Spending $54 on a movie ticket is a tall order. But Secret Cinema in the U.K. has convinced people to do just that, by combining a movie screening with a pre-show of interactive theatre and a touch of a theme park ride. What's more, people sign up without knowing what movie they'll see--to add a layer of surprise to the experience. Secret Cinema typically does one-month runs of shows that may involve over one hundred cast members and intricate sets and visual effects. Lawrence of Arabia and The Third Man have previously enticed viewers. For the past month, the secret film was Prometheus. Although production costs were high, the run earned $1.1 million from 38 shows in 28 days. As this video shows, it was a pretty immersive experience. It reminds me a bit of Universal's Terminator ride in Los Angeles, or what I've heard of Sleep No More, an interactive riff on Macbeth that's been selling out $105 tickets in NYC for over a year.
Secret Cinema is planning to move to NYC this fall, so we'll have a chance to see how the production fares in the Big Apple, where there are hundreds of events each evening aiming to capture the attention of the city's residents. Fox's involvement in this Secret Cinema event is unclear. The founder, Fabien Riggall, says that other studios and distributors have come to him with ideas about partnerships, suggesting that he teamed up with the Prometheus distributor for this event. People aren't allowed to tweet or Facebook the actual name of the film featured during its run. Could that dampen Secret Cinema's potential as a way to build buzz about a movie? Or will it lead to more informal word-of-mouth recommendations and an outpouring once the run is over and the embargo is lifted?
If any film was a good fit for Secret Cinema, it was Prometheus, which is a prequel to the Alien franchise and his an intricate mythology that goes deeper than the films reveal. Still, it surprises me that a film with enough backstory to warrant what's essentially a pop-up theatre/theme park experience hasn't done better. Prometheus has earned $118 million in the U.S. and $165 million abroad, with a reported $120 million production budget. I'm sure boxed sets and promotional tie-ins will make the sci-fi pic even more of a winner, but the current box office can be fickle when it comes to quality films.