Cinema is not dead. It’s just getting started – again.
For nearly three years now, a US startup has been helping a steadily growing base of fans watch their favourite old movies as they were meant to be seen, on the big screen.
It’s called Tugg and basically, it’s like hiring your local cinema, except you don’t have to pay. You might even make some money.
Now, after a soft launch in Australia last year, it’s taking off after partnering up with Western Australian production company Leap Frog films. Tugg founder Nick Gonda just wrapped a tour of the country where he announced “95 per cent” of the country’s cinemas were on board and ready to show fans any movie they want to see, provided they could convince at least 50-60 other to come along.
All you have to do is visit Tugg’s website and scan the titles for something you really want to see on the big screen:
Once you fill out the form, your movie gets on the event list. Then you hit social media and rally a crowd. If you meet the pre-sales threshold, usually between 50-60 tickets, within a month, the showtime will occur.
Tugg takes care of the rest – from ticketing to theatre booking, all the other resources that make that event successful. More than 300 people recently attended a showing of “Me and My Mates Vs The Zombie Apocalypse” in Canberra.
Basically, Tugg’s levered itself into the exploding on-demand space. While it has a selection of movies ready to roll on a list that gets updated each month, if you have something specific in mind, it will do the legwork to bring it to your local cinema.
You can request any movie you might have missed because you were too young, too lazy or lived in a town too small to host the films you always wanted to see with a big bucket of popcorn.
“Everybody wins, that’s the only way this works,” Gonda told Business Insider. “We all, I think, audiences and filmmakers and distributors, all have the problem that it’s just too risky a process.
“Especially on the business side of speculating if or not an audience is going to be there, spending money in that speculative, haphazard way, thinking or hoping that this ad, or this placement will end up driving attendance.”
Gonda says Tugg’s research showed that one word of mouth recommendation “has the impact of more than 200 television or paid advertisement placements”.
“At the end of the day, what’s ultimately motivating people to go see the movies that they are seeing is all the recommendations from people they trust,” he says. “We’ve been able to harness that electrical current and provide a system around it where people are also incentivised to share what they love.”
By “incentivised”, he means budding amateur promoters get a 5% cut of the box office. If you choose your movie well and promote it effectively, Gonda says there’s enough “elasticity” in the agreement it has with cinemas to expand capacity and organise extra showtimes.
In wrapping up his Australian visit, Gonda announced a deal with Village Roadshows to release its “Australian Classics” collection for Tugg viewers.
Now the new generation of “Mad Max” fans can see the original and its sequel the way it was meant to be seen, laugh at Muriel or be blown away by Russell Crowe’s breakout role as neo-Nazi Hando in the powerful Geoffrey Wright flick “Romper Stomper”.
Can’t get your kids’ school to show “Gayby Baby”? No problem – just take them to the showing at your local cinema, which you probably organised. (It’s one of the more popular Australian choices.)
“Millions of Australians who’ve only ever seen these movies on a scratchy VHS or some kind of download and yet theatrically, many of them are marvellous experiences,” Leap Frog Films CEO David Doepel says.
“The other important thing is the vast majority of these films are films that would not have otherwise enjoyed a theatrical release.”
It’s proving a great boon for local, independent filmmakers. The controversial Australian anti-fracking documentary “Frackman” has enjoyed a stellar run thanks to Tugg users, securing 85 screenings which added $165,000 to its total $281,000 take.
Doepel said Tugg Australia was receiving between 6-10 requests a day for screenings.
Yesterday, it helped host 111 movie events around the country, 32 of which were shared between Gayby Baby and Me and My Mates Vs The Zombie Apocalypse.
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