If you could control what was playing at your local cinema, would you pay the ticket price to see the film in a theatre? Or would you pay less/nothing and just keeping watching films online or on DVD/Blu-Ray?
The reason I’m asking: I believe many more cinemas are going to disappear unless audiences believe they have at least some choice about what they watch. I believe many people, given the option, would “vote” using their cell phones and/or Facebook applications to select what they want to see. If theater owners/corporations were able to see the a wave of statistics and respond accordingly, then I believe a new wave of interest in attending theaters could begin. It’s already happening in select cases, which I’d be glad to share.
I’d like to hear what this community thinks to determine what the market is like and to get some quotes from filmmakers about whether this is a need/desire. And incidentally, does anyone know how to create excellent Facebook applications that would allow people to vote?
If such an application was created, you would probably still get most people asking for Machete, Resident Evil and Harry Potter.
You’re not going to see Tokyo Story in a multiplex until people get educated on how much better films can be, and that isn’t going to happen unless:
a) Critics stop giving Hollywood garbage attention
b) Film schools stop giving Hollywood garbage attention
c) Viewers wake up to themselves
I agree that many people would still vote on junk, but those aren’t the kinds of films that usually have to be voted on to get them playing, so maybe people wouldn’t even bother. I’m thinking more about how to get a film like the Coen Bros.’ A Serious Man into smaller markets. It played in just one theatre in Phoenix for the entire duration of its run. If that happened, then I can imagine it didn’t even touch several U.S. states where Coen Bros. fans live—let’s say Montana, for example. If 6 people in Billings, MT let it be known on their Facebook or MUBI accounts that they wanted to see the film, they could use a website I’m proposing to get their local friends to vote on it. If they reach a critical mass – say 200-300, then the theatre owner gets notified and all the people who voted get a text/facebook message.
Thanks for the honest feedback.
Recently, this example happened in England by the way: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/46347 . The movie isn’t Tokyo Story, but it’s a hopeful sign.
Hrmmm… interesting concept. I think it would only “help” in terms of what were briefly known as “mid-level movies”, stuff like About Schmidt or Wes Anderson films that appeal to a particular “Indie” market but aren’t exactly cheap to make, if you know what I mean. The type of stuff with a built-in audience but no room for advertising dollars.
Meanwhile, a movie called I Was a Seventh Grade Dragon Slayer is currently looking into reviving an older form of distribution known as “four-walling”. It’s where the movie itself rents out a theatre direct from the company and then gets to charge the ticket price. I heard they were researching into that quite a few months ago, I don’t know what happened with it, but it’s another alternative to be sure.
Let’s just keep one thing in mind here. From Justin to Kelly is important because, yes, people actually voted for it . By that I mean, more people from the United States vote on American Idol than they vote for the President of the United States. I think there could be a real problem in terms of up-and-coming Hollywood and mainstream Indie filmmakers also not getting a chance because, again, everyone would rather see the new Ridley Scott film than somebody else offering something new.
On the other hand, it’s worth acknowledging that most of the people passionate enough to care to vote, tend to at least like movies in general, and thus would vote for movies they’d think they’d actually like, whereas I think much of the success of Hollywood productions is that many people don’t really like them, but feel there’s no alternative (they are wrong, but it stands to reason that if they had a virtual choice, they’d become more aware of their real one).
I think it would not change very much in the long run, to be perfectly honest—advertising dollars would be diverted to specifically those sources that lay out the votes, the studios could possibly even buy out the theatres to require the vote be among a certain specific set of movies (and thus nudge independent competition even further out of the line), and so on. It seems more like an independent theatre sort of activity, really, only operable in small groups for the purposes of true cinematic expansion but otherwise virtually indistinguishable from the current “dollar vote” model of, “this movie made money so we’ll make more of them,” and “this movie didn’t make money so we’ll make less of them.” I’m not sure distribution in the mainstream will be helped.
The only thing about the whole independent theatre thing is, if it’s really an independent theatre, you do ALREADY have the vote. Seriously. Ye Olde Locale Cinema back home takes recommendations and chooses movies based on what its customer demographic wants to see, and I regularly talk with the owners about potential ideas for future releases (“Are you going to get this? Are you going to get that? Have you heard this guy is coming out with something new, do you think you can get it?”), and they have a mailing list which can, in fact, be replied to with recommendations and questions. I am fully aware that independent theatres are rare, but by definition it means you should be able to contact the actual owner and work something out if you care.
Thus, I really don’t think that this process will change anything substantial, however it’s somewhat worth looking into as specifically regards mainstream cinema and the possibilities of consumer-requested concepts. Thing is, though, you just always have to remember that studios DO do market research and they DO bounce these ideas off of test groups and those test groups DO say stupid shit like, “I didn’t like The Talented Mr. Ripley because the murderer wasn’t caught by the end.”
Speaking as to the divide between independent and mainstream cinemas and the possibilities of “votes” in reference specifically to A Serious Man , it should be noted that I saw that movie twice in theatres. The first time, it played at a Century theatre downtown, and I went with my friend Dylan. The theatre had five people total, including me and Dylan, and Dylan and I were the only two laughing. Later it went away and I was depressed because of how poorly it did, but then Ye Locale Independente Cinema picked it up, which was actually a surprise since it had already played, but more importantly, it allowed me to go again, and this time my mother (who is a huge Coen brother fan) came with. THIS time, the theatre was packed, and people were rolling.
The thing is, the Century theatre had advertisements for A Serious Man . The independent theatre didn’t. More marketing was spent on getting people to go to the Century theatre, but the market actually existed at the independent theatre, at least in this case study, at least in this local area that this case study took place in. So mainstream audiences effectively “voted” against A Serious Man by not turning up, but local cinephiles effectively “voted” for A Serious Man by showing up.
In a situation where the vote is given through such a mass media format as the web or iPhone apps or whatever, the votes are going to refer to mainstream theatres and mainstream audiences. Those audiences, I would think, would read a short synopsis like, “From the directors of No Country for Old Men comes a movie about a Jewish professor who—” aaaaannnnnddd done. The type of people who knew A Serious Man was coming out essentially the second it was announced because they like them their Coeny goodness, are the type of people who do that sort of research in the first place and thus tend to know the locations, if any, of where they’ll be able to retrieve that product, which means they may be huge cinema consumers, but they’re not regular mainstream theatre attendees.
Thanks for the thought you put into answering. I’m reading you loud and clear, yet I still have hope that it could work. The story about Paranormal Activity generating a million votes and gaining a nationwide release, though some of it may have been marketing rzmataz—it was still a $10,000 movie that went on to make more than $100 million. I’m not saying that’s the kind of movie I want audiences to select—but it does prove to me that audiences want to vote and feel a sense of ownership (endorsing a film) and that has power. With the advent of digital cinema, I see a future where an online forum of 100 friends could effectively program and promote their own festival at a multiplex—as long as they can basically guarantee ticket buyers. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I don’t think I’m the only one…
LOVE your ideas! Calling your local art house theater and requesting a film can actually help an indie get screened there. The Big Hollywood Chain Theaters are another story. But almost all businesses try to listen to their customer base to some degree. Even corporate biz. The more audiences speak up for quality films the more quality films we’ll get. …. but don’t hold your breathe…speak up!
Makes sense to me, my local independently-owned theater takes requests via their website, and it’s really nice to have some input about what’s coming soon.