For the historical small town of Allegan, the ninety-eight-year-old Regent Theater is a gem. I, like so many others here, love this theater and the role it plays in our community. For the past six years, the theater has had special “Shocktober” showings of classic horror movies every Saturday night in October. I am constantly thinking of ways to have a larger, positive impact on the success of the theater as an employee. So, this year I offered the manager my assistance with the event.
We set up a meeting to discuss marketing strategies and I proposed my idea of the Shocktober mural. It would be eight feet tall and eight feet wide, placed on the side of the building, and designed in a way that would encourage people to take their picture with it, all while being removable. He was very enthusiastic after I showed him my sketch and immediately agreed to let me do it, giving me sole responsibility and creative liberty.
The execution of this project was a challenge that required a lot of creativity and hard work due to never having made a piece of art of this scale or for such a purpose before. I sought out ideas on how to create the project through the internet, friends, and employees at different hardware stores. After much research, I decided that the best way to create it was to fashion it as a backdrop made of fabric and I would use an overhead projector to produce a larger image that could then be traced onto the material after being primed.
Additionally, I faced the challenge of working two jobs while also dedicating time towards finishing the project. This was difficult, but certainly not impossible. Sometimes I would work on it after the last showing of the night; other times I would go in the morning to dedicate time to it and then head straight to my second job. On one occasion after the last showing, I worked on my project until 5:30 a.m. leaving me with an hour nap before working an eight-hour shift at my second job.
It took me over the course of just two weeks to complete the project and much of the painting process was trial, error, and improvisation. But as the famous painter, Bob Ross, once said: We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.
There is a shortage of movie theaters left in operation today that have balcony seating which is one of the many things that makes the Regent Theater so unique. But for many reasons we keep it closed to the general public. Shortly before I completed work on the backdrop, I had the idea that in order to create more incentive for people to interact with the artwork and share it on social media, we could have a giveaway contest for a balcony pass.
I knew that it was something that would interest people but wouldn’t cost us anything to give away. We had several different ways that a person could enter the drawing including taking a picture with the backdrop and sharing it on social media.
The contest resulted in a decent amount of participation which was more than I had expected with this being the first year doing something of this type. Moreover, there was a surprising amount of patrons who came to the theater specifically to see the backdrop with many compliments given.
My manager and I are currently in the process of refining it to build participation and create a more worthwhile experience for customers in the coming years. I learned a lot about perseverance throughout the project and though it was difficult, it was also rewarding and I would do it again in a heartbeat.