Ten questions and observations about the forthcoming free showings of a 16-minute Avatar reel — a nationwide event that Cameron has called “Avatar Day” — at over 100 IMAX theatres on Friday, 8.21, or eight days hence:
(1) The only way to get tickets will be to visit the Avatar website a few minutes before noon Pacific/3 pm Eastern on Monday, 8.17, and click away at the very top of the hour and hope for the best. Oh, puhleeze pick me and damn you to hell’s caverns if you don’t! Damnyoupickmedamnyoupickpickmedamnyoupickme…. pickme! Will the website crash/freeze from all the traffic? Will visitors be given a pair of tickets or will it be strictly one-per-customer? Update: A pair, according to Fox distributon chief Bruce Snyder.
(2) Suggestion: the Avatar site administrators should allow people to log on and join a queue starting at 12:01 am Pacific/3 am Eastern on Monday, 12.17, just as hard-ticket sellers allow hardcore buyers to line up on sidewalks hours before. It should be technically arranged that only those in the online queue who refresh the page at regular intervals (i.e., once an hour or once every 30 minutes) will be allowed to stay in the queue. This will keep out the pikers (i.e., those who will log in at midnight/3 am and then go to sleep).
(3) How will the chosen be verified and admitted? One way would be to send a bar code pass of some kind to their email box and then tell them to bring a print-out. Except this would result in thousands of illegitimately-copied passes presented at the door. The only way to avoid this is for the chosen to be allowed to go to theatre ticket windows and ticket-dispensing machines in advance of the Friday, 8.21 showings and pick up their tickets after their driver’s licenses or passports have been scanned. Surely the organizers aren’t going to request the chosen to line up a couple of hours in advance so their IDs can be individually checked by ushers before receiving their tickets.
(4) As HE reader “Brendan” asked this morning, there are roughly 160 IMAX theatres in the U.S. Which of these will show the Avatar footage? “Over 100” doesn’t sound like it’ll play in all of them. Where’s the list, guys?
(5) Footage from the film that wasn’t shown by Cameron at ComicCon will be part of the reel — cool. Nonetheless, Cameron unveiled 23 or 24 minutes worth of 3D footage in San Diego. Why aren’t general audiences being given a chance to see this on top of the new footage, which presumably won’t amount to more than a minute or two extra? Why only 16 minutes’ worth?
(6) The presumed answer is that exhibitors don’t want the two freebie showings — set to happen at 6 and 6:30 pm — to cut into regular Friday-night revenues, which is why the unveilings are playing during mom-and-pop dinner hour. Crowds will move in at 5:40 or 5:45 pm, the first 16-minute showing at 6 pm, the crowd evacuated by 6:20 or so, new crowd comes in for second showing which won’t start at 6:30 pm but more like 6:35 or 6:40 pm, and second crowd out by 7 pm or so. Which will allow the evening’s first regularly paid show to start at 7:30 pm or thereabouts.
(7) Will a certain number of elite online/print press people be given tickets on a side-door basis so as to attend, report and observe (which I hope/intend to do) or will they have to randomly/democratically slog it out with everyone else and hope that fortune smiles?
(8) Avatar‘s production costs will be a reported $240 million when all is said and done, and the marketing will cost at least another $70 or $80 million…no? (More?) A total investment of $320 million or thereabouts, which means Fox’s break-even point will be…I’m not sure. What’s the formula these days? It used to be that theatrical revenues had to bring in twice (or two and a half times) the negative cost. Now with explanded overseas, DVD/Bluray and other ancillaries the ratio is a bit lower. Or so I’ve been told. Will the Avatar break-even need to be $550 million theatrical? I’m not sure any more. I need to sort this through.
(9) As L.A. Times reporters John Horn and Ben Fritz point out, “Advance screenings of movie footage for the press and at events such as Comic-Con are fairly common for big-budget Hollywood releases. But it’s unprecedented for a studio to show an extended excerpt of a film in such a broad public setting months before it hits theaters.” They also report that “Fox is not paying IMAX to use its theaters for the preview, though the studio is bearing the cost of producing and distributing the digital prints. IMAX will provide 3-D glasses.”
(10) An Avatar trailer in all formats (IMAX 3D, IMAX2D, digital 3-D, 35mm 3-D, 35mm flat, online) will be released “next Friday,” the Horn/Fritz story says. In other words, tomorrow? They probably mean the trailers will debut the same day as the two-times-only reel.
This will be the most exuberant preview happening since the first-ever showing of the Phantom Menace trailer in November of ’98. I was there at the Fox Village theatre. It was that film’s absolute finest hour. It was all downhill after it opened, esteem-wise. But the trailer-watching vibe was phenomenal. The house was charged, people were howling, Paul Thomas Anderson was there, etc.