Why Crowdsourcing Will Save Cinema

So, Indywood just launched a Kickstarter campaign. But wait, dear Reader! Though this looks in every way like spam—it is not!

This is a prophetic outcry predicting the destiny of cinema!

• What if viewers had a say in what plays on the big screen?

• What if theaters could ask their audiences what they want to see?

• What if movie theaters, the communal dreaming place of the crowd, were controlled by the crowd?

It’s possible. It’s needed. Here’s why it will work.

I notice that few people I know ever go to the movies (me included, until we started Indywood). My armchair diagnosis is that people don’t go to movies any more for three reasons:

1.) It’s too expensive.

2.) It’s too far away.

3.) What’s playing isn’t too interesting.

The sad fact is, the average American sees only 6 movies a year on the big screen. We used to go to the movies every weekend (tear).

Indywood works to solve problems #1 and #2 in ways I’ll explore in future posts, but for now I’ll focus on the third problem: Theaters need to play better films.

Americans still watch movies, but we don’t “go to” the movies like we used to. For a century, we were confined to what was playing in theaters or (later) what they had at the video store . But now we can see anything we want on Netflix or Amazon or Google. As a result, cinema lovers stay home and watch a vast array of interesting content, and the cinemas are left soulless.

Though we lovers of cinema are enthralled by the lush classics and intriguing indie docs that can be found online, a deep fear also arises in the cold glow of the laptop screen: Is this the future of cinema? Have great films been forevermore exiled from their natural home—the big screen?

No.

As I’ll say again in every blog I write, there is hope. In the 21st century, cinema will return to the big screen.

How?

What if we could combine the diversity and accessibility of content on Netflix with the romantic grandeur and cultural connectivity of the classic single-screen cinema?

This is where crowdsourcing and social media come into play: Never before have we cinema owners been able to ask our audiences directly what y’all want to see.

In the digital age, theaters have the technical capability to show anything we want. But we’re frightened that no one will come out to see what we play. Licensing fees are pretty steep. We have to cover our costs. Thus most indie theaters play it safe and stick to riding publicity and playing recent indie hits.

But what if theaters enabled audiences to see anything their hearts desire—like Netflix but on the big screen? The internet age has given us the tools to do that.

Last week, I went on the Indywood Facebook page and asked our followers which of a few films I’m considering bringing they most wanted to see. Based on the response, I’ve now booked two films in March.

And that’s just the beginning.

Imagine this:

In the future, every Indywood film is crowdsourced. We post on our website a film we’re considering booking. People can pre-buy tickets to that film. If we sell 30 tickets, we know we’ve covered our licensing fees. We book the film.

Not only that.

Any Indywood audience member could post a film they would like to see, and if that film sells 30 tickets, we’ll book it! It’s the accessibility of Netflix combined with the glory and community of the big screen.

That’s the dream.

With our Kickstarter campaign, we’re taking the first step toward that dream. Our goal is to generate an engine of Indywood members who will become the curators of their own cinema experience.

Do you share the dream?

By becoming an Indywood member through our Kickstarter page, you’re opening up a direct conversation between we the theater and you the viewer. Once we know who you are, we can start asking, “what do you want to see?”

By becoming an Indywood member, you are also participating in the first small flourishings of the grand future of crowdsourced cinema.