Coming to an Exchange Theater Near You: Filling Up Seats During Blockbuster Movie Season

Soldiers at Camp REDLEG in the United Arab Emirates react with joy upon the premier in early March of the newest Captain Marvel movie. The Exchange and Disney teamed to show the movie to troops throughout Southwest Asia.


Cyborgs, genies with magic lamps, evil sorcerers, talking toys, super heroes, hairy monsters, wacky extraterrestrials, lions and pets, nefarious crime bosses and evil tyrants will visit Exchanges around the world this year. Oh yes, and teenage mutants.

Spring and summer movie releases are beginning to hit the Exchange’s Reel Time theaters—and we’re saving seats for the entire family  

“Popular movies drive customers to our Reel Time Theaters, and nothing beats the experience of the big screen and the studios’ spring and summer releases,” said Nalan Howard, the Exchange’s motion picture/restaurant program manager. “The 2019 spring/summer release schedule is impressive with many potential blockbusters.”

Jon Walters, the Exchange’s motion picture and senior restaurant program manager, said great movies and great prices drive customers to Exchange theaters.

“To get prepared for the crowd of moviegoers, it’s best that theater managers and associates review their operations to prepare for the spring and summer season,” he said. “We must offer moviegoers the best possible experiences so they want to spend their entertainment dollars with us.”

John Oliviero, food court manager at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland who manages the theater, said that associates create outstanding customer experiences by greeting moviegoers by name.

Two associates, Robert Mattison and Jake Jacobson, have worked at the theater for more than 20 years and know most customers personally.

“We get out and greet the people long before we open an hour before showtime,” Oliviero said. “When Robert and Jacob go up to a customer to greet them, it’s like you see your best friend coming.”

Oliviero, Walters and Howard provide these tips for “spot-on performances” to keep movie-goers coming back:

  • Ensure the number of times the movies are shown reflect customer demand.
  • Keep the theater, concession stands, restrooms and other areas spotless.
  • Ensure the projector and sound system are functioning properly or people will go to a competing theater where the equipment is in tip-top shape.
  • Start all movies at the times advertised.
  • Use all marketing channels to advertise, such as buddy list; Exchange radio network, Reel Time Theater section; flyers at all Exchange, commissaries, Quality-of-Life and military lodging locations as well as social media.

Walters and Howard emphasized that theater managers and associates should pay particular attention to the pre-show program—and for good reason. The program includes the national anthem, previews of upcoming movies and other entertainment similar to what patrons see in commercial theaters.

“A good pre-show entertain program communicates the Exchange mission, promotes upcoming movies to boost repeat business and builds customer awareness of everything we’re offering at the refreshment stands,” Walters said. “Keep in mind that in the private sector, moviegoers typically arrive 19 minutes before the feature starts, and there’s no reason to think our patrons are any different.”

Meanwhile, the Merchandising Directorate supports the theaters with movie-related toys, DVDs and other merchandise in the stores, especially for the blockbusters. In turn, theater managers partner with the stores to promote movies in the Exchanges.

“The spring/summer 2019 movie slate is packed with potential blockbuster features,” said Lynn Castro, senior buyer for toys. “We’re heavily invested in and planning advertisements around several of the movies.”

Movies include “Avengers: Endgame”; “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu;” “UglyDolls;” “Aladdin;” “Toy Story 4;” “Spider-Man:  Far From Home;” and “The Lion King.”


The World War II movie theater at Camp Stewart, now known as Fort Stewart, Ga.


June 28, 1975

The day the Army and Air Force Motion Picture Service became part of AAFES. The motion picture service had provided movies to Soldiers and Airmen from 1920 to 1975. At the time of the merger, the motion picture service operated more than 1,300 theaters in 60 countries.


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  1. Paul Pitcher on March 28, 2019 at 6:21 pm

    Nice to see an article about our movie program, good work. I was the movie guy there until my retirement (happy day) August 1998.
    Can you pass this on to Jon so we can say Hi? Thanks.

    • Steve Smith on March 28, 2019 at 6:30 pm

      Mr. Pitcher:

      Thank you so much for writing to your Exchange Post. Thank you for your compliments. I will send your message along to Jon.

      Does anybody else out there want to comment? Let’s keep the conversation going.

      Type your thoughts in the Comment box and hit enter.

      We wanna hear!

      Steve Smith
      Editor, The Exchange Post

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