Movie nights? Halloween and more

Hotels make for fantastic event venues. We all know this — we’re all proud of our facilities! They’re flexible, spacious, beautifully decorated and chaperoned by attentive, qualified staff.

One of the simpler — yet quite effective — ways that we demonstrate this around this time of year is through a Halloween-themed movie night. Often held in a ballroom fashioned into a makeshift rear-projector theatre with freshly prepared snacks on the side, these events are great for bringing travelers and the community together for a night of spooks, thrills, chills, gasps and maybe even some laughs.

Certainly it helps build the Halloween buzz if your property is already whispered about in popular urban legends, or if it is indeed rife with paranormal activity. For these properties, a movie night or a ghost tour is already a bona fide best seller. But such supernatural exploits are relevant for only an iota of the properties out there. For the rest of us, think of this as an event to celebrate and thank the community for the support.

By now the concept of the Halloween Movie Night or Scary Movie Marathon is de rigueur for hotel marketing teams. It’s a breeze to organize and far less burdensome than, say, crafting a haunted house experience. So, if a movie night is so easy to put together for one commercial holiday, why not extend the concept to a few others?

How many movies can you think of that take place over Christmas, Thanksgiving or Valentine’s Day? Certainly there are enough to fill a four- or five-hour timeslot. Why not develop a movie night for all three holidays?

Start by browsing your options using a combination of Google searches, IMDB and Wikipedia to find a good mix of films as well as their MPAA ratings and runtimes. Next, the most important aspect of this venture to investigate is film rights. As you are using the motion pictures for commercial gain, there will be a licensing cost. Yes, even if you are charging no admission, it is considered a commercial undertaking. I would suggest contacting both the home entertainment division of a major studio as well as your local film society about this. Perhaps this is why I have chosen to broach this topic now, on All Hallows’ Eve, as both these entities may take a while to get back to you — we’re talking 2013, people! The takeaway: leave plenty of time for planning and red tape.

And there’s good reasoning behind each of these parleys as well. Every major studio owns a vast library of films for you to choose from, giving you enough breadth to accurately pick enough content to fill an evening’s worth of appropriately themed, likely family-friendly content, and maybe even a forgotten gem from the 1930s or 1940s. Fostering a healthy relationship with your film society is equally as obvious. They can advise on legal issues and help promote your event within their circles of the community at large.

Next, get your kitchen involved. The food for Halloween shouldn’t be the same as that for Christmas or Valentine’s Day. The more eccentric the screening’s theme, the more fun your creative culinary team will have conjuring up tasty goodies. You could even use such a hypothetical event as a team-building exercise to see just how ingenious your chefs are. For instance, besides candy eggs and bunny-shaped chocolates or cookies, what other confectionaries would be synonymous with Easter?

Don’t think that movie night is restricted to public holidays either. Consider making it a monthly or bimonthly gig. For instance, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa used to run an outdoor classic film series featuring Golden Age masterpieces followed by a Q&A with one of the actors. Unfortunately, the Q&A portion is a luxury that only SoCal can deliver with any consistency. Sadly, there are few independent theaters that screen movies from the 50s, 60s and 70s these days (especially with the compulsory shift towards digital projection), and yet there is still an audience for such fare.

Perhaps this is a niche — and by niche I mean a crevice of a niche — where you can grow your local market, but it’s still a worthy action void of ignominy. Think advertising a paltry US$5 to US$10 entry fee and a discount for loyalty club members. At the end of the day, films are fun for everyone, and you may just earn a buck while you’re at it. Happy Halloween!