The Movies We See…


Outside view of the Norfolk 7 CEC Theatre. Although the Norfolk CEC is located in and managed in Norfolk, Nebraska, movie selection decisions are made in Minnesota.

Nikita Rector, Ad Editor/Reporter

A common question for people in the Norfolk area is: who controls what movies show in the theatre? Short answer: A guy in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Yes, Minnesota. Dwight Gunderson of St. Cloud, Minnesota is CEC Theatres’ head booker. This means that he goes around and buys the different pictures, and selects what will do well in each market area.

Norfolk CEC is not a normal ten-plex theatre; it is only a seven-plex, which means that it has three less screens than an average theatre. Often how long a movie plays and what movies they show depend in part on this fact. With only seven screens they cannot show as many movies at once as in a regular sized theatre.

“Let’s say you’re at a butcher shop, or [wherever you sell things]; you’re obviously going to sell your most popular product. The film to us is the product that we sell, so when we have all these hold overs, that means that these films are still doing good, and that we don’t have room for some of these other ones” Norfolk CEC’s General Manager Darrin Paul said.

So what does this mean for the customers of Norfolk CEC? It means that because of limitations on size, and depending on what movies do well, it might take a lot longer for them to show other new release movies that you want to see. Although it is only a seven-plex, this location surprisingly does about as much business as what a regular ten-plex would, and is currently being fitted to have three more screens added.

As far as exactly what movies are shown, that is Gunderson’s responsibility. He selects what movies would do well in which areas or markets. Paul calls Gunderson’s assistant every Monday, and she tells him what movies are leaving, and what movies are coming in for the following weekend.

Paul says “It’s just kind of the way things are, we all wish that such and such movie would come here, it’s just [that] we can only do so much.” Customers on the other hand have a very different opinion. Customers often ask Darrin “When are we going to get this movie in?” and they are often frustrated with the length of time that passes before a movie will show. For example, a customer contacted Paul via the Norfolk CEC’s Facebook page; to ask “When are you ever going to get the descendants?”  It all comes down to profit, and what they can fit in based on how other pictures are doing. Especially around Oscar season, people want to see the movies that are being nominated and many times the theatre just doesn’t or can’t show them in the time people want to see them.

Midnight premiers are a major promotion factor in how a movie does. They are set up to get ahead of the gross for the following weekend and help promote the picture. People who went to the midnight show are going to spread the word, and often come back to see it again. The movies that have midnight premiers are usually the big blockbuster shows such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Twilight, etc., according to Paul.

In order to better both movie quality and profit the Norfolk CEC will be closing from February 20th to the 24th to install a new digital production system. Beginning on the 24th there will be no more film; it will all be digital filming. This enhances the quality of the movie showing, and the overall movie experience for the customer.

It appears that the guy in Minnesota hasn’t done too shabby, and Norfolk CEC continues to strive for customer satisfaction.