Update: On February, 14, a full 8 weekends into its run, I took my wife to see Avatar, hoping it would be a nice diversion from the recent death of her mother and shooting of her sister. It worked just fine. To make sure that we would NOT miss it again, I bought tickets online. Though it felt overly cautious to do so, I just didn’t want to take the chance. I’m glad I did, because once again, the movie was sold out. When was the last time YOU saw a movie sell out in its 8th weekend?
I haven’t seen Avatar yet. I can hardly believe it myself. I wanted to go opening weekend, but my wife who had recently had surgery wasn’t feeling up to it Christmas, and I really want to go with her. We tried the next day, and it was sold out. We tried again two weekends later, and again it was sold out. Why didn’t I buy tickets online, you ask? Because it was the third weekend out, and in this day and age, who expects a movie to sell out in its third weekend? Its rare enough to get a sell out on opening weekend, certainly not 3 weekends into the run. We had made further plans which have been thwarted for the past month due to family circumstances. We’re making plans for this weekend. Let’s hope.
Anyway, I’d intended to write this post after that third weekend sellout. As bummed as I was that I didn’t get in, I was also happy. You see, if you catch what I’m getting at, this is a big deal for the movie theater industry. You’d probably agree that its almost unheard of for a movie to sell out after opening weekend, and this movie was a prime example of someone trying something and doing it right. Movie theaters have been trying new things for decades; contending with home videos since the very early 80s, shorter and shorter time spans between the theatre and home video releases, and contending with home theater systems and direct download movies. Instead of doing nothing new, theaters, as well as movie studios who enjoy the double income from both box office sales and home video sales, have come together to produce ever better viewing experiences. They are constantly looking for new ways to deliver unique and better experiences.
This stands in stark contrast to the book store industry who seems to be doing not much. Last year, J.C. Hutchins teamed up with viral game designer Jordan Weisman and they created the novel, Personal Effects: Dark Art. I say created rather than written because even though it’s sold in book stores and the main component is the stand alone novel, there is much much more to it. Each book ships with a number of artifacts, all with clues so that you can follow along and try to work out the story as you go. Phone numbers in the story and on the artifacts work, as do website addresses. You can even google the characters and find sites for them. Its a bold new experiment for sure, but more than that, its the kind of idea that could help keep printed media relevant. You simply can’t get these artifacts on a Kindle.
What’s my point? Its that the movie theater industry has been trying lots of new things, from IMAX to 3D to unparalleled audio to pre-roll advertising. Not everything they try sticks, but at least they’re experimenting. Book stores on the other hand don’t seem to try so hard. J.C.’s book should have been front and center in EVERY book store in the country, just to SEE if it was an idea that could take off. The stores, if they were interested at all in finding new ways to stay relevant, should have embraced the effort. Instead, either not wanting to take a chance on a new author, a new idea, or simply because they didn’t understand the concept, they pretty much ignored it. Its too bad, too, because I love book stores and would like to see them remain relevant (see previous post for more on that).
What does this mean for you? Well, what’s going on in your industry? If things are changing, especially if those changes are starting to make you irrelevant, it might be time to start trying something new. Pay attention to what others are doing differently as well, and take note of what seems to be working. Do a bunch of things differently. If an idea comes along, just try it. If it fails, fine, but at least you know what doesn’t work, and its harder to weed through the bad ideas and find the good ones if you’re not producing any ideas at all.