Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

Two Minute Tips

Racing steeds, movie screens, scratch-off lottery tickets

June 5, 2014

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California Chrome owner Steve Coburn celebrates at the Preakness. A Triple Crown victory might boost the horse's value by $10 million. PHOTO: Mitch Stringer from USAToday

Here’s another round-up of items scrawled on index cards, junk-mail envelopes and Post-It notes that don’t quite merit their own blog post but nevertheless are interesting or amusing kernels of story ideas.

The next two pertain to the upcoming weekend of June 6-7:

Belmont Stakes for the Triple Crown.

With California Chrome the first horse in a while to have a shot at Triple Crown …er, crown… at Saturday’s Belmont Stakes in Maryland, you might want to check whether this occasional horse-racing phenomenon is driving any business in your area.  Area your region’s horse racing venues doing any promotions like this weird one at Santa Anita – fans will receive free nasal strips with the word “Chrome” written on them, a reference to the breathing aid worn by the contender.  What about the pace of remote wagering at race tracks, or viewing parties at home and at bars?

Shoe manufacturer Skechers has just signed an endorsement deal with California Chrome, by the way.

Drive-in movie theaters.

Now that so many people carry a little movie theater in the palms of their hands via the smartphone or tablet, it would seem an uphill battle to lure people to a parking lot for film viewing, and indeed most stories about these outdoor theaters tend to focus on nostalgia.  But with June 6 designated as the industry’s “Drive-in Movie Day”– the anniversary of the first theater opening in 1933 — you might want to jump in with a quick check of the state of drive-ins in your market.

Inflatable drive-in movie screen
The Star-Vu Drive-In in Costa Mesa, California, features a 65′ inflatable screen.

According to the members list of the United Drive-In Theater Owners Association, some states are down to zero drive-ins but others like Ohio have 20 or so; what’s keeping the drive-in thriving in certain states and dying in others?  An enthusiast site, DriveInTheater.com, lists historical numbers of theaters by state (not sure of their source, though) if you want this data for context.

What is the business model of the remaining theaters near you and what are they doing to afford the digital projection upgrades the film industry is making de rigeur? Here’s a neat Kansas City Star feature on how one community drive-in was saved.

What about related phenomena like the “mobmov” movement – mobile outdoor movie theaters powered by cars – and pop-up movie theaters?  One local sports arena near me – a hockey rink – puts up a screen or two in its parking lot and screens first-run double features seven nights a week for $10 per person.  I get the sense the venture generates extra business for the arena’s food concessions and restaurant as well as admission fees; are any venues in your area doing something similar?

How about gear companies like AirScreen (inflatable screens) and  FunFlicks – what are they seeing in terms of demand for parties, corporate events, community festivals and the like?

Can’t win it if you aren’t in it.

And this seasonal snippet is just so quirky I can’t resist mentioning:  Was looking at the array of scratch-off lottery tickets behind a local drug store counter and noticed that one called “Grills Gone Wild” actually is branded with the Omaha Steaks logo.  Apparently the promotion is going on here in Michigan and in several other states; in addition to the barbecue-themed scratch-off ticket graphics, the game features a second-chance drawing for an array of grilling products.

I know a number of lottery games feature Monopoly but never before have seen a consumer-goods corporate sponsor.   Why not review your state’s lottery games for other business tie-ins?  What’s the financial arrangement between the lottery commission and entities like sports teams and such that allow their logos to be used?  How does the team or business benefit?

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