Thursday, August 15, 2013

Free Movie...with Stipulations

I embraced a uniquely LA experience yesterday.

No, I haven't gone on the two hour star tour. (Is it two hours? I don't even know)

But I will.

I went to a test screening for a movie that hasn't been released yet. Post-production. Unfinished.

I can't tell you who was in it (really good actors) and I can't tell you what it was about (dramatic) or what the title was (it had an awful fake title anyways). I signed away all of my rights to do that in exchange for a free movie ticket and a gift card. So, frankly, I think I'm getting a pretty good deal.

A group of us went to see Elysium the other day at our local movie theater--did we mention we can walk there? There's sort of a small food court and some sidewalk performers looking for change. Movies are king, though, and a Saturday night calls people like bacon at breakfast. Standing in the middle of the throng is a guy hawking colored half slips of paper yelling "Free movie! Free movie for two!" at the top of his lungs.

So of course the vultures descend. We're not that far from graduation and you just don't pass up free ANYTHING. The slip has the working title of the film (the fake title), the actors, a brief synopsis and a whole lot of legalese.

Rule number one, you don't talk about free movies.
Rule number two, you don't TALK about free movies.

The deal: RSVP and show up early. They'll corral you into a huge line and pass out waiver forms and information sheets. If you meet the criteria they might contact you again for focus groups; if you don't then thanks for playing and here's the movie.

Talking to some of the other people in line they said that they get to see all sorts of movies this way- before and after final cuts of the movie. Sometimes the CGI isn't completely finished or the sound is off or the colors are too dark, but they let you know it's a work in progress and they're really just trying to gauge the success of the movie overall.
The papers we signed wanted our complete silence on the film, our personal information and our first born child. There were no cell phones or cameras allowed in the theater- they waved the metal detector wand over your limbs and checked your bags at the door.

Completely by accident we ended up sitting in the VIP row right next to the director. The manager of the theater came by to give a little speech and the movie started. No previews, no infographics, no associated studios or sound effects teams, just film.

Fast forward two hours and they hand out a two-sided survey asking what you liked and didn't like about the movie: were there specific parts you enjoyed? Hated? Were you there for the actors or the genre? Did you think it was overacted? Was the pacing well thought-out? Etc, etc. We handed in the finished surveys and received a gift card to the theater for our troubles.

I think the secrecy about the movie added to the overall ambiance of the experience and really made you feel like you were one of "them": a movie-goer in the city where movies are made. Not bad for a Wednesday night...not bad at all.

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