This year’s presidential debates are getting the big-screen treatment in St. Louis. Patch.com, FOX2News and Wehrenberg Theaters are joining together to host a series of watch parties around the city to help foster community engagement.
The first presidential debate on Oct. 3, 2012 was live at two St. Louis-area Wehrenberg theaters—Des Peres 14 Cine and St. Charles 18 Cine. These two theaters will also host the vice presidential debates on the big screen this Thursday, Oct. 11 at 8 p.m. All watch parties will be free.
Kurt Greenbaum, regional editor of Patch in St. Louis, said that Patch reached out to Wehrenberg Theaters because it is a local chain it had worked with before. Patch, a network of local news websites serving 23 states and the District of Columbia, suggested the idea of holding watch parties to its various regions due to its emphasis on local consumer engagement with the news and bringing people together around a big, national event.
“The people that we’re serving are people we believe are engaged in their local communities,” Greenbaum said. “We’re all about providing a platform for people to learn about and share information about what’s going on in their local community.”
Kelly Hoskins, Vice President of Marketing at Wehrenberg Theaters, counted more than 180 people in attendance at the first debate.
“I attended the Des Peres one, and talk about a melting pot in the auditorium,” Hoskins said.
She described the audience as a rather upscale group, mainly of adults 35 and older. There was an even proportion of men and women who seemed to be involved politically on both sides.
“The people who attended all sounded very grateful for the opportunity to come together and see it in a community setting like that,” Greenbaum said. “A couple of people were really heartfelt in their appreciation for that after the debate.”
Greenbaum said it was neat to see the debate on the big screen and a lot easier to focus and keep viewers’ attention.
“The ones who spoke all sounded like they were very up on the issues and had been paying attention to the campaign,” Greenbaum said.
While Wehrenberg has held similar watch party events for St. Louis Cardinals’ games, kids movies and other special events, Hoskins said it has never hosted anything political. One reason the theaters will host events for free is to showcase its digital projection and high definition capabilities. It also aligns with the company’s mission.
“It falls in line with our business philosophy of being the hometown, local community theater,” Hoskins said. “If you can watch something in your family room on the big screen, watch it in the theater on the biggest screen.”
While concessions were sold, this audience was focused on the event and not on buying food.
FOX2 News in St. Louis joined the partnership and played a large role in publicizing the event.
“It’s been a good experience and we’re looking to do it again for the remainder of the season,” said Gregg Palermo, Creve Coeur Patch editor.