Coachella Fills Movie Theater Seats

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Big Screen Concerts found a way to pack 115 empty movie theaters mid-week, with a showing of its documentary Coachella about the 6 year run of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival.

The documentary harkened back to the 1970s concept of music fans going to theaters to watch their favorite rockstars on the big screen, like the Academy Award-winning Woodstock movie, Pink Floyd’s Live at Pompeii, and The Grateful Dead Movie. Theaters showing concert films went out of style with the advent of cable television and MTV.

Big Screen Concerts revisited the idea after overall ticket sales were down by more than 10 percent last year, and theaters were looking for a way to drag more viewers away from their home televisions.

“The idea came from trying to figure out what types of content, other than movies, might bring people into the theater from Monday to Thursday,” Kurt Hall, CEO of National CineMedia, told the New York Times. “There is a 75 percent drop-off in movie attendance during the week, yet it seems that there’s always an urge among people to get out of the house.”

CineMedia is a joint venture of Regal Entertainment Group, AMC Entertainment, and Cinemark USA, which includes Big Screen Concerts among its divisions.

Hall said the theater idea worked well for older fans.

“Older folks don’t want to deal with the hassle of rock concerts,” Hall told the paper. “Also, movie theaters provide a safe environment for parents to experience rock shows with their kids.”

Because of its enormous parent companies, Big Screen Concerts has access to over 13,000 screens, which offers an enticing chance for music labels to reach tens of thousands of fans. The company uses a closed digital network to distribute via satellite its concert events, which thus far have been either live concerts or pre-taped promotional events for upcoming DVD releases.

Over the past year, notable films by the company included a DVD screening of a Bruce Springsteen concert from 1975 to coincide with the release of Springsteen’s Born To Run 30th-anniversary boxed set, and a live Bon Jovi concert transmitted from the Nokia Theater in New York in September. The Bon Jovi concert helped the band sell more of its album Have A Nice Day in the first week of release than any other album in the band’s 23-year history. Big Screen Concerts also distributed Phish’s final two shows at the Coventry festival in Vermont in April via simulcast to 40,000 fans in 54 cities.

The live concert idea is becoming a huge draw for rock bands, who can extend their reach far beyond the cities on their tour. But from a marketing standpoint, the lead-up to the event is much more important.

“The key to the whole thing is not so much the viewing experience but the promotion Big Screen Concerts can do on their 13,000 movie screens,” Don McGhee, manager of the glam rock band Kiss, told the New York Times. Kiss put on the first Big Screen Concert event in 2003, and has entered into an agreement with the company for future events.

“When your band is being shown along with the trailers for 20 minutes on all of those screens, you get that nice marketing kick.”

In addition to music events, Big Screen Concerts is trying to figure out other novel ways to use empty theaters during their off-hours, leasing them out for big corporate meetings and possibly beaming sporting events, as well.

For McGhee, the theater experience is the next best thing to actually being there. “It’s hard to get excited about a band when you’re looking at them on your laptop,” he said. “You don’t get that 5.1 surround sound, or the crowd participation.” –by CelebrityAccess Staff Writers

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