Last night was the Cineworld Secret Screening. Cineworld, a British cinema chain, advertised a mystery movie for their Unlimited customers. Their timing wasn’t an accident either. Two days before the official release date of Star Wars caused the Unlimited customers to start speculating. I even got in on the act with my guesses.
The closer we got to the release date, the more furious the guesses became. Most people used the sparse information Cineworld gave to come to a solid conclusion: 3D, 12a (US PG13) and an upcoming release. Some websites even had the runtime: 122 minutes. The last piece of information clinched it and they correctly guessed that it was In The Heart of the Sea.
Of course, these were only guesses until the title card of the film appeared on-screen. The comment section on the post was full of people certain it was Star Wars. Some had said that Cineworld were trying too hard to convince that it wasn’t to throw people off the scent, others made more outlandish guesses, like Point Break and one particular person was sure they would be playing A New Hope.
A lot of people also made the comment that they would leave it was anything but Star Wars. This one confused me slightly because as a film fan, I will gladly sit through any movie. Part of the ethos of the blog is that I will give any movie a go and the fact that I’ve made the effort to leave the house is enough for me to stay and watch whatever is placed in front of me.
Luckily, when In the Heart of the Sea started, I wasn’t one of the people groaning (or leaving) and I actually really enjoyed the movie (review will follow this weekend). Cineworld may have played a very clever marketing game but it was also a dangerous one. People were expecting Star Wars so were never going to give the actual mystery film the time they should have.
It isn’t necessarily their fault though. The timing was of course suspect but Cineworld also released a statement saying “The movie will not be screened in a Galaxy Far Far Away.” I took this with a pinch of salt but was also sure that it meant it wasn’t Star Wars. Others were not convinced and had some very convoluted ways in which they attempted to decipher the “clue” which was actually a way for Cineworld to try to kill the hype.
Cineworld even went one step further with their denial by specifically saying that it wasn’t Star Wars in an e-mail I received. This seemed to pass many people by. They didn’t help themselves by playing to the speculation on Twitter but this only helped publicise the event further.
Once the movie was revealed, my comment section now became a place for people to vent their frustration at Cineworld’s movie choice and for “stringing them along.” Cineworld are partly to blame again but they did say that it wasn’t Star Wars and people seemed to choose to ignore it, clinging on to hope rather than accepting that it would be a very good film about a whale.
Overall, Cineworld’s secret screening worked a treat. Placing it two days before Star Wars release was enough to get people talking, cause a stir on Twitter and make people attend the event. They played their marketing very well and although they could have been much clearer, I think the blame for the disappointment people felt needs to land with the many people who chose to ignore the blatant messages that it wasn’t Star Wars.