We are now in the very heart of the summer movie extravaganza – at least that would have been true in past summers. But now, across America movie theatres are closed, openings are being pushed back and films are languishing unreleased or pushed out of the in-theatre queue to be released digitally. The Covid-19 pandemic has almost entirely shut down the film industry worldwide.
Despite the massive economic and safety challenges for movie makers and for film attenders, Screen Engine/ASI, a growing movie, TV, digital and entertainment research and strategy company based in Los Angeles, has announced the launch of a new digital, Internet-based product providing a promotional marketing tool for film, TV and video production companies in the era of a stay-at-home society.
Traditionally, movie companies have used “test” screenings and “buzz” screenings to assure the quality of the movies and to create excitement around the upcoming launch of the movies, particularly in key markets. Now, of course, the studios have lost their access to the movie theatres where traditionally hundreds of thousands of consumers have gathered annually to watch movies free for testing or marketing purposes.
Screen Engine/ASI has released the “Virtual Screening Room” so movie and TV studios can still host “word-of-mouth screenings” and create buzz for upcoming movies, but safely and remotely in movie fans’ homes.
Running these promotional screenings online, vs. inside the confines of a theatre, however, raises worries about security, particularly the pirating or copying of films before they are released. The Virtual Screening Room has been designed to provide security safeguards against such problems, according to Screen Engine/ASI.
Andrew Ly, founder of ticktBox, which was bought by Screen Engine/ASI last year said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, “We’ve built a one of a kind cross promotional and marketing platform for studios to run their promotional screenings all within one suite in response to the social changes resulting from the virus outbreak, while eliminating the health concerns of attendees being physically present.” Ly said the new product from Screen Engine/ASI will be used by a number of studios to aid their film marketing, including a premium video-on-demand title coming out later this summer.
TicktBox’s parent company Screen Engine, is one of Hollywood’s leading research and data firms, and is backed by the prominent NYC-based private equity firm, The Wicks Group. Screen Engine has been hiring numerous big names from the TV and movie industries to drive their expansion, including the hiring of Bruce Friend, as Chief Product and Innovation Officer last year, who has lead numerous research companies, as well as being the executive in charge of research at a number of big studios. Screen Engine also quietly hired the former head of TV station research and consulting at Magid Associates, Steve Ridge, to expand Screen Engine’s work with TV stations. A source who asked to remain anonymous, said that the appointment will be formally announced in the weeks ahead, along with key new clients.
Kevin Goetz, Founder and CEO, Screen Engine/ASI, in an exclusive interview with me, said that he has been building a firm “with the best minds and connections in the industry.” He went to say. “I am thrilled to lead the launch of our groundbreaking virtual, word-of-mouth geographic targeting for entertainment marketing. Our goal is to work with clients and their agencies to optimize their marketing spend by ensuring they are targeting and reaching audiences that are most likely to drive positive word-of-mouth, and in turn, realize full market potential for entertainment IP. In the next few months, our new market targeting solution will expand to allow clients to build customized targets for specific genres and franchises.”
William Shatner, one of the great icon pop culture figures of our time, from Star Trek to pitching Internet company, Priceline, once said, “I love to go to a movie, get a Diet Coke and a barrel of popcorn.” We will be waiting to see if the movie industry can send us all popcorn (buttered or not as you please) alongside our digital content.