Dakota Cinema Gets Creative During Unexpected Circumstances

A new theater owner uses their display to help them get creative through the adjustments in business related to COVID-19.

Creative uses for a new sign during unexpected circumstances

The timing couldn’t have been worse. Kelli Brown and her husband took over the movie theater in Madison, SD, in December 2019, renaming it Dakota Cinema. They made renovations, including installing a new Daktronics GS6 digital sign outside in February. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing them to shut down the theater. 

Even so, Brown’s attitude is very positive, as they continue to make improvements to the parking pad and sidewalk outside. While their sign outside isn’t showing as many movie times as she had anticipated, they are using their digital sign in creative ways.

“We run a lot of community support and activities,” she says. “We’re doing a graduation tribute with pictures of seniors from area schools. We’ll run pictures and names on graduation day. We’re also running content for things like teacher appreciation week and nurse appreciation days.”

Movies are still in the picture, too. Entertainment company Lionsgate is working with the Will Rogers Foundation to help displaced theater workers.  Dakota Cinema runs ads for movies that people can stream at home for free.

“They (Lionsgate) send us the artwork, and Daktronics helps us resize it, since I’m still new at running content,” Brown says. “They ran Dirty Dancing, with a big picture of Patrick Swayze up there, and that looked great. Now we’re showing John Wick. People come and get goodies from us, watch the movie at home, take a photo of themselves and enter a contest for prizes from us. It’s been really fun.”

They also advertise “cruise nights” in Madison, when people get in their cars and cruise the town on Saturday nights. The theater offers curbside concessions in conjunction with those nights.

“At first we offered concessions three days a week, but now we just do it Fridays and Saturdays. The spot runs on our sign with cool artwork with the times and days. People notice it. The change of days was noticed quickly,” says Brown.

Making life easier

Brown says before they replaced their old sign, her husband had to go out and replace the messaging manually.

“He’s happy he doesn’t have to get up on a ladder and change the sign in the ice and cold,” she says. “Now I can access the sign on my mobile phone, which is great. It’s easier for quick changes. Then I can do the big content on my computer.”

Brown is still learning how to size content for the sign. In the meantime, she counts on Daktronics Creative Services.

“We count on Daktronics to help us,” she says. “They have been awesome. The free downloads are great, too.”

Being a good neighbor

Brown says the theater is flanked by a restaurant on one side and a bowling alley on the other. During quarantine, the restaurant offers take-and-bake, so the theater started running ads for them, free of charge.

“We did it just because,” explains Brown. “We drive through their lot, so we just did it. Once the bowling alley opens again, we’ll do it for them, too. We’re just being a good neighbor. That’s how I was raised.”

Previously, the theater shared the utility bill for the 1976 vintage sign with the neighboring bowling alley, since it was on a separate meter from the buildings. Dakota Cinema took over the utilities for the sign, which Brown says is just as efficient, though it uses more lights.

“My husband works for the utility company, so anytime we can use high efficiency LED, we’re going to do it,” she says. “We have only gotten one bill for it, but it looks like the utility bill won’t be much different from the old sign. We get so much more benefit from it, and we did it right the first time. It looks great.”

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