Publishers Seeing Paid Subscriber Increase By Using Virtual Events – Meanwhile, Biggest Movie Theater Chains Remain Closed

Two important words for movie theater chain owners and studios: virtual events.

Recently I mentioned in a post (see: Duh – People Prefer Streaming Channels Without Ads – During Pandemic or Not) and a follow up comment that I wasn’t a fan of the New York Times blocking readers after a certain number of reads. One reader complained that it sounded like I had issues with paywalls.

I don’t.

Just don’t think this method is a business wise or most effective way to monetize by disrupting your website readers and potential subscribers. In my detailed comment reply I stated there were other creative ways to drive more subscribers to their site.

Enter virtual events.

“With the huge success we’ve had with virtual events — over a quarter of a million attendees have tuned in from over 110 countries — we’ve realized that a significant portion of our attendees were not current NYT subscribers,” said Jessica Flood, managing director, NYTLive. “We are working to engage that group over the long term in a variety of ways, including a new suite of subscriber-only virtual events launching in the coming weeks.” 

Publishers are tying virtual events to subscriptions – Digiday

By holding special subscriber-only virtual events, it drives more paid subscribers.

When we choose to monetize this site someday, virtual events will be on the menu. I’d love to watch movies with the most engaged and energetic readers and it ties into what we do on YouTube with our “just left the theater” movie reviews. One way to scale these virtual events is to do it behind a paywall.

The New York Times isn’t having movie watching sessions, no, but there are all different types of virtual events and, as the article states above, they are attractive to paid subscribers as an added benefit.

It’s all about the benefits.

Imagine if you’re the local movie theater and you want to get more people watching movies. How about holding a virtual event with a host, just like Sylvester Stallone did for Rocky recently on Facebook (picture at top) (see: WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEKEND #21 of 2020 Movie and TV Streaming Picks – Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, Roku, Peacock, Shudder, DC Universe).

And it continues to bother me that movie theater chains feel like they can’t make any money while they’re closed in the pandemic. Ideas exist, but they’d rather just say “we’re waiting for the new movies to launch in July” — what happens if Tenet and Mulan are delayed? Does that mean they’d hold out on reopening in August?

Summer is going to come and go. Movie theaters need to reopen during the summer. At least one some sort of scale. Open your best performing theaters in major markets first, fine, whatever, just start reopening the locked doors.

In the meantime, I’ll keep hoping not to read more articles where the movie theater chains are whining about having no new movies to show (see: Florida Landlord Sues AMC for Rent – 7.5 million – Meanwhile, they won’t open until there are “new” movies to show?) and how they are making “almost no” revenue while closed.

Virtual events! Work out deals with studios and start hosting watch parties. AMC, Regal, somebody get on this. Maybe the independents will lead the charge (see: Independent Theaters Testing Virtual Screenings)

So many ideas for virtual events to draw people’s interest. Show us the creativity and we’ll be more willing to open our wallets.

Virtual Locations vs. Real Locations Should Be Reducing Budgets, Yes?

The following article makes a case for why many movie budgets are (way!) out of control.

If more green screen work can be done in virtual locations that should be saving a ton of money over visiting physical locations to shoot.

“You don’t need to hop from exotic location to exotic location for a day or two of work,” he added.  “You can plan out your sequence where you don’t have to do that. You can take advantage of the digital backlot and you can basically replicate what you can get on location. It doesn’t take long to master it, if you understand how it works, how to control it, what every set up is, how to light it, and how to color correct it.”

The Mandalorian’s Real-Time Virtual Production Saves Hollywood | IndieWire

I keep hammering on movie budgets at this blog because I believe fiscal irresponsibility contribute to less creative movies being made. Instead of getting more movies on modest to low budgets, we get fewer big budget movies where stupid cost overruns happen and studios become gunshy about “taking chances” on more creative films, simply because they are worried about the budgets.

This leads to us — movie fans — getting too much of the same, tired cycle of reboots, remakes and “known” projects. Lower budget studios and filmmakers enjoying financial success help break the cycle.

Overzealous directors can and probably are a big part of the problem here. Martin Scorsese is an amazing director, no argument there, but why can’t or won’t he make movies for lower budgets any more? See: Martin Scorsese – Great Director Struggling Staying Within Budget

James Cameron is filming four movies at one time, but still, one freaking billion dollars for four Avatar sequels? Sure, he’s one of the greatest directors ever with a proven track record but that’s an enormous amount of money budgeted to four films (see: $100+ Million Movie Budgets Are Stupid). Will we see all four films? Perhaps not in the theater, but you can bet all four will hit Disney+ at some point in the future.

Another side effect of larger budgets is the potential for crooked hands in the cookie jar.

Sadleir opened a bank account for a fake company and transferred $25 million of BlackRock’s investment that he’d claimed would be used for advertising, Department of Justice authorities said. Instead, Sadleir used $14 million from the funds to buy a Beverly Hills home.

Former Hollywood movie CEO charged with $30M fraud

Smaller, tighter budgets, please.

Some studios are known for their fiscal frugality like Blumhouse. I may not like every movie Blumhouse does, but am digging that they are fiscally responsible with their movie budgets. For that reason alone, they are among my favorite studios.

Once we come back from the pandemic, and movie theaters and studios will definitely be back, then budgets will likely be even further scrutinized.

How can we as movie fans make a difference? Keep supporting good low budget movies.

Afterthoughts on SXSW 2020, er, Going To The Dogs

Amazon cracks me up sometimes.

Some humor before getting to the true purpose of this post: to recap my thoughts and experience of the SXSW 2020 virtual film festival offered through Amazon Prime Video.

That event has, to coin a cliche, gone to the dogs.

For those looking at the Amazon internal 404 (page not found) the image above is what was seen this morning — 3 days after — when trying to return to the SXSW page that was formerly available here: https://www.amazon.com/adlp/sxsw

Sure, it was a limited event that ran from April 27 – May 6, but this is only May 9th and they are already showing … literally … a dog named Ike. Yeah, dogs have everything to do with the SXSW 2020 virtual film festival — not.

What we should be seeing is something like the official SXSW recap page … or at least links to this page: https://www.sxsw.com/film/2020/amazon-prime-video-sxsw-film-fest-collection-april-27/ which looks like this …

Amazon redirects to … dogs … instead of keeping up a link to this

“SXSW has always championed creators forging their own paths to success, often with just the right mix of passion, vision, and radical experimentation to make their dreams happen,” said Janet Pierson, Director of Film at SXSW. “There is no one-size-fits-all, especially in these uncertain times, and we knew this opportunity would be of interest to those filmmakers who wanted to be in front of a large audience now. We believe people will be captivated by this selection of intriguing work that would have been shown at our 2020 event.”

Prime Video’s SXSW 2020 Film Festival Collection Launches April 27

SXSW 2020 Coverage

Here are links to all our SXSW 2020 posts captured under the tag: SXSW 2020

Full-length Films

  1. My Darling Vivian ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  2. Gunpowder Heart ⭐️⭐️
  3. Selfie NR – Only watched one episode of the anthology

TV Series

  1. Tales from The Loop Season 1 (8 episodes) ⭐️⭐️⭐️½
  2. Cursed Films Season 1 (5 episodes) ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Short Films

  1. Daddio ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  2. Lions In The Corner ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  3. Figurant ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  4. Broken Orchestra ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  5. The Voice In Your Head ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  6. Vert ⭐️⭐️⭐️½
  7. Dieorama ⭐️⭐️⭐️½
  8. Modern Whore ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  9. Quilt Fever ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  10. Single ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  11. Basic ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  12. Runon ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  13. Waffle ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  14. Still Wylde ⭐️⭐️½
  15. Blocks ⭐️⭐️½
  16. Call Center Blues ⭐️⭐️
  17. Face To Face Time ⭐️½
  18. Dirty ⭐️
  19. Broken Bird NR

Not Watched

Just because I didn’t watch something in the festival doesn’t mean anything from a review perspective, it merely didn’t appeal (as much) to me as much as the other works. I would have liked to have time to watch everything and maybe if I had visited the film festival in person this would be possible, but something tells me that most attendees don’t watch everything.

Here’s the list of 13 films alphabetically that weren’t watched:

  1. A Period Piece
  2. Affirmative Action
  3. Betye Saar: Taking Care Of Business
  4. Father Of The Bride
  5. Hiplet: Because We Can
  6. I’m Going To Make You Love Me – full length
  7. Le Choc du Futur – full length
  8. Mizuko (Water Child)
  9. Motherland: Fort Salem – TV Series
  10. No Crying at the Dinner Table
  11. Reminiscences of the Green Revolution
  12. Soft
  13. Summer Hit

SXSW 2020 Afterthoughts

First and perhaps most importantly: thank you to SXSW and Amazon for making this event possible. Can’t beat the cost: FREE and it was interesting covering and “attending” this event.

Now, some constructive feedback for the organizers.

The virtual experience — my first ever involved in a film festival — was lacking in terms of the social aspect. There could have been at least some organized watchalongs or some other type of social activities. Maybe these did exist, but I missed them. The films were mostly OK and I liked viewing the short films more than expected.

Most major film festivals have theater release films and something tells me this is one of the main reasons to attend. To see these movie theater films earlier than the masses. So, those covering can get reviews posted way in advance of those of us that didn’t attend.

There were none of those films made available as part of this virtual event. That’s a bummer.

There is an annual local film festival nearby that I may attend later this year, assuming it happens. Right now so many things up in the air.

Would I like to see/attend/cover more virtual film festivals? Yes. Any chance to view movies for me is at least of some interest. There is another one coming up at the end of May 2020. I’ll be posting about that soon.

What are your thoughts on SXSW 2020?

Will you attend more virtual film festivals? Would you rather go in person? Let’s discuss in the comments.

Independent Theaters Testing Virtual Screenings

Before you get super excited by the words “virtual theater” (like me), as some are billing it, the reality is it is essentially $12 VOD for movies that should be showing in independent theaters. If they weren’t closed.

The title to the theater shown above, “virtual screenings”, is more apt.

Though some “virtual theater” screenings began rolling out around March 20, the weekend of March 27 has the first full crop of movies available to watch, from slick noir to sardonic comedies to repertory titles from the 1970s to Oscar nominees. If you’re looking to see something new and exciting this weekend — and support independent theater at the same time — then here are 15 options available right now.

15 movies you can buy a “virtual ticket” to this weekend – Vox

The problem with this idea is it goes only part of the way. It’s not as virtual as even very dated tech currently currently allows.

What about an Oculus virtual reality app version of your theaters? Oculus/Facebook where are you right now? See: Watching Movies on Oculus Go

What these independent theater owners should be doing is personalizing the movie watching experience. How about scheduled watch-a-longs where a host has a chat during the virtual screening (see: 2nd Annual Halloween Mystery Movie Event Features 4 Shudder Movies)? Or maybe, the ability for a 3D virtual panoramic tour of your independent theater, choose your seat and then the movie plays, a la Second Life theaters.

Virtual Reality 3D Theaters emulate the social experience of the movie theater

The other part of this that is undesirable is the theater owners should already have been doing this. Waiting for the pandemic makes the “virtual screening” pitch seem — and probably is — desperate. If they were embracing virtual reality all along, including handicapped and disabled patrons who cannot as easily attend regular screenings, then this promotion of their virtual theater now would be more genuine and worthwhile. They would be supporting those moviegoers who wanted to come more often to their theater but weren’t as easily able to do so.

So, that’s why I think simply making movies available for VOD at $12 a rental and labeling them “virtual screening” just doesn’t go far enough.

I’m not a theater owner, but giving all of them this free advice: start investigating this tech and embracing it into your business ASAP. Make your patrons feel like the theater is still open, the lifeblood is there, the only thing missing are brand new wide release movies (and you should be plotting and planning to get those pictures screening — like Trolls World Tour that’s coming this Friday, yes, how about a Trolls World Tour viewing party?!).

Good business ideas are out there begging to be grabbed by the creative, the innovative, the wise. Those independent theater owners have a chance at surviving the pandemic.

The virtual playbook already exists. This might be one time where forced social distancing promotes virtual reality as an opportunity it’s never experienced before.

Virtual Screenings – what do YOU think?

Would/will you support your local independent theater through virtual screenings? Or do you, like me, think $12 (or so) VOD rentals, even when the theater gets to keep a meatier chunk of the ticket sale, isn’t quite enough in 2020?