Tag Archives: Entertainment

The Best Job I Ever Had

Oscar Museum 2

Ten years ago, in about 2004, I got a call from a prospective client, a newly hired director of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences museum project, asking if I would be interested in conducting some market research for a new attraction/museum themed on the Academy Awards.

Would I Ever!!!

I had been the one lucky enough to do the work for the Dolby Theater at Hollywood & Highland where the ceremony takes place, so it seemed a good fit and logical that I continue on to do the museum feasibility.  But my joy, my heart, for Hollywood, no one knew that!

No One Had Ever Known That:

  • My family had always been in the entertainment business, with my father involved on the business side, having been a pioneer in the cable television industry.
  • My aunt always working for this or that movie star as an executive assistant.
  • I was lucky enough to visit the back-lot of 20th Century Fox before it was Century City!
  • I spent countless hours watching movies being filmed, then sitting in theaters watching them roll by me on the big screen.

Would I be interested?  Heck, yea!!

Since that time, I have been the consultant called upon to do the background market research, analysis and financial projections for the site selection, sizing and operation of museum.

I learned a thing or two during those years like:

  • I gained a deep knowledge of large museums and what keeps them thriving.
  • How an endowment can shrink during a deflation.
  • Money earmarked to never-be-touched has a way of disappearing in hard times.
  • I learned about the conundrum of keeping things fresh so that resident visitors will keep returning, time and again.

I am thankful that my job always changes and that I always learn, no matter the engagement.

Picture of Oscar 2Over the years, we have wrestled with all the issues associated with new development including disagreements about what it should look like, what its mission should be, where it should be sited, who is its targeted audience (please, don’t say everyone!), and what’s the best way to keep the project on-time and on-budget.  To be clear, these issues are complex and are made more difficult when there are many masters to serve.  Still, when the project is to reflect the points of view, hopes, dreams, and legacies of America’s most important cultural export, (which I believe is cinema) there must be the most careful consideration to each one.

This was my best job ever.  Write and tell me about yours in the comments below.

Introduction – Raison d’Etre

Image by Wouter Pinkhof

Does the world need another blog?  According to recent statistics from blog-tracking site Technorati, the blogosphere has doubled every six months for the last three years. That’s 175,000 new blogs per day worldwide. Technorati added its 50 millionth blog on July 31, 2006.

After several painful sessions of browbeating from my son and several friends, I suppose the answer is “if everyone else is doing it, so should you.  So get off your butt and do it!”  Those of you who know me understand that I never put anything in writing that I wouldn’t want the world to see.  Therefore, this is a painful process.  But I have been convinced that I have a ton of information in my head that is useful to many of my friends and clients.  So without disclosing any particulars, I will present, each week, my thoughts on my topics of expertise, namely figuring out how to concept and test the market/financial feasibility for places which may include:

Retail

Entertainment

Sports

Leisure / Hospitality

Gaming

Culture (Theaters/Museums)

In the last few years, mixed-use projects have included all six of these elements.  Figuring out how they interact from a market and financial point of view is what we do and what keeps me engaged.  (I bore easily).

For those of you who don’t know me, I have been in the business for over 25 years and as a friend once said to me, “you must be pretty good by now.”  Well, I don’t know about that, but I do know a whole lot about the subjects noted above.

Why Even Bother With Area/Consumer Research

When I worked at Federated Department Stores (which at the time had all the best department stores in its portfolio, including Bloomindales), we had two units for research and evaluation.  One was dubbed “area research” and included all demographics, competitive research and projected sales.  The other “consumer research” did focus groups and intercept interviews of our customers.    Our projections turned out + or – 5% because our models were that accurate.  I learned a great deal from working there, which I brought into my practice.  Namely, that if you think you know the answer, and it is YOUR PROJECT, you are probably wrong.  And that you need to get an independent evaluation or you will make a $100 million mistake.  Some projects are smaller and some are larger, but you get the picture.

In my next posting, I will talk about area research and how it is done.  Subsequent postings will discuss consumer research and some of the interesting stories we have surrounding this type of analysis.  Stay tuned……….all of these things are GOOD TO KNOW, and thus the name of my blog!

10 Ways to Avoid Chapter 11 in the Attractions Business

A whole long while ago, I wrote an article with my mentor and favorite octogenarian, Buzz Price, about the many failures of certain themed restaurants and attractions.  I looked it over and was very surprised to see that it still has relevance today for development of new attractions, something that will be happening soon enough.  Thus, here are 10 pitfalls to avoid when planning an attraction.

  1. When planning, balance revenue generation in major categories: attractions, food service and merchandise.
  2. Spend time computing capacity.  Indoor attractions are hard to justify because of constrained capacity.
  3. Attractions are driven by opportune locations, preferably in the path of major attendance generators.  Stadium crowds at sporting events may not provide the required flow.
  4. High front-end R&D costs incurred in anticipation of a fast rollout are a plague.
  5. Study the market and understand the nuances of its preferences.  Pick your niches carefully and stick to them throughout planning and operation.  Don’t try to change consumer behavior.  The devil is in the details.
  6. Keeps your eyes wide open and try to be objective about your pet project.  You may think you have invented the next internet, but your market may not.  On the other hand, be passionate about the project and its greatest cheerleader.  Keep a balance between your passion and market-driven objectivity.
  7. Narrowly concepted attractions won’t find a broad-based market.  Along those lines, clear and concise branding is key.  Make sure your brand measure is clear to your customer.
  8. Assure that you have a critical mass of attractions to generate visitor interest for the required length of stay.  Create enough capacity for your maximum design day on-site crowd.
  9. Use realistic assumptions when looking to the future.  Respect comparative and competitive performance.  If you do better than projected, you can fix the problem (in most, but not all cases).
  10. The attraction must start up fully formed.  Phase I needs to be a complete show. Undercapitalized projects have a high failure rate.  Create realistic models for development cost, revenue and expense.