Meet Charles and Ray.

I like to use terms like brand equity and value proposition as code for my true love of the creative process and designing spaces that people enjoy inhabiting.  In our last three theater projects, we’ve worked hard to inject the new brand of SMG into the architecture and design by carefully selecting a mix of materials, textiles and furnishings that tell a story.

A signature piece at all three locations is the Eames Lounge Chair by Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller.  You might not know it, but if you catch a movie at our Duluth, Spring Valley or Wheaton locations and have a seat in one in the lounge, you’ll be sitting in one of the most significant designs of the 20th century.

Designed in 1956 for film director and friend, Billy Wilder, and officially titled the Eames Lounge (670) and Ottoman (671), the vision was a club chair with the “warm receptive look of a well-used first baseman’s mitt.”  While ours are brand new, the chair is a fully-licensed product of Herman Miller, still made by hand in Zeeland, Michigan, and part of New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) permanent collection.

For over 40 years, the husband-and-wife team behind the Eames Lounge helped shape nearly every facet of American life.  From their architecture, furniture, and textile designs to their short films (yes, they even made movies) and children’s toys, Charles and Ray had a profound influence on the visual character of daily life in America.  They were even contracted by the US Navy in 1940 to mass-produce molded plywood splints for injured servicemen during World War II—the same technology of molding wood that would become the hallmark feature of their iconic furnishings.

For SMG, the Eames’s remind me of what we press on to be.  Charles and Ray Eames were pioneers.  As SMG enters the next phase of development and rapid growth, I’d like to think we’ve placed design at the heart of our business.  After all, “the role of the designer is that of a very good, thoughtful host anticipating the needs of his guests.”  –Charles Eames

Featured in the lounge of select SMG Locations,

Born in 1956: The Eames Lounge Chair. Featured in the lounge of select SMG Locations,



Celebrity Q&A for Safe Haven at SMG Spring Valley

Celebrity Q&A for Safe Haven at SMG Sprin Valley

Dallas Film Society and Moroch Entertainment brought actors Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough as well as author Nicholas Sparks to SMG Spring Valley to promote Safe Haven.

How do we use SMG for good – employing Conscious Capitalism….

As Director of Outreach, it has long been my philosophy that by helping others, and specifically the community you serve, you will build a solid and ethical business foundation.  I can think of no better way of marketing any business or organization than by reaching out.  It is a constant joy to work at Studio Movie Grill (SMG) where our owner and founder has embraced Conscious Capitalism and actually named community involvement and giving back as one of the pillars of our company.

John Mackey of Whole Foods has just published a book about Conscious Capitalism, citing that “capitalism works best with ethical underpinnings.”  However, he goes on to say, “If everybody is always calculating what’s to their advantage, and no one comes with generosity or kindness or compassion or forgiveness – higher virtues – your society starts to break down.”

I agree with him that business has the capacity to integrate an ethical foundation on which capitalism can thrive and humanity as a whole can benefit. What a great goal to work towards.

At SMG, we began with baby steps seven years ago, not only by continuing to donate to the community and offering fundraisers as we had always done, but by initiating our Special Needs Screenings, serving families raising children with special needs.  These came about as the result of recognizing a specific need of a staff member.   An SMG general manager was raising two children with autism and had never attended a movie with his family.  It was a light bulb moment and a natural progression to offer families that opportunity and have screenings of first run movies at SMG where families could attend together without the fear of disturbing other patrons, where children could sing and dance in the aisles, and feel comfortable with other supportive families.  Lights would be up a little, sound down a little, and, better yet, we were able to offer these screenings free to children with special needs and their siblings, and work with local non-profits serving those families.  The SMG team wholeheartedly embraced the ability to help others by offering our core business for good.  Our special needs programs served almost 7750 children and over 6000 of their adult family members in 2012.  As we grow, our program grows.

This lead to further thought on ways we could help, or offer something of value to our major stakeholders – our valued customers.  With the support of our owner/founder, I was able to create free alternate programs that embraced the idea of offering something of significant value to our patrons including:  SMG Educates offering educational films and documentaries with Q&A’s – HBO’s recent WEIGHT OF THE NATION was a valuable discussion on obesity and changes that could be made; SMG Speaker Series where we invited Crimestoppers Executive Director to show a film and talk to her constituents about tough subjects like human trafficking and identity theft and, one of my favorites, SMG Reel Docs working with a local medical group or hospital to show pertinent movies about important medical issues that impact our local communities.  We learned that we didn’t have to show documentaries, that there were major movies that dealt with pertinent health problems  (THE NOTEBOOK (Altzheimers),  FLIGHT (Alcoholism) and these movies gave us the opportunity to entertain but talk about issues of importance to our constituents with medical professionals hosting.   All these programs are offered free.

Another great use of our facilities is hosting fundraisers, special screenings for impacted groups – as the new years begins, we have screened THE BIG PICTURE: RETHINKING DYSLEXIA for parents of children with dyslexia, WAITING FOR SUPERMAN for young leaders,  will show MISS REPRESENTATION for the Womens’ Foundation Gender in Media Forum, and the premiere of  CHASING BEAUTY to discuss with the filmmaker the ugly side of being pretty.

Thus, with the support of our SMG Team, I am proud to say we have been able to use our core business for good….from simple donations to large events.  We have instilled in our company a pillar that allows for each theater to present a challenge to its team to “Change the world, one movie at a time” and come up with ways they can reach out into their specific communities, alongside the home office, where we support Children’s Medical Center and annually run, ride, walk & bike their Red Balloon fundraiser aside from our personal volunteerism.

This year, amongst other things, we plan to launch SMG Chefs for Children, a program that will offer monthly specials created by our chefs and 5% of proceeds will go to supporting our special needs non-profits.

Our owner and I strongly believe that we all need to become more conscious and seek a higher sense of purpose – as Mr. McKay so rightly says, “….one that seeks to create value for employees, suppliers, investors and customers alike”, and that, by employing this philosophy, we will ultimately create value for all SMG stakeholders.


Chasing Beauty – A Runway Hit at Studio Movie Grill

On Thursday, January 24, Studio Movie Grill played host to Exclusive Premiere Screenings of the documentary film, Chasing Beauty at our locations in Spring Valley, Wheaton and Duluth.

At the Spring Valley event, we collected donations for the local chapter of Attitudes and Attire, an organization that helps the needy acquire the proper clothing and skills to re-enter the workforce and become self sufficient after personal hardships.

Guest speakers from Pilates Barre and BeautiControl gave out goodie bags to attendees that contained up to $75 worth of beauty products and a certificate good for one free Pilates class.

Following the screening, filmmaker Brent Huff and a panel of experts from the beauty industry conducted a lively Q&A.  Panelists included Whitney Caston, Director of Nutrition at Walker Wellness Center; Elizabeth Lindberg, Owner of Pilates Barre; and Jodie Warner from Alliance of Women in Media.

With two packed auditoriums, the event had an amazing crowd, the type of women that make me happy we have them as our patrons.  So many happy smiling faces, everyone so incredibly friendly and excited to be there.  Everyone was dolled up to express his or her own excitement about feeling beautiful.  Following the Q&A we invited guests for the rare opportunity to take photographs of themselves with their glammed up friends in the theater to remember the occasion.

The film presented a humanistic look at the hardships men and women put themselves through in order to feel beautiful or pursue a career in modeling or entertainment.  As opposed to models simply complaining that “it isn’t easy being pretty,” as comes to mind from a 1980s ad campaign, the film shared the human experience with us, that often we envy the lifestyle and image models and actors portray, but in reality the lives those people lead does not always match up with the image they represent.

Members of the audience found moments to laugh and cry and to deeply connect with the film’s unifying theme that we are all unique individuals who feel different and pressured to conform to some nebulous idea of the perfect image.  The film closed on the inspirational note that being different is what makes us beautiful, and that it takes a special strength to identify your own beauty and harness it to pursue the life you want.

Additional Chasing Beauty events exclusively at SMG coming up include:

City Centre

January 31 @ 7pm

Guest speakers include former Ford Model, Shawn Huff, and representatives from Fashion Group International.


January 31 @ 7:30pm

Special Post Screening Panel with Experts from Phoenix Fashion Week.


So what is it that the public wants?

I watch lots of movies. As the Director of Film at Studio Movie Grill I watch nearly every film that we show and consequently I have come up with a theory about films. It’s a simple theory that explains why we enjoy movies.

It is something that filmmakers realized at the very beginning of the last century and also plays into the fact that the act of distributing and exhibiting films is a commercial venture. In other words, people are in the film business to make money. Unlike art galleries, symphony halls, libraries, opera houses etc, movie theaters do not rely on donations to remain afloat. Movie theaters need to sell tickets and concessions to keep the doors open. And in order to keep the doors open you have to give the public what they want.

So what is it that the public want? To be entertained. But what does it mean to be entertained? We all have our different notions of entertainment. Some people like action films, other horror, other romance. Consider the slew of films in theaters right now… Lincoln (historical), Mama (horror), Broken City (drama), The Last Stand (action), Haunted House (comedy) and Silver Linings Playbook (romance). The last film, Silver Linings, is also an independent film.

Independent films fall into their own category of movie entertainment, often starting out in arthouses or on a limited number of screens, and depending on their success will then spread onto more screens in more theaters. Defining the difference between Independent Films and Hollywood Films merely leads to a much larger debate that I’ll save for another time but I do enjoy William Goldman’s (screenwriter of Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid) definition. He wrote that Hollywood Movies reassure us whereas Independent Films unsettle us.

However we still haven’t defined what entertains us. You may prefer horror films whereas I prefer dramas, but not all horror movies are good horror movies, and so it goes for all film genres. Which brings me to the most basic requirement of a film to be enjoyed… the implicit contract. The implicit contract is the unwritten agreement between a film maker and the audience that they both agree on the film’s message. We all know that in the slasher horror movies the final survivor is invariably a female and if that rule is broken it must be done in a manner that satisifies the audience. To satiate an audience the film maker needs to know what it is that satisfies the audience.

This is where we return to that fact that I have a simple theory about why we enjoy movies. There are two things, basic human needs, which satisfy an audience and ALL movies incorporate one, if not both, in their storylines. They’re quite simple actually:

1. our desire not to be alone

2. our desire to restore social order

I know exactly what you’re doing right now. You’re trying to think of a film that doesn’t meet the criteria. I guarantee this… you won’t. And on the off chance that you do it was either an obscure piece of work or a complete flop at the box office. In other words the audience didn’t embrace the message of the film. I’ve actually never had anyone come up with a film that doesn’t embrace my rules. Go ahead, I challenge you to try…

Movies are modern day campfire stories, told in the dark while we focus on a bright light. The act of sitting in a dark room requires reassurance we are safe and the act of sharing that experience with unknown others requires that as a society we feel safe. Safety comes by living within the boundaries of society, but it also depends on not just relying on the kindness of strangers. We need to be familiar with others to feel safe. Safety comes from being with others and living within a society that functions in a manner that allows us to interact with others because we are all still scared of the dark. But now we have the reassurance of movies to help light our way…

Little Black Dress and Bridget Jones’s Diary – Just My Night!

I had been so excited that Little Black Dress Vodka was coming out to do a free promotional sampling of this month’s feature drink – the Skinny Squeeze –  for this month’s Girls’ Night Out screening of Bridget Jones’s Diary that I had called my mom and told her we should don our little black dresses and go check it out together.

Bridget Jones’s Diary seemed like the perfect fit for me this January in so many ways, not just because, like Bridget, I am a single woman in her thirties aspiring to lose weight, build a career and find true love, but because of Mark Darcy’s statement about how Bridget is verbally incontinent, prone to embarrassing moments and makes bad decisions, but he likes her just the way she is.

That seemed just about right for me and my start of this month at Studio Movie Grill.  I had been driving my car around damaged from being hit by an 18-wheeler whose driver hadn’t been looking where he was going while I haggled with his insurance to get it fixed, and Sunday night my car began to die in the drive thru at In-and-Out Burger and I barely managed to crawl it off of Dallas Parkway into the driveway of a deserted Tetco station to call AAA for a tow.

Monday, I managed to get a ride to and from the office from an incredibly sweet coworker who was going to drive me in Tuesday as well, but that morning, I got out of the shower to finish getting ready, and the knob to the faucet broke so I couldn’t turn the water off.  I had to cancel the ride and let my boss know that I’d be late.  I managed to get emergency maintenance out to my apartment to fix it very quickly, and then managed to sweet talk my accountant father into coming over from Carrollton to drive me to the office by telling him that I really shouldn’t spend money on cab fare if my car was about to be totaled and I was going to have to start shopping for a new one.  He came through for me like a champ and I managed to only be half an hour late.

As I continue to live out a constant stream of ridiculous mini crises, I totally related to Bridget’s social awkwardness at the office.  This afternoon I had just verbally stepped in it with one of our top executives as he was telling us about a location he had scouted for potential to open a new theater that had the quirk of its surrounding property not allowing children in after 9pm.  Trying to offer a positive explanation, I had said, “Maybe it’s just a quirk of that pharmacy, that they have to keep out children after a certain time because they sell pornography or something…”  Yeah.  Not something one of your professional higher ups wants to hear crosses your mind, but it was already out of my mouth.

It was then just hours before the screening and I was still sans vehicle, and had finally gotten a rental car reservation made by the insurance company after leaving the claims lady so many voicemails she probably approved my claim just to get me to stop calling.  But was that the end?  No.

Enterprise Rent-a-Car had apparently run out of cars available to rent out and they had accepted my reservation for a mid-size sedan, but with Dallas’s recent spate of stormy weather and voluminous auto accidents, they weren’t just short my sedan, but any other car either.  After calling three locations, I pleaded with the third manager that I was on the verge of getting in trouble at work because I had been without a car for three days and my apartment was more than two hours away from the office by bus, and I needed to make it to work the screening at SMG Spring Valley.

Thankfully, one of the Enterprise managers heard my story and managed to wrangle me a Dodge Grand Caravan, but when he gave it to me, it was out of gas.  I stopped at the Shamrock station on Plano Pkwy and Walnut Hill for gas, and at long last, made my way through the wind and rain to the theater.

I mingled in the bar area chit chatting with our patrons and taking photographs of people enjoying drinks for Girls’ Night Out.  Most everyone was windblown and wet from the rain, but in good spirits, and I have to say the ladies stepping out for a night at our theater were all showing off their individual senses of style and having a good time.  The Skinny Squeeze tasting was a hit.  Almost everyone in the bar area waiting to see a movie had a Little Black Dress sample cup in hand, and the bar saw a surge in drink orders coming in.  Mom, ever the vodka connoisseur, gave it the thumbs up.

I snuck jnto the auditorium just as our new TV personality Girls Night Out host, Shannon, was giving a comical introduction to the film.  I wanted to get some pictures of her introducing the movie but the theater was so dark that I couldn’t see her through the view finder of my camera so I was snapping shots blindly in the dark and checking them on the digital display after they shot, so I think she was incredibly kind not to complain that I probably blinded her, at least temporarily, with my flash.

At last the movie started and my work was done.  All in all after my crazy day, I was happy to see everyone enjoying our Girls’ Night Out.  Just like Bridget Jones, give us a Skinny Squeeze and $1 tickets to Bridget Jones and we like SMG Spring Valley just the way she is.

IMG_0102 IMG_0110 IMG_0092 IMG_0099

For anyone who enjoyed  the 178 calorie Skinny Squeeze as much as Mom and I did, I managed to track down a copy of the recipe to make one at home:



Shake Over Ice – Strain Into Martini Glass


1 ½   oz. Little Black Dress Classic Vodka

¼  oz. Cointreau

3 oz. Cranberry Juice

½  oz. Agave Nectar

½  oz .Lime Juice

Garnish:  Orange Twist

Ding, dong!  I think I will have one of those…

Giving a Birthday Gift to the World

When I was a kid, my mom used to let me skip school on my birthday with her and we would go together and work on a house for Habitat for Humanity or help out at a soup kitchen or food bank as what we called my “birthday gift back to the world.”

I think that it was a great thing for my mom to instill in me from childhood, the importance of giving back to the community.

It’s a quality that I have strived to bring with me into every business I’ve worked for over the course of my career, and what I didn’t know all those years is that I was contributing toward a special growing sector of the business world that is now referred to as “Conscious Capitalism.”

At my first real job in college, I sold used cars and volunteered for the Kirksville Humane Society, so I brought together the two for my first PR event – Puppies, Kittens and Cars.  My dealership gave a voucher for $250 off a used car for any pet adopted or 50lbs. of pet food donated to the Humane Society.  Since the shelter was way out in the boonies, I got the Truman State Alpha Gamma Delta Sisters to bring puppies and kittens out to the dealership and supervise them for the day so that people could come adopt them at our lot on the town’s main street.

Now, some 13 years later, I have joined Studio Movie Grill as a member of the Outreach team and am excited to announce that they are actively practicing Conscious Capitalism,  so I feel like I am continuing my birthday gift to the world in my new role.  When we opened our newest theater in Duluth, Georgia, we did some amazing charitable events to mark our Grand Opening.

We had a Toys for Tots event with Gandalf and the Hobbits available to wrap holiday gifts for people who donated a toy, and we did a big jail dogs event with a James Bond screening where we invited the Duluth shelter to sell dog biscuits to raise funds for their efforts and donated an auditorium, staffing and 100% of ticket proceeds to a special advance screening.  We also worked with 11Alive to do our  “Cans Film Festival,” to collect canned goods for the local food bank.

But Duluth isn’t the only location where we’ve done fun things like this.  We strive to do them at every location.   Each theater manager is challenged to do a charitable event of their choosing every quarter.  Our Wheaton location recently partnered with Relay for Life and donated 97% of the proceeds from a special screening of Lincoln to the American Cancer Society.

We can’t always do big events because we still have dinner-and-a-movie theaters to run, but we keep outreach constantly on our minds, and we strive to do something every month.  Our most popular recurring outreach event is our Special Needs Screenings, when we invite parents of kids with autism and other special needs to come see a first run film at which the child and his or her siblings get in for free, which encourages families to attend together.  If you’d like to learn more about our Special Needs programs, you can find the information on the Family Page of the SMG Website

As we begin 2013, we have a new year and a new location preparing to open, so I can’t wait to participate in our next birthday gift to the world in a new city and state and practice Conscious Capitalism .