SMG 2014 Dallas Habitat for Humanity Build – Day 3


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?”




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 ( or email us at 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


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!


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.


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.

Movies and Mixed Drinks!

Earlier this month, for our Brews ‘N’ Views series we screened The Big Lebowski, which I think is one of the funniest movies of my generation, and on a whim we added a secret drink special on the White Russian, which turned out to be a big hit.

I mean, White Russian is a cocktail that almost no one ever orders, so on any regular night I’d be shocked to hear we’d sold any, but on this particular night, we sold 459. So what gives?

In The Big Lebowski, for those who haven’t seen it, the Caucasian cocktail is the drink of choice for our central character, The Dude.  Throughout the movie we see him mix and enjoy the beverage, and then, as one of the key plot points, one of the villains uses the drink as a vehicle to drug him, which leads us into one of the most memorable and ridiculous dream sequences imaginable.  Love it or hate it, you will definitely never forget that scene.

So when we marketed our revival of this 1990s classic, instead of just saying we were showing the movie, we emailed to invite our guests to “Knock back a White Russian with the Dude.”  And a lot of people did just that.Unknown

Seeing the incredible demand for an oddball drink special reminded us:

Mixed drinks, when consumed appropriately, can make the adult movie going experience more fun.  Who wouldn’t want to have a martini shaken but not stirred with James Bond or perhaps a mint julep with Daisy and Gatsby?  Not every movie we love is going to have an adult beverage tie in, but when they do, and we can offer it at SMG, that’s just a little touch of movie magic.

Next Thursday for $1 Classics, we are cooking up a special on a featured beer cocktail called the Arnold Palmer Shandy you can enjoy at Caddyshack.


You can count on me to be on the lookout for the next great movie/cocktail combination to tickle your taste buds.

If you want to be in on the secret specials, sign up for our email newsletters at

We’re In Absolute Puppy Love with the Pound Puppies On the Big Screen and Off!


Pound Puppies: Mission Adoption Day at SMG Copperfield. Photo supplied by DJ Hochstetler.

Last month with the SMG Toons series showing of Pound Puppies:  Mission Adoption, we were engaged with a sweet story about the Pound Puppies gang on a mission to find the perfect home for every pup, so we felt inspired to invite our local dog rescues to our theaters to help find homes for real life pound puppies.

Little did I know how incredibly powerful that experience would be.  It’s a no brainer – anyone in his or her right mind loves puppies, and if they don’t, then those folks are just plain mean!  So why then are there so many sweet adorable homeless pups out there?

Let’s face it.  Our economy has been through a rough and tumble couple of years and employment hasn’t been what we’d hoped.  Lots of people became upside down on mortgages and lost their houses, which means our nation has seen an influx of people moving into apartments, which were predominantly occupied historically by single people, so the multifamily housing industry was ill equipped to accommodate families, especially those with pets.

When I began contacting rescues to pair them up with theaters for our Mission Adoption event, I was surprised at how incredibly eager they were to take on our theaters as a venue for an adoption day.  If you think about it – most of the time we see rescues camped out in front of pet supply stores, and how effective can that be?  Aren’t most people headed there because they already have a pet?  So bringing puppies to SMG was an exciting prospect.

So exciting that once my campaign to find rescues to partner with us for Mission Adoption their demand exceeded our supply of space for them to use!  SMG Scottsdale took their Mission Adoption Day and turned it into an Adoption Weekend so that they could accommodate three dog rescues.

As the organizer of the event, I traveled to a few different SMG locations to see how things were going, and got to meet some pretty amazing people and puppies.


This puppy, Iggy, only fourteen weeks old was part of Ginny’s litter saved from her potential euthenization at the shelter where Stephen found her.

At SMG Royal, Stephen Foster from Furgotten Friends had brought in a dachshund named Ginny that had recently given birth and one of her pups.  Stephen had rescued Ginny from the pound before she had her litter, because pregnant females are often the first dogs that get euthanized in public shelters.  If they give birth in the shelter, the newborn puppies are not strong enough to survive long enough to get the vaccinations and medicines they would need live in that environment, and the mother’s weakened immune system after giving birth can make it dangerous for her as well.


An SMG employee plays with Sadie while she recovers from hip surgery. Funds raised at this event will help pay for her second hip surgery.

We also met a dog named Sadie who had just had surgery to correct hip dysplasia, a common ailment in puppies bred in puppy mills that causes their hip bones to be malformed, and therefore walking and standing is painful.  I learned that this is the result of unscrupulous breeders cranking out hordes of puppies to supply pet shops, breeding the same dogs so closely together that they become inbred and have poor genetics and all kinds of health issues.

As SMG Royal, Stephen found homes for 3 dogs, and possible parents for two more, and was able to collect a nice sum of money toward Sadie’s final surgery.


Staked out at SMG Plano for Pound Puppies: Mission Adoption, Texas Little Cuties brought tons of pups in need of new homes.

At SMG Plano, we played host to Texas Little Cuties, a rescue run by our own Executive Chef, Thad Kelley and his wife Melissa.  Melissa told me that she and Thad are currently fostering 78 dogs at their home!

At SMG, Lewisville, I met the folks from A Different Breed and they had brought several small dogs in that needed homes.  The shelter was so happy to work with SMG that they had driven from two and a half hours outside the city to come show their pups that day.


At SMG Lewisville, a young patron gives some love to sweet puppy Toby, who is recovering nicely from surgery to rebuild his mouth after he was found electrocuted from chewing on a live electrical wire.

And, as many rescues do, they had another sweet puppy in need of surgery.  A tiny three lb. dog named Toby had been abandoned by his owners after he had chewed on an electrical wire and gotten stuck to it.  The shock had severely burned one side of his mouth and blown out some of his teeth, but A Different Breed had gotten him two surgeries to restore his face and he was almost ready to move on to a new home.

I only made it to four theaters that day, but I was so proud of the fact that SMG had 10 out of our 12 theaters participating in this event, because I know that there were so many sweet puppies out there in need of homes, food and supplies and I am so thankful we were able to help these organizations that take care of them.

For more photos and details on the event you can check out our Pound Puppies:  Mission Adoption Report.

It’s Blockbuster Time!

It’s that time of year… blockbuster season. May is the official kick-off of the blockbuster summer extravaganza and this year Marvel kicks off the season with Iron Man 3. You have to love Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man, not only does he bring charm & wit to the role, he plays a super hero who is so cool he doesn’t have to hide his true identity from the public. Who wouldn’t want to be him? And who doesn’t want to be associated with him? His face is adorning magazines everywhere this month, not only does he save the world from super villains he is the purveyor of fine fashion onscreen and off. In the immortal words of Justin Timberlake…  he is ‘bringing sexy back’.

By the way do you know what film was considered the first blockbuster? It was Spielberg’s Jaws. The term refers to the size & cost of the production but also ties in the financial success of the film. For example Waterworld may have had a big budget, but it flopped so it didn’t earn the term blockbuster, whereas Avengers definitely did last year. I wonder if any records will be broken this year?

When it comes to sexy onscreen Robert Downey Jr is rivaled by Leonardo DiCaprio in this month’s Great Gatsby. And who better to modernize the timeless novel than Baz Luhrmann. Recently while I was in Vegas I heard Todd Phillips (director of the Hangover series) comment that he always imagines Baz Luhrmann as attending the most outrageous parties. If you’ve seen Moulin Rouge you know exactly what he is referring to. But those parties pale in comparison to what he has depicted in Great Gatsby which hits screens a week after Iron Man. I have to admit I’m partial to Luhrmann’s work, being a big fan of his since Strictly Ballroom, but the latest trailer has definitely got me stoked about this film ( I got to have drinks one time with his music director and that guy is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to pop music. The soundtracks to his movies are often as good as the films themselves. The same week as Great Gatsby we also have Peeples, Tyler Perry’s latest. Similar to Ben Stiller’s Meet The Parents this film depicts the hilarious talents of Craig Robinson opposite the beautiful Kerry Washington. Tyler Perry films are always big at Studio Movie Grill and we expect this film to follow in that tradition.

The next blockbuster hitting the screen in May is Star Trek: Into Darkness. This film is the most highly anticipated film of the month. In the film business we use tracking data to gauge a film’s success and this film is tracking with an 80% must-see rating. Not only was the reboot of the franchise in 2009 a huge success, the studio has definitely kept us waiting a long time for the next installment… four years. And the addition of Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain has audiences in a tither. The first movie was about Kirk earning his command, this movie is about proving he deserved it. Paramount recently showed us some extended clips from the film and they were terrific. I’m definitely looking forward to this one.

Then we have the Memorial Day weekend inferno. Squaring off against each other we have the final Hangover movie and Fast & Furious 6. I got to see one of the action sequences from fast & Furious 6 in its entirety, the one with the tank you see in the trailer, and it was phenomenal. Did you know that the Fast & Furious 6 has 4 times more likes than Iron Man 3 on facebook? This film is one of the most exciting films that will be released this summer. But we can’t forget Hangover III. At Studio Movie Grill we love the Hangover movies. What could be better than a movie that should be enjoyed with an alcoholic beverage? And this time they’re returning to Vegas! Throw into the weekend mix the film Epic from Fox Animation. We love family movies at SMG, it’s a great opportunity for families to entertain and feed their children at the same time. And when it’s a great film like Epic it makes it even better.

Yep, it’s going to be a great May…


Opening Our Doors to a New Community!

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my role as Director of Public Relations and Outreach for Studio Movie Grill is being present for the birth of each new SMG location as we open our doors to meet a new community, and see first-hand and appreciate the impact we can bring.

Each theater we open impacts the local economy, not just directly through employees hired to join our team, but also through the business we bring to local contractors and technicians that either build our theaters from the ground up or remodel/upgrade existing locations.  Our presence allows us to benefit and drive traffic to surrounding areas and developments by offering entertainment services that attract additional consumers and thus income to the businesses around us.

Just over a week ago, we opened our doors at SMG Epicentre in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina, hiring over 125 new employees from the local community, about whom the local paper reported, “Staff…is astounding-attentive, prompt, not just courteous, but downright warm….In the halls and lounge area you can’t walk 10 feet without being smiled at or asked if you’re doing OK by an employee.” Reading that, I can’t help but be proud of our new NC staff who have already fully embraced one of our most important pillars – being of service to guests.

SMG Epicentre opened in Charlotte, NC on February 26, 2013.

SMG Epicentre opened in Charlotte, NC on February 26, 2013.

Connecting with and becoming good citizens of each new community is so important to SMG as a company, that we have internally mandated that Outreach be a large part of our Marketing and PR efforts, and a reflection of that is the “Cans Film Festival” we hold for the opening of every new location, where we offer free admission to a movie in exchange for the donation of canned goods for a local food bank.

SMG Epicentre’s grand opening brought our most successful food drive to date with more than 1020 pounds of food donated to Second Harvest of Metrolina.  That’s enough to feed more than 685 individuals or 170 families of four.  What an amazing statement about the people of Charlotte and the way they care for this community!

In addition to the Cans Film Festival, Charlotte residents got to literally follow the yellow brick road to a special grand opening advance screening of Oz, The Great and Powerful following a film cutting ceremony performed by the Mayor of Charlotte.  (Film cutting is another SMG tradition and our spin on a regular ribbon cutting ceremony.)

Mayor Foxx cuts the film with SMG's CEO, Brian Schultz to mark the Grand Opening of SMG Epicentre.

Mayor Foxx cuts the film with SMG’s CEO, Brian Schultz to mark the Grand Opening of SMG Epicentre.

But this is only the beginning of our efforts to embrace our new community in Charlotte, NC.  Saturday, March 15, we will host a Charlotte Checkers Foundation fundraising effort as part of Old Time Hockey Weekend with a screening of SLAPSHOT with special guests, hockey sensations, the Hanson Brothers.

We feel good when local press says, ”Studio Movie Grill fills an enormous void uptown, is trying to set itself apart….and is eager to please its customer.”

Stay tuned for more doors opening at an SMG near you!