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PITTSFIELD -- Responding to a chorus of complaints from some patrons of the Beacon Cinema on alleged heavy-handed enforcement of a policy barring outside food and beverages, the theater's Managing Partner Richard Stanley has outlined a more customer-friendly approach.

"We're going to do a better customer-relations job of communicating the policy to our clientele," Stanley declared in an interview from his office in Great Barrington, where he is president of the Triplex Cinema.

But Stanley emphasized that the policy itself will not change.

"Some people may feel entitled to not respect the rules," he contended, describing their views as "I can do what I want, where I want, how I want."

Acknowledging that concession-stand revenue contributes significantly to the Beacon's bottom line, though well below 40 percent of total revenue, Stanley described it as "a critical part of our business." He added that film distributors reap 90 percent of the box-office take for blockbuster movies, and a minimum of 53 percent for less popular titles.

Asked about the Beacon's finances, he described the total picture as "marginal at the moment," but no more so than his other business ventures such as the Triplex.

He also stressed that the Beacon, which opened in November 2009 amid great fanfare as a major contributor to downtown revitalization, is in no danger of shutting down.

The food flap, which has played out in The Eagle's letters to the editor section, opinion columns and on social media, erupted after a Metropolitan Opera HD telecast on April 26. Several patrons wrote letters complaining of searches through personal belongings for "contraband" and depicted an assistant manager snatching away the last bite of a sandwich from a woman in her 80s.

Of the 14 letters published so far, 7 have been critical of the policy or its enforcement, and 7 have been supportive.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion on how a business should be run," Stanley commented, though he described the issues raised as primarily specific to the series of Met Opera screenings on designated Saturday afternoons in the fall, winter and spring.

"Oftentimes in life, it's not what you do, it's how you do it," he stated. "We are all about customer relations since people have a choice of going to different venues for movies, including the opera."

Stanley described his theater's goal as "keeping the customers happy and enforcing the regulations in a warm and fuzzy way. We are dealing with that aspect, since I don't like to hear negative feedback about how customers are treated."

According to Stanley, he and Beacon/Triplex General Manager John Valente "agree on bending over backwards to accommodate the public, even if they're dead wrong. I want people to walk out with a smile. When someone complains, they're likely to be my best customer if I treat them properly. That's our policy and all our managers and employees know that."

On the other hand, Stanley told The Eagle, "People know our policies and some have decided to totally ignore it. Could we have handled that better in some cases? Yes. Could adults act more adult-like? I suspect you'd agree."

Asked about any personnel changes resulting from the recent controversy, Stanley explained that there are a number of assistant managers. "The guillotine is still in the closet," he quipped.

As for the future of the seasonal Met Opera HD screenings, Stanley said he has "no idea whether they will continue. It depends on the economic deal, the Met takes a significantly bigger slice of the box office than many movies do. It's not particularly profitable for us, we've been doing it as a community service."

On the possibility of adding some healthy choices to the concession-stand fare, Stanley said he has asked Valente "to put out some fruit and stuff like that, and we'll see. If people want bananas and strawberries, we'll be happy to give it to them."

"The bottom line is, I'll give people what they want, but often what they say they want, they don't support with their dollars."

To contact Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@yahoo.com
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto