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“Movies, Marketing and Magic”
By Bill Brown
Have you gone to the movies lately?

2005 was recorded as a shockingly low year for Hollywood in regards to theater attendance. Many reasons have been cited for this, and while I think it is a large combination of factors, there is one item that I would like to take a look at.

Here is the scenario; you go out for a night at the movies. You pay your good hard-earned money and go into the theater, looking forward to watching the movie. Ten years ago, (hell, even five years ago) you would watch some slideshow talking about renting out the theater for a party, or an ad for a pizza place around the corner, the lights would dim, and on came the previews. But now…the lights dim and the first thing you see is usually some sort of elaborate commercial, oftentimes more than one. You have now officially paid your money, to watch an ad with those irritating Fanta girls singing a song that the incessant humming of which will probably make you miss vital dialogue later.

These commercials have been cited more than once as one of the factors that has contributed to the low theater attendance of last year. This shows that a lot of people will not react well to advertising being thrown in their faces.

Now, the theaters are apparently saying that the marketing revenue from these commercials is actually good for the theatergoing experience. After all, you don’t have to watch them if you don’t want to. (Even thought they usually dim the lights for them.) What does it hurt? It doesn’t cost you anything extra…

Ahhh…now perhaps you are starting to see where I am going with this.

Now I have never been angry with the Pro Player cards. They are just one more thing that I have to throw away when I open a Tournament Pack. But they generated (as I am sure many of you know) a whole lot of anger with the Magic playing public. Recently, Mark Rosewater addressed these issues in a response article on MTG.com. And overall he said what I assumed he would say…they are an attempt to market the Pro Tour, which in turn helps the gaming experience, and what do they hurt? They don’t cost you anything extra…But this is where I think he missed some of the point.

The impression that I got from reading the forums is that people felt taken advantage of, or manipulated. Players are paying hard earned cash to open an advertisement. Now obviously, you can simply discard them if you want, but that is not really the point. You can close your eyes or go to the bathroom and not watch the commercials at the start of a movie, yet the idea that you are giving your money just to have something “forced” down your throat is appalling to a lot of people. Now me? I feel just about the same about the movie commercials that I feel about the Pro Player Cards, I really don’t care that much. If I had to vote, would I prefer that they be left out? Yeah, probably, and I doubt that I am alone in this. But those that are angry about these sorts of things are out there, and if they start to feel like things that they don’t want are being forced upon them, they will do something about it.

Now I am by no means saying that these cards are the beginning of the end or anything like that. Nor am I saying that I want to rally for the end of the Pro Tour. I just think that once again, Wizards has not quite understood where those with complaints are coming from. People were angry about the cards, and they came up with thousands of reasons why…and when you get past the surface misunderstandings about their conception and production, all Wizards really had to say was “What does it hurt? It doesn’t cost you anything extra…” (WannaFanta?)

Read More Articles by Bill Brown!

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