The 10 Things I Learned From Using Ourscreen

The Box at FACT cinema, Liverpool

Hailed as a new way to call the shots at your local cinema, US crowdsourcing platform is now available in the UK. But what’s it like to use? Christopher Brown shares his experiences…

1) Know what you’re getting into

Ourscreen has been called a cinematic Kickstarter, and that’s sort of true. You log on to the website, pick the cinema you want to use, along with the time and date and the film you want to see from a big list. Simple, eh? Kinda. It’s all down to you from here. Like Kickstarter, you need to get enough people to commit to the project before it pays off. Unlike Kickstarter, you don’t get any money from hitting the target. So you’re effectively pre-selling tickets (40 minimum, effectively £400 worth) for a film performance, to show there’s a demand, so that you can go and see the film that you want to see.

In my case, because I run the Video Nasties Podcast, I wanted to see a cult horror film originally placed on the DPP list in the 1980s, and at my local FACT Picturehouse cinema. The Evil Dead was on Ourscreen’s official list, so I was ready to go. All I needed to do was shift the tickets…

“Nobody buys cinema tickets for a film a month before the show. Nobody”

2) Don’t give yourself a bloody month to sell the tickets

Nobody buys cinema tickets for a film a month before the show. Nobody. You might, might, be able to persuade (guilt-trip) your friends into doing it. You’re more likely to get your mother to do it if a) they’re on Twitter b) have a credit card handy, and c) you really want that kind of character-unravelling experience.

In reality, you’re going to sit on the Ourscreen website for a few weeks with a really low number of buyers. Possibly one, as it was in my case (it was my ticket). It felt like the only thing I was advertising was the fact that I was a Billy No Mates.  You don’t want to have only a few days to get the info out, but you also don’t want to be boring your friends for 4 weeks solid about the fact that you’re hosting a show.

3) Push the deadline

Unlike normal cinema screenings, which rely on people buying tickets on the day at the box office, you need hit your target number well before the screening. In my case it was 40 tickets, strictly 10 days before the screening. That’s your cut off point and you need to push that — it’s also the reason why you will have to spend a lot of time explaining to people why they need to buy tickets so far in advance. And also why you spend your Good Friday in a pub on your phone using their free Wi-Fi, sobbing into your pint, telling people why they really, really need to help you.

4) You’re going to need to use social media (and the cinema)

Let’s say you don’t have 40 friends who want to see The Evil Dead on the big screen. Let’s say you have about 10. The screening isn’t going to appear on the FACT or Picturehouse website and isn’t in the listings yet because it hasn’t been confirmed. In my first flush of excitement (stupidity), I nearly ran out and spent money on posters (keep in mind that all you’re really trying to do is persuade people to see a film with you).

The easiest route is to use social media. I’ve got a healthy 1,300 Twitter followers (a lot from my podcast) so I’ve got a good start. I also wouldn’t have hit target without the help of Kirsty from Picturehouse, who pushed the story on Twitter and Facebook and wrote a post on their website. Meanwhile, I created some shareable online posters and made a little trailer for Youtube. And you thought you were too good to go into marketing. Ha. Ha. Ha *cries*.

5) Nobody cares that you’re going to introduce the film

You’re not Quentin Tarantino. The temptation is to sweeten the deal when you’re selling the tickets, and you’re well in your rights to thank everybody for coming. Do you know how many people are coming to the screening because you’re introducing it? None, possibly one if you’re got your mum there. After realising that fact, I then added a competition. Nobody cares about the competition. Then, while in the last week and with more than 30 tickets left to sell, I offered a free, ‘exclusive’ art print. So far one person has said it was a contributing factor to them buying; considering they haven’t seen the print yet though I’m guessing they are being nice.

People are going to go to your screening because they want to see the film. I am still making prints because obviously I made a promise and can’t renege on that. But you’ll be getting them instead of Christmas cards this year without a doubt.

“There are loads of great films you can pick from on the Ourscreen website… So don’t pick Alvin And The Chipmunks 3 – Chipwrecked”

6)  Don’t be a dick about the film

There are loads of great films you can pick from on the Ourscreen website. Scarface, The Breakfast Club, John Dies At The End, Blue Velvet. So don’t pick Alvin And The Chipmunks 3 – Chipwrecked, for a Monday lunchtime and wonder why people aren’t rushing to your door.

7) Get ready to really have to push it at the end

The truth of the matter was I only had 10 tickets sold with three days to go. I’d basically given up on it. Then the reality really kicked in — people buy tickets in Liverpool late. Suddenly the numbers began to shoot up and I hit target with a nerve-racking three hours left to spare. At one point I nearly did something stupid like buy a load of them just so it would happen. Luckily I didn’t, target was hit and the feeling of joy and relief was huge.

8) Nothing changes after you’ve gotten your target

Tickets are still only available from the Ourscreen website. You’re not going to be in the email listings. You’re just an extra screening. Don’t worry, we all love you. Your local cinema still want you. You’ve still got to use Ourscreen to sell those extra tickets though, and you’re going to want to sell those to fill the auditorium. There’s a film I’ve never heard of that’s sold more tickets than mine in Hackney and it’s killing the competitive person in me.

9) It’s meant to be fun

I’m fairly sure that you’re meant to be having a good time doing this. Certainly, I can’t wait to sit there, sipping my beer and watching one of the most over-the-top horror films ever made. But you could get very stressed about it all. The best position to be in for this is to have enough mates who want to be there. You could book out the cinema for a hen do or birthday party and make the most of the bar. If you were feeling really flush, you could buy the entire screening out for yourself and sit there proud as punch. Or, you could put in a planning application, build your own cinema and have a less stressful experience. You know, whatever floats your boat.

10) Write a listicle for a local arts website about what you’ve learned

Might sell a few more tickets, you never know.

Tickets are still available to see the film by the way, if you’re interested.

Christopher Brown

Video Nasties Podcast Presents The Evil Dead, FACT Liverpool, Wednesday 30 April 2014, 6pm, £9. Tickets available from Ourscreen until April 29th and then from the FACT Box Office on the day

Posted on 28/04/2014 by thedoublenegative