Sports Law • Risk Management

Sports Are Just Like the Movies

Growing up going to the movies was always a special experience. I would get a tub of greasy buttered popcorn as I settled in to allow my mind to be whisked away on a magical adventure. One particular time at the theater I went to the theater to watch Forrest Gump and my magical experience was disrupted. During the course of the movie I watched Forrest overcome great adversity with his disability, the military, as a shrimping boat captain and in his relationships with others. However, right at a critical scene near the end of the film, the one where Forrest is reading a letter while standing over Jenny’s grave, the film broke. This was during a time when movie were not digital, but that actual film was threaded into a projector.

After five long minutes the theater employees had done what they could to splice back the film but we missed the scene with the letter. Everyone left the theater wondering about the contents of that letter. Not until much later did I discover that I did not miss anything significant, but the timing of the disappointment and the theater’s inability to completely correct the problem, left me dissatisfied.

Sports can be like the movies. Like the movies, sports spectators come to games expected to be entertained and anticipating an emotional experience. Yet, also like the movies, there are many ways that sports patrons can be disappointed by their experience. But with proper planning sports organizers can do what they can to minimize customer dissatisfaction.

The theater could have taken steps to minimize my dissatisfaction. For instance, the theater could have sent a spokesperson to tell us that they were fixing the reel and once it was repaired that we actually were not missing any part of the movie. Instead, they left me wondering for five minutes if a proper resolution would occur and then I left the movie believing I missed a significant scene. Another solution is that the theater could have offered free movie coupons or free popcorn as an apology for the problem, although truthfully and apology and an explanation would have been more than sufficient.

Ultimately, both businesses and customers recognize that equipment can break and things can go wrong as these are all part of the risks associated with running a movie theater or hosting a sporting event. But each business should develop contingency plans, act swiftly and communicate with guests as to the situation and the anticipated resolution. Failure to do so may cause you to lose customers who, for their next experience, choose to spend their money on a different source of entertainment.