2013: The Year of Reinvention

Happy new year, everyone! I hope that your mantra this year will be simple: reinvention. Last year I felt like the web part of the industry was kind of boring. It was the mobile/app space that saw the most innovation and improvement. But I’m hoping that in 2013 companies will take a look at what they do online and start reimagining and reinventing so this component of their multi-channel presence is as compelling as the newer, sexier pieces of the user experience.

Can it be done? Of course it can be. Let’s look at a couple companies that are doing this offline already, and see how they’re changing a very old industry to be exciting again.

If you aren’t aware of the movie theater chain called iPic, I urge you to check it out – not for its amazing website, but for the fact that this is a company that has taken a “boring” industry and turned it into something else entirely. In fact, there are two major movie theaters that are offering something different to moviegoers, and trying to revitalize the movie theater market. IPic is the “upscale” version, and Alamo Drafthouse is the downscale version and has more “local” character.

Both of these theaters provide more than just a traditional movie-going experience. They both feature waiters who take your food orders before (and during) movies, and deliver food to you at your seat. Both have menus that go far beyond the traditional popcorn and candy fare offered by every other movie theater in the country since the 1950’s.

Alamo Drafthouse (which started in Texas, but now has theaters in New York, Colorado, and other states) has a quirky sense of humor. The theaters show 1950’s trailers, PSAs (think “Reefer Madness”), and other dated/funny short pieces before the movies. They have interactive nights (in which comedians talk over a movie and audience tweets show up on screen), and movie-themed food specials to go along with major movie releases. Don’t even ask what they served when “Sweeney Todd” came out.

IPic theaters are much fancier. Their premium plus seating features huge reclining chairs, and customers get a blanket to put over them in the chair. Popcorn is free with the premium plus seating, and the menu (while not cheap) is gourmet. IPic theaters typically have a bar and/or restaurant in the lobby as well. The one in Austin has a bar/lounge feel to it while the one in Boca Raton has a fancy restaurant/nightspot feel to it.

Both theaters are constantly sold out, and personally speaking, we drive 24 minutes out of our way just to go to the iPic instead of the generic theaters near us.

The art of the movie theater has hardly changed since the 1950’s. But these two theater chains are reinventing what it means to go to the theater. They’re redefining the experience and competing with the fact that you could easily just watch a movie at home these days. They’re providing experiences that go well beyond simply watching a movie. And they’re reimagining what food service means in theaters. It isn’t just about popcorn anymore.

Of the two chains, Alamo is more Internet/multi-channel savvy. The chain regularly offers contests, such as submitting a video to the theater, and promotes itself with social networking both within the theater (things you text appear on screen during its live comedy shows) and in general. IPic doesn’t seem to have the same “fun-loving” interactive attitude. At least, not that I’ve seen.

But both of them are clearly taking an old idea and making it new. If a movie theater chain can reinvent movie watching, surely you can take a stern look at your own business and see how to kick it up a notch in 2013. Whether it’s diversifying your offerings (like the examples here), or finding a new way to do a routine transaction (like Domino’s Pizza Builder does), there are still a million unexplored ideas online. I hope you make 2013 the year in which you discover some of these ideas and push the envelope further than you did in 2012.

Until next time…

Mill Wheel image on home page via Shutterstock.

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