeks for a film, weekday evenings are sometimes an option. You can get a first-run theater to bring in an old movie, but they have hoops they need to jump through.

A second run theater, or a Drive-in (drive-ins can’t show digital copies, btw), are wide open. And in many ways, it’s even more important to them that they fill seats and sell pop – first-run theaters, it’s a crap-shot that a new film will bring in people, but you can assume that for the first weekend, anybody that wants to see it, will see it, and then they can dump it for another movie. Second-run theaters want to maximize the appeal to people, which is why one ticket gets you in to see two or three movies at once – maybe even an all night marathon (imagine getting to see a whole night of Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters 2, and like-minded movies.)

They have no problem bringing in old movies and showing them at prime-times – in fact, many are already geared for doing that.

All any of these theaters need then is;


This is the second thing for you to look into then. Instead of just going to the theater and saying to the manager, “Hey, it’d be great if you brought in Ghostbusters” and leaving it with them, make the sell to them. Things you can do along those lines are;

– Find out how screenings went elsewhere. This stuff is gold. The Ghostbusters community will always be able to tell you the details of an event (when, how big was the theater, how many attended, etc.), which you can then pass on to the manager. You can put together an online “Who’s coming?” group – Facebook, and other websites, allow you to reach out to people in your area and find out how many people are interested. Facebook isn’t perfect, as sometimes people will join as a show of support, but there’s not way they can attend, being in another city or something. But even then, you can say, “Here’s how many people said they’d attend – even if X% are saying they will and then don’t, that’s Y people that will show up. And it’s safe to assume there are lots of people who aren’t on Facebook that will attend once they hear about it elsewhere.”)

Which is the other thing you can do – offer to help. You’ve already demonstrated you’ll do a little leg work… offer to do a little more.

– Local GB group with costumes? They’ll attend and be high profile for the theater.
– Door prizes. Offer to either arrange with a local store for foor prizes (a lot will toss you some comics etc. in return for giving them a shout out), or just donate some yourself (one GB piggy bank, $20, done – you can probably even trade with the manager – you supply the prize, you get in for free. He wants your popcorn money anyhow.)
– Getting the word out. Most theaters already inform the papers about their screenings, but you, for a couple of bucks, a photocopier, and some walking, can hit all manner of stores where GB fans will be (and that could be anywhere from coffee shops, to comic shops, to t-shirt stores, to campuses, etc.) And if you did the FB group to get an idea of who will attend, you’ve already helped promote it – once it’s confirmed, you can easily set up a FB event.

OK, that’s my experience in a nutshell – anybody else got some ideas on how to get Ghostbusters into your local cinema?

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