CITY ISLAND GOES TO...PARAMUS, NEW JERSEY?
A few nights ago, "City Island" was screened at a mall in Paramus, New Jersey, in what is known as an OTX screening. Basically, an audience is recruited from a shopping mall and asked if they'd like to see a free movie that hasn't been released yet. The victims are asked in return to fill out a questionnaire which asks things like "which parts did you enjoy most", "which did you enjoy least", "tell us your favorite scene" , "tell us your least favorite scene" etc. (The questions aren't these exact ones and may be just slightly more sophisticated...but only slightly). There is also a "focus group" afterward, wherein the moderator asks participants what other movies they would liken this one too and--the hundred thousand dollar question--would you recommend this movie to your friends and/or family?
The purpose is to give the company releasing the film information on the the films strong points and weak points. Presumably this helps the marketing team decide what things about the movie to focus on in terms of selling it. And, frankly, it serves as a preliminary indication of the likely answer to that all-important and all-terrifying question that must be faced: do we have a winner? Or do we have a dog? The truth is, most movies are flops--if you define flop strictly in terms of "did they make their money back". The movie business exists on the backs of a very few very big hits. The OTX screenings are highly reliable early indicators of whether or not a movie "speaks" to an audience. Generally the overall approval rating of a movie doesn't rise above 65 percent--this is considered good because it's well above average and no movie can please every age/sex/class group of filmgoer. And what were the numbers on "City Island" you may well be wondering?
Well. I hate to be the one to tell you (being as I'm the creator of the subject of this little lab experiment) but our movie scored a mind-boggling 91 percent approval rating. I wasn't at the screening (my producers Lauren Versel and Zachary Matz were) but I was told that the laughter steadily built and was more or less continuous through the second half of the movie. (Odd since my intention was to make a tragic tear-jerker). (Joke). Let me quoth Lauren who put this in writing this morning in an e-mail to our various producer-investors/supporters etc.:
These scores mean the filmgoers are saying they would definitely recommend the movie to others and that they believed the movie to be “excellent or very good.” Also, these results were seen in what they are calling “four quadrants,” which means across the board - with young and old women and young and old men. This is very difficult to achieve with one movie. I have been told by many savvy insiders that they have never heard of a film scoring so high in a test screening. We are consistently getting laughs in the same places at all of the screenings. This is very good for us and our movie! We all know the expansive potential of CITY ISLAND, and it was wonderful to watch the Anchor Bay team witness the incredible audience reaction firsthand. These results will be very helpful as Anchor Bay begins to develop and implement their marketing campaign for the film throughout the fall and winter...the current plan is to first open in New York and Los Angeles in one theater. We will all have to help fill the theater that weekend for all of the screenings! If the film plays the way we believe it will, they will then platform release it, or build it to more screens in more markets. It is thrilling to see our baby go out into the world!
Thanks, babe. Mind if I quote you? Should I have asked first?
Seriously, though, check out the last few lines. The subject of this increasingly uni-movie-centric blog is bound to get only more intensely uni-minded as the release date of "City Island" approaches. As Lauren says, we need to fill the theaters that opening weekend and during the rollout into the other major markets. And I will be shamelessly pandering to all of you who have followed the progress of the movies journey thus far to help me achieve a 21rst century sort of digital miracle wherin we create enough buzz via the web to get butts in seats on those weekends. I'm not sure quite how to effect this and I'm looking for suggestions. I would offer to sponsor a contest but what could I offer as a reward--allowing you to buy me dinner? Perhaps I will resort to the auctioning off of memorabilia. I believe I have an ashtray that is still dirty from a cigar that Andy Garcia left in it.
Or perhaps I just need to extend myself to you, dear City Island followers, and ask once again--with gracious modesty and some embarrassment--to HELP US PUT THE DAMN MOVIE OVER THE TOP AND MAKE IT A HIT. (Like you did with Tribeca--I'm quite convinced that blogathon and the air of good-vibeyness resulted in our Audience Award and thus our sale to Anchor Bay). Any ideas would be welcome--mass e-mailing? Invasive internet stalking on sites that would draw audiences? Free Heineken? I'm up for anything but we do need your help.
Leave ideas in the comments section. And by the way, thanks for the translations from the Brazilian/Spanish/Portugese, everyone. Now dig John Pizzarelli in his tribute to my new favorite state, New Jersey...
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 6:46 PM