Millennial isn’t a word. It’s a sentence.
That’s meant as a reference to “Family isn’t a word. It’s a sentence,” the brilliant tagline for writer/director Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums, a classic dramedy about family dysfunction. The point is simple: the word family comes with a loaded meaning that’s different for everyone.
When people say the word millennial these days, it doesn’t feel like just a word.
Clichés abound when it comes to the way millennials are viewed. We can’t ditch our mobile devices. We are entitled. We don’t take criticism well. The list goes on and on. It’s not all bad, of course. We are viewed as being highly tech-savvy, and we’re a very racially diverse generation. Still, there seems to be an overwhelming emphasis on the negatives. As a proud member of this generation, I don’t feel like I’m different than anybody else who was just starting out in life and wanted to carve out their niche in the world.
We are certainly guilty of stereotyping as well. I’d bet good money that if you asked 10 millennials whether or not boomers were directly responsible for global warming 9 out of 10 would answer with an emphatic “Yes!”
In a recent New York Times article titled “Corporate America Chases the Mythical Millennial,” Google’s Laszlo Bock—the tech giant’s head of human resources—states a simple fact that generational divides are nothing new and should not be viewed as an alarming problem to address.
“What we’ve seen is that every single generation enters the work force and feels like they’re a unique generation, and the generation that’s one or two ahead of them looks back and says, ‘Who are these weird, strange kids coming into the work force with their attitudes of entitlement and not wanting to fit in?’” Mr. Bock said. “It’s a cycle that’s been repeated every 10 to 15 years for the last 50 years.”
I think Bock limits his statement by saying “…for the last 50 years.” Has there ever been a time in human history when you couldn’t point to some kind of generational divide? I doubt it.
So what does this mean for our industry? Well, hopefully with an open line of communication the generational divide can become more of a positive than a negative.
Enter NATO’s launch of the Young Members Committee.
The goal of the Young Members Committee (YMC) is to encourage young employees—defined for these purposes as being 35 years old & under—in our industry to feel more connected through education initiatives, social events, and surveys. The YMC is open to any employee at our member theatres no matter what position they hold. We want to nurture talented young people who may want to pursue a long-term career in this industry. This openness in membership will help promote the exhibition industry’s diversity within various job titles. Regional chapters can opt to assemble their own individual committees.
For organizational purposes, we will have a Leadership Board in order to help develop useful initiatives. Dan Harkins has volunteered to serve as the Executive Board liaison to the YMC.
When it comes to education initiatives, the goal is to have webinars and in-person gatherings at regional and national conventions. With the webinars, we will look to invite industry experts to speak on topics such as box office grosses and technological innovation. There will also be outreach to industry professionals outside of exhibition in order to investigate topics that are becoming increasingly relevant to this business such as the explosion of eSports and the growing power of Snapchat.
From a research perspective, the YMC will aim to provide valuable insight into what millennials expect from the theatre experience and how their views will impact what our industry will become over the next couple of decades. Once there is a wide enough base of members, surveys would be a very beneficial way to allow members to make their voices heard. Surveys could also lead to official reports released to the membership from the YMC.
Millennials live and work in a very different industry than the one previous generations started in. I can barely remember using a phone book in the same way that I can barely remember seeing a new movie projected on film in an auditorium that didn’t have stadium seating. I’ve been working in this business for about nine years now, and I would like to continue doing so until I retire. If China’s box office passes North America’s box office in 2017 and doesn’t look back, then 30 years or so of my career will be in a world in which China is the #1 market and only nine with North America being #1. New developments in virtual, augmented, and mixed reality could entirely change the way movies are projected in theatres. I took it to heart when George Lucas said at CinemaCon 2011 that movie theatres would never go away and cinemas would eventually be filled with holograms. (Even if he was a bit ambitious in thinking that Episode VII would be shot that way.)
It’s a very exciting time to be in the world of exhibition, and yet the media and various Silicon Valley “disruptors”—I apologize on behalf of my entire generation for the word disrupter being used to the point of causing nausea—are obsessed with saying the industry sticks its head in the sand. It’s my hope that the Young Members Committee will do what it can to fight against this misconception.