Some not so great economic news out of Europe: gross domestic product is out for the second quarter, and across the board, economic growth was flat in the Eurozone. Germany, Europe's largest economy, contracted in the second quarter. But some say the future is already looking better. Plus, many companies have wellness programs that encourage workers to exercise or manage conditions such as diabetes. But the workplace has lagged in dealing with mental health issues. More on addressing employee well-being beyond physical conditions. And when you catch a new movie at the multiplex, chances are it's digital projection technology-- that means no scratched frames or dropped dialog. But digital is proving a tough sell to smaller theaters who can't afford the high cost of converting screens.
Film snakes around the projection booth of the Parkway Discount Cinema in Warner Robins, Georgia. Theater manager Alicia Bowers is in the booth. She has a love/hate relationship with film these days.
“Run too fast and it will throw the film to the ground,” Bowers says, “or if they’re moving it from one platter to another – if they drop it, it’s a big pile of mess.”
By contrast, a digital blockbuster is delivered on a six-inch by four-inch hard drive. When you drop it, there’s a thud, but no mess.
The Parkway’s run is coming to an end this summer. It’s closing, rather than converting to digital.
Bill Stembler, CEO of the Georgia Theater Company, says the reason is pretty simple: “It’s questionable whether you could recover your investment. It’s something like $50,000 to $70,000 a screen to convert to digital.”
Stembler says when you do the math for a 16-screen multiplex, you get the picture.
Luckily, the movie studios have a solution. They offer theaters a subsidy called Virtual Print Fees. Every time you buy a ticket at the multiplex at what the studios call full price, the studios pay to help retire a piece of the theater’s digital debt.
“The film companies are basically paying for about 80 to 85 percent of our cost to be digital,” Stembler says.
But this equation doesn’t work for discount screens. The studios take about a 60 percent cut out of every ticket sold. At full ticket price, that adds up. It doesn’t work at the dollar theater.
“They don’t care about the discount theaters,” Stembler says.
So how do Virtual Print Fees work at your local arthouse theater? Sara Beresford is a board member at Ciné, an independent theater in Athens, GA. She says the arthouse is a different beast.
“I think for a lot of the arthouse cinema operators there were too many strings attached to that agreement,” Stembler says.
Remember, Virtual Print Fees come with studio demands about which movies will be shown. Arthouse operators like their independence.
Back at the Parkway Discount Cinema, Alicia Bowers has reset the film for the next show.
“You know, it’s rewarding to get it up on the screen and seeing it play... it’s definitely a nostalgic feeling. It moves, it bounces,” Bowers says.
But film lovers only have a little time left to indulge that nostalgia. One studio, Paramount, no longer distributes film prints at all.
Thursday is a busy day for Wal-Mart. The retail giant is playing host to this year's U.S. Manufacturing Summit in Denver, and the company reports its second quarter earnings. Between slower store traffic and dwindling sales, analysts aren't optimistic. But the company has a plan.
When you think of social responsibility in the corporate world, Wal-Mart is not the first company that comes to mind. The company is working on initiatives from cutting the amount of water in detergent to partnering with women-owned businesses.
"I think certainly PR's gotta be part of it, right? I mean, I don't think it's all altruism," says Peter Mueller, an analyst at Forrester Research. "So if they pull it off, it will look good for them, right?"
And after years of bad press over employee relations, that could be a smart move, says Steven Brown, who teaches marketing at the University of Houston.
"It's kind of in tune with the zeitgeist in corporate America where corporations increasingly realize that their employees need to identify with a good employer who does good for them as employees and also for their community at large," Brown says.
The challenge, he says, is doing good while continuing to make a profit. And, Brown says, getting the skeptics to buy it.