With a beautiful campus, impressive aeronautic exhibits and
airplane displays—including the Spruce Goose—plus a gorgeous, wood-paneled, state-of-the
art theater with a 70-foot screen, the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in
McMinnville, Oregon, has something for just about everyone. But while theater
programming during museum hours honors space, aviation, and military service,
Evergreen Aviation saw potential for new audiences, new opportunities for
learning and education, and new revenue possibilities.
Evergreen Aviation had dabbled in programming first-run
Hollywood films after museum hours, but they really wanted to offer something
more family oriented and educational. “If we’re going to do something after
hours—we’re an educational institution,” says Mike Videll, IT & Operations Director. The team decided to go beyond their core mission
of aviation and offer different educational experiences with a new program
called Movies After Hours.
Movies After Hours offers compelling, 3D, family-friendly
films after the museum has closed, at an attractive price point. Ticket prices
are $3, compared to the $6 walk-up fee charged during museum hours. The program
launched in late December 2018 with Tiny
Giants and Walking With Dinosaurs.
During the winter season, there’s one film scheduled on
Fridays at 5:15 and a different film on Saturdays at 5:15, but during spring
break and the summer season, they’ll be adding an additional screening each
night for an old-fashioned double feature. They’ll also be expanding it to four
nights every week.
“The whole idea is that you don’t have a theater this
spectacular and not use it more,” says CEO John Rasmussen. “The public is
looking for this, for something that’s not a 2 ½-hour movie. It’s a great
venue, good family entertainment, but it’s not so long that your children get
bored or aren’t interested in it, or there are parts they don’t like. It’s not
space-related, but it’s still good educational entertainment.”
To enhance the lifelong learning experience and extend it
beyond the screening in the theater, Evergreen Aviation customizes the
educational materials provided by the film distributors to give kids a
take-home item. For Walking With
Dinosaurs, they created a book that included coloring pages, dinosaur
facts, connect-the-dot puzzles, and word searches.
When Evergreen Aviation launched the program, they were
hoping to offer a family friendly, educational, end-of-the-school-week event
for young families and their kids, as well as seniors and their grandkids,
which is often an untapped audience. This type of audience does visit during
the day too, but the Movies After Hours visitors are families that are there
specifically because they want this type of programming for their children. They’re
also finding that people who didn’t have time to see films during their museum
visit are coming back for the Movies After Hours screenings.
During one Friday screening of Walking With Dinosaurs, a 5-year-old boy was excitedly running
around in his dinosaur pajamas. “He was all into this,” Videll recalls. “It was
everything for him to be able to come in and see a dinosaur movie. The benefit
I see is I’m reaching out to new audience that I want to see—families and kids.
Families have thanked us for having a low-cost, educational movie that is good
family programming. And it makes good memories. One staff member brought her
grandchildren in, and a week later they were still talking about it.”
During the first month, staff noticed one senior couple that
was coming back every week with different people. “When I talked to them,” says
Allie Rutter, Theater Supervisor, “they said they wanted to come back every
week and bring in a new couple because they’re members and think it’s a great
program. They want to bring more friends. It’s an opportunity for them to have
a social hour.”
In addition to the regular channels of social media, newspaper,
and online, Evergreen Aviation is marketing the program to the school groups that
visit the museum and reaching new audiences with some guerilla marketing by handing
out flyers and posting them on bulletin boards at apartment complexes, RV
parks, and at local businesses. They also show the trailers for the Movies
After Hours films on the lobby screens during museum hours.
Evergreen Aviation is considering inviting speakers and
hosting events in conjunction with Movies After Hours in the future. The museum
also hosts Red-Eye Night one Friday a month, which is a chance for adults to
socialize among the exhibits, and they’re considering adding a film screening
to this event as well.
Evergreen Aviation is really pleased with the results so
far. “We’re seeing exactly what we wanted to see,” says Rasmussen.