Middle Market Company of the Month

Studio Movie Grill

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Studio Movie Grill (“SMG”, https://www.studiomoviegrill.com/) headquartered in Dallas, Texas, has modernized the traditional movie-going experience by combining first- run movies with full-service, in-theater dining. Established in 2000, SMG has swiftly grown to 24 locations in 10 states. SMG, considered the leader of in-theater dining exhibition, recently announced a major expansion initiative with plans for additional sites throughout the country. SMG is also celebrating its recent debut on the Inc. 5000 ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. We interviewed Lynne McQuaker, Senior Director of Alternate Programming, Public Relations & Outreach to find out more about SMG’s success and what’s next for the company. 

Tell us a little about the background of SMG. How did the company get its start?
Brian Schultz (Founder/CEO)’s vision was born while working as an aide to the United States Senator from Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter. While attending a film at the Bethesda Draft House in Maryland, he fell in love with the dinner and movie experience. Brian seized the opportunity to launch his first movie grill concept by taking over Dallas’ Granada Theater. Without the benefit of first-run movies, Brian developed creative ways to encourage attendance and ultimately built a loyal following. With a vision for the next generation of movie theaters, he upgraded his facilities, menu, service, and film presentation. The Granada then relocated to the North Dallas suburb of Addison where it ultimately became the first official Studio Movie Grill location in 2000.

With the establishment of a first class location, Brian ramped up his lobbying efforts in Hollywood with an impassioned vigor and dedication to secure first-run movies. His drive was rewarded when the local office of Disney Studios decided to deliver Studio Movie Grill a first-run print of Touchstone Pictures’ The Waterboy. Studio Movie Grill proved its viability with outstanding gross receipts and was able to secure a full slate of first-run movies from all of the major studios.

With this box office success, Brian’s focus became setting a new standard in cinema dining. He worked diligently to refine the concept, adding an ever-expanding slate of alternate programming and events alongside an American Grill menu and full-service bar. Studio Movie Grill continued to unify its brand through theater architecture and design, on-screen offerings, facility capabilities, cutting-edge technology and operational excellence. By honoring the commitment to provide quality, value, and a memorable movie grill experience for every guest, Studio Movie Grill’s brand equity has become the definition of this new kind of affordable luxury for moviegoers all of ages and offers something for everyone.

Can you describe the experience of seeing a movie at SMG versus a traditional movie theater?
SMG offers an in-theater dining experience. Our guests can enjoy the latest blockbuster movies and alternate programs alongside a freshly-prepared, eclectic American Grill menu and full service bar featuring over 60 premium spirits at your seat!  SMG has something for everyone and offers 100% reserved seating. So no more waiting in lines for tickets! Can’t beat that….what a great way to manage your time – dinner at the movies!

SMG Arena Grand Movie theaters face constant threats from streaming, mobile and countless new forms of entertainment. How has SMG managed to continue growing in the face of all of this competition and a changing entertainment landscape? 
SMG modernized the traditional movie-going experience by combining first-run movies with in-theater dining and is characterized in the market today by its continued ability to innovate and its dedication to the communities it serves. Thus, it differentiates itself by continuing to evolve the concept and update its offerings. Additionally, SMG offers a full slate of alternate programming and is a conscious business. We dedicate ourselves to a mission to open hearts and minds one story at a time, by offering our theaters for good and reaching out into the communities we serve. This outreach began with the launch of our special needs screening program 11 years ago. Involving neighbors by leaving a positive wake and offering a platform for doing good with educational programming and fundraisers.

I see that SMG stays highly engaged with customers on social media. How has social media helped SMG?
Obviously, social media gives us a platform to inform our constituents and get the word out.  We have a very stalwart social media program starting with our website which is constantly evolving and our ever growing databases – weekly e-blasts and connecting and being responsive with our fans via Facebook, Instagram etc.

Expansion can be a constant challenge for Middle Market companies, especially those like SMG which are consumer-facing. Can you talk a bit about how SMG selects its new markets for expansion? What makes a new city or location attractive?
We are most successful when we model successful units. Sought out by developers, we have a reputation for driving traffic and improving attendance to existing developments.

In general:

  • We need a population of at least 300,000 folks within a 20 minute drive time.
  • Our preferred demographic profile are young professionals and families with household incomes of at least $100,000. 
  • We want to be located just off an interstate highway or other major arterial. We are reluctant to be in neighborhood or “internal locations”. 
  • We also want to be in regional shopping centers or so-called “life style’ and open air centers. The only mall location that we currently have is University Mall in Tampa. 
  • With respect to co-tenancy, we like to be near retailers such as Costco, Whole Foods, Top Golf, Dave and Busters, Nordstrom Rack, Fresh Market all of which seek the same customer profile as SMG

SMG Dallas TXWhat's next for SMG? What are you most excited about?  
More expansion for 2017, with 4-7 new units. One in Arlington, TX another in Seminole, FL are under construction, with more on the way. Continuing to expanding the SMG brand and to evolve our concept and take on new challenges; especially in expanding our conscious business model and furthering our outreach both internally and externally into our communities and offering up our theaters for good. I’m excited about supporting our team members and growing our Chefs for Children program, whereby 5% of proceeds from certain popular menu food items goes to the special needs non-profits we serve in each community we find ourselves (in Columbus, we work with Nationwide Childrens’ Hospital.)  We’re going to challenge our teams to come up with some fun new menu items. We're also looking forward to growing our One Story movement; check out the Outreach page: https://www.studiomoviegrill.com/OneStory/Outreach and One Story link on our website here: https://www.studiomoviegrill.com/OneStory.  So many things to be excited about!


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