Mitchell Roberts sat in his grandfather's fishing boat on a lake in East Texas talking about the state of the exhibition industry with his mentor and granddad Cinemark founder and chairman Lee Roy Mitchell. It was then that the Texas State University freshman had an idea: "What if we created a "one-stop" entertainment destination for people?" His grandfather and father, David Roberts, owner of the 40-screen Texas Cinema Corporation, agreed that the concept was compelling.
Roberts said goodbye to college and got to work, tapping into his family's over 100 years of movie theater and business experience to make his idea a reality. In November 2014, Evo Entertainment opened in Kyle, Texas, a small but rapidly growing town located on the I.H. 35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio.
Designed by Dallas-based Beck Architecture, the architectural design division of The Beck Group, the integrated design/build firm long used by Cinemark to design its theaters, Evo Entertainment combines 11 movie theaters, 14 bowling lanes, a 3,500 sq. ft. game arcade and several event spaces for family parties and corporate events with a first-rate restaurant and bar (Hardihoods Bar & Grill) serving locally-sourced food and craft beers on tap in an expansive 70,000 sq. ft. amusement complex.
How they keep clients coming back, though, is not just the experience on premises at its facilities, but through social media relationships outside of them.
Social Approach: "Don't Market - Converse"
Evo stays in touch with its guests through social media interactions on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+ and has developed its own persona, "Evo." Twenty-one-year-old Roberts says social media gives his guests a direct line to Evo and provides quick feedback on what's resonating with them.
The interaction is immediate and inclusive and provides an endless stream of ideas for theme nights such as the "Ladies Night: Magic Mike XXL VIP Screening Party" or Special Nights like the "Hello Summer Beach Party." But even more than the constant flow of feedback and ideas, social media provides a conduit for fresh ideas that are helping Roberts and Beck Architecture design future Evo facilities.
And unlike the way most other businesses use social media, Evo interacts with its guests on a very personal level, answering every question and responding to every review, comment and mention that people make regarding the company. They "Like" their guests' photos and send messages such as "Hey, we miss you! Come back and see us sometime soon!"
When a regular Evo guest posted a photo of her family at another bowling alley, Roberts posted a comment saying, "Hey, are you cheating on me!?" It's a direct, almost blunt, approach to social media that most businesses are too afraid to use.
Roberts says, "Social media was designed as an outlet for people to interact with each other, and businesses jumped in and tried to twist and turn it into a tool for them. Instead of twisting social media, we twisted the business. Making the business its own entity, with its own personality and using social media to highlight that and interact."