SMG 2014 Dallas Habitat for Humanity Build – Day 3

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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?”

 

 

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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.

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

 

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.

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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 studiomoviegrill.com.

Jorie Meyer of WDSRA says…

Western DuPage Special Recreation Association - Equal Fun for Everyone!

Western DuPage Special Recreation Association

What has Studio Movie Grill-Wheaton done for us, you ask?

What have they not done for us!

SMG has supported the Western DuPage Special Recreation Association (WDSRA) since the day they opened. Creating a partnership together to help one another, we are happy to spread       the word about their Special Screenings for people with disabilities. An opportunity where parents can bring their child to a movie without worrying about them being disruptive, pacing the theatre, or laughing out loud at inappropriate times. WDSRA families our thrilled with these opportunities!

In addition, SMG has provided us with complimentary movie tickets for our day programs, day camps, and our Movie Critics and Cinema Cruisers movie programs. Our participants are constantly asking if we can go back to SMG. The atmosphere, the service, they have it all! Thank you SMG for supporting WDSRA, you are truly making a difference in the community!

Jorie A. Meyer, CTRS
WDSRA

The WDSRA Rec & Roll group enjoys an outing to SMG Wheaton.

The WDSRA Rec & Roll group enjoys an outing to SMG Wheaton.

What Is An Actor?

When Daniel Day Lewis won the Oscar for best actor and Jennifer Lawrence won for best actress this past Sunday, I began to ask what makes a performance worthy of such an accolade? In the workplace, we use the term acting to refer to people temporarily doing the duties of another person – such as an acting CEO. In plays, movies and television, acting refers to a profession… or to put it in other terms: assuming the role of another (i.e. performing his or her duties).

If you take the case of Daniel Day Lewis, acting is the ability to not only assume the role of another; it is also the ability to become another. In taking on the persona of Lincoln, he not only changes himself physically to look like Lincoln, he also assumes the mannerisms that we accept Lincoln possessed (bowed back, speech idiosyncrasies, a sense of weariness). In essence he becomes Lincoln. Lewis has throughout his career become others, whether it be Cecil in A Room With A View, or Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, or the role that brought him to the attention of the world as Christy Brown in My Left Foot.

The British appear to be more strongly rooted in the art of acting, but America has its great actors. Meryl Streep comes to mind. Whether she is playing Margaret Thatcher, Julia Child or Miranda Priestley, she assumes another’s persona with a level of perfection rarely seen in the movies throughout an individual’s career. With 17 nominations for either Best Actress or Best Actress in a Supporting Role, every time she is on screen she becomes a new character.

An actor is different than a movie star. In his essay ‘Charisma,’ Richard Dyer refers to the star image. A star has his or her own distinct persona, but unlike an actor the star’s persona remains consistent throughout all his or her films. The audience knows what to expect from the star in each film, and it provides a level of familiarity to the star that allows us to develop an audience/star relationship. What makes a great movie star? Stardom is based on the appropriateness of a star’s persona to the contemporary social situation. Or in other words, a star reflects the needs and desires of contemporary society. This may be because of a political persona/persuasion or it may be something as simple as beauty. In order to be successful, the audience must identify with the star as well as desire to be him or her.

The idea of identification with a star/character in a film is reflected in the line from Tropic Thunder by Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey, Jr.) to Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller): “Everybody knows you never go full retard.” On the surface, this comment may seem to contradict my interpretation of great acting but it actually reinforces another tenet of what makes a great character/star. Kirk’s follow up included this reference:

 ‘You know Tom Hanks’s, Forrest Gump. Slow, yes. Retarded, maybe. Braces on his legs. But he charmed the pants off Nixon and won a ping-pong competition. That ain’t retarded.’

We enjoy these characters because they remain accessible to us as an audience. It is also because we see their flaws as a mirror image to our own flaws. In the case of Forrest Gump, we struggled alongside him as he tried to love Jenny. On the other extreme from the mentally or physically challenged, we have the superhero persona. The reason we enjoy superhero films is because we want to be the hero, and the hero remains accessible to us as an audience because they possess flaws. Perfection in a character cuts us off as an audience. Would Superman remain an interesting character if he didn’t struggle with his feelings for Lois Lane, had no weakness for kryptonite, or was able to easily overcome all odds? The Dark Knight is a popular character because his persona allows us to identify with the darkness that exists within all of us.

Lacanian psychoanalytical film theory attempts to explain this system of identification. The audience, through the characters/stars on screen, is offered particular identifications to choose from. The theory stresses the subject’s longing for a completeness which the film may appear to offer through identification with an image. In essence, when we are watching a movie we are attempting to place ourselves in the film, almost as if we desire the film/character/stars to be mirror images of our own lives/self. However there is a catch–Lacanian theory also indicates that identification with the image is never anything but an illusion; the mirror isn’t real.

In my last blog entry, I referred to the implicit contract between a filmmaker and the audience. Our identification with those depicted in cinema is also part of this implicit contract. We have to agree with their values. The difference is that a star’s value system carries through all his or her films, while an actor becomes a character who possess new values in each film. Interestingly, regardless of whether someone is an actor or a star, film theorists will refer to a character’s name and not the actor when describing a scene in a film (see my reference to Forrest Gump and Jenny above), because film theorists believe that there is always distinction, albeit sometimes small, between the person playing the character and the actual character.

Regardless of the distinction, can’t a truly great actor become a star? Is Meryl Streep a star? Possibly yes. I know I would be kinda gaga if I ever met her.

But have you ever noticed that many of the great actors are reticent to give live interviews?  Streep says she suffers great anxiety during live interviews. A star, on the other hand, is as comfortable on screen as they are on a late night TV show couch. They appear so much more self –assured, which makes me wonder:

Would I prefer to be a star or a great actor?