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THE MORNING BUZZ: What I Learned on My Summer Leave

8 Jul, 2002 By: Stephanie Prange

There are at least two things I learned while at home on maternity leave these past few weeks: After watching the rest of the daytime lineup, you start to look forward to “Oprah;” and it takes less than a day for a 4-year-old to utter the words “I'm bored” on summer vacation.

Thus began my quest to find activities to occupy my little girl this summer -- and that's how I learned about free movie Tuesdays and Wednesdays at our local movie theater. Each Tuesday and Wednesday at 10 a.m. -- a time that is no doubt slow at the Cineplex -- kids can choose to view one of two free movies on the big screen. Selections have included Anastasia and The Rugrats Movie -- certainly not first-run fare, but quality entertainment nevertheless. What accounts for the theater's largesse? Concessions. Nearly every little kid there had a soda, candy or popcorn, and the theater was packed (seems I'm not the only one looking for relief).

It looks as if theater owners have taken a cue from video stores, which have long offered free kids' movie rentals to draw rentals from their parents. But I wonder if video stores take full advantage of the daytime family crowd looking to occupy the little ones during the summer. Heck, my daughter and I would get out of the house to see a clown fashion a few balloon animals. At a recent appearance by SpongeBob at the local mall, the mob rivaled a rock concert. It's amazing what parents will go through to have their kid's picture taken with a guy in a suit.

While our theatrical brethren have wised up to the power of a free offer, their quest for incremental revenue may be hurting them in another arena. Not too long ago I wrote a column about the new practice of showing commercials before features.

Now it's really begun to get on my nerves, so much that I purposely arrive late to the movie to miss the pitches. Of course, you can't do that during peak hours or you won't get a seat. Thus, audiences looking to see the hottest releases have to sit through the darn things.

Judging by the grumbling at my local theater, customers are none to happy. It's yet another advantage of watching a movie at home on DVD; for the most part, you can skip the previews and go right to the feature.

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