Warner experiments with theatrical + DVD hybrid release for "Watchmen"
Fascinating story in the New York Times [free reg required] yesterday about Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc. and how it's trying to wrestle with the latest trends in theatrical releases, where a decline of DVD sales is terrifying everyone in the industry, an industry where so much of the revenue from a film project is expected from just those sales.
How important is this revenue? The Times reports that up to 70% of movie revenue comes from DVD sales, depending on the release and the quality of the disk packaging. You just know that movies like Iron Man and, perhaps to a lesser extent, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull are going to enjoy terrific DVD sales when released.
Following in the footsteps of many successful graphic novel adaptations for the big screen (think Sin City, a film I intensely disliked, 300, a film I thought was great fun, and even the latest dark, brooding Batman films based more on the oevre of graphic novels than the goofy mythos of "The Batman") Warner is releasing Watchmen based on the complicated but highly popular graphic novel series of the same name.
But what's so darn interesting is that they are simultaneously going to also be releasing a second Watchmen movie directly to video for retail release just five days after the film opens (e.g. after opening weekend), entitled Tales of the Black Freighter. As the NYT explains, "Tales" will "follow a side Watchmen storyline about a shipwreck".
Unfamiliar with the Watchmen series? Here's the synopsis of the movie, as reported on IMDB: "When an ex-superhero has been murdered, a vigilante named Rorshach begins an investigation into the murder, which begins to lead to a much more terrifying conclusion. And also uncovers a plot to discredit and murder various heroes. Rorschach discovers a far wider ranging conspiracy involving his colleagues' past which could completely change the course of history."
Check out the photo on the right: that's a scene from the Watchmen movie wherein actor Jesse Reid is actually sitting and reading, you guessed it, Tales of the Black Freighter. I'm reminded of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, wherein the secondary characters are frequently seen reading Banzai comic books which, by coincidence, I also have on my shelf.
Nonetheless, kudos to Warner for risking a few million on the production of this secondary film and testing the waters to see if long, complicated stories can be spread across both a theatrical release and a commercial DVD made available simultaneously.
The next step they should consider is offering some sort of coupon, discount or rebate so that people who see the theatrical Watchmen movie can get a price break (or extra goodies) if they also purchase Tales of the Black Freighter. Now that would be an awesome experiment!
By the way, if I can be a bit catty, Warner also complains in the Times piece about soft DVD sales of Will Smith's latest movie, I Am Legend without bothering to mention that it just wasn't that good a movie and that once you got over the scary vampire aspect, not a very interesting storyline either. This is consistent with MPAA strategy, as far as I can remember, where it complains about sales -- usually in the context of "how much they've lost to file sharing" -- without ever acknowledging that perhaps the quality of the product is suffering. This also factors into the industry complaints of poor sales with Blu-Ray releases: how many films are on the shelf that are worth $25+ per disk, when the DVD is often less than half that price and looks pretty darn good on modern players anyway?
I applaud Warner for trying something new and am excited to see how the market receives this experimental dual-release of Watchmen and Tales of the Black Freighter.
Join the Stompernet Internet business mastermind portal today!
I spent quite a bit of time yesterday writing about why I'm a faculty member of Stompernet and why it's your best bet for learning online marketing and Internet business so today I just want to put up a few quick additional links. First off, if you're ready, don't waste time, just do this:
In particular, the word I hear from Andy Jenkins, head of Stompernet, is that "I don't know how long the shopping cart will be open, because we're kind of like a school: we strive to keep our "class sizes" small so that we can provide the attention that our members deserve. So when we reach our maximum, I'm going to shut it down."
Andy's a take-no-prisoners sort of guy, so I believe him when he says that. No scam, no tricks, just a quota of new people and when we attain it, the door will close again.
I'm digging around and will embed a video here shortly, but in the meantime, I suggest that if you're still on the fence, you check out this video to learn more about what you can learn and gain from being a member.
I'll hope to see you there!
Join Stompernet, learn everything about Internet marketing
A few years ago I jumped headfirst into the world of Internet marketing, speaking at a variety of conferences that ranged from pretty good to scary awful pitchfests where audience members apparently willingly took a few days out of their lives to sit passively while hucksters aggressively sold the latest 21st century snake oil from the stage.
Now, before I get into too much trouble, I learned a lot from the experience, made some really splendid friends, and connected with some online business entrepreneurs that I'd never had met otherwise. Just as importantly, I learned that making money online doesn't inherently sully the purity of the Internet.
Nonetheless I knew fairly quickly that I'm not really cut out for the marketing event circuit, so it was with great relief when my friends Andy Jenkins and Brad Fallon asked me to get involved with a new idea in the space, Stompernet. Their vision: get all the smartest people in the same room and sell access passes, but not to hear pitches, but rather to learn from the experts.
I can tell you that Stompernet has shaken up the world of Internet Marketing, because for the cost of one person's unproven package, you can sign up for a few months of access to everyone in the Stompernet community. Sounds like a better deal, doesn't it? The economic case is obvious and with hundreds of videos, thousands of discussion threads, weekly faculty conference calls and webinars, on-ground events every 3-4 months, and much much more, it's one heck of a deal.
Problem is, Stompernet's been closed to new members for months and months now, which is one reason I haven't written about it too much. No point in getting you cranky! :-) Tomorrow, however, 22 May, 2008, the door will open again.
Not sure about Stompernet? I encourage you to check out some of our member testimonials?I know you won't regret it!
Blockbuster swings to profit! Who'd have thought it?
In the age of video on demand, advertisements touting that Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) has rented over two billion movies, the pervasiveness of peer to peer (p2p) networks, and the general drum-beat of the demise of video rental, today's earnings report from Blockbuster (NYSE: BBI) is a shocker:
"Blockbuster Inc., swung to a first-quarter profit amid prior-year termination fees as domestic same-store sales grew for the first time in five years, though total revenue fell amid a decrease in company-owned stores."(Source: WSJ)
The domestic Blockbuster results -- which have improved for the first time in the last five years -- were driven by a 20% jump in same-store merchandise sales.
Not rentals. Not through-the-mail rentals, even. By in-store merchandise sales.
Which makes sense. Nowadays if you want to buy a DVD and you want to get it now, where do you go? Wal-Mart or Target? Or Blockbuster, where they always seem to have things on sale because they're selling lightly used rental disks for $5-$8/each? (heck, I've bought DVDs at Blockbuster for $1.99, which is cheaper than renting the movie for a week!)
Anyway, fascinating news. Thoughts?
This is how participatory mainstream media should work
I have watched with growing disappointment as the trolls and jerks who are automatically screened from most blogs through splendid collaborative tools like Akismet have found a new home in the comments section of the local newspaper here in Boulder, the Daily Camera. Far from illuminating the story and adding thoughtful, intelligent commentary, too many comments are like these:
[On a story about a party gone wrong at the University of Colorado] "CU Meat heads. Like trash in the streets, the cretins can always be counted upon to show up and leave their greasy residues."
[On a story about an apartment building burning down] "Wow, a burning bush. If you look closely at the smoke on the wall, you can see a face looking back at you. This whole thing is divine."
"Is it Clinton's fault yet? I just got here."
"Wow, there are a lot of jerks posting tonight."
These are tame. The Daily Camera staff has to be rather vigilant, and it's quite common to see a discussion where 25% or more of the comments are "(This comment was removed by the site staff.)"
Nonetheless, it's a fine line between having coherent editorial control, managing the content of a site and its tone and censorship, and it's darn difficult to impose any sort of discourse quality metrics. Imagine a site that said "Note: sarcasm is not allowed."
That's a cause of frustration and too many people I talk with here in Boulder tell me that they skip the comments attached to articles on the Daily Camera's Web site because of the tone, hostility and generally poor discourse.
And that's too bad - though understandable - because they wouldn't see the great example of participatory citizen media in one of the latest stories on the site, a story about a boy being knocked off his bike by an RV just up the street from my place. A terrible story with a good ending: the boy is actually in good shape and his primary injury appears to be abrasion wounds from being dragged by the vehicle.
Within all the asinine comments about how bikers in Boulder are arrogant and don't follow the rules of the road are two comments worth pulling out, however:
"Thanks to those who have showed support. I am the boys father, and I want to report that he is currently in the hospital, and he is going to be okay. He fractured an ankle, has a nice quarter sized chunk missing from his right elbow, and has MASSIVE road rash, mostly on his back and shoulders. Will probably be in there for a couple days. He didn't stop at the stop sign, he looked right, there was a truck with a trailer parked to the left (possibly illegally that close to an intersection) that he pulled past and was hit. Frankly, they thought the helmet saved his life."and then, just a few comments later:
"I wish to second the fact that the driver was NOT going 40 mph. I spoke to a witness-I am not sure about a parked truck with trailer. I think that person stopped AFTER the accident to try and help. Thank you, people for all the help received at the time. The boy was at my house when this happened."How often do you get to read a news report and then see additional information from two of the key players in the story? In this case, while we didn't hear from the injured boy or the driver of the RV, we did get candid comments from the boy's father and the mother of the other boy whose house the injured boy had been visiting.
Imagine this ability to reach out to the local community and get candid supplemental information from key players with other stories too. The ability for story subjects to add their own commentary is a terrific feedback mechanism and can not only ensure stories are accurate but also help keep journalists honest too.
It's participatory mainstream media. With all its warts.
Welcome to Journalism 2.0.
Bloggers as PR vigilantes
My friend Rick Calvert of Blogworld Expo posted a note last night asking Should bloggers blacklist PR firms? His starting point for his article is an earlier note by Stowe Boyd, The Growing Backlash against PR, Spam and the Rationale for MicroPR. He in turn points to Gina Trapani, who has created a PR Spammers Wiki, where "she and others can publicly 'out' PR firms that are spamming bloggers or using other unsavory spammish practices."
I find this entire sequence of vigilante justice, as embodied in the concept of "outing" being applied to this situation, ridiculous. On the one hand, I constantly hear bloggers and other so-called new media journalists complaining that corporations and public relations firms aren't taking them seriously and then we get this sort of daft misbegotten idea where if a PR firm doesn't meet the ideal of interaction with a blogger, they can be digitally tarred and feathered.
I also get a lot of email from PR agencies, some of which is lame and poorly targeted, but much of which is interesting and worth receiving. When I get something I don't like, I send a one line note akin to "Not my beat, please drop me from this list" and it's done, no problem, no foul, no tar, no feathers.
When I get a query that attracts my attention, I appreciate the ability to type in a quick reply without having to dig up a contact person (they've already sent the message) and engage in a dialog with the pr agent or company representative. I'm candid and polite, and sometimes will point out how poorly their PR represents the company and other times take the apparently huge leap of forgiving them for not being perfect and focus on the message - the product or service they're promoting - rather than the contact query.
As a result, I dare say that I have an excellent relationship with just about every major PR agency in the United States, and a lot of smaller ones too.
The difference? I'm not out to change the world and I'm not arrogant enough to think that I should dictate how they should communicate with me, I just accept that there are inherent limitations in the system and try to make the best of it nonetheless.
This appears to be a minority perspectively, however, as embodied by comments like this one from Stowe:
"The root cause here is the delusion on the part of the clients that this sort of PR carpet bombing works, that mass media messages embedded in a press release or press release-ish email work, and that we, the bloggers, actually react positively to this junk."Hate to break this to you, Stowe, but it does work and that the alternative suggestion of so-called MicroPR is at best idealistic and cannot scale, which is why it's doomed before it starts.
If I hire a PR firm to represent my company, I don't want them telling me all this hooha about "fostering the conversation" as a justification for why they only contacted seven people after billing me for 30 hours work, rather than contacting a few hundred targeted contacts. Further, I'm confident that a good PR agent can get me more visibility with their few hundred qualified contacts than a one-on-one twitter conversation with seven "perfect targets".
As someone with a foot in each camp (I write columns for both a monthly magazine and local newspaper but I also run very popular weblogs) I know that while it's not maximally efficient for the burden of selecting what's interesting to be dumped onto me as a journalist or citizen blogger, it's still far better than me never seeing the "offbeat" releases that might just catch my attention because they're not on "my beat".
Among other things, this boils down to a problem that most information researchers are familiar with: serendipitous resource discovery. You encounter it each time you pick up a printed dictionary to look up a word, just to find yourself browsing other words and enjoying the wealth of our language, or, what I did as a child, look up something in an encyclopaedia and find yourself immersed for hours in the tome.
What bothers me isn't that there are some self-important bloggers who are trying to "fix" a system that I don't really think is broken, but that there's a fundamental incongruity between wanting PR people to pay attention to them and view them as legitimate media outlets AND a desire to simultaneously change the rules of interaction without consideration of the full picture.
Rick offers a pithy retort to Stowe, Gina, and the blogger vigilantes:
"Will you occasionally get pitched something that is irrelevant to you or that is personally uninteresting to you? Of course. Too bad. Get over it or get a new job."Well said, Rick!
However you spin it, I think that if you want to play in the world of mainstream media, journalism and public relations, you would do well to understand the dynamics and communications channels (especially the efficiencies of the system) and learn how to maximize your results rather than jump into digital yellow journalism and try to blacklist or humiliate PR professionals who might just view their job differently to your average blogger.
Me? I prefer not being part of a lynch mob, whether I knew I was being shanghaied into it or not...
Join me at the Colorado Capital Conference on May 22
If the idea of spending a day with a few hundred entrepreneurs sounds great, then you really should join us at the Colorado Capital Conference later this month. We have two keynote speakers, Simon Leung and Marc Silverman, and have eight workshops that day, along with eleven companies pitching and hoping for a funding event.
The workshops are going to be terrific:
We won't just be talking about new media and social networking as avenues for promoting your entrepreneurial venture or startup, however, we'll be developing a specific set of strategies and tactics for an organization to follow to maximize the benefit of modern marketing tactics while minimizing the associated cost. What company? Well, you'll have to join us to find out!
I hope you can join us. I know it'll be a day well spent and I'm excited about being able to participate in this event. Join us: register for the Colorado Capital Conference today (and take advantage of early bird pricing until May 9th)
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