As far as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Gross Alaska Theaters managers are concerned, Juneau residents have at least seven options for having a good time this holiday season without endangering lives: the theaters' seven movie screens.
With that in mind, Gross Alaska Theaters will team up with several businesses this weekend to educate and entertain Juneau audiences while raising money for MADD. Every dollar spent on movie tickets at Gross Alaska on Sunday night will go directly to MADD, in the first-ever "MADD About Movies" event in Juneau.
According to data compiled by MADD from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 301 people in the United States died a year ago in alcohol-related traffic accidents between the evening of Dec. 29 and the morning of Jan. 2.
That period was second only to the Fourth of July last year in the number of alcohol-related traffic deaths.
"There's a lot of partying going on during the holidays," said Cindy Cashen, executive director of the Juneau chapter of MADD. "The drunk-driving fatality rates and the drunk-driving injury rates are much higher this time of year than any other holiday."
Sponsors of the theater event have created advertisements that will run before movie showings on Sunday and Monday and possibly throughout the spring, Cashen said. Gregory Dostal, a reconstructive surgeon in Juneau, used an actual X-ray of a drunken-driving accident victim in his advertisement.
"He has literally had to put back the faces of drunk-driving victims," Cashen said.
Cashen said the event is meant to be educational as well as a fund-raiser.
"It's also during Christmas break when kids from the colleges are back home. Those who are underage need to understand what happens to their brains when they consume alcohol," she said.
The seven movie screens the company operates in Juneau can entertain as many as 1,200 patrons in an evening, no alcohol required. Cashen hopes to collect between $10,000 and $15,000 for MADD from the event.
"You couldn't ask for a better weekend to go to the movies," said Eric Forst, director of operations at Gross Alaska Theaters.
Gross Alaska has been working on the logistics of the MADD About Movies night since April, Forst said.
"We had to figure out a way to do it ... that it doesn't conflict with our commitment to the studios in terms of their royalties on the film," Forst said.
Gross Alaska will pay the royalty fees for the films as its donation to the evening. It also is donating the usual costs to run two movie theaters for an evening, including employee wages.
The Mendenhall Auto Center and First National Bank Alaska are the other major sponsors of the event.
"From our perspective, cars and alcohol do not mix," said Steve Allwine, who owns the Mendenhall Auto Center with his wife, Karla. "We sell 50 percent of the combination. The other is the liquor. If you combine liquor and cars that's really a bad thing, so it's a natural thing for us to sponsor the event."
First National Bank Alaska is supporting the event because MADD helps improve the quality of life of Juneau residents, said Lloyd Johnson, a vice president at the bank and its Juneau-area manager.
"I would guess that almost every adult out there knows somebody that has been affected by drunk driving in one way or another," Johnson said. "I know that I personally have. If this can hopefully keep one person from doing that, then I think we've done our jobs."
Christine Schmid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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