As home theater systems advance in quality, many people are wondering why anyone would bother heading to the theater
at all. Theater owners are aware of this issue and many have been improving the quality
of the "theater experience" by offering larger, comfier seats and moving beyond snack bar staples into craft beers and brick oven pizzas.
There's still the undeniable draw of being the "first" to see a new film, showing up at a midnight showing or on opening day. There's also somewhat of a communal experience that can't be easily duplicated at home, unless your living room has seating for a couple hundred friends.
Rian Johnson, the director of the recently released "Looper," is offering a rather unusual incentive for repeat theatrical viewing: a downloadable commentary track to enjoy along with the 2nd-X viewing(s) of his latest film
I recorded a commentary track to be downloaded, put on an ipod and listened to in the theater as you’re watching Looper. This is an odd thing I tried with Bloom, and have gotten a few requests for it again, so here it is. It is totally different from the commentary track that will be on the Blu/DVD, a bit more technical and detailed. Needless to say, this is NOT to be listened to on a first viewing, or before you’ve seen the film. Also, please work it so that a glowing screening is never out of your pocket during the movie.
This is a great way to connect with fans and
get them to shell out for first run tickets multiple times. Johnson is a cinema fanatic who's managed to turn his love of the silver screen
into a career making movies that appeal to other movie buffs. This move makes perfect sense. After a viewing or two of "Looper," any true cinema freak would love to run through another viewing while having every aspect of the film broken down by someone as deeply in love with the art form as he or she is.
Plus, as Johnson mentioned, this isn't simply version 0.9 of the DVD commentary, but a more technical and detailed breakdown of the film. "Totally different." He's obviously got more knowledge, information and energy than he knows what to do with, considering he's done this before. This offering will put the director and fan together for a film-length geekout. This connection puts them back into the theater (selling scarcity) and primes them for the eventual DVD/Blu-ray release (another scarcity). Throwing thoughtful freebies to your fans tends to make them happier to open their wallets later.
[Quick postscript: It should be noted that Johnson's "in-theater" commentary track isn't without precedent. As Mike pointed out to me while I was putting this post together, film buff/maverick/motormouth Kevin Smith attempted
to do this back in 2006
, during the theatrical run of "Clerks 2." Unfortunately, theater owners felt this would be a bad thing and threatened to pull the film if the promotion continued
Turns out that exhibitors (folks that own the theaters) weren't too keen on the idea of people showing up to the movies with iPods. They felt it was going to be too distracting (or something) for other people in the theater who weren't wearing iPods for the show - like the commentary-listeners would be laughing when nobody else was laughing, and that'd create some kind of problem. Based on that, they suggested that if Weinstein Co. went through with the commentary track promotion, they'd start pulling the flick from screens. So the commentary track promotion has been tabled until we're at a very low theater count.
No rumbling from theater owners on Johnson's actions has been detected yet, but one wonders why exhibitors would be so willing to sacrifice repeat viewings in order to protect single viewings from possible offense. If this had been promoted rather than buried, who knows how many films would have experienced a boost in box office sales thanks to a multi-viewing incentive.]