THE Omaha Story
The Omaha Story
BY Ralph Franklin
It was a crisis. Travelogue’s good name had been muddied and patrons were angry.
Superior Attractions of Omaha, Nebraska, had sold pre-season tickets to its travel film series, then abruptly cancelled the shows. And worse, had failed to refund the money.
The angry patrons had filed a lawsuit.
Omaha's Dick Walter, the original owner of the travelogue series before selling to Superior Attractions, was distraught after receiving angry calls from his former patrons. He could do nothing.
He told me he thought perhaps 200 film-goers had lost their season ticket money when the series abruptly folded.
A criminal complaint had been filed against Superior Attractions by Iowa’s Attorney General and the investigation was underway. (Superior Attractions’ home was in nearby Council Bluffs, Iowa, and the suit had to be filed in Iowa and not Nebraska.)
I had learned about the cancellation and the patrons' plight in late January of 2010 and called Dick Walter. As I listened to him I realized this was a black eye for the travelogue industry and wondered if I could do anything. The answer was: You won't know until you try. I told Dick I’d see what I could do.
I needed information, lots of information and the gathering process began. Call after call was made to Omaha. Two days into my search, I received a phone call from Kristen Anderson a reporter for Omaha's station KETV. She wanted to know what I knew about Superior Attractions folding, which was nothing. I did tell her she could broadcast my name and my toll free phone number and tell anyone who had lost their money to call me. This could open the door to finding these patrons. I was not refunding money but gathering names.
The TV airing brought in about 15 anxious patrons who were told about the proposed free mini series, and to relay the word to fellow traveloguers.
A few days later the lead investigator for the Iowa Attorney General’s Office e-mailed me that if I continued with this “free mini series” I could jeopardize their case against Superior Attractions. “Could” was not “would,” and I continued.
The free mini series looked more promising with each passing day and now I needed four filmmakers who would be willing to give two shows the same day—for free.
Marcus Theaters decides to work with
us to reestablish the Dick Walter Series.
This was the easiest part of all. When the filmmakers learned what had happened they said Yes. Next, the theater came through, agreeing to work with us.
Lastly, John Connley and his wife, ardent Omaha travelogue fans, called to ask if they could help. The answer was "yes." They would run the box office and introduce the speakers.
It was now late February 2011, and shows dates were finalized, printing of tickets and posters completed and shipped to Omaha..
There would be two shows in March and two in April 2011. TAD editor Hal McClure suggested calling the new series, Omaha World Adventurers. I had located all the local news media and began pumping out news releases. The Sunday prior to the first show we ran a large ad in Omaha’s major daily newspaper with details of the free mini series.
Scammed patrons with cancelled checks
receive a free mini series pass,
The first show was Tuesday, March 1. Ex-patrons of the abandoned series lined up, waiting with anxious looks. I’m sure they were thinking, “If it’s too good to be true.” Well, it was true.
Each patron was given a four-show season (punch) ticket, and the anxious looks turned to smiles. Lots of smiles.
TAD filmmaker Clint Denn, Mr. & Mrs.
Conley and Sue Denn, lobby,
20 Grand Cinema.
Those four artists who appeared on the series were real heroes. I don’t think any of those guys have received so much love and thanks in their careers as they did at those showing. The patrons knew the artists were appearing at there own expense. The artists make a few bucks, however, selling DVDs—from $300 to $600.
The mini series was completed in April and we now had the start of a mailing list. Omaha World Adventurers would continue as a cooperative and a six-show series in 2011-2012. That series ended this past April and the mailing list was growing. The 2012-2013 is now underway.
Omaha World Adventurers is success because TAD filmmakers stepped in and made it happen.
For me, it was crazy, an education on what can be done in today's business world vs.10 years ago. It was hard to understand, even believe. Why? Because I never left my desk here in California and the series was set up and running using a telephone and computer. It took about two weeks to complete.
The OWA series is open to any TAD filmmaker who wishes to participate. They will have to clear it with their agent. The six-show 2013-14 season will be set up in April 2013. The shows start late September—skipping December and January—and end in April.
(TAD filmmakers wishing to participate please contact Ralph Franklin: firstname.lastname@example.org)