Sixty-three years ago, Warren Miller charged $1 per ticket for his first film screening. Three people showed up. He had been shooting skiing for a while, showing the footage at night, and trading screenings for tuna casseroles and a bed. For two decades, he had a monopoly on the niche. Now, every major ski film has an associated tour. Teton Gravity Research, Matchstick Productions and Poor Boyz Productions pack theaters from Bend to Boston, but the Warren Miller tour has managed to dominate the mainstream market by delivering an experience many consider tradition.
This fall, Warren Miller Entertainment presents Flow State, which will tour to more than 240 cities across North America after its premiere in Salt Lake City on October 19. Hosted by Jonny Moseley, the film stars Chris Davenport, Jess McMillan, Julian Carr, Chris Anthony, Jackie Paaso, David Wise and others, who try to find “the zone” in Norway, Austria, California, Alaska, Switzerland and beyond.
“The movie is the centerpiece, but for so many of the folks, it’s about the experience,” said Fig Stokes, North American Film Tour Operations Manager. “A lot of people go see the movie every year with a big group of friends. It’s an opportunity to open up the lungs and shout at the screen.”
A lot of that experience is about being surrounded by enthusiastic ski fans. A lot of it is the prizes, sweepstakes, athlete poster signings and freebies. And for many, it’s the official start of winter.
In the 50’s, Miller was screening some sort of footage upwards of 300 nights a year, mostly in the West. Now, the tour lasts two-and-a-half months and covers a large portion of North America, reaching approximately 300,000 people every season. What once was a one-man operation now relies on five, four-person crews to coordinate the 180 moving parts that go into each screening. Each crew consists of a tour manager, an MC, a projectionist and a sponsor liaison.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a screening for 200 people at the Sun Valley Opera House or a 10-show stretch to 15,000 people in Denver, we offer the same quality presentation,” Stokes said. “We spend a lot of time crafting the tour and how it works. For 63 years, we’ve always pressed play. If we say it starts at 8 p.m., it starts at 8 p.m. We deliver a professional show that runs exactly as planned. Our lobbies look fantastic, our athletes are there, the movie looks great, the sound is spot on... everything the audience should take for granted.”
Stokes’ favorite stop?
“Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It’s a monster three-day stop right before Thanksgiving. It’s a fantastic, rowdy audience who has a great time. There’s no holding back.”
Check out warrenmiller.com for tour information.
2012 Warren Miller's Flow State National Tour Calendar Highlights
10/19 - 10/20
Salt Lake City, Abravanel Hall
10/20 - 10/21
Portland, Bagdad Theater
Chicago, Park West
San Francisco, Palace of Fine Arts Theatre
11/7 - 11/11
Boulder, Boulder Theater
11/15 - 11/18
Denver, Paramount Theatre
Boston, Berklee Performance Center
11/16 - 11/17
Seattle, McCaw Hall at Seattle Center
11/20 - 11/21
Santa Cruz, Rio Theatre
11/29 - 11/30
Burlington, Flynn Center for the Performing Arts
Phoenix, Herberger Theater Center
12/6 - 12/7
Newport Beach, Lido Theatre
Click here to find a tour stop near you.