Archive for the ‘pop culture’Category

How to save the movie theater business while lowering popcorn prices

English: The impressive Egyptian-themed entran...

English: The impressive Egyptian-themed entrance to the Cinemark Egyptian 24 movie theaters located at Arundel Mills Mall. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The cost of going to a first run movie is roughly the same as tickets to the nosebleed section of a professional sporting event – especially if you get popcorn and soda. The high cost of movie tickets is a better small talk conversation topic than the weather. Some people like rain, some like the heat, but everyone feels that movie tickets are too expensive.

For well under $1500, you can get a great home theater system, including the 65″ television. The subwoofer will shake the house, the floors aren’t sticky, and you can can pause it when the baby cries or you need to pee.

Those of us who pay extra to see a movie in the theaters do it because we love the experience. The smell of the popcorn, that moment when the lights dim, the bad red robot moving through the grass – often the movie itself diminishes the experience. Nobody wants to see the end of theaters. In fact, we want the ceremony of the theater experience to be greater than what it is.

Over the past 20 years, theaters have increased efforts to make the experience that is worth the premium price. Megaplexes have added stadium seats, cup holders, cuddle seats, and even tables with group seating in some hipster venues. The results have kept the industry alive, but they have also muted the nostalgic red curtain experience.

When discussing films, friends often provide opinions of a given movie by declaring it to be worth seeing in theaters, a rental, or wait for it to come on Netflix (or worse television). This is a confession that the theater experience still offers something significantly more special than all of the the amenities of home viewing.

The problem with the current movie theater business model is that it is too rigid. The most avid Adam Sandler fan will pay $20 (including the snack – maybe) to see Grown Ups 6 on opening day. After that week goes by, Sandler begins competing with Avengers 9. Avengers will likely be well attended, even on week nights, for two or three weeks while Grown Ups will barely fill 50 seats all day on the weekends.

The solution could be a tiered pricing model based on seats sold. Once a film fails to fill 50 percent of the seats, the price should drop by 20 percent. Opening night or weekends could also have premium pricing – which could include popcorn and soda. Most die hard Hunger Game fans would find a way to come up with $35 for an opening night ticket, even if they knew the price was going to drop to $20 two nights later and $10 two weeks later.

Why would someone pay full price if they knew the price would drop a few weeks later? Who knows, but they do. The video game and home video markets have been doing this for years. Theaters do it with second run films, but there should be something in between.

Imagine paying $20 to see a movie opening week, but then realizing that for $5 you could stay and watch an older film before it leaves the theaters. Normally, that $5 film would be empty, but by lowering the price, theaters could be filling seats. Selling 25 $5 tickets is better than 5 $10 tickets, right?

Every time I pay $30 for my wife and I to see a film that has been out for four weeks and there are only eight people in the theater, I think about how my tiered pricing model would have left me some money for a $10 popcorn and enriched the experience of watching the movie with an audience.


08 2015

Introvert is the new black

social networking

social networking (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

by Adam Cochran

Over the past year I have noticed that introverts are all the rage. Introverts are the new extroverts. Everyone wants to be one. All of the geek blogs are posting about how to be a successful introvert, how to be an introvert and still have friends, or top ten lists of the most powerful introverts.

I joined Facebook on August 13, 2008 almost a year after I joined Twitter. It was an experiment. I am not an introvert, I prefer to talk to people in person. I like to mingle. That said, I love social media because it keeps me educated on what all the hip cats are calling the bees knees.

Social networks, prior to Facebook, never really appealed to me because I was married, had four kids and my business was doing well. Before Facebook (arguably before Twitter), social networks were designed to be more like dimly-lit singles bars where everyone had a great body but a bag over their head.

Facebook was the first major full-featured social network to remove anonymity, which made it the first social network that was actually useful for being a legitimate social tool.

Being happily married, I had no use for the anonymous singles bar atmosphere of MySpace-era social networks. But, I had lost touch with almost all of my best friends from high school and middle school. The need to meet other Neil Diamond fans didn’t really appeal to me, but I was very interested in what my former co-workers were up to.

Like everyone else, my first few weeks on Facebook were spent finding people I had lost touch with, friending them and then looking through their pictures. And, I like everyone else, I felt like I was doing something sneaky but insightful. Everyone from my past turned out to be disappointingly normal. Sure, there were a handful that hit it pretty big and a few that I expected to hit it big that fell short of what I had envisioned for their future when I was in 11th grade. Most, though, were married or divorced with boring jobs and average incomes and real estate.

Over the years my Twitter feed has become a way for me to get a pulse of what’s going on in the world and my Facebook feed has taken the place of Twitter for my daily news consumption. Roughly 30 percent of my Facebook feed are humans, the rest are companies, news outlets, publications and trend aggregators – some might call them blogs.

Two years ago I reduced my number of Facebook friends from almost 2000 to less than 500. I only have two rules for Facebook friends: 1. I have to have had a conversation with the person in real life, 2. They have to occasionally post something worth reading. I will count interesting comments in my qualifications for No. 2.

Occasionally, I contemplate whether I should unfriend the guy who was the lunchroom “You gonna eat that” kid who I haven’t talked to in real life since third grade or the assortment of people from all ages and backgrounds that only post about whether they ran or did not run on a given day.

There are some things that will get you unfriended immediately. If you post more than three recipes in a week, you’re gone. Pinterest works because it allows me to search for what I want to see. Few things in social media are more annoying than when someone uses Facebook to share something they found on Pinterest – especially if it’s an untested recipe. Everyone who cares deeply about recipes or cute outfits has a Pinterest account.

Over the past two years, I have noticed that the Facebook algorithm has caught-on to how I use Facebook. It is common for people to complain that Facebook doesn’t let them see every post from every person every time they post, but I consider this a good thing. While I do have a lot of human friends on Facebook, I find the real value of Facebook, for me personally, is in the ability to follow news outlets and brands. This probably makes Facebook very happy because that is what they want me to do.

While I love to hear about my siblings adventures through day-to-day life, I find that posts from Fast Company, Wired, and the local news stations of play a more significant role in my day-to-day life as a professional.

There is a big disadvantage to seeing so many professional pages on a Facebook feed. When something is in the process of going viral, that content item is all I see. Over and over and over and over. Some accounts do a standard share of the content, others totally re-write the headline or the body copy and make it their own (as much their own as stolen content can be).

Sites such as BuzzFeed and UpWorthy are like the supermarket tabloids of the Internet, but they do serve a purpose. They tell us everyone will be talking about for the next week, before everyone is talking about it. In the tabloid world, that’s a rather insignificant truth. However, In the world of mass communication via the Internet’s popular culture, it’s a very big deal.

Popular culture in the world of geeks is a different realm that popular culture in the world of couch potatoes.

While the fashion and entertainment industries rely heavily on television to inform the world what everyone is wearing to the latest gala or awards ceremony, the Joan Riverses of geek popular culture are writing 1200-word scathing satirical pieces on what Facebook will do with Oculus Rift, Apples acquisition of Beats, and don’t even get me started on Net Neutrality.

Traditional and geek popular culture fanatics have more in common than what may appear on the surface. They both have their superstars, they both have their lingo, they both require a little command of historical reference related to their given industry.

If there is a difference it’s that geek popular culture requires a constant awareness of trends without a single focal point. Traditional popular culture may have an intense awareness of itself, but it typically fails to recognize that anything outside of its own world exists. On the other hand, geek popular culture requires a" target="_blank">Ken-Jennings-meets-Dennis-Miller-like ability to twist cultural, scientific, entertainment and academic references so that the digitally-educated introvert can use Google and Wikipedia to research as they read, watch, or listen.

Please allow me to introduce a couple of examples that compare and contrast geek popular culture with traditional popular culture…

In this video we see what appears to be a traditional popular culture reference. But look a little closer. The chances are you either know who Tupac is, or you know who Freddie Mercury is – unless you are a geek. Dive in deeper as you watch the video. If you pause the video several times so that you could google a split-second reference by the host in order to understand the concept, you have just succumbed to geek popular culture.

That’s one of the most significant differences between geek popular culture and traditional popular culture. Traditional popular culture attempts to cut down it’s message to find the largest possible denominator. Andy Worhol pioneered traditional popular culture by using Campbell’s soup and Marilyn Monroe. The most common modern comparison to Andy Worhol would be Banksy. While many of his works are simple and easy to interpret, just as many require an awareness of multiple reference points that breach the boundaries of any single industry, culture or market.

For comparison, here is a video to contrast with the PBS Idea Channel shown above…

Wow! I need to end this article now. All the blood just drained out of my brain and I need to go spend some time with John and Hank Green to get it back.


05 2014

Why there’s no backlash over the Disney Lucasfilm deal

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - AUGUST 14:  In this han...

(Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

When the Marvel and Muppet deals were made, fans were very vocal. However, Star Wars fans have done little more than create a new phase of Internet memes.

Star Wars fans used to be second only to Star Trek fans in their fanaticism. I saw Star Wars when I was two years old and I still remember snapshots of seeing it for the first time. The blast of the opening music with the Star Wars title. Luke with the blast shield down. X-wings.

My entire life, every time I have sat in a theater and/or smelled popcorn, I have thought of Star Wars. Going to the theater to watch a movie always makes me think of Star Wars. That is the impact that seeing it when I was two had on my – I am now 37.

1977-1984 my frame of reference for all films was centered around Star Wars. I appreciate Kevin Bacon’s work, but in my world, everything was a game of Six Degrees of Star Wars. Superman The Movie also had a huge impact on me. Like Star Wars, I still remember the opening titles, young Clark kicking the football into the stratosphere and outrunning the train, and saving the school bus. I was older when Superman came out, so I remember more of it. Do you know who did the music for Superman? John Williams. The same John Williams who made Star Wars.

Of course, after Star Wars and Superman came Indiana Jones – played by Han Solo and co-created by George Lucas.

In 1984 everything changed. I began to realize that George Lucas had handed over the baton in the race to win my imagination through film. Steven Spielberg gave me E.T., Close Encounters (a movie that I still don’t know why I love so much), Jaws and a TV series called Amazing Stories. George Lucas faded away, but Star Wars did not. Like most of my fellow fans, I craved every opportunity to get a new glimpse into the Star Wars universe. I bought books, read the fan magazine and probably spent hundreds of dollars in quarters blowing up the Death Star in the arcade.

My love of Star Wars lasted well into my college years. I played Rebel Strike and waited in line all day to see Phantom Menace.

Phantom Menace changed everything for me. I don’t think that I am alone. Sure, it was a rough movie to sit through, but I was willing to play along because the politics of the rebellion and empire matter. However, what had really changed was the world around me. Film had changed. Somehow the magic of tiny plastic models, go-motion filming and endless props carried most of the magic. Knowing that everything had been filmed in front of a green screen or modeled by a computer, completely ruined the experience.

Star Wars sold millions and millions and millions of action figures because George Lucas had not withheld any secrets about how the movie was made. When I saw that the Millenium Falcon stuck to the side of the Star Destroyer was actually a dime-sized model glued to the side of a table-sized model, it helped me imagine action figures, models and other toys in their proper scale. In other words, playing with relics and replicas from Star Wars was not much different in my mind to what an antique or art collector feels when they are in the presence of a masterpiece or significant artifact.

Recently, I was was able to see a Star Wars prop exhibit at a discovery museum in California. I spent hours taking hundreds of photos of the 1:6 scale Millenium Falcon, 1:4 scale X-wing and countless other “artifacts.”

Here’s a little gallery of those shots for you.

So, why doesn’t it break my heart to see Disney acquire Star Wars? Shouldn’t I be worried that the franchise will be Mickey-fied? Nope.

George Lucas gave Star Wars fans more campy family Disney-esque  elements than Disney probably ever will. He gave us Jar Jar Binks. He gave us the crybaby Vader “Noooooooo!” He gave us the sentimental , nay sappy, new scenes and revised endings.

I am going to say what every Star Wars fan is thinking…

Thank you Disney! Thank you for saving Star Wars from George Lucas. Picking at a scab only leads to nasty scars and infections. It is best to let it heal. Sure, Disney may defile the Star Wars brand, but could it really get much worse than Jar Jar Binks, wacky sports announcing, or musical chair ghost-of-Anakin appearances at the end of Return of the Jedi?

In all honesty, the Ewoks and Salacious Crumb belong in the Disney universe alongside their Muppet cousins. Luke and Vader can play with their Lion King nephews. Princess Leia was the role model for the modern spunky princess – she blazed the trail for Tangled, Brave and she gave Belle permission to slap Gaston.

There was a time when Star Wars was more than a movie. Most fans gave up on the mythology and storytelling of Star Wars several episodes ago. Most of us will admit that we still have a special place in our hearts for Star Wars, but not for the brand or the trademark. Star Wars represents the importance of imagination and storytelling. It represents our understanding that sometimes, even though you know a magic trick is just that – a trick – it’s OK to allow yourself to be fooled in order to learn about yourself and the world around you. That is, after all, the purpose of mythology and storytelling. The storytelling manipulates the audience and the audience comes with a desire to be manipulated. If either refuses to participate, then the magic fades away.

I like to think that there’s an old satchel somewhere in the offices at Disney that’s full of magic dust that Walt used to sprinkle on stuff to make it appeal to our imaginations. Every few years, just as things are looking grim, the head of Disney pulls out the magic dust and sprinkles it on a Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast and the whole company revives and Walt’s vision is restored. I also have a conspiracy theory that Steve Jobs found that satchel and carried some of it to his offices at Apple about 20 years ago, but that’s a different article.




10 2012

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States
This work by adamc is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States.