LOS ANGELES: In what started as an idea spread by the most
primitive form of communication - word of mouth - the National
Association of Theater Owners (NATO) organized a massive impromptu
benefit last week, donating all concessions and box-office returns for
one day to victims of the September 11 attacks.
Despite its humble beginnings, "Victim's Benefit Day at the Movies,"
held on September 25, included more than 30,000 screens across the
country, or about 85% of theaters, according to Mary Ann Grasso, VP and
executive director of NATO. Proceeds, hoped to be in the "millions,"
will be divided between The United Way September 11 Fund and The Red
Grasso said the fundraiser was a "spontaneous" grassroots idea sparked
by individual theater owners' desire to take positive action.
"One phone call to one theater owner became another phone call to
another owner, and that became a huge conference call," said Grasso.
"The next thing I know, we're sending out a broadcast fax to member
theaters and non-members."
NATO's three-person communications team handled all PR for the event,
enlisting the help of PR Newswire to distribute the information.
Individual theater chains were also given a template press release to
send to local outlets. Studios such as Miramax, Universal, and Sony
pitched in by agreeing to contribute their shares of box-office proceeds
for the day.
Along with helping victims, the event also brought some attention back
to theaters, which have suffered a drop in attendance since the
terrorist attacks. According to Daily Variety, last week's gross was
$59 million, down 11% from the previous week. However, overall
box-office revenues are up 9% from last year.