What Does not Work Although the majority of the Four Eyed Monsters’ profit came from online sales, its theater run played a critical role in fueling its online support. Other websites like “Prescreen” have tried to emulate the Four Eyed Monsters model but have only focused on online outreach and sales. In the blog TechCrunch, Leena Rao explains Prescreen’s distribution model, “Prescreen offers users the ability to subscribe to a daily email alert, which will inform them of one Indie film per day. The user can then visit Prescreen to view trailers for free and if interested, can rent movies to stream on demand for up to 60 days.” However, prescreen was recently shut done since it was unable to attract enough subscribers.
Mass emails and trailers are simply not enough to effectively grow an online audience that will purchase the film. Prescreen did not have enough of an “active” campaign that utilized both offline and online organizing tolls like Four Eye Monsters. See our post on "Offline vs. Online Organizing" here.
Ideas for Improvement
What if the Four Eyed Monsters’ “tipping point” distribution model could be applied to other independent films? If enough people purchase a ticket to see an independent film in their city, the film is screened in theaters. The distributor can ensure people will see the film, and the filmmaker gains an exponential amount of publicity for their film that leads to future DVD and merchandise sales.
The Obama campaign was fortunate enough to have its own database called Votebuilder, which contained massive amounts of information about supporters and voters to determine which regions in battleground states had enough support for a field office. Filmmakers on the otherhand would have to create their own metrics system to determine which cities have enough support to screen their film. However, the makers of Four Eyed Monsters have proven that by complementing online data with offline theater screenings, it can be done.
The “trapdoor” theory also played a critical role in Four Eyed Monsters late blooming success. The "trapdoor" theory is based on the idea that you need to get each person in the organization motivated to their furthest level of involvement. For example, the Obama campaign used the trapdoor theory in the following way. Someone starts off as a voter, picks up a yard sign, signs up to support Obama online, is contacted by the campaign to volunteer, becomes a super volunteer, then may even work on staff. Four Eyed Monsters applied the trapdoor theory to get their fans to opt in to the film after they failed to get it distributed. You like the webseries? Opt-in to see the film in your area. You like the film? Donate to get us out of debt. This step by step process is critical for building a relationship with your audience so they get more and more invested in supporting the film.
Four Eyed Monsters also utilized the "collective buying power" theory that websites like Groupon use to offer consumer deals on products. The "collective buying power" theory focuses on selling products and services at a discounted price if a minimum number of consumers are willing to buy the same item. Four Eyed Monsters used collective buying power to convince movie theaters it was in their economic interest to distribute their film.
-Josh, Michael and Carl