May 23, 2001
One-sheets face competition from 'living
by Martin Groove
Movie marketing: Theater lobby one-sheets have been a prime
marketing tool since Hollywood's earliest days, but in today's
high-tech world they may soon be competing with new "living
posters." These plasma-based displays will present moving
images from movies along with commercials for concession stand
items, local shops and national products.
The technology driving all this is Gardena, Calif. based
Antex Electronics' new Media Director. Although its name sounds
like an ad agency executive's title, it's really a device
that links theaters, video stores and shopping mall kiosks
to Internet-connected audio and video advertising. Besides
one-sheets, the company envisions various other applications
within movie theaters and their lobbies as having good potential
for its new technology, according to Antex president Dave
Foley and sales director Dave Antrim.
"Movie posters are currently one-sheet back-lit posters,
high resolution photos, and very static," Antrim explained.
"They're often placed outside the theater (as well as)
inside the theater so people go around and see what's coming
next. In our case, we have the opportunity with a plasma display
screen or an LTD screen to make those posters active -- to
actually show trailers (and) show multiple coming attractions
and have the power of video to really garner consumers attention
whether they're waiting in line or, perhaps, driving up to
the theater or while they're inside the theater, itself. They
can get more input into what is available now and what's coming
in the near future."
"What we have is an appliance and the client server
software to control the distribution of media anywhere where
you have an Internet connection," Foley told me. "We
can attach it to a high resolution plasma display. We sell
the appliance that has a video output that connects to a commercially
When people look at the Media Director they're watching its
images and may be hearing audio, as well. "That's actually
at the discretion of the theater owner," Antrim said.
"Our Media Director is an appliance that hooks up to
a display screen -- to an LTD or plasma or monitor screen.
It has both audio and video output so it can put out full
motion video and audio or stills. The theater owner who is
running these in his displays has the opportunity to do audio
and video or he can just tailor it for video only, if he wanted
to have other audio within the building."
"It depends on the model that the theater owner wants
to pursue," Foley added. "You can either have static
images that change based on the time of day or who's standing
in line. If you've got a Disney movie and everybody's (waiting)
to get in, you might not show them (the trailer for an R rated
movie). You might show them the next animated film that you're
going to be showing. That's one of the many value adds (the
Media Director offers) -- the ability to not only entertain
people while they're killing time, but target them with upcoming
events specifically tailored to what type of audience you
think they are or with ads, for that matter."
Clearly, Antex sees the Media Director's advertising capabilities
as a key sales point for the new device. "We know that
movie theaters have to generate revenue," Antrim observed.
"Obviously, ticket sales are their number one revenue
generator. Maybe a very close second (source of revenue) is
the local and national ads they present either in the pre-show
slide show, which is going digital in a lot of places, or
in the in-lobby advertising displays that they have. With
our Media Director they have the opportunity to incorporate
local or national ads within the display of the movie trailers
or they can actually do ad specific displays closer to the
concession stand or over on the side walls where they want
to have just a better display for the consumer of all the
different local and national ads."
Asked about how Antex developed the Media Director, Foley
replied, "We've always been a player in the high reliability
professional level audio-video applications. We've supplied
products to the broadcast industry, especially the radio broadcast
industry, since the mid-'80s and we're a fairly dominant player
in those markets. We set out to develop a high reliability,
very professional grade appliance that was more of a solution.
It included the hardware, the audio, the video, the computer
software capabilities, the Internet connectivity, specifically
to allow micro-broadcast networks where instead of a single
radio tower where everybody hits the same stream our device
allows content to be uniquely tailored at each box. Every
output node, be in a movie poster or an interactive kiosk
or showing trailers in (a video store) can essentially have
its own content tailored to that site and who the market is.
It was a conscious decision on our part to pursue the full
solution market for business applications and develop this
appliance about 18 months ago. We've been shipping to one
customer in high volume for about four to six months now."
How have theater owners responded to the device? "We've
begun the discussions," Antrim told me. "We first
introduced the Media Director video applications at Internet
World two and a half months ago here in Los Angeles. We did
a secondary display at the NAB in Las Vegas last month. So
it is in preliminary stages there. We are in preliminary discussions
with one of the major advertising resources or distributors
for national theater chains. There is interest there. We still
have further discussions (to do). The major theater advertising,
whether it's national or even down to the local level like
Joe's Gas Station around the corner, is handled by this one
company that we're in discussions with for entire national
chains. They regionalize the local ads and have the ability
to regionalize or go national with the national ads. So if
Coca Cola wants to distribute solely in California with a
specific ad campaign, they can target certain theater chains
specifically or they can do a Coke ad all the way across the
board across the country. So these guys (that Antex is talking
to) take care of all that content. They work it into the in-lobby
displays -- from a popcorn bag to a back-lit sign and all
the way into the pre-show slide show display that you would
watch prior to the trailers."
When things get going, Antrim added, "We envision the
back-lit posters becoming active now, becoming actual plasma
displays that show trailers with the possibility of throwing
in advertising, perhaps the national level advertising, as
short 15-seconds maximum (spots), so you don't throw in too
large commercials. Another application for theaters is interactive
kiosks so that the consumer who is now in there, has bought
their ticket and is looking to go see a movie or has just
come out of a movie and wants to know what's coming up next
can actually go to a kiosk and punch up 'Coming Soon' trailers.
They can punch up more information on what's available at
other theaters in the area that are owned by the same theater
chain. There is the possibility, too, that if there was an
ad that they saw in the pre-show or in the lobby that can
be part of the entire menu and they could pull up more information
on that advertiser. There is the possibility to expand the
advertising base within the kiosk along with the trailer information."
The interactive kiosks could wind up not only in theaters,
but also in shopping malls. "We're in discussions with
a couple people about those as well," Foley said. "We
think the biggest and best applications are ones where we
take advantage of the multi-media aspects of our hardware-software
solution. An example would be expanding upon the idea of movie
trailers on demand in a video rental store. When someone goes
to a video rental store, they're 95 percent certain to come
out with a movie. They've made the decision to get in their
car and go there. But the value proposition for the rental
store owner is, you make it a more enjoyable experience for
the consumer and help them select a movie. So it's not necessarily
that you're going to increase sales per customer coming in
the store, but you're going to increase your traffic because
it's a more enjoyable experience and the returns again with
people coming back again and again."
"Every time you go rent a comedy and you try and decide,
'Gee, what will be funny tonight? What am I in the mood for?'
and all you have is a title and the back page of the video
cassette box or the DVD jewel case telling you what the movie
is about (it's difficult to make a decision). If you had the
option of actually pulling up a trailer for that movie you'd
see a lot more and get your answers a lot deeper," Antrim
pointed out, saying it would lead to consumers making a "better
Have they nailed down any deals yet with video chains? "We're
in discussions with one of these conglomerates about a different
application for a movie studio," Foley said. "They're
affiliated with a (video) rental store chain. It's very early,
but it's an application that both sides see as very useful.
We haven't penetrated that yet, but we're in early discussions."
"The company I mentioned (in connection with theater)
advertising is part of an umbrella that owns one of the major
theater chains in the United States," Antrim added. "They
are responsible for all the advertising that goes in there
and it becomes a part of that theater chain's decision for
the movie trailers, as well. The total display becomes facilitated
with our box. It's been fairly recent that we've hooked up
with them. We've gotten through the first level. The next
level is going through the technical discussions and the best
way to implement the box into the theaters."
"There are companies out there that already sell the
advertising and distribute it to the various theater chains,"
Foley said. "So our plan of attack is a value proposition
that we provide to them --instead of a static poster now you
sell time on a clock with ads to companies or trailers to
studios. That becomes a revenue generator as well as the pre-show
presentation of ads can instead of just being a local (company)
if you get enough of these boxes in a syndicated chain you
can then push national ads. Obviously, Coke does it a lot
already. You can very push down new nationally syndicated
ads to as many theaters as you want so you then have a more
powerful revenue generating network of theaters instead of
just local sales for ads."
"The box itself has play list software built into it,"
Antrim said, "which will manage the display, the scheduling
of all the content, from that box to its output device --
to the screen or to the kiosk or to the theater pre-show screen.
Because the box is remotely accessible from a primary server,
any of these boxes can be addressed independently by the main
server, by basically a single person who is the content manager
at that single server. They can update the content that's
on that specific Media Director -- (such as) a single file
or they can change the entire play list if they want to or
they can pick and choose which ones should stay and which
ones should be updated or refreshed or deleted. The advertising
company that handles the theater chain does all that advertising
creation and distribution from a central point in the United
States, from a main corporate office. So they could (work
from) their corporate office now and address every single
theater that has a Media Director in it with the specific
advertising for regional or seasonal timing. They could really
personalize the advertising in each one of these theaters."
As for handling the cost of installing such devices, Antrim
explained, "There are advertising companies that are
creating all this content and distributing it to the theater
chains which actually buy all the equipment themselves. They
place it in the theater chains as part of the advertising
budget, so it's basically amortized in to the total advertising
budget. The other option there is that theater chains or video
rental stores could purchase these and have them placed in
(locations) as a company expense."
"We're six months into it and they're fairly long sales
cycles because they're big architectural changes for theaters
or video rental stores," Foley said. "I'd say we're
about two-thirds into the sales cycle process on several major
applications. I think you should expect to see something before
year end on several applications. One of the key things about
this is that any time someone has to duplicate media, distribute
it either with courier, runner or Fed Ex, send somebody out
to hang a poster or shove a looping tape in a VCR, that's
the perfect target for us. We eliminate all of those processes
and expenditures associated with that. And then it can be
software from one central location controlling thousands of
autonomously running devices and you can have complete control
of them without having to do any of that physical distribution
or duplication or relying on someone to change your poster
or your movie trailer. There's a lot of applications out there
like that that we're targeting."
(Martin Grove is seen Mondays at 8:35 a.m., PST on CNN and
heard weekdays at 1:55 p.m. on KNX (1070 AM) in Los Angeles.)