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» Film-Tech Forum   » Operations   » Ground Level   » What does your theatre do when the power goes out? (Page 1)

 
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Author Topic: What does your theatre do when the power goes out?
Mitchell Dvoskin
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Posts: 1830
From: West Milford, NJ, USA
Registered: Jan 2001


 - posted 12-28-2015 04:10 PM      Profile for Mitchell Dvoskin   Email Mitchell Dvoskin   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I attempted to go see Joy on Christmas Day at the AMC 16-plex at the Rockaway Town Square Mall here in NJ. Apparently at some point before my arrival, the power went out. There were hundreds of people milling around outside, and a hundred or so in the lobby who refused to leave without their refund. There was a teenage girl standing on the boxoffice counter screaming that people must leave the lobby, which everyone seemed to be ignoring. No management in sight, pandemonium everywhere.

This got me thinking, what do other venues do when the power goes out? Years ago, when I still worked in commercial cinemas we had pre-printed passes for just such occasions. But these days, with megaplexes, that is probably not as viable an option. What does everyone else do?

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Frank Cox
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From: Melville Saskatchewan Canada
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 - posted 12-28-2015 05:48 PM      Profile for Frank Cox   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Cox   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Everyone paid cash for their ticket when they came in so they should receive cash refunds when you can't provide what they paid to see.

It's the only fair thing to do.

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Justin Hamaker
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From: Lakeport, CA USA
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 - posted 12-28-2015 05:48 PM      Profile for Justin Hamaker   Author's Homepage   Email Justin Hamaker   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
When the power goes out, the first thing we do is go into the auditoriums and ask people to wait a few minutes to see if it's going to come back on.

If the power isn't back on within 5 minutes, then it's likely to be out for at least an hour. At this point we will evacuate the theatre and tell people to hold on to their ticket stubs to use as a readmit at a later date. Generally we do not give refund because a power outage is something beyond our control. For those customers who have thrown away their ticket stub we will give them a readmit pass.

We do completely evacuate the theatre for safety and security purposes. Although we have emergency lights throughout the building, those typically can only be counted on for about 15 minutes - although we have started replacing with LED lights that seem to last several hours.

Once we evacuate the theatre, we will keep the crew around and just take it show by show on reopening, but try to keep it according to our regular schedule - not starting more than 10-15 minutes later than scheduled.

The opening weekend of The Water Boy we lost power early on Saturday, and didn't get it back until about 6:30. I remember I was outside telling people we don't know when it will be on, but we would open once it was on. When it was almost unbelievable how many people showed up and how quickly they arrived.

With film we would have people manually spin the platters so the movie would be ready to start once the power came back on. So far we haven't had a full outage during operating hours with digital. Closest we've had is a momentary flicker which was just long enough to turn off the lamps.

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Mike Blakesley
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From: Forsyth, Montana
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 - posted 12-28-2015 06:43 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Justin Hamaker
When the power goes out, the first thing we do is go into the auditoriums and ask people to wait a few minutes to see if it's going to come back on.

If the power isn't back on within 5 minutes, then it's likely to be out for at least an hour.

That's about the situation here. We just hand out passes to everybody on the way out. We give them the option for a cash refund but hardly anyone ever asks for that, unless they are from out of the area.

In almost every case, the power comes back on within about 3 minutes of getting everyone out of the theatre! [Mad]

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Martin McCaffery
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 - posted 12-28-2015 07:15 PM      Profile for Martin McCaffery   Author's Homepage   Email Martin McCaffery   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Pretty much the same as Mike, including power coming back on.
We offer cash or passes, our audiences are rarely large enough for it to matter financially if one or two of them want to rip us off.
Being a uniplex we don't have multiple auditoria full of people rushing us at once.

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Dave Bird
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From: Perth, Ontario, Canada
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 - posted 12-28-2015 08:36 PM      Profile for Dave Bird   Author's Homepage   Email Dave Bird   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
We've not had power go out during a show yet, though we did have a bulb explode and take out the lamphouse. Unrepairable that night, we offered everyone money back or a carload pass and 99% of people took that. Drove 6 hours round-trip for an old US Army surplus lamphouse/power supply and saved the rest of our holiday weekend, "calibrating" it myself as best I could. Most power failures here seem to happen in the afternoon, and though we almost couldn't open once last year, power came back just before dusk, and we let the small crowd in for the show.

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Buck Wilson
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From: St. Joseph MO, USA
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 - posted 12-28-2015 08:44 PM      Profile for Buck Wilson   Email Buck Wilson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
We wait 5-10 minutes, then if still no power we'll start giving people re-admits. sometimes it's chaos, sometimes it goes smoothly. You just need to have a competent staff to keep things in check.

We only give refunds if they specifically ask for them.

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Frank Cox
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From: Melville Saskatchewan Canada
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 - posted 12-28-2015 10:33 PM      Profile for Frank Cox   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Cox   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I don't see how something being "beyond your control" should be an excuse for not refunding the customer's money. Your customer is already inconvenienced by having travelled to your theatre to see a movie that he's now unable to watch. Whether the reason is that the projector is broken, the power is off, the staff is on strike or the theatre burned down, from the customer's point of view this is Not His Problem. He paid you for a service that you aren't delivering, he shouldn't have to care why.

I personally wouldn't be satisfied with anything less than a refund of the amount that I paid for the ticket, and any time I am unable to show a movie or it quits in the middle or whatever I always provide cash refunds for everyone for that very reason. I always feel bad that people came to my theatre to see a movie and didn't get to see it; if I didn't give everyone a full refund I would feel even worse. There are always people in the audience who drove 40 miles to see the show, hired babysitters for the evening, and so on.

Back in 2003 I was the only theatre in Saskatchewan that was playing Master and Commander at one point. A guy drove here with his two boys from a town that's 150 miles from here to see it, but he somehow missed the turn-off into Melville from the highway and by the time he figured out his mistake and got back here he was about an hour late for the movie. I told him to wait until the regular show was over and after everyone had left I then played the movie again just for him and his kids. I've never seen that guy before or since and don't expect to do so since he lives so far away, but he drove a total of 300 miles to get here to watch the movie with his kids so I felt obligated to show it to him even though his driving past the Melville turn-off wasn't my fault, either.

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Justin Hamaker
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From: Lakeport, CA USA
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 - posted 12-29-2015 12:13 AM      Profile for Justin Hamaker   Author's Homepage   Email Justin Hamaker   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Frank, we'll give a refund if absolutely demanded, but we use readmits as the first option. Primarily because it is far more expedient than trying to issue refunds. We can make an announcement to the auditorium asking people to hold onto their ticket for a readmit and it's handled. The handful of times we've had to do this, we have never had anything more than a couple people unsatisfied with the readmit solution. They aren't being screwed out of their movie, and if it's something they didn't like, they can go see another movie instead.

Besides, when the priority is ensuring people's safety and clearing the theatre before emergency lights go down, refunds should be the last thing the theatre is worrying about. It might be a different story if it's a weekday afternoon when there are only a handful of people in the theatre vs a busy weekend when there are a few hundred.

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Randy Stankey
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From: Erie, Pennsylvania
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 - posted 12-29-2015 12:23 AM      Profile for Randy Stankey   Email Randy Stankey   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Send somebody to the auditorium. Let the audience know what's going on.
If there are emergency lights, it's probably okay to let people stay in their seats and wait for the power to come back. If there aren't emergency lights, the lobby is probably better.

If the power doesn't come back on in fifteen minutes, it will probably push the ending of the movie past the next starting time. It's probably better to cancel the show. Better to manage one show's worth of unsatisfied customers than to deal with two or more.

I like to let the customer decide how they want to be repaid. If they would like a rain check, give it to them on the spot and send them on their way. (If it's safe... The power failure could be due to severe weather or civil emergency.). If they want a refund, they can go to the box office and get one. Repayment in specie. (Cash for cash... Credit for credit.) If there isn't at least one box office computer on UPS, just refund cash. (What?! You DON'T have your computers on UPS?! [Wink] )

That's the way I've always done things but whatever way works.

Just remember that, technically, you are behind the eight ball, even if it's not your fault. It's up to you to solve the problem in a fair way.

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Mitchell Dvoskin
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From: West Milford, NJ, USA
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 - posted 12-29-2015 09:02 AM      Profile for Mitchell Dvoskin   Email Mitchell Dvoskin   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Randy Stankey
What?! You DON'T have your computers on UPS?!
I would say most do not, or at least not enough of a UPS that would power the computer and cashier's station for hours, and that is what it would take to reverse credit card transactions one at a time in a megaplex where a large percentage of patrons use credit. This assumes, of course, that your network to the CC processor is still up.

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Dustin Mitchell
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 - posted 12-29-2015 10:06 AM      Profile for Dustin Mitchell   Email Dustin Mitchell   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Cash refunds are fine - and appropriate - if all the admissions were actually paid for in cash, but how do you handle credit card/gift card/discount ticket sales? What about online sales? What if a deposit was taken to the bank between the time the last round of shows started and the power went out, leaving the theater without enough cash to cover all the outstanding tickets?

They say the right thing to do and the easy thing to do are rarely the same thing.

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Jack Ondracek
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From: Port Orchard, WA, USA
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 - posted 12-29-2015 11:08 AM      Profile for Jack Ondracek   Author's Homepage   Email Jack Ondracek   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I don't lose sleep over much, but as our business grew over the years, this scenario became the cause of a few such nights. The thought of dumping the entire house can't be much fun for anyone.

Our POS works in a power outage, but because our cable system has lots of power supplies with batteries in them, they eventually die and we lose credit card processing. That's an issue we haven't found a work-around for, as the area wireless goes also goes dead and we have no DSL out here.

We have our booth racks on a UPS, so the audio and transmitter systems stay up for communication with the customers.

The refund issue was easy. Being a drive-in, we settled on our way of dealing with any issue that might cause a field to be dumped. First of all, we'll offer a cash refund to anyone who really wants it... no bickering with them on that count. On the other hand, we offer anyone with a ticket from that show a "carload pass" for any show at any later date. Only a very few will take the refund. Those folks are normally from far out of the area and unsure when they might be back. It's a great PR move and tends to keep the crowd understanding and relatively happy, considering.

While our POS still works, I'll try to do any requested refund with the medium originally used, but I don't make a big deal about it. If I have to cash out a ticket or two that might have been put on a card, it doesn't really matter... so long as the customer doesn't turn around and contest the card charge. That would be a pain to deal with, but it hasn't ever happened. The carload pass process pretty much guarantees we won't have a cash issue. You have to do a little more to reconcile the differences between your cash and card numbers, but your POS should give you enough information to do that.

As for outages that are caused by nothing more than power... I fixed that almost 20 years ago by purchasing a surplus generator. Ours can run the entire property, so we don't have to worry about whether some breakers have to be turned off. We converted all the cooking and most heating equipment to gas and last year, replaced the old heating system with one of those new "inverter-based" heat pumps. Our lighting is mostly LED, including field lights and direct replacements for the old fluorescent tubes. All that made the generator's job easier.

While the generator purchase might be seen as extreme by some, we've saved 5 or 6 shows with it over the years. The first save paid for the generator and installation... the people who go through the experience leave with a little extra "positive adventure" to their evening... and I sleep pretty well.

Not that we've needed it yet, but I can imagine the new ability to back up the show a few minutes won't hurt any.

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Jim Cassedy
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 - posted 12-29-2015 12:58 PM      Profile for Jim Cassedy   Email Jim Cassedy   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Q: What does your theater do when the lights go out?
A: It gets very dark in there!

but seriously. . .

quote: Randy Stankey
Send somebody to the auditorium. Let the audience know what's going on.
The power went out one afternoon in the middle of a big Bollywood flick.
Looking outside, I could see the whole neighborhood was out.

I went down to the auditorium to explain to the (mostly Indian)
crowd that it was possible the power might be out for some time.

I made my announcement, but nobody seemed to be paying attention to me.
So I repeated it. Again. . . no response. I thought maybe there was a
language barrier. As I headed back up the aisle, one man, sensing my
confusion grabbed my arm & said: "Look...we're all from India. In India
the power goes off- - - the power goes on- - This happens ALL THE TIME..
Don't worry about it; Its no big deal!"

And so, after opening a couple of the emergency exits to get a bit more
light in the auditorium, the crowd just chatted & socialized until the
power came back. Not one customer wanted their money back, and
hung around till power returned 20min later.It was 'no big deal'.

On the other hand, in the other auditorium, which was mostly a local
crowd watching a Hollywood flick- - not one person stuck around.

All wanted, & got, either refunds or a comp ticket to another show.

Some even expected to get refunds for the concession items they bought
in anticipation of eating/drinking them during the movie they weren't seeing.
THAT didn't happen.

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Randy Stankey
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From: Erie, Pennsylvania
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 - posted 12-29-2015 01:21 PM      Profile for Randy Stankey   Email Randy Stankey   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
This building is operated by the State of PA. It has an emergency generator to keep the lights on. Computers are on UPS that are supposed to last at least an hour but they are also connected to the red outlets for emergency power.

Internet / network is fiber with a separate battery backup that is supposed to last at least 48 hours. We won't lose main lobby lights or computers but the theater will shut down. The theater auditorium has only emergency lighting.

When the electricity goes out, the building will go dark for about a half minute. The transfer switch might work instantly but it takes that long for the diesel generator start and come up to speed. That's why I make it a point to go into the auditorium in order to let people know what's up. Like others say, if the power doesn't come back in 5-10 minutes, it probably won't come back for hours.

I'd rather give out rain checks. Ours are printed like business cards. Just sign and date the back. They can have a refund in kind if they want. I just have to send them up front and it takes longer to process. Rain checks are quick and dirty and 90% of people would rather have the "free pass."

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