Today, movie studios seem to be showing film critics fewer and fewer screenings. Stephen Humphries of the Christian Science Monitor argues that precscreening for youth-oriented movies like The Benchwarmers doesn't make sense since their target audience isn't reading reviews in magazines and newspapers anyway.
"I've talked with the advertising guys at studios about it," says Peter Bart, lead columnist at Variety magazine. "The media world is changing, and the people they want to reach are the kids who are looking at MySpace.com and exchanging instant messages about pictures aimed at them. Conventional critics don't matter."
Okay, but that doesn't explain the reason for cutting out the prescreening proccess all together.* Instead of doing a screening for the group of movie reviewers that get paid, they should be doing ones for those of us who review movies in a much more informal way. This is a long tail group that hasn't been properly tapped.
Living in New York City, I am often asked to preview films that are coming out in the coming weeks or months while standing outside of a megaplex. Sometimes the studios are looking for feedback on an early cut of a film but other times they're just looking to build some buzz for a new movie. Instead of approaching the often-isolationist NYC moviegoer, they should be going after bloggers and MySpace (or other social network) users.
I realize that many PR firms are already targeting the moviebloggers out there, but imagine a PR firm that goes after the level just below them. Maybe they pay Technorati for a list of every blog that has 100 links in and has posts tagged with movie. Then they contact MySpace and, ignoring ethics for the sake of argument, pay for a list of everyone with over 150 friends. They take this group and screen to them instead of taking a chance on a schmo walking into a movie who might never tell anyone about the movie.
Potential advertisers stand to benefit both themselves and their customers by taking advantage of the data that already exists to find the connectors and mavens of the blogosphere. Sure, there are the elite few with a really wide reach, but if you go after the thousands who reside in the next level below, everyone will be happy. Mavens like to share information on new media and connectors have the social network to get a meme moving quickly.
Buzzwords aside, there is huge potential here. Looking online for the right type of moviegoer will prove much more fruitful for studios looking to promote a slapstick comedy starring Jon Heder or a redneck crime drama with Billy Bob Thorton. And the first PR firm to compile a list like this with tons of metadata will make a boatload of money.
* All that really means is they have zero faith in their product.