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Events and Movies: A Comparative Exploration in Extending Experiences

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Many people in the events industry would compare live events to theater. At least from a staging perspective, many event planners come from theater backgrounds find theater techniques in things like lighting, audiovisuals, and set designs to be easily applicable to live events. So to do a comparison between live events and filmmaking may seem an unconventional pairing, but I think there’s not only many similarities between these two disciplines, but that there are many things from moviemaking that event producer can learn from.

First and foremost, the economics behind event productions and movie productions are more similar than anything else. Both types of productions need to figure out a way to raise money to create the product, then to set the product launch for a certain date, then hopefully to recoup the money invested in production as quickly as possible and then turn a profit. When this pipeline is applied to event productions, the production money goes toward the staging expenses of the event and the operational expense of the team, then the launch is the dates of the event itself, and the revenues come from some combination of ticket sales, sponsorships, merchandising, and licensing. When it applies to movies, the production money goes towards the filming and sets as well as the cast and crew, then the launch is the premier of the movie, then the revenues come from box office sales, sales of blu-rays and downloads, and in some cases, merchandising and licensing.

We’ve explored through a number of angles in the past the implications of recording technologies. Movies, just by the nature of the product, inherently lasts longer than a live event. The common perception of a 2 hour event is that it begins and ends within its two hour timeframe, but few would ever say that about a movie. For wouldbe consumers, the true life of a movie to begins far before they ever set foot into the theater. Movies these days are known for marketing themselves a year in advance or more. Trailers, cast interviews on talk shows, public appearances in forums like Comic Cons, advance screenings for critics; all these marketing efforts hype up a movie far in advance of its launch, and lead to the incredible dynamic of well organized launches to do their hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues just on opening weekend alone.

Live events also have an important marketing component, but on average I would say the marketing techniques of the events industry still leave much to be desired. The best marketers in the events industry tend to be the top leagues in sports, organizations like the NFL, the UFC, and international brands like the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup. For the remainder of the events industry, whether it’s corporate events, social events, charity events or public events, I think there is much room for innovation in how we market our products for greater success.

Then we look at the other side of the experience: extending the product after the main experience is over. Movies again have the inherent benefit of its product being something that can be owned and re-experienced again and again. While the real commercial successes can see their entire budget recouped by the end of opening night, most movie launches are split into the phases of its opening night, its opening weekend, its theatrical run, then its subsequent blu-ray and download sales. This comes down again to marketing. Television commercials for movies run throughout the movie’s theatrical run and subsequent blu-ray releases, showing by that point all the positive critic reviews the movie has received, or certainly if applicable, the awards that movie has won. The ecosystem of award shows, themselves widely followed by loyal fans, works thus to subsequently promote the continuation of financial success for a movie. For movies that happen to be a franchise and/or one with large merchandise licensing potentials — the Marvels, the Star Wars’, the LOTR’s of the world — these efforts compound the potential for the movie to continue making money well after the theatrical run of a movie is over. Between all these techniques in extending the life of a movie beyond that first viewing for any consumer, movies then subsequently make it that much easier for themselves to produce subsequent sequels and build ever-growing brands for themselves.

Most of these concepts are not applied in the world of live events, but I believe that’s because event producers haven’t done it yet, and not because these concepts aren’t applicable. Again, the best niche of the events industry to look to for marketing success are the producers of the major sporting events. The job these top leagues do in marketing their productions come the closest to what ubiquitously happen in the movies industry, and I think the remainder of the events industry have much to learn from these examples.

Many from over these past few decades might say that movies as a whole just resonate more with people than live events do, but I think this is a dynamic that can very quickly change with this new generation. Frankly, the lines between these two disciplines are starting to blur, as people put increasing emphasis on seeing movies in IMAX and during premiers and travelling to film festivals and so forth, and live events are increasingly recorded and accessible to anyone through Youtube or dedicated websites. There is a convergence in the ways people engage with these two distinct sets of products. As such, I think there are many elements from the life cycle management of feature films that we can learn in the events industry and apply with success to our own productions. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: this generation is one where live events will see its greatest paradigm shift as a societal function that we’ve ever seen in human history, and it’s up to us in the events industry to push these necessary innovations forward to bring people together in this unprecedented age of virtual connections.

See you at the next exploration!

Harry

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