How To Get Filthy Rich In The Theater

Exactly how does one compete with a film like Avatar?  Box office grosses have surpassed a billion dollars at this point, and eager spectators are still flocking.

When your average American has a choice between experiencing a fully blown alternate universe with a simulated cast of thousands in a fantasy-action-scifi-adventure-environmental-love-story in IMAX 3D for 15 bucks, or an existentially-loaded exploration of how humans deceive themselves in airport terminals, performed by one person for 85 minutes and for twice the price, they tend to choose the former.  What gives?

What does one have to do to win back an audience?  It’s a semi-facetious question for any artist living on the planet Earth.  And one that must be confronted with courage, alacrity and Spartan self-discipline.

In my case, there are several elements I would have to achieve to compete with Avatar.  The first would be a larger advertising budget.  At present, I would say my advertising budget is about $36.55 a month, which is what I pay for my web connection.  Writing emails to friends from high school and church and people I just met on the subway, begging them to come see the show, has been an extremely effective campaign.

But I must cast a wider net if I am going to compete on a global scale.

Say I met a producer who really, really loved the show.  Say he wanted to work with me in getting the production to a higher level.  I would reject his calls off the batt unless he could put up 200 million dollars for advertising.

With that initial seed money, I would buy an airline; one of the financially stable ones that gets all the ESPN channels like Virgin or Jet Blue.  I would then change the name of the company to The Common Air, which is the name of the show.  It would gleam, blindingly, on every airship’s tail and wingtip.

Then, whenever someone bought a flight, no matter where they lived, there would be one of those surreptitious boxes you have to check at the very end of the purchase process, the one you don’t see at first but that the web page won’t let you advance past until you have “accepted” its terms, and it would read, in 1 point, light grey font, that every flyer must lay over in New York and see my play, price of ticket not included.

I think this would work well, and word of mouth would not only spread, but literally fly through the air.

Another essential marketing strategy that I can’t afford at present, is to befriend more extremists.  From what our former vice president says, they’re all around us.  You could be one, reader, and not even know it.  Certainly, the swarthy neighbor next-door is one, or is friends with one for shiz.

Though it’s hard for me to admit (and I’ve been advised by several legal experts not to) when bad things happen in airports, it’s great for the show!  Our best night at the Bleecker 45 box office was December 30th, five days after the now infamous underwear bomber tried to blow up a plane on Christmas day.

Many people had seen the show, and many more had been hearing about it, and the incident rekindled, or inspired people to talk about it, and then buy a ticket.  “I just saw a show about this very thing!” I imagined them saying.  “It’s quite good.  And it’s in 3D.  You should go.”

The other would respond, “Yes.  Yes I think I will go see that topical, socially relevant show.  What better thing to do in the face of today’s shameless fear mongering and paranoia than to embrace a parody of terrorism and self-rationalization?”

It might not go exactly like that, but close, I would think.  And I have an ear for these things.

I’d also spend stupid money cross-promoting on the Weather Channel.  Because just as bad news about terrorists incidents are good for the show, so is inclement weather.

When the Weather Channel began reporting potential delays due to bad weather, I’d begin preparing myself to go straight to the closest airport.  Normal people do whatever’s in their power to avoid being near any airport in a storm.  But I’ll be bolting at breakneck speed with my tech team to prepare for a performance.

My plan to compete with the likes of Avatar is not to ask my audience to come out and see my show, but to bring my show directly to my audience.

I’ll bus my entire production to whichever airport expects severe delays and have a captive audience due to circumstances beyond their control.

I’d need two giant tour buses that have all kinds of amenities like Wilco has.  And probably a private jet, which I’d already own, because I’d have purchased an airline.  I don’t think Wilco has a jet, because Jeff Tweedy is probably all green and whatnot, but if they did, they would probably have all kinds of cool shit in it, because they have kids they have to keep entertained.

So, say we knew that Colorado was going to get 16 inches in a day or so. The second I got my tweet about it from the Weather Channel, I’d book a flight to Denver and start a vocal warm up.

As the delays began popping up on the monitors, I would hire a few stranded students to start handing out flyers.  I’d make them paper the bathrooms and shoe-shine stands, the bookstores and fifteen-minute massage salons.  I’d have them literally hit the tarmac with hard-core street-team tactics, cause the staff of the airport would be as stranded as the travelers.

Then I’d set up platforms in one of the really big waiting areas– one that had enough to plug 50 or so lights in.  And when delays and cancellations start pouring in, the show would begin.

For really huge storms, I’d have several shows: 12 noon, 3, 6:30, 9 and a 12 midnight one for those not able to get into hotels.  I know this would be effective in getting audience; word of mouth travels far when you have nowhere to go.  And I think my audience will definitely relate to the play.

It would still only add up to a couple thousand people, but if I charge something like $100,000 a ticket, I would be competing head to head with James Cameron in no time.

Okay.  Off to befriend some extremists and pray for really bad weather.  See you at the gate.

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