NOTE: The following article was published in the Winter 2011-2012 issue of ShowTime Magazine, The Theatre Industry’s Official Marketing Preview Guide.
HOLLYWOOD IN YOUR THEATRE LOBBY
by Ron Chan
Ever since the beginning of The Movies, the public has been fascinated with Hollywood…even Hollywood.
Well, something has been steadily growing in popularity that is underscoring a point that we all should be proclaiming: THE MOVIE THEATRE IS THE CLOSEST LINK TO HOLLYWOOD. Patrons walking thru lobbies of select movie theatres from Los Angeles to New York are being treated to just that…a glimpse of rarely witnessed behind-the-scenes Hollywood. These glimpses take the form of in-theatre exhibits consisting of costumes and props actually used in the making of the movies.
The person behind-the-scenes who coordinates these unique glimpses of Hollywood memorabilia is Jeff Bennett, Entertainment Exhibits Coordinator for Olson Visual, a full service large format digital graphics provider with design, fabrication and installation capabilities focused on Entertainment, Museum and Retail markets.
Bennett’s track record for turning props and costumes into first-class memorabilia exhibits is very evidently a by-product of his lifelong and passionate love of The Movies. People who have witnessed Bennett “in his element” know that Bennett has an instinct for what will work or not work in an exhibit. But what they especially notice is the care and reverence with which Bennett treats all the exhibit material.
Starting his career as a photographer in the US Army in 1983, Bennett then worked as a freelance photographer/lab technician until 1995 when he relocated back to Los Angeles where he transitioned to the world of digital/pre-press photography at Olson Visual in 2004.
“If you had asked me 10 years ago what I would be doing now, I would never have guessed in a million years that I’d be doing what I am today.”, begins Bennett. “It all started in 2005 with a simple phone call from one of our clients at Focus Features. They had a film they wanted to do something a little different to help promote it. They had some costumes from the film and wanted to see if we could put them on display at the ArLight Theatre in Hollywood. We had never done that before but we wanted to help them out. So we quickly had a few display cases built and installed our very first costume display. The film was BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. Who would ever have guessed how popular these exhibits would become!”
Continues Bennett, “When I first started doing these, we did maybe 1 a month. As interest from the theatre and patrons grew, the Studios realized there were great marketing opportunities for these costumes and props.” The Studios learned to REPURPOSE the costumes and props that were used to MAKE the movie…now to SELL the movie!
“We’ve done exhibits for just about every major Studio”, says Bennett. And how many exhibits does he do in a year? “Last year we did 72”, he answers. Considering that there’s only 52 weeks in a year…Bennett is a busy guy.
“Here we are, 6 years later and the exhibits have never been more popular!”, Bennett beams. “And even though we started with 1 theatre, the exhibits are now in more and more theatres across the country.”
Movie Studios and theatres have been very pleased with the popularity of these costume and prop exhibits.
Stacy Chin from Paramount Pictures comments, “Olson Visual has produced many unique in-theatre displays for our films that help engage movie-goers and enhance their movie going experience.”
Michael Lynch from Warner Bros. Pictures continues, “It adds a special added attraction to the public to have the opportunity to see things most persons never see—real props, up close. Besides costume and scene props, we even create mega paneled poster walls of custom art designed by the Studio. Olson Visual does a great job with these costumes and props—setting them in custom built cases that have dramatic lighting and custom signage describing what the patron is seeing. It’s a great thing. We love bringing Hollywood to the theatre for all to see!”
Theatre exhibitors are the first to see the results of the public’s appetite for Hollywood memorabilia by echoing the Studios’ satisfaction. Chad Brice from the ArcLight Cinemas in Southern California confirms the public’s fascination and appreciation of seeing these special exhibits and praises Olson’s quality of service, “Olson visual is the best in the business! Their attention to detail, innovative display design and fast, friendly, flexible service makes them a dream to work with,”
Which exhibits stand out for Bennett amongst the hundreds he’s done? “Some of my recent favorites are Paramount’s TRUE GRIT, Warner Bros.’ HARRY POTTER films, Fox’s AVATAR, Focus Features’ THE EAGLE, Universal’s PUBLIC ENEMIES, Sony Classics’ AN EDUCATION, The Weinstein Company’s THE KING’S SPEECH, Summit Entertainment’s TWILIGHT: ECLIPSE and CBS Films’ FASTER.”
When asked which exhibit Bennett found most artistically rewarding, “In 2007, I was asked by Paramount to do a couple of displays for SWEENEY TODD. I was told I would be getting assistance at the theatre from the costume designer’s people. Much to my shock and surprise, who walks in but none other than Academy Award winning costume designer Colleen Atwood herself!. It was a real honor and pleasure to work with her on the display. I’ve since had that honor again when I assisted last year with a couple of exhibits for ALICE IN WONDERLAND.
When pressed even more for his favorite exhibit, Bennett hesitates and replies, “One of my personal favorites is THE OMEN, believe it or not! But horror films”, confesses Bennett, “is one of my favorite genres. Plus I got to meet and work with John Moore, the film’s director, and his associate producer, Peter Veverka.”
Rick Olson, President of Olson Visual, sums it all up: “It’s been amazing to see the level of interest given to these unique In-Theatre Exhibits. It started out working with our regular clients in Exhibitor Relations but over the years we have worked with directors, producers and talent. And with the exposure on the Internet, these exhibits have been taken to a whole new level of promotion. Jeff is doing a great job!”
“For me personally”, concludes Bennett, “it’s been a real honor to be entrusted with these assets and to be asked by the Studios to work on these exhibits.”
So, the movie exhibits won’t stop…but the good news for Olson Visual is that Jeff Bennett won’t either. To see more of Jeff Bennett’s exhibits and other capabilities of Olson Visual, check out their website: olsonvisual.com.