Drive-in Movies

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Tonight I passed an empty lot where my childhood drive-in theater used to be….I am visiting my old home town and the whole experience brought back lots of great memories.

The drive-in theater was the creation of Camden, New Jersey, chemical company magnate Richard Holiingshead Jr. whose family owned and operated the R.M. Hollingshead Corporation chemical plant in Camden.

In 1932, Hollingshead conducted outdoor theater tests in his driveway at 212 Thomas Avenue in Riverton. After nailing a screen to trees in his backyard, he set a 1928 Kodak Projector on the hood of his car and put a radio behind the screen, testing different sound levels with his car windows down and up. Blocks under vehicles in the driveway enabled him to determine the size and spacing of ramps so all automobiles could have a clear view of the screen.

Following these experiments, he applied August 6, 1932, for a patent of his invention, and he was given U.S. Patent 1,909,537 on May 16, 1933. That patent was declared invalid 17 years later by the Delaware District Court.

Hollingshead’s drive-in opened in New Jersey June 6, 1933, on Admiral Wilson Boulevard. He advertised his drive-in theater with the slogan, “The whole family is welcome, regardless of how noisy the children are.” The facility only operated three years, but during that time the concept caught on in other states.

Early drive-in theaters had to deal with noise pollution issues. The original Hollingshead drive-in had speakers installed on the tower itself which caused a sound delay affecting patrons at the rear of the drive-in’s field. Attempts at outdoor speakers next to the vehicle did not produce satisfactory results.

In 1941, RCA introduced in-car speakers with individual volume controls which solved the noise pollution issue and provided satisfactory sound to drive-in patrons.

The drive-in’s peak popularity came in the late 1950s and early 1960s, particularly in rural areas, with some 4,000 drive-ins spreading across the United States. Among its advantages was the fact that a family with a baby could take care of their child while watching a movie, while teenagers with access to autos found drive-ins ideal for dates…some of my best dates of all time were at the drive-in…I won’t mention any names but you know who you are.

During their height, some drive-ins used attention-grabbing gimmicks to boost attendance. They ranged from small airplane runways, unusual attractions such as a small petting zoo or cage of monkeys, actors to open their movies, or musical groups to play before the show. Some drive-ins held religious services on Sunday morning and evening, or charged a flat price per car on slow nights like Wednesday. The price was a dollar per car during “buck” nights in the 1950s and 1960s.
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In the UK a pseudo-drive-in has been launched where the cars are provided by the theater. It’s sponsored by Volvo. The urban Starlite Drive-in is inside the Truman Brewery in hip East London where the urban population will get the chance to watch classic films in a fleet of convertibles served by roller-skating waitresses.

Love it…maybe it will catch on…

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Mobile Marketing is a must for movie studios.

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Mobile has become a go-to channel for film and television studios looking to build buzz for a new movie or show.

To promote Frank Miller’s film “The Spirit,” Lionsgate launched an iPhone application letting consumers project themselves photo-realistically into the digital realm.

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“Mobile is always part of 360-degree marketing strategy for any new-release film that comes out, and increasing for new TV shows as well,” said Curt Marvis, president of digital media at Lionsgate, Santa Monica, CA.

“Our mobile strategy involves providing new, original content based on existing brands such as ‘Mad Men’ or ‘Weeds’ and figure out how to extend that through mobile channels,” he said. “We introduce new content via Web or via mobile or both, which encourages consumers to come back to traditional programming such as a theater or their TV.

“Mobile video is still in the early days, but we see a lot of potential.”

In addition to iPhone applications, Lionsgate has run SMS initiatives, mobile advertising campaigns, mobile sweepstakes, free mobile content and mobile video.

The studio is also working on releasing several gaming-based applications for the iPhone.

Overseas, Lionsgate has launched shows that were financed exclusively through revenues generated from mobile, and Mr. Marvis believes that in two-to-three years the mobile commerce ecosystem may be mature enough in the U.S. to generate massive mobile content sales.

“Definitely we’re huge believers in the mobile channel as a video channel, and the bandwidth will have a lot to do with that, but the concerns about the small screen-size are bullshit,” Mr. Marvis said.

As evidence he cited the “incredible” number of TV episodes consumers have bought via iTunes to watch on their iPhone.

Mr. Marvis also believes that mobile payments using one’s handset will be a game changer. He was excited about ARL/VRL audio-based location technology that integrates voice recognition and mobile coupons.

“You’ll be able to say a brand name or movie title, find where the closest retailer is or the closest theatres that are showing that movie, also giving you a $1 off coupon,” Mr. Marvis said. “There are some of the things we see going forward becoming really valuable for us.”

Also, better devices and better networks will mean more opportunities for brands to reach consumers via mobile and provide better content and a better experience.

“Once bandwidth starts to expand, five years from now the mobile channel will be a massively important contributor to our revenue,” Mr. Marvis said. “It will probably revolve around the forward-going notion among consumers that everything’s free, and the entire entertainment business is faced with different models to cope with that.

“There will be subscription services such as TV anywhere, where cable is also available on subscribers’ cell phone wherever they are, and it will be much more ad driven than it will be transactionally driven—brought to you by brand X, Y and Z,” he said.

Tic Tac Da!

I spend a lot of time in the cinema these days, but it was only recently on a plane from Tokyo that I finally got to see a film recommended by my daughter called “Juno” that got top nods at the Oscars.
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I loved the film but I was honestly surprised how asleep at the wheel the Ferrero USA company is – makers of Orange Tic Tacs – considering the little gems are a main character in this flick, and not since “My Big Fat Greek TV Movie” and the Considine’s obsession with Windex, has a major American non-paid product placement been featured so “cool-y” in a major motion picture.
YetJuno_Tic_Tacs Ferrero have not done a thing to capitalize on Paul’s (Cera’s) nonstop fascination with the orange one-calorie treats. And yes, Ellen Page’s Juno actually uses those very words!

Heck, Ferrero has an opportunity to go for broke here with the one movie everyone is talking about that does not star Johnny Depp. It appears this European entity has its collective corporate arms folded, probably because “Juno” is about a 16-year-old pregnant kid — brilliant and mature— and they don’t want to be in the dialogue or debate about their treats supporting an unwed young Mommy.

I think it’s shortsighted. This is where making noise comes in handy. I can only hope that the Tic Tac makers somehow, somewhere, get their act together and create a colorful mini-site for “Juno” fans to share what’s orange about their lives — and create a chat room for lovers of this fine Americana and modern talk of the town.

Service companies – take note. It’s a freaking Harvard Business School study in the future: Always use what’s handed you, especially if it’s colorful, like maybe orange? Activate’s favorite color.