EDITORIALS

The Weekly Moviegoer - Marketing the Theatrical Experience

by
August 27, 2009

Movie Flames in 3D

If you've seen the trailer for the upcoming fourth Final Destination movie, you know it looks pretty terrible. Not quite as bad as the third Final Destination movie, but not nearly as good as the first two. You also know that it looks to be a recycled plot without having even the slightest connection to the rest of the franchise. And last but not least, you're aware that it pretty much already shows us all, or at least the majority, of the Rube Goldberg-type kills featured in the movie. But there's still a chance you're going to see it anyway, because you haven't seen any of it in 3-D, just as the tagline says: "Death saved the best for 3D!"

I know, in this case the 3-D appeal is very much a gimmick, but for a movie like this, that is nevertheless a worthy draw. Not necessarily for the film itself, but for the theatrical experience of the film. If you're not interested in the movie in anyway, so be it. But if you're even slightly interested, you know you can't wait to see it on DVD, and you know you can't just download it illegally. There would be little point. The sole reason this sequel was produced was to exploit the new digital 3-D technology.

Now, if only there was some way to convince people that they have to see other kinds of movies in the theater as opposed to on their TV or laptop. Trailers certainly don't advertise the moviegoing experience. How many times have you seen a trailer and said, “This looks good, but it seems like something I can wait to see when it comes out on DVD?” Too many to count, I'm sure.

So what is it that makes you see the movies in the theater that you see in the theater? Assurance that you won't get the same experience by waiting for it, right? It doesn't even have to be that there's a gimmick or spectacular visuals that require a big screen. It could simply be that you want to be part of the zeitgeist, to be able to talk about a hot topic film. This is the reason Twitter is allegedly helping films like District 9 and Inglourious Basterds. It's not just that Twitter is a good and quick word of mouth tool. We already had texting for that. No, it's likely more to do with the fact we can see what is popularly being talked about.

Here's where I must apologize that this week's column is clearly veering too much into the subject of movie marketing. But I'm almost as interested in that subject as I am in the pastime of moviegoing and of movie theaters, so it was unavoidable that I would eventually need to discuss their relationship to each other. Typically the relationship is not there. Film distributors and marketers rarely seem to care how we see their films, just so long as we're aware of them and want to see them in some way (and don't pirate them).

So why isn't the movie theater business doing more to market themselves? Well, they kind of have been for the past century. We just don't really pay attention to them anymore. Plus, these theater ads have primarily been buried in a section of a newspaper we only go to because we already want to see a film in the theater. They're useful marketing in that they tell us that such and such movie we want to see is playing in their theater and not at the competing cinema down the street. We typically don't bother with the parts of the ad that promote the theater's sound system or air conditioning or whatever other amenities it has.

Well, reportedly those kinds of showtime theater ads, along with print movie listings in general, are becoming extinct. Coincidentally, in the same week, we heard about a new kind of movie marketing strategy to promote the theatrical experience over the home viewing experience: make an underwhelming trailer. Well, that's what Sam Worthington said, anyway, when defending the widely dumped-on trailer for James Cameron's Avatar, in which he stars. Theoretically such a strategy only works if the movie is already anticipated, but the seemingly bonkers idea is that if we don't like what we see on our computer screen, we'll want to see it as it's intended, on the big screen, presented with the next wave of digital 3-D technology.

I've already complained about such a concept back when DreamWorks Animation thought it a good idea to market Monsters vs. Aliens with TV and magazine ads that employed antiquated red-and-blue style 3-D technology. But in this case, though I highly doubt it was Cameron's intent, the idea really might work. As much as I've trashed the Avatar trailer publicly elsewhere, I'm still curious enough to probably see the movie when it comes out. Because it's something that will remain a topic of discussion, and even if I'm only slightly interested in seeing the movie, I know that I'll have to see it in the theater.

Or, maybe I can wait. Another interesting coincidence this week, a more unfortunate one, was the news that Cameron is endorsing Panasonic's new 3-D HDTVs arriving in stores next year. Just in time for Avatar to come out on Blu-Ray, huh?

And I guess maybe The Final Destination will be able to be experienced as it's meant to be with those TVs, as well. That's why I wish I could afford to fly back to Arizona just for this weekend just to experience the movie in both 3-D and motion seats. But the combined gimmicks aren't appealing enough to warrant the cost even if I could afford it, so I'll just stick to seeing it in plain old 3-D and hope there's a kid sitting behind me who will kick the back of my chair, as is often the case when I don't want motion seats.

So what's a good way to market a movie specifically for theatrical viewing? I'm not entirely sure, though I imagine that when we finally see a trailer for Terrence Malick's long-awaited new film Tree of Life, I'm going to see how underwhelming the cinematography is in streaming video and know that I just have to see the film on a big screen. So what else coming out soon is going to require a theatrical viewing and why?

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  • NadaNuff
    "The sole reason this sequel was produced was to exploit the new digital 3-D technology." Really? I thought it was because the first three turned a profit, and the creators thought people would, I dunno, actually WANT to see a sequel.
  • DoomCanoe
    I am just sneaking in to The Final Destination... that way i get the 3D with out having to support such crap. and i totally see where you are coming from. Some movies are being made just to exploit the theatrical experience (FD4 is a great example). But in a world where all movies can be downloaded off the internet if you are a business what else are you supposed to do but exploit that experience. Right now the only difference between downloading a movie for free and going to the theater is the difference in screen size and cost; With rising ticket prices people have decided that the screen size isn't always worth it. This has also seemed to make people become more picky in movies they see. 3D is just the first gimmick Hollywood is spitting out to save its primary income producer (The Theater) from being taken down by the internet. so looking at it through a business stand point i can't say that selling the experience is a bad thing or that it will fail in any way. But i can say that if they keep chalking on extra prices just to experience this difference then people will see it as they see 3D right now... worth it at times, but pointless at others
  • http://twitter.com/gimmesumsuga Mathieu
    The third Final Destination movie was actually something of a return to form, I thought. It's the second one that's rubbish.
  • Kyle
    #2 - You have no idea what you are talking about! The movies are as popular as ever! Simply look at ticket sales. The internet is NO threat to the movie theater. At best you get some crappy work print or dvdrip. Wow a sub dvd quality rip on the net is really going to hurt theaters? Yeah I love watching a crappy quality movie on my laptop. Yes some people have an HD tv with a computer hook up - but then you are watching a crappy looking rip on your HD tv.. what a waste! Let's be realistic here. Besides movie leaks on the net rarely happen - the two biggest being Wolverine and Hostel II. And the only difference between the theater and your home is the screen size? No you mostly get high end projectors and excellent surround sound. Yes, 3d can be a bit gimmicky but it is not in retaliation of the internet. That is the most ignorant thing I have heard all week.
  • Kyle
    #2 Maybe I am reading your post wrong though. I suppose 3d in the theater can people to see a movie and not wait until it is later released on the internet.. but I do not think the avg movie in the theater is losing tickets to people watching it at home from the internet while the movie is still in the theater. However, following this logic dvd sales and rentals are a much bigger threat. If anything 3d is to get people to see the movie in the theater instead of waiting for the home release.
  • Shawn patrick
    I for one will skip but I know a few peeps who are going just watch the different deaths. They could careless about plot and character development. They just want to see those semi creative deaths. I'll skip it for anything else.
  • http://www.skonmovies.com Sean Kelly
    Even though I was not too crazy about Rob Zombie's last Halloween film, I would rather watch the new sequel than this film.
  • Melissa
    Interesting points about movie marketing and theater marketing. I think that the best marketing a theater could EVER do- not HD3D air conditioning rocket seats- but a strict policy of no children after certain hours and no children allowed in the theater for certain movies and an automatic-eject for talking/cellphone/iphone/blackberry people. Thankfully, these theaters are starting to emerge. I'm more than happy to pay extra for that luxury.
  • Branden
    The Lovely Bones because it's Peter Jackson and his films are always visually entertaining. Sherlock Holmes because it looks like there will be some cool fight scenes with some slow mo thrown in (and a huge, hot Rachel McAdams). Zombieland for obvious reasons Maybe Christmas Carol to see the animation I haven't really seen much on The Informant, but it's Matt Damon so... I guess this article is meant to ask how to theaters and studios market movies to non-movie goers. I mean, for me a movie doesn't have to be in 3D or have great visual appeal for me to see it in theaters. That's why I am getting upset at all the 3D and IMAX craziness. IMAX I agree is cool, but soon all movies are going to have to be shot in 3D or IMAX just to compete. It's going to be a standard and everyone is going to have to pay more for it. IMAX isn't going to be a big deal in 5 years cause it won't be as special.
  • Tra la la la la di da
    Only reason I go to theaters is for big explosions. Funny People = DVD/TV ROTF = BIG SCREEN!!! Now...if I owned some 51" HDTV, I'd probably hardly ever see if a film in theaters unless there was something more promising than action. So yeah, action and a plot like D9. Everything else could wait for my own personal enjoyment and 7.1 Dolby Digital surround at 1080p. Yes, I'm seeing FD in 3D because I love the FD series. They are simply the funnest movies to watch next to SAW and you will read, here and now, I'm a bit disturbed maybe because I love the creative ways they kill people. If it wasn't in 3D I wouldn't waste the money but I enjoy them and 3D should be fun whether it's cheesy or not.
  • Trey
    This is purely a movie that gives u a excuse to laugh at people die in inhumane ways and feel good about it. That said...Im there on opening day during my lunch break
  • http://www.firstshowing.net Alex Billington
    #1 - What he's saying is that the digital 3-D has already been proven as a means of drawing people into theaters... So he's saying by making this in 3-D (that being the only reason) it'll get people into theaters and make them money. He's not saying it's not about money, because it obviously is, but they already made sequels for money twice. This was made to use 3-D to make even more money.
  • NadaNuff
    I still don't agree that money was the only ("sole") reason this movie was made. There's always another factor. The FD series has a pretty nice following, and I'm sure that the studio, director, producers, etc. recognized that, which directly resulted in this latest entry. Sure, 3-D might make it a few extra bucks, but that's just the icing on the cake.
  • RStewie
    I like going to the movies in general. I'll go see most movies in the theater first. Some that I WON'T go see in the theater that I know I'll see eventually: Disney animation movies, dramas, comedies. Movies I won't see in the theater OR at home: RomComs, dramas that are tearjerkers, comedies that are stupid (Borat, that new "Gay" Borat, etc), additional Saw movies, movies with extended rape scenes, horror movies that I find offensive or dull (Rob Zombie's Halloween movies fall under this category). Movies I HAVE to see in the theater: summer blockbusters, 'splotion movies, Pixar animation movies, comedies that aren't stupid, sci-fi/fantasy movies, action movies, super hero movies, horror movies that don't suck.
  • Sabes
    I couldn't believe people actually liked these Final Destination movies. >.> Then again I do enjoy Saw...eh, to each their own. I have yet to watch a movie in 3-D, it always seemed kind of bleh to me...but I guess I'm bias from all the dumb stuff I've seen associated with it in the past. I don't care much for it, and I don't feel like a truly -good- movie needs it. I don't need imaginary stuff flying at my face. Real good movies I've watched pull me in and make me forget where I am without that.
  • DoomCanoe
    @Kyle "Wow a sub dvd quality rip on the net is really going to hurt theaters?" Every movie that hits theaters leaks 1-3 days later, yes most of the time it is some shitty cam but people are now touching up there work like crazy. I got Terminator 4, The Hangover, Worlds Greatest Dad, Last Ride, Ponyo, Moon and Inglorious Bastards all downloaded before or while they were in theater. T4, The Hangover, Moon, Worlds Greatest Dad all DVD rips. Last Ride Ponyo and Inglorious Bastards all touched up Cam to look and sound just like DVD rips. So that takes away 70$ from Hollywoods pocket (not true because i saw most of those movies in theater's i just wanted them so i could watch them again) But! that's 70$ right there. Now i went back to the site i downloaded them from and checked the amount of people that downloaded those movies during the time the movie was in theaters. THE RESULTS! Ponyo 12,345 Terminator 4 29,624 The Hangover 26,417 Worlds Greatest Dad (not in theaters yet) 8,319 Last Ride (not in theaters yet) 4,708 Moon 10,320 Inglorious Bastards 24,596 if everyone was using the ticket price we do here (10$) then Hollywood just lost 1,163,300$ and that's just from one very unknown site with only just over 900,000 members. Now if i worked in Hollywood and someone told me that 7 movies lost a total of 1,163,300$ from some crappy un heard of website I would probably think of a way to get people back in the theaters seeing as how that's the way they make the most income and that this would mean they are losing even more money from all the larger sites (TBP for example). Well the only logical thing for them to consider marketing is the movie going experience over the movie it self. 3D pulls people into theaters, good movie or bad just because its 3D. You can't download a 3D movie until it hits DVD. And its pointless to illegally film because the projection 3D is different then regular 3D. the total # of people who downloaded Coraline 3D while it was in theaters on that site 0 total # of people who illegally filmed Up 3D 0 In my opinion 3D is saving the movie going experience from downloaders but i don't think they should chalk on an extra 3$ every ticket to save there primary income producer. Because if 3D was regular ticket price, or even just 1$ more people would love to go see movies at the theater and in 3D. i hope my rambles make some sort seance, this is just my own personal though so maybe you are right maybe i do have no idea what im talking about haha
  • http://ireadsomething.blogspot.com Joeso
    I don't see movies in the theaters because the rest of the audience. With people's cell phone ADD, loss of manners, & just the ability to keep quiet. Texting throughout movies, ignoring the multiple requests to turn their phones off in different ads before the movie, people coming 20-30 minutes into the movie and just standing around. It's awful & getting worse I was in Inglorious Basterds this weekend and the only thing i could hear was an idiot giving uneducated play by play to the person sitting next to him. He kept saying Mike Myers is coming up. Who gives a crap? Mike Myers hasn't made a good movie since Wayne's World! He then felt the need to point out who Hitler was, who does get a title card at one point and if you don't know who Hitler is, you might want to pick up a book or go back to 5th grade. Then he kept asking why the movie wasn't over, he thought it was like 90 minutes. Finally with 20 minutes, I turned around and said "Can You keep you ___ mouth shut for 10 minutes man? " Five minutes later he is back at it again. I used to go to the movies 6 or 7 times a month but the loss of tact and the proliferation of cell phones has killed the experience for me for the most part especially in the megaplexes. I went to In The Loop at some small theater and not one issue there but its the crowd not the theater. There are plenty of movies I'd like to see (although some of them definitely are ruined by trailers). Sherlock Holmes, Extract, Informant and even though I haven't heard much about it I'll be there opening night for A Serious Man, anything by the Coen Brothers I'm there. The one movie that had the perfect trailer that I must see in theaters is Where The Wild Things Are. Great songs, intriguing, not too revealing, the perfect mix. Maybe the crowd will be full of kids, at least their talking are the sounds of enjoyment instead of idiocy & idle conversation. Sorry about the long rant and sounding like a snob but I'm sure there are plenty people that don't leave the comfort of their giant HDTVs for similar reasons (sadly I don't have one...yet.)
  • Kyle
    #16. You said yourself you download it to watch again or for "fun". How many of those other downloads did the same? How many of those other downloads were people that would not have went to see it in the first place? You can't assume those are all lost tickets. Many people download because they are cheap, poor, etc. I would guess that at most 1/4 of those downloads detracted ticket sales. And I don't even consider cams to effect anything period. Everyone hates cams that is a joke it is nowhere near a dvdrip. People download for many reasons but few imo replace a ticket that would have otherwise been sold.
  • David Banner
    Odd that my brain didnt put together 2+2=3D. If all movies are in 3D, no more cam. Wonder if they can make ripping DVD/Blu-Rays harder/impossible if all movies are in 3D.....hmmm......
  • Alex
    I just saw The Final Destination. The 3D was occasionally impressive but overall not something worth keeping up. And the film wasn't great, but that's to be expected.
  • Tra la la la la di da
    Ok, so FD4 was freakin' awesome. You got exactly what you paid for...death. lol Never the less, I also saw some other things, like Avatar and A Christmas Carol and my word Avatar sucks!!! I saw the 15min and it wasn't anything spectacular. After seeing the trailer, they didn't even have decent parts which could help, but most of all the 3D is meh. A Christmas Carol, via the trailer only of course, was WAY better. Here's the problem, while Avatar could be a fun action Ferngully flick, the 3D isn't worth it. A move like FD has one purpose, to kill people violently and pretty much keeps it going. Avatar will have a "plot" and those scenes will be so boring!!! A waste and I couldn't have done longer than 1.5hrs of 3D before my eyes whacked out. Everyone keeps saying the only way to experience Avatar is in 3D Imax. Well, let's put on our thinking caps, Alex, and realize that the general pubic won't do that therefore, as said and even confirmed by some saying the 2D isn't great, you have to watch it in 3D, means it will suck for the general audience. I'll admit, I'll wait for reviews but I won't waste money on 3D and if it's to much Ferngully shit, then no.

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