Pivot of the Week: Mann Theaters

by Alex Hultgren, Founder | CEO Customers 1st Marketing

Since I am always looking for creative inspiration, I want to share some of my favorite examples of the awesome ways that businesses are pivoting/adapting during COVID-19.

There was one email I received this week from a local business that struck me as particularly brilliant: our local cinema in Plymouth, MN (Mann Theatres) has started a curbside popcorn drive/service. 

The Problem: Besides all-things-travel, movie cinemas are one of the hardest-hit industries during this pandemic, since 1) They are not allowed to open their doors because their business model hinges on bringing together lots of people in a confined space, and 2) Studios have subsequently either postponed or gone straight to streaming all of their major releases.

The Pivot: On Saturdays between 10:00am-7:00pm, you can a family-sized bag of fresh, hot, authentic movie theatre popcorn for $15, and 10% of the proceeds go toward local COVID relief efforts.

Why this is Awesome: This pivot works on so many levels:

1) JOB SUPPORT/REVENUE: Drive-up popcorn service allows consumers to keep supporting a local business. Although this program doesn’t require a full staff, as a consumer, you know you are helping keep the place your neighbor’s kid works afloat and increasing the odds this business will survive this period. 

2) RELEVANCY: As consumers get used to the “watch the new stuff from home” culture we have entered, Mann Theatres has found a way to stay a part of the experience. Not only is it the exact popcorn you’d get in the cinema, but there is also now a huge branded Mann Theatres popcorn bag in the family room.    

3) PROFITABILITY: Although I’m sure their balance sheets are as battered as everyone else’s, the concession stand has the best margins in their entire business model. And although it’s at a greatly reduced level, with this move Mann Theatres has found a way to keep the most profitable part of their business operating

4) SOCIAL CAUSE: By giving 10% of the proceeds back to supporting the most important local social issue on everyone’s mind right now, so they also get the benefit of being a socially responsible company. 

5) FUTURE BUSINESS: Retailers love gift cards because it gives them cash today for a future purchase – and 6% of gift cards are never used, so the balance becomes pure profit. But I don’t think that’s what’s motivating these folks to offer the $15 bag of popcorn for free if you buy a $25 gift card for future use. I think Mann Theatres really, really want people to come back, and a gift card strongly increases the likelihood that consumers will come back when cinemas reopen (where, incidentally, they’ll probably hit the concession stand). 

So congrats to the leadership team at Mann Theatres (and other cinemas nationwide that have made similar moves) for this innovative way to stay open, relevant, socially responsible, generate some cash flow, and setting yourself up for the future. 

Have another example of a great pivot? Send it my way so I can share it in the future!

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay sane.

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