Director Andrew Disney and Red Productions are using Tugg to distribute their movie Searching For Sonny. Specifically, Tugg is a combination crowd source and social media new way of releasing movies. Here’s how Tugg works: people sign up and request the movie at a participating location at a specific time — then spread the word. When enough moviegoers register, Tugg reserves the theater, handles ticketing, and arranges delivery of the movie. (If not enough people commit, no screening is set up, and moviegoers are charged nothing.) Tugg is developing relationships with theater chains including AMC, Regal, Cinemark and Rave. The service is running but still in beta. As for Searching For Sonny, it screened at the Austin Film Festival in 2011 and at 30+ fests nationwide. It stars Jason Dohring, Minka Kelly, Michael Hogan, and Masi Oka. Interested fans can sign up here to arrange to see the comedy about three friends snared in a murder mystery at their 10-year high school reunion. Potential showings are moving forward in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and other cities.
The most important technology change for theater owners has nothing to do with the quality of picture and sound. Their businesses will be far more affected by social media, based on comments at a lunch panel today at the industry’s CinemaCon convention. With the growing access to information on the Internet, and social networks led by Facebook, about 39% of movie-goers have an opinion about a film four weeks before it’s released — up from about 25% four years ago — according to Vincent Bruzzese, President Worldwide of the Motion Picture Group at Ipsos. “More than a third of moviegoers have decided whether to see a movie before your TV campaign even starts,” he says. Studios are paying attention: “When we look at a film campaign it’s about identifying influencers upfront,” says T.J. Marchetti, SVP of digital marketng for Walt Disney Studios. For example, he notes that Finding Nemo — which will be re-released in 3D this fall — has 12M fans on Facebook. The studio has also generated online buzz by having stars of The Avengers attend about 15 pre-release screenings, and having director Steven Spielberg answer audience questions from about 60 theaters showing War Horse. “It’s hard to do; you can’t do it for everything,” Marchetti says. But when it works it can “empower people and have them be your evangelists.”