BLUEFIELD — Some Bluefield State College business students are experiencing a hands-on, real world lesson in marketing, and residents can participate later this week at the Granada Theater in Bluefield.
Dr. Diane Belcher, professor in the W. Paul Cole, Jr. School of Business, said she recently learned that Brian Tracey, executive director of the Bluefield Arts & Revitalization Corp. (BARC), wanted a collaboration between BSC students and the Granada.
“When I heard about it, I volunteered my class (Lessons in Innovation and Entrepreneurship),” she said.
Belcher said five students have worked on the project and the purpose was to market the historic theater, which reopened last summer after a massive $3 million-plus renovation project, and find a way to introduce as many people as possible to the theater over the course of a few days.
The result is a schedule of movies starting Thursday evening and running through Sunday afternoon, with a dinner showing Friday night as well as other activities and promotions.
“We have tried to appeal to as many different types of people with big name movies as we could in one weekend,” Belcher said.
Not only that, a survey was done by the students with results from 94 people on ideas about how the Granada can be used for the long term and expand the customer base. Students also reviewed the theater’s website and use of social media.
The ideas include posting old photos and memorabilia in the theater display cases, holding tours before some movies, formulating a subscription package, and having voice-overs before movies related to refreshments available.
“I saw an opportunity with this theater to take something from the abstract and theoretical to the real-life world,” Tracey said. “Here, we turn the Granada theater into a live … case study.”
Tracey said the students made the decisions “with some guidance from us.”
“They came up with the program and the business plan,” he said. “It is really, truly Bluefield State College students running the Granada Theater for a week.”
Students also had to present their plan, just as they would in the business world, to a committee.
With ideas and plan in hand, students met with the theater’s Programming and Promotions Committee to present their ideas, which were approved.
“They created a formal presentation, which they delivered to one of our board’s (BARC) committees … just like they would in the real business world,” he said. “There were lots of questions, back and forth. They did that very well. I would hire each of them.”
Tracey said another reason for the project is the Granada, which first opened in 1928, was built as a “community facility, a big part of the community, and Bluefield is Bluefield State College. So this was a way for the Granada Theater to become more involved with the college … bring the students here and give them exposure to what needs to be part of the community.”
Tracey said the students can also reach a demographic “we have not fully tapped yet.”
Belcher said the students took photos all around the theater to do a “virtual tour” with slides on the screen before the 5 p.m. Sunday feature.
“People can also walk behind the stage if they want to,” she said.
Jim Nelson, assistant to the president at BSC, said one piece of nostalgia that will return for this week’s showings will be the opening of the ticket booth.
“There’s lots of memories of that,” he said of the original ticket booth.
Nelson said when everyone got together on this project there was plenty of “kinetic energy and symbiosis” and everyone had a chance to “do a little modeling on that clay of an idea.”
Students who participated were Alex Ramsey, Juan de Frietas, Desmond Freeman, Christian Yates and Mike Akers.
All agreed it has been a great experience, and they are all movie fans who had fun choosing the movies to be shown Thursday night through Sunday afternoon.
Freeman, a junior from Greensboro, N.C., said they made a collective decision on the movies being shown this week.
“We wanted to make sure each movie should relate to demographics in the area,” he said, “trying to bring in the younger demographic but pretty much everyone into the Granada Theater.”
Yates, a Biuefield, Va., freshman, said the first couple of weeks the students talked about ideas “all over the place” and finally started narrowing down what could be done and what may work.
The promotions they wanted to run, like “buy one, get one free” tickets for high school and middle school students, and free admission for elementary students for the Saturday morning show, were discussed in detail, said Ramsey, also from Bluefield, Va., and a member of the BSC tennis team.
“We wanted to figure out the best ideas to get all of the students into the Granada Theater all at once,” he said.
Using demographics was at the core of their decisions.
Akers, who is the oldest member of the group, said he is the one who “forced” a Doris Day-Rock Hudson movie for Sunday afternoon to impact an older demographic.
“When we were doing our slot analysis, I listed this theater as both a strength…,” he said. “We remember it fondly so that would be a strength to bring us in. But it’s a weakness after being closed for 40 years to folks their age who did not know what a wonderful creation it was. So when we were looking at movies, I said we need a movie for my generation.”
Akers said they kicked some ideas around “but I didn’t like any of their ideas. I offered that one as an alternative.”
“We didn’t know whether he was right or wrong, so we just kind of agreed,” Ramsey said, with the younger students admitting they had never seen a Doris Day movie.
Yates said it turned out to be a good decision because he has already had feedback from people, including those at church, who want to see it.
Ramsey said the project has garnered a “good community response before it even happens.”
With the project now becoming a reality, students agreed it has been rewarding.
“My favorite part of this class is the feeling that we all have of accomplishment and ownership of our project,” Ramsey said.
“I have never had such an experience in this type of class before and I think that we are just an amazing group and have such a good relationship that it made the class even better,” said Frietas, who is from Montevideo, Uruguay.
Freeman said one of his favorite parts of the project was the “brainstorming process for our business plan and strategy.”
“Coming up with movies, ideas and demographic goals was a long but eye-opening process to the strategy formulation process in the real business world,” he said. “Creating a successful business plan is extremely difficult, to say the least, but it is also extremely satisfying to see your work come to fruition.”
Yates said it has been “fascinating” to see the impact the class has already had, but also to learn that “running a business is very, very hard.”
Akers said the highlight for him was working with the other students.
“It was interesting to watch how the four of you jumped into the project fully and took ownership of it,” he said. “For me, working with the Granada was just thinking about what I remember about the past, but for you it was about looking into the future.”
Here is the schedule at the Granada this week.
• Thursday night is a “low-key family night” with “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” shown at 7 p.m.
• Friday night is dinner and a movie night. Orders are being taken for a Chick-fil-A meal with the movie “Rush Hour,” starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, starting at 7 p.m.
The deadline for dinner orders is at midnight Wednesday night.
Residents can go online at bluefieldgranada.com to order the meal for $12.50 with admission $7.50, so $20 total. All college students can get the meal and see the movie for $15.
Friday night will also include a raffle for free movie tickets with proceeds going to the Granada.
• Saturday morning will feature “Scooby-Doo,” the cartoon franchise’s first live action venture starring Matthew Lillard, Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar. The movie starts at 11 a.m. with tickets free for ages 12 and under and $5 for everyone else.
• The popular classic film “The Matrix,” starring Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburn, will be screened at 7 p.m. Saturday. The first 30 college students with an ID will get in free.
• The Doris Day-Rock Hudson comedy “Send Me No Flowers” will be shown at 5 p.m. on Sunday.
The buy one ticket, get one free for middle and high school students is in effect all weekend but does not include the Friday night meal, which is a separate charge.
Ticket prices for each movie are $7.50 for adults and $5 for 12 and under unless otherwise noted. Concessions are available at the theater as well as the Italian Gelato shop.
— Contact Charles Boothe at [email protected]