hypocritical : talking the talk without walking the walk

September 18, 2005

Please return your popcorn to the full upright and locked position

NOTE: No doubt, folks have written about this concept time and time again. I've probably even read a few of those concepts, internalized them, and forgotten that I read them. I'm freely willing to admit that. However--given that a) I tend to think a number of my ideas are completely earth-shattering and I feel like letting everyone know how smart I think I am, b) I like to forget that people have given me a good idea, to convince myself that the idea was actually mine, and to then broadcast that idea to the world, as if it were, and c) I haven't seen anyone pursuing this idea, yet--I decided to write about it.

We're at an interesting spot in the world of modern cinema. Good plots from major movie studios are fewer and farther between. Movie ticket prices continue to rise. The words "contractual obligation" appear next to many of the major stars in the credits.

And still, I don't get the idea that the movie studios have valid ways of effectively gauging their market's wants and needs. I mean, I hear more and more complaining about how the studios are losing audiences. How they're losing touch. How their demise may be near. Did I mention the higher costs for flimsier plots?

And that's not even beginning to scratch the surface of DVDs, video on demand, the 37 HBOs to which I have access, illegal downloads, the resurgence of the small screen... I could go on and on.

What to do? What to do?

Well, we have this thing called the Web which seems to keep a chunk of the populous pretty connected. More and more folks seem to be using it on computers, handhelds, phones, you name it. There might be a kernel of something there.

Let's see who else sells tickets and uses the Web? Concert promoters. Yes, they do. Airlines do. They even have a whole secondary level of "travel sites" that sell tickets at cheaper prices...

Wait a second. Cheaper prices. You buy earlier. You get cheaper prices. You fill seats that weren't going to be filled. You get cheaper prices.

Now, we're getting somewhere.

Why doesn't the movie industry adopt an airline-ticket pricing structure? That is, I buy my tickets early, I get a discount on those seats. I buy my tickets late, I get a discount on my seats, but I don't know what theater I'm going to be attending. I fly the red-eye, I get cheaper tickets.

You see where I'm going here? Take every aspect of buying airline tickets and transfer them to the world of movie theaters. I think there are some compelling advantages.

  1. I plan ahead; I get a cheaper ticket.

    I, for example, have a young child. I know when I'm going to be able to see a movie weeks in advance. If I could purchase that ticket for say, half of the window price, by scheduling my theater, the day, and the viewing time. Throw me a discount for popcorn while you're at it. I can guarantee you'll get me into the theater.

  2. I have to get to a certain movie, so I'll see it anywhere (with in reason).

    So I didn't plan ahead, and there are 20 theaters showing the film I want to see. I don't care which of those 20 theaters in which I have to see it. I just want to see it. And I don't really want to drive around or call to figure out who still has room for me. Give me a discount and sell me a ticket for the least trafficked theater. Maybe the next time I want to go, I'll book ahead at that theater. Maybe I'll tell my friends how nice it was there. Maybe business will go up.

  3. Give frequent flyers more perks.

    If I'm going to book every viewing in your theater, then show me you care. Give me some perks. I'm helping you fill what could be empty seats.

  4. Schedule films to fit the audience needs.

    Maybe all the screens don't need to be showing the new release next Friday. Maybe more people want to see that film that's been out for 3 months. Right now, theaters don't know because they have no idea who will be arriving (beyond Fandango purchases). Let people book in advance and you'll have a much better idea about who's showing up when.

  5. Of course closest to my heart, start paying attention to what I see and when I see it. Then start promoting particular films that will be of interest to me. Or suggest films of tangential interest that are available during times I attend. Pay attention to my booking habits. When my attendance starts to degrade, ask me why. Start the conversation with the customer.

And those are just a few random smatterings of thoughts. None of them are really that well-baked because, well, I haven't really thought about it that much. But it seems like there was the kernel of something there.

So, like our good friend Seth Godin, I thought I'd take the opportunity to throw the idea out there. Hoping that someone will listen. Hoping that even though they've probably heard it a number of times before, this will be the time it sinks into their subconscious. Hoping that someone will run with it. Someone with the power to make it happen. Someone who thinks it's their idea. Because, no matter what, I'll benefit. And so will a whole host of other folks.

Heard this idea before? Leave a comment. Or pretend I'm the first person to impart this knowledge to you, and return to see me regurgitate other old ideas. It's all marketing. It's all been done before, anyway.


Please return your popcorn to the full upright and locked position
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