“Spending an evening under the stars with a great movie is something most people will never get tired of.”
Robert Deutsch, Outdoor Movies, Rockville (USA) – photo taken in Berlin
AIRSCREEN user since 2004
To begin with, can you tell us something about your company?
My name is Bob Deutsch and I’m the CEO of Outdoor Movies in the USA. We are one of the world’s largest presenters of large venue outdoor screening events. We support film festivals worldwide and we have been a very long time distributor and reseller of the AIRSCREEN product.
How did you come into the open-air cinema business?
Our joining the open-air cinema business was pure accident. We started an outdoor film festival for the benefit of children with cancer in the Washington D.C. area. We chose a 35mm projector and a 40ft (12m) screen. But, there was no such thing as AIRSCREEN. So a week before the event we started building this scaffold tower that was shaped like half a wedding cake, pulling the screen up onto this tower and having a ten day open-air cinema event. And it was amazingly successful, surprisingly so.
Some years after that I was searching the internet and I ran across this inflatable screen from Germany called AIRSCREEN. So I made a telephone call and it took a while for our both companies to actually meet up. Which happened at the Guadalajara Film Festival in Mexico and when I saw the 40ft (12m) AIRSCREEN I was in love. I bought my first AIRSCREEN in that moment on the spot.
What was your most favourite event?
In our time with AIRSCREEN, which is many years now, we have had some spectacular moments. I think the first and the greatest was the screening premiere of Shark Tales for the Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy, on the Piazza de San Marco. It was an interesting installation because no motor vehicles can move in that area and you have a screen which weighs 5,000 pounds (2,250 kg) and needs to be installed and erected. Seeing Angelina Jolie and the rest of the stars who did the voice overs in the movie. It truly was a spectacular event.
What AIRSCREENs do you have?
Our company maintains a full rental inventory of the AIRSCREEN product. Everything from 24ft (7.32m), 30ft (9.15m), 40ft (12m), 52ft (16m), 65ft (20m) and 100ft (30m). In many of these we have multiple units.
What is your feedback from your customers which use these screens for their events?
Our job as a full service outdoor cinema provider is to provide our customer with perfection and the most amazing outdoor cinema experience possible. So it starts with AIRSCREEN, it is usually up with DCP projection and concert quality, large line array sound systems.
The first time you work with customer in large events, there is always a degree of fear in their minds. They are spending a fair amount of money, their show has zero margin for error and they need a fantastic job. And when they see the AIRSCREEN installed and they see the picture and sound they are filled with confidence and comfort. And those events usually go on and repeat themselves every year.
Are there any downsides to the product?
We have had an opportunity to examine a lot of product: whether it is presentations from manufactures from China and other countries, or it is a non-inflatable screen option. The reason that we use and sell AIRSCREEN is that it is very simply the best.
What are the major advantages?
As a buyer or user ,the AIRSCREEN offers us portability, reliability and long-life. These are critical in large scale investment products. For a potential renter of an AIRSCREEN the benefits are many: First of all there is a reliable network of AIRSCREEN partners, so it is an easy product for a renter to obtain.
The second is, site preparation takes a lot less time than most outdoor cinema installations that do not use an AIRSCREEN product. So you don’t have to be in the venue, two, three, four days in advance, making large deliveries of tractor trailers with truss and things like this. Simply a pallet and anywhere from 20min to 4h later, depending on the size of the screen, you have a fully functional outdoor cinema system available for you. An installation of a large AIRSCREEN is a matter of hours, other options are a matter of days.
How have you experienced the support by AIRSCREEN over the years?
Competitors to AIRSCREEN have come and gone over the years. One thing you can count on is AIRSCREEN and its many partners to be there. This means if you have a product repair, a product question or need spare parts your support is instantaneous. When you make an investment in a product like AIRSCREEN you need that.
Do you think that there is something like an AIRSCREEN family?
When you own an AIRSCREEN, you became part of a family and that means when you need help, AIRSCREEN is there. I think there is that, but than there is the emotional aspect of the work we do. Owning an AIRSCREEN is not just owning a screen. When you take an unlikely scenario for an outdoor movie theatre in a unique environment like the Riviera Maya Film Festival. An exposed beach in a wild location, with the wind blowing, a 35mm projector showing an amazing movie. This is a life changing experience for many people.
Talk about windy conditions, is there a problem with wind when using an AIRSCREEN?
Customers frequently ask me how AIRSCREEN stands up compared with other outdoor movie screen options. Our company has used AIRSCREEN for more than ten years in probably the most challenging environmental conditions that you can put a screen in. Whether it is on the shores of Lake Michigan or out on an exposed marine point on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. These screens, no matter what size, stand up in wind. The frame is as hard as a motorcycle tire, so it does not flex and the screen material is not pushed out by the wind like many other products are. From a technical standpoint you can’t make a better choice for challenging environmental conditions than AIRSCREEN. There is also the safety factor: whatever happens, the first job of the outdoor movie operator is public safety. The equipment comes second and the fact is, that an AIRSCREEN can be dropped in an emergency situation in less than a minute. When you use scaffold, truss, chain motors, etc. the wind pressing the screen against a more permanent structure creates something that it is immovable. That sail then creates a hazard. This does not happen with AIRSCREEN.
What is your advice for people who would like to start an outdoor movie business?
Success in the outdoor movie business is based on your vision for what type of events you want to create. There are so many different successful models active in different countries. You have to find the one that arouses your passion. From creating a magical intimate bar-like lounge with a movie in Ibiza to gigantic screenings where we recreate the days of the drive-in. There are many options for commercial success with AIRSCREEN.
Also my suggestion is to go get a customer and take the risk out of the equation. There are a very few unsuccessful outdoor movie events. So, find that first customer, get your booking, the AIRSCREEN product is always in stock.
What screen sizes would you recommend for doing this?
When people ask me what the right size screen for them is, I ask them for their vision. It can be anything from 16ft (4.88m) up to 65ft (20m). Who is your audience? How many people are you expecting? Are there other outdoor movies in your area and where do you fit in the mix? What is the economic model driving your purchase decision? All of those add up to a good AIRSCREEN decision.
AIRSCREEN offers an airtight and classic model. Which model is the right one for which customer?
The classic, full time blower model inflates much faster and it is easier for a less skilled user to use, and for the most part doesn’t have pieces and parts.
The airtight model offers the customers a no electricity/silent option. In close, intimate environments this is a real benefit.
What is the future of open-air cinema?
For long time I was worried, when we got into the outdoor movie business, that it was a fad and that it would peter out and people would get tired of seeing outdoor movies. I said that when there were two shows on a weekend night in Washington D.C. or New York and now there are ten. And the popularity just seems to grow and grow. Outdoor cinemas are here to stay.
What is the reason for this growth in your view?
Why do people enjoy outdoor movies on an AIRSCREEN? Is it sitting under the stars on a beautiful evening? Creating an environment and a mood that you just cannot find inside four walls and under a roof? Absolutely!
What is it about the outdoor movie experience that makes people so happy? What is it, when you are operating an outdoor movie and people come up to you after the show and say thank you?
I am not entirely sure but spending an evening under the stars with a great movie is something most people will never get tired of.