Customer service fit for a king

By Stephen Rhodes

A movie theatre manager in Victoria gets it. He listened – well actually in this case he watched -what was going on at his theatre and made a simple adjustment to meet the needs of his customers.

So, Jim and Irene Chisholm, aged 94 and 87 respectively, arrived at a downtown Victoria movie theatre from their retirement home to see an afternoon showing of The King’s Speech.

The movie, likely on its way to a truckload of Oscars, and in particular the matinée performances had become so popular that the theatre added three new afternoon midweek showings for an audience made up mostly of middle-aged moviegoers and seniors.

The manager, clearly a man ahead of his times,  has taken to leaving on the lights in the auditorium even after the previews have started so that elderly patrons can see their way up the stairs. The theatre’s elevators have been working in overdrive. Here is someone attuned to his audience.

The National Post reports that the success of  The King’s Speech, even in limited release, “underlines the growing power of older consumers in influencing popular culture — everything from box-office blockbusters to mega-musicals celebrating the 1970s, like Mamma Mia and We Will Rock You, to Carole King and James Taylor’s sold-out reunion tour last summer.”

“Baby Boomers and seniors make up more than half of consumer spending, according to the former Canadian Association of Retired Persons, now rebranding itself just as CARP. Senior couples were among the fastest-growing consumer group, according to Industry Canada.

The number of elderly couples who reported spending on recreation and entertainment rose from 68% in 1982 to 93% by 2002. And with the oldest of the Baby Boomers set to turn 65 this year, their influence is only expected to grow.”

In the same Post story, Media mogul Moses Znaimer says movies aimed at more mature audiences, like The King’s Speech, or the remake of Mordecai Richler’s 1997 classic Barney’s Version, show the influence of Canada’s ageing population extends well beyond the stereotypical image of elderly shut-ins who threaten to bankrupt the country’s social safety net and health-care system, said Canadian media mogul .

“Think about who is running big corporations, who is running political parties,” he said. “The world is run by people aged 50 to 70.”

Older Canadians are living longer, healthier lives, and while their 20-year-old grandchildren are living in  their basements, grandparents are out climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, he said.

So, Boomer influence is growing and there is a smart theatre owner in Victoria who understands he has to change his methods to accommodate his customers.

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