Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Review: Cloverfield

There will be complete coverage of the weekend competition between "MoHotShit" and myself in tomorrow's post. I wanted to write a little something about the new J.J. Abrams film that Megan and I took in over the weekend while the viewing was still fresh in my mind. Delaying coverage from the weekend's events will also give me a chance to recover from utter humiliation.
Megan and I decided to give the new monster destroys New York City flick, Cloverfield, a chance. Both of us are fans of the Abrams created television series "Lost", and we were curious to see the latest project attached to his name. Before the movie began there were the standard crappy commercials that are now commonplace at theaters. When the movie should have started, we noticed that the commercials had gone into a loop, repeating a series of shitty trivia questions in a time frame so short that even a patient with a severe case of advanced Alzheimer's wouldn't have difficulty recalling the answers.

Shortly after making this realization, a theater employee entered and gathered the attention of the attendees by saying, "Excuse me everyone, but there is a problem with the projector and the start of the movie will be delayed by just a few minutes. Someone is working on it and it should only take another minute. It's just the projector and it's being fixed. It should only take a minute as the attendant is working to repair it. The projector should be repaired shortly and the movie will begin as soon as the projector is fixed which is being done as we speak. With any luck the movie will begin soon as in about one minute."

I inquired in reply, "So you're saying there's a problem with the projector?"

Shortly there after, the theater employee returned and approached each person in the audience saying, "Can I offer you a free small drink because of the delay?" Thinking about this for a few seconds, I realized how easy it is to keep the inconvenienced theater-goers (sheep) happy. If all it takes is a free small drink to calm a theater full of people, then they have the right idea. Chances are, this "problem" will actually generate more revenue for them than if the "problem" never even occurred.

Please allow me to diverge slightly with some quick mathematics. First, I will assume that there are 50 occupants in the theater. The approximate actual cost to theater in "giving away" a free small drink to the audience, would be about $5.00, or 10 cents per coupon (including the cost of the cup and drink). Now assume that every audience member gets up and redeems their coupon at that moment while the projector is being repaired and returns with only the "complimentary" drink. In this scenario, the theater would lose $195 in profit (assuming $4/drink less the $5 cost). However, the odds of this happening are infinitesimal, especially since the "projector will be fixed in about a minute and the movie will begin shortly," not even providing enough time to redeem the coupon before the movie will inevitably (supposedly) begin. More likely scenarios would include the - discarding of the coupon by the audience members (cost to theater - value of the printed coupon - i.e. nothing) - OR - people will get the "free" small drink and other concessions that they would not normally get because of the "free" compensation for the two minutes of inconvenience - OR - the audience will remember that the theater wanted to make things right after something abnormal occurred, keep the coupon (or not) and become regular patrons of this particular theater whether or not it is their regular theater.

Chances are, the the actual usage of the coupon will fall into a mix of the above scenarios with most people (like myself) cramming the coupon into my wallet, never to be seen again (or at least until the wallet is cleaned out in 3-5 years). With little doubt in my mind, I believe that the projector "problem" will likely not cost the theater anything at all, and potentially could be profitable. Which brings me to the point - was there really a problem with the projector, or was the theater just trying to drum up some more business?

That was quite a long tangent. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, Cloverfield. Once you can get accustomed to the bouncy camera work, the film was amazingly entertaining. The special effects were fantastic and the story was well scripted. Megan and her intensely analytical mind drew parallels to the 9/11 attacks and the imagery of terror in New York City during the entire film while I was pondering things like - "did that girl just explode?" My suggestion: Grab your significant other, take a Dramamine, go see Cloverfield and just enjoy the film for the sake of being entertained - then discuss it with the more intelligent half of the relationship and have them explain to you what the movie meant in simple terms that you can understand.


Moflo said...

My God. Let the free small drink issue go.

I expect I will soon find you in the fetal position, rocking back and forth and babbling about cost to theater versus conspiracy profit.

Andrew Skaff said...

Cost to theater versus conspiracy profit is one of the leading indicators of recession in this country. If only people would listen to me. In fact it's probably a conspiracy by the theater companies that my work has never been seen by influential members of community. If I suddenly disappear, check the local AMC offices first.

Mike Wehrman said...

I found Andrew's argument rather cogent, though if I were a nefarious theater owner, I would give the patrons large drink coupons in the event of such problems. The large drinks don't really cost the theater much more (maybe a nickel or so), and it makes the theater appear less stingy when it comes to freebies. A free large drink would make them look like Geico (according to James Lipton)--beneficent and magnanimous.

Also, if people are getting large drinks free, they might be willing to splurge on more food. A free large drink could yield a purchased large popcorn. Or maybe a popcorn and a Sour Patch Kids. A small drink, though. would likely lead only to small popcorn or lone candy purchases, otherwise the ideal drink-to-food ratio would be thrown off.

Gina said...

As I work and play in NYC, the thought of watching an attack on NYC in the movies hits a nerve with me...and probably would give me nightmares. I'll pass.

So, did you and Megan redeem your coupon?

Andrew Skaff said...

Mike - You are correct, sir. Once again, you have taken my analysis one step further, and improved upon the concept. You and I will surely have to open our own chain of theaters that will "happen" to have projector "problems" at regular intervals - but only before the movies have begun. We will offer "free drinks" and watch the profits on Raisinettes and popping corn go through the roof. We will make millions... MILLIONS!!!

Gina - I can understand that a New Yorker would likely not have any desire to see this movie. It's perfectly understandable.

We did not redeem the coupon - just crammed it into the wallet for future (if ever) usage. There really wasn't any time between when the coupons were handed out and the beginning of the film. Maybe we'll use them on our next visit.

kilax said...

I understand the reasoning behind filming the movie as if it was on a self-camcorder - I think it makes us connect to the story on a more personal level, and I think it also avoids becoming a stereotypical blockbuster this way.

By shooting the film this way, we focus more on the terror of the situation and the story, than on the big picture.

But the curious side of me would have loved it to be filmed differently so that I could see more/understand more/etc.

Anonymous said...

More food for thought:

Popcorn is pretty darn cheap for the theater to produce as well... if they really want to drum up a profit, they should have given out free popcorn...because what are you going to do, eat the whole salty buttery thing with nothing to wash it down? or buy yourself a nice $8 coke.


Andrew Skaff said...

Justin - Now you're thinking. You took the argument, flipped it over, made it more profitable and just bought your way into a future business venture with Mr. Wehrman and myself.