Studio Movie Grill Supports the Walk to End Lupus Now

LFA logoTwo days before Thanksgiving 2012, I was just four weeks into my job at Studio Movie Grill when my boss and I went through one of the most insane bonding circumstances you could possibly ever appreciate but wish on no one.

Trying to prove myself as a new employee I had stayed in Dallas to work while my family had packed up the car and driven off to Chicago to have Thanksgiving with my sister and my friends had all scattered off to wherever their families were.  I had the most terrible migraine of my life, and I suffered through, taking Tylenol every few hours until 6pm when my workday was over and it was finally time to go home.

But I never made it home that night.  A feverish, nauseated, floaty feeling took over my body and I steered my car directly into the parking lot of the closest urgent care provider on my path.  I made my way to their front desk to check in, but before I could say anything, I broke into a cold sweat and collapsed.  They determined that the amount Tylenol I had consumed throughout the day while toughing things out was enough that I had accidentally poisoned myself.  How embarrassing!

The urgent care would not let me leave their office unless it was in an ambulance or the care of an adult with a car who would sign a release promising that he or she was taking me directly to the ER.  The only person I knew in town with a car that might even consider taking me to the ER was . . . my new boss.

Kind soul that she was, she came and signed me out, and patiently pulled over on the side of the road and waited as I got out of her car to vomit in the grass at least twice.  Once we made it to the Emergency Room, she didn’t just drop me off, but stayed by my side to see me through my predicament.

Luckily, I was able to vomit out most of what was poisoning me before the ER doctors got involved, but the question still remained about the cause of my immense and persistent pain as well as what to do about it.  To make me more comfortable, they administered IV morphine, which was not strong enough so they administered something even stronger. 

Once the pain was quelled enough that I could concentrate to answer their questions, the diagnostic process began, and the doctor decided to do a spinal tap to determine if I was a victim of a recent spinal meningitis outbreak.  This was a procedure my boss and I had only seen on TV and in movies, and I was terrified because the needle was every bit as long and menacing as I had seen in old episodes of ER. 

To her credit, my boss was a stalwart and comforting companion, who never left the room, even for a moment, until the tests were complete and my parents had answered their cell phones to learn what was going on with me while they were out of town.

The fear and anxiety we shared in that room as well as the relief at my recovery has bonded us in a way that we were like instant family, the kind of relationship that I had never had with any boss, and the kind of bond formed out of a moment I hope I never have to share with anyone else ever again.

In the ten months that followed this crazy night, I had a series of other strange and painful or temporarily debilitating symptoms that led my rheumatologist, as part of a fleet of specialists under the keen orchestration of my primary care physician, to diagnose me with Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (also known as SLE or Lupus).

Once diagnosed, I began the journey of learning to live with this chronic ailment, which meant lifestyle changes and adjustment to the idea that I was not just allergic to lots of things or prone to getting the flu. I had to learn to accept that there are days when things that were easy one day could become impossibly difficult on another.  My antibodies were not recognizing cells in parts of my body as normal healthy parts of me and they would attack different parts of my body at different times, so I had to prepare myself for anything.

When we discovered that my SLE was photosensitive to UVA rays from the sun and even fluorescent lighting, my boss supported me by getting UV filters put over the bulbs in my office and hers.  When I started getting medication infusions as part of my treatment, she got me a laptop so that I could work from the infusion clinic while I was hooked up to an IV.  But this is not the end of the support that I have gotten from my boss and my SMG family.

Apart from family and from work, another great resource I found to help me cope with my diagnosis and the activity of my lupus was the Lupus Foundation of North Texas (LFANT), where I found a support group that allowed me to listen to other patients’ stories and learn from how they dealt with the struggles their lupus caused for them so that I could find hope and strategies for dealing with an illness that it seems almost no one understands unless they have it or care for someone who has it.

It was a place where stories were shared and ideas were brainstormed for solving problems or information could be found.  I met people who understood what I was going through and people who offered hope, advice and solutions for this incurable disease that was wreaking havoc on my body and my life.  These people inspired me to believe that I am not defined as a person with lupus, but rather, my lupus was just something I deal with.  The foundation and the friends I met there have empowered me to get the help I needed and to take back ownership of my life.

And now, that organization that has done so much for me is preparing to launch one of it’s annual fundraisers – The Walk to End Lupus Now, from which funds will be donated to research that will help us find better treatments and possibly one day a cure.  I cannot express how much it means to me that my Studio Movie Grill family is choosing to support my LFANT family by offering a year of free movies as the prize to the walker who collects the most donated funds.

The Walk to End Lupus Now will take place in Grand Prairie, TX on April 6, 2014.

For more information on the Walk to End Lupus Now, or to join the Walk, please visit http://www.lupus.org/lonestar/events/entry/dallas-walk-to-end-lupus-now.

Reflection on the Why.

Within Studio Movie Grill’s DNA is a conviction to operate with a sense of purpose.  For the last decade SMG has been trying on different mantras.  Recently, solidifying these thoughts into a single catalyzing statement has become a central focus for the Home Office and theater management teams.  I attribute this awareness to a year-long leadership academy endorsed by SMG’s senior executives and funded entirely by the company.  Two-dozen team members from the Home Office plus General Managers will complete the inaugural program this month and another group of new students will begin their journey.

Besides the obvious financial benefits that result from an aligned team, using a common language to achieve goals, I believe something much greater has come out of the effort.

Real. Purpose.

Simon Sinek, in his now-famous TED speech, articulated this idea by modeling a concept he called the Golden Circle.  And while some of Sinek’s contemporaries criticize his observations as marketing manipulation, the simple fact remains that successful brands inspire consumers to act out of a genuine desire to belong.  They are speaking to us, telling us why they exist for our benefit, and we want to be a part of that.

Sinek’s Golden Circle consists of three questions: “What?”…“How?”…“Why?”

 

 

Golden-Circle-Concept-Simon-Sinek

What: Most companies know what they do.  It’s their product or service and the niche in which they exist in the marketplace.

How: Most companies know how they do it.  It’s their value proposition or unique selling position that makes them better than the competition.

Why: It’s not to make a profit.  That’s a result.  He goes on to say the “Why” is the purpose, or belief.  “People don’t buy what you do.  They buy why you do it.”

We study business cases from Chic-Fil-A, Nordstrom, Apple, and Starbucks.  We don’t study these folks because they’re on top of their game, but rather, they have something engrained into their culture that makes them greater than their suite of products or services.  After all, anyone can make a chicken sandwich or sell a pair of Manolo’s.  But what isn’t so easily replicable is an authentic conviction to serve or to really challenge the status quo by thinking differently.

Movies are powerful change-agents.  They trigger a memory or an emotion, or they tell us a story that shapes our worldview.  Perhaps as important as the stories we watch are the movies that create life-long memories.  I watched Clint Eastwood movies with my Dad growing up.  My Mom slept on the floor in my room for a week after I saw Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom.  My first kiss was during Top Gun.  My first date with my three year-old daughter was Smurfs 2 at SMG Spring Valley with a chocolate milkshake and two straws.

In its current iteration, “SMG exists to open hearts and minds through our shared stories.”  Okay…an in-theater dining company existing to open hearts and minds might seem hopelessly romantic, but I challenge you to think of a more powerful storytelling medium in today’s society than movies, and anything more timeless than the fellowship of breaking bread with friends and family.

So, is there anything unique about that statement?  Could it be for someone else?  Of course it could.  It can only earn meaning when we consistently serve every guest, employee, vendor, community, and investor with the same care and passion we would extend to a beloved friend or family member in our home.

SMG isn’t a movie theater.  We’re not a restaurant either.  When you consider the compounding effect of 4,000+ employees and thousands of partners in our vendor network, working together in concert, the 8 million guests visiting SMG can understand why we exist for their benefit.  Opening hearts and minds through our shared stories is a tall order, but we believe it’s what makes something go from good to great.

Share your story on our Facebook page (facebook.com/studiomoviegrillfan) or email us at mystory@studiomoviegrill.com and we’ll post them at our home office in Dallas as a reminder of why we exist and a living example of our shared story.

Senior Sales Manager Lee Anne Tilley on Lone Survivor Foundation’s Fundraiser at SMG City Centre

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SMG City Centre closed to the public for half a day to host a red carpet fundraiser for Lone Survivor Foundation, with director Peter Berg in attendance. The film showed on all screens and many naval veterans came out to see the film with their families and supporters.

I love my job.  A lot of people aren’t able to say those words, so I do not take that for granted.  As Senior Sales Manager for Studio Movie Grill Private Events, each day I am exposed to new people and new experiences, but I have to share my favorite experience yet.

On November 17th, I was lucky enough to be part of the LONE SURVIVOR premiere fundraiser event in Houston, Texas, at our City Centre location.  If you’re not familiar with LONE SURVIVOR, I will give you a brief overview.  Marcus Luttrell wrote the book…the movie, to be released on December 25th, is based on his book and experiences as a Navy SEAL.  The story follows the failed mission of SEAL Team 10, Operation Red Wings, and is truly an account of courage and heroism.  Luttrell, since returning from serving in Afghanistan, started a foundation called the Lone Survivor Foundation.  The fundraiser hosted at SMG City Centre was held to support this foundation and Luttrell’s efforts to give back to our men and women in service.

Marcus Luttrell, subject of the film and his wife Melanie pose for a photo on the red carpet.

Marcus Luttrell, subject of the film and his wife Melanie pose for a photo on the red carpet.

This event was so important that director and producer Peter Berg was in attendance.  He and Marcus went into each theater following the film screening to thank everyone for coming and supporting the film and Marcus’ foundation.  Many of the Navy SEALs involved in saving Marcus and the widows of those that did not survive were in attendance along with some major Houston celebrities.  It was quite a day!

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Director Peter Berg held a post screening Q&A to talk about making Lone Survivor, the featured film.

Shaking Marcus Luttrell’s hand was truly an honor.  Here is this man who has sacrificed so much for his country, has lost friends in combat, has seen horrors we will never see, and he is standing in front of me.  He has more courage in his pinky finger than I could ever hope to possess.  I am inspired.  This is why I love my job.  Not only am I allowed to do what I love to do, but I am inspired.  SMG donated over $7,000 to the Lone Survivor Foundation and helped to raise thousands more.  This isn’t work, this is a privilege, and I am so grateful for that privilege.

SMG Film and Marketing Assistant Danielle Hawthorne Tells Us Why She Loves Working at SMG

Why SMG? Was it the movies or maybe the people? I would have to say it was a little bit of everything. Having just moved to Dallas a few months ago, I was searching for the right job. You know, the one that gets me excited to head into the office everyday. Which, lets be honest, is not always an easy task. Then I truly believe fate stepped in and led me right to SMG. I received an email one day from the director of a company I had recently interviewed with that read, “This is exactly what you are looking for. You need to apply.” I immediately emailed SMG and the rest is history. I have been extremely impressed with the company and everyone working for it since the moment I stepped through the office doors.

The week before I started work, SMG moved into a new and open office space. The new space is contemporary with glass office walls and floor to ceiling windows. Everyone is pretty spaced out, but in a way it feels like we are all connected. It just flows.

Studio Movie Grill New Office

Studio Movie Grill opened our new Home Office on September 10, 2013.

To make things even better, the people who work here are even more impressive than the space itself! I have never received a more welcoming and warm reception from a company than I have at SMG. Not only are my co-workers some of the most talented professionals I’ve had the opportunity to work with, they are also some of the kindest people I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know. I now come into work every day excited about learning and growing with a company I truly believe in.

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CEO Brian Schultz poses with SMG home office staff members who participate in today’s Halloween Costume Contest and Chili Cook-off.

Every day is an adventure with SMG. The coolest thing about that is that anyone can be a part of it! There is an SMG slogan that I really didn’t understand before working here, “Change the World One Movie at a Time”.  After becoming a part of the SMG family and seeing all of the joy that this company brings to people through its charity work, special needs, screenings, movie events, fundraisers, the list goes on, I get it and I am so proud to be a part of it.

A Word From Charlotte Parent…

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Working with the Studio Movie Grill this summer, through a partnership with Charlotte Parent Magazine, has been extremely exciting! We worked closely in promoting the 2013 Children’s Summer Movie Series through a fun and interactive social media and movie trivia contest promotion. Each week the trivia question was related to the week’s special feature!  

 Winners were picked at random each week and were awarded with a pack of four free movie passes to attend the film for the week!

 To conclude our promotion and celebrate the accomplishments of our winners, we hosted Charlotte Parent Day at the Studio Movie Grill for the film, Charlotte’s Web! We hosted on-site trivia, gave away tons of wonderful prizes, and did arts and crafts with the children!

 Charlotte Parent Magazine loves working with the Studio Movie Grill and looks forward to many more fun promotional opportunities with them!

– Maria C. Vita

Sales and Marketing Assistant

Charlotte Parent

A Word From Variety, the Children’s Charity of Texas

Variety - The Children CharityVariety, The Children’s Charity of Texas has been empowering children with special needs since 1936. It is because of loyal and generous supporters like Studio Movie Grill that Variety continues to further this mission every day. SMG’s compassion and unwavering support for the special needs community is what makes our partnership so strong.

For the past eight years, SMG has provided precious opportunities, at no cost, for Variety kids and their siblings to attend special movie screenings with a sense of peace that they will not be judged. By altering the sound and lighting, children with special needs are able to sit in the audience and just be the amazing kids that they are.  Not only is this a moment for a child with special needs to be offered a moment to live like any other kid, but it is a moment that an entire family can spend together.

Special Needs Children attend a screening of Smurfs 2 at an SMG location.

Studio Movie Grill has seen incredible growth over the past few years, and because of this, the special needs screenings have thrived as well.  SMG is supporting more Variety kids now than ever before!

To everyone at Studio Movie Grill, thank you for making our kids a priority. These special outings mean more than you will ever know.  

Amanda Ernst

Program Director

Variety, The Children’s Charity of Texas