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New Films for New Audiences

Can the Movie Theater Be Saved? While Hollywood sticks with the same old ideas—bigger, pricier blockbusters—these outsiders are making real changes

New Films for New Audiences

Nikkole Denson-Randolph
Vice president of specialty and alternative content, AMC Theatres

[Photo by Zen Sekizawa]

Nikkole Denson-Randolph

Vice president of specialty and alternative content,
AMC Theatres

Most blockbusters target a homogenous audience. Denson-Randolph, a vet of Starbucks and Magic Johnson Entertainment, selects smaller movies to draw diverse crowds into the nation's second-largest movie-theater chain.

The Indie Insider

"The footprint of our theaters is unlike those of our competitors. We're very urban-centric. And we know that the country is only becoming more diverse. We were already reaching a large African-American and Latino audience, but we also started seeing patterns of Chinese and Indian audiences. They want authentic films that reflect their lives.

When a large movie studio attempts to do a film for a very specific culture, it may get lost, because it's not what the studios know or do best. We coach smaller filmmakers on how to selfdistribute to us. It's a collaborative effort. I ask them, Who do you believe your audience is?

We want to make sure a filmmaker will market to their audience. Take Mindless Behavior: All Around the World, a documentary about an African- American boy band. We wanted their record label to reach out to its huge following online. We ended up opening it on more than 100 screens. It did a very respectable business.

Commercial films are the meat and potatoes of large commercial exhibitors, so smaller films take some internal nudging. If a third screen of The Avengers still makes several thousand dollars a week, I'm on the hook if we replace it with a little gem that does a few hundred dollars. But when the films work, everyone wins."

Fast Talk: Can the Movie Theater Be Saved?

A version of this article appeared in the December 2013 / January 2014 issue of Fast Company magazine.