How to Show a Film at The Guild

Back at the beginning of December I decided that it would be nice for the Minecraft-interested people of the Charlottetown area to get together to watch Minecraft: The Story of Mojang, a film about the people who make Minecraft, the people who play Minecraft, and the phenomenon that surrounds both.

Contacting the Filmmakers

To start things off I emailed the producers of the film to inquire about how much it would cost for rights to screen the film; four hours later I got a reply: “cool, yeah, you should do it.  we normally ask for a screening fee but since it’ll be free, we can wave that.”

So, that was easy.

Finding a Venue

Having my office cheek by jowl with the theatre at The Guild made it the logical venue for the screening, so I sent off an email to Michelle, the event liaison for The Guild, and she got back to me with the rental cost:

Item Cost
Theatre Rental ($55/hour for 2 hours) $110.00
Technician ($25/hour for 2.5 hours) $62.50
TOTAL (with tax) $196.65

As I’d agreed with the filmmakers to show the film for free, I couldn’t recoup that from admission fees, and while I might have been able to find sponsors to cover the cost in the end I decided to dip into my own pocket to make it happen with no fuss and no muss, so I sent off the word to Michelle, and later in the week I signed a contract to screen the film at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, December 27, 2013.

For this I would get not only a technician to handle the projection setup, but also an event manager to handle the space and a canteen.

Ticket Reservations

The capacity of the theatre in The Guild is 144, and to avoid too many people showing up, I needed a system for allowing people to reserve tickets, so I adapted the Drupal-based system I created for Minecraft workshops in the spring, which uses Node Registration, for this purpose and opened the “ticket office” on December 14.

Publicity

To publicize the screening I did a number of things:

  1. Put the word out on Twitter and Facebook.
  2. Posted on the Hacker in Residence blog.
  3. Submitted an event to the community calendars at The Guardian, the CBC, the Buzz and at UPEI.

Then I stepped back to see what the interest was. The first tickets were reserved about an hour after the reservation system went up, and by Christmas Eve all 130 tickets I’d put out for reservation were spoken for (I wanted to leave a buffer for last minute “I didn’t know I needed tickets!” people and to leave all of the seats with a good sightline).

I had a CAPTCHA in place to cut down on spam-reservations, but still got about half a dozen, which was annoying, as they all came near the end and took up spaces that could have gone to others, but I was generally able to cancel these quickly.

Cancellations

I sent out a reminder email on December 26 to all those who had reserved tickets, asking anyone who had to cancel to let me know so that I could open up their tickets for others; I got about a dozen emails in reply (hockey tournaments being the culprit in most cases) and this allowed all the people on the unofficial “waiting list” to reserve tickets.

Technical Setup

The film itself I had already purchase a 720p download of from the filmmakers’ website; I connected a Thunderbolt-to-VGA adapater for my MacBook Air, and this got plugged into a long VGA cable the ran into The Guild’s screen projector. The sound came through a stereo-mini plug provided by The Guild and plugged directly into their PA. All of the technical futzing around was accomplished by Eric, The Guild’s technician, and having him worry about sound and contrast and setup was more than worth the $62.50 I paid for his services.

The film was projected on the white-painted wall at the back of the stage at The Guild. The screen projector sent out a very nice image; the sound was amazing (who knew a little MacBook Air was capable of so much!); the only downside, and it was a small one, was the seams in the plywood wall were sometimes more visible than I would have liked.

Did anyone show up?

The first guests arrived around 4:00 p.m. and by 4:30 p.m. everyone was in their seat.  In the end about 70 people, of the 130 tickets originally reserved, showed up for the screen. Some people cancelled in advance; others simply didn’t show up at all, which was kind of annoying, as their seats could have, in theory, gone to others. But that’s the price paid for a free showing where there’s no penalty for not showing up, and the upside of making the screen available to all made it worth it.  Besides, everyone got a good seat as a result.

The film ended up costing me $2.81 per person to screen, which is a pretty good deal for spreading the word about Minecraft and creating a family outing for the holidays. Most people who came reserved 3 or 4 tickets and there were as many parents in the audience as children. I’d cautioned, in my publicity, that the film was long – 1 hour and 44 minutes – and this likely scared off parents with younger children concerned about attention span.

I think we only lost about 4 people mid-screening; everyone else stayed for the duration, and all the comments I received after the screening were positive.

Watch it Yourself!

If you missed the screening, you can download or stream the film for as little as $8 from the Minecraft: The Story of Mojang website; if you’re at all interested in the world of Minecraft, or if you have kids who are and you want to understand more about it, I highly recommend you take a watch.