Going to the movies is one of the most consistent forms of entertainment in the United States, especially in Nebraska where entertainment can be hard to come by. Marcus Theatres is the most abundant cinema in the state, with seven different locations. In Lincoln alone, there are four locations, and most notably for students going to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Lincoln Grand Cinema located downtown. Not only is Marcus Theatres one of the most popular movie-theatre chains in Nebraska, it’s also the fourth largest theatre circuit in the U.S.
Anyone who has been to a Marcus Theatre knows of the amusing commercials before the start of each movie where Greg Marcus thanks you for choosing Marcus Theatres and usually cracks one of his renowned dad jokes. Marcus is the current president and CEO of Marcus Corporation, which extends from movie theatres to hotels to even restaurants like ChopHouse and Blu, which are located in Milwaukee. The Daily Nebraskan talked with Marcus to get to know the man behind those electrifying pre-movie clips.
Daily Nebraskan: Do you usually go to the movies each week? Or is it hard to find the time?
Greg Marcus: Yeah, I try to go every week, most of the time it’s a date night with my wife. I usually go about once a week, I just don’t really watch movies at home all that much.
DN: What’s your go-to movie theatre snack and beverage?
GM: I like to eat dinner there a lot of the time. So I usually get a double onion pizza, because they’re so good. I like the zucchini fries so I get those as well. Of course I’ll get some popcorn and a soda to top it off.
DN: When was Marcus Theatres founded and how has it changed over time?
GM: So it was originally founded in 1935 in Ripon, Wisconsin, by my grandfather, who was actually an immigrant. He was living in Minneapolis at the time but wanted to open a movie theatre, and the closest market he could find was in central Wisconsin. The company has changed a lot since then. First off, we aren’t just a movie business anymore. We now own many hotels, including the Cornhusker Hotel in downtown Lincoln. In terms of how the theatres themselves have changed, there’s the comfortable reclined seating, loyalty programs, five dollar Tuesdays, and I’m sure you’re aware of student Thursdays.
DN: What made the Marcus Corporation decide to expand to other businesses like hotels and restaurants?
GM: Well my grandfather started the business before television came along. Once television started getting popular, it made owning a movie theatre challenging. However, it also created a lot of opportunities. It allowed him to meet people from other businesses who were overextended, which allowed him to grow through owning those other businesses. We also decided that it’s not a good idea to put all of our eggs into one basket.
DN: With all of the internet streaming services that exist today, how do Marcus Theatres, and movie theatres in general, stay relevant?
GM: We are currently in a battle against your couch. We’ve always found that we should be okay as long as there are 16 year olds. Whether it’s the teenagers or the parents, someone is trying to leave the house. There’s always going to be demand, but the question is, how do you maximize that demand? This includes keeping things exciting and vibrant. This is done through all of the amenities we offer to customers that go to our theatres, including the reclining seats. People always say that movies are so expensive compared to doing other things, but that’s because they aren’t the same experience, and creating value in that experience is what we want to be about.
DN: A big thing that you are known for are the commercials you star in before every movie starts. Do you enjoy doing those? How often do you change them up?
GM: We usually try to change up the commercials around every six weeks. By the way, I know what you kids write about me on the internet, through Snapchat and different things like that. I have children. Kids are having fun and I’m aware of that, but we also don’t want to give them extra ammo by not changing the thing, so we try to change it up consistently and keep it short to around 30 seconds. We love to throw in dad humor. Some are funnier than others. At least if it’s not that funny it’s only going to be up there for a few more weeks before we release a new one. I think we are up to around 60 commercials currently.
DN: Besides making those commercials, what are the duties and responsibilities you have as president and CEO of Marcus Corporation?
GM: Well, my job is to find the best people to be in charge of our businesses. I make sure that we stay true to what it is we do. I make sure that we have a strong balance sheet and that we continually look for new things to do. Another big part of my job is making sure we are making the right investments.
DN: What’s your favorite part about your job?
GM: Being able to be a part of so many people’s lives. I always love to hear that someone’s first job was at a theatre, hotel or restaurant that’s owned by Marcus. I love that we have so many employees that are a part of our 25 year club, which are employees who have worked for our company for over 25 years. Besides that, I get to work with my dad, which I enjoy quite a bit. He’s a great guy.
DN: Will there be a future Marcus that will take over the family business some day?
GM: I’m not too sure yet. All of my kids are grown up in school and college, just getting started with their lives. There will definitely be opportunities for them if they want to pursue it. However, I worked for the company for 17 years before I got the position I have today, so it’s definitely not something that is just a hand-out. They’d have to work for it like I did.