February 13, 2008

Samsung's BlueSeat Gives Me the Blues

If you've frequented Landmark Theatres over the past few years (and if you haven't, you should), you'll agree that we're increasingly subject to commercials before the trailers. I expect this from the massive multiplexes, but as inevitable as it was, it's disappointing that advertising found its way into the independent realm.

It wasn't so bad when it started some years ago. Stella Artois (the Belgian lager) is one of the largest sponsors and produces some really entertaining film-like commercials. At one point they even had selections from a short film competition that played before the movie. I can enjoy that. Additional commercials have pitched HDNET, hybrid cars, PatrĂ³n tequila
and HBO documentaries (that one was fantastic), as well as a new addition in early 2007, Samsung's BlueSeat.

It's never been clear to me exactly what "BlueSeat" is, but the commercials are sticky. A scraggly animated short with a sardonic ending leads into a nerdy male voiceover: "True vision should lose nothing in translation." Then we're told to sign up to support independent film and be a "BlueSeat insider" at BlueSeat.com. Typically I laugh off such offers, but this one seemed right up my alley. Of course I signed up, expecting roses and gumdrops in return.

And so far? Nothing. They've had "features" on two movies in the last 8 months, the message boards are a frightening ghost town, and I'm not "inside" anything but a frustrating marketing gimmick. There are empty promises of preview screenings and behind-the-scenes access, even a drawing for a Samsung TV that, to my knowledge, never even took place.

Yesterday came another dangling carrot when they emailed me to announce the launch of "Movie Buzz" at BlueSeat.com. What, you might ask, is "MovieBuzz"? Simply a headline feed from Rotten Tomatoes and Cinematical. Why wouldn't I just go those sources, where the news is fresh and the site is vibrant? I sure hope no one on Samsung's payroll is making a living off of BlueSeat ideas. For all we "insiders" know, it could be run an intern, monkey, or a team comprised of both. The site is stale.

The point in all of this is that Samsung has pulled the wool over everyone's eyes in pretending to be some huge supporter of independent film, when in reality it's nothing more than an advertising scheme for suckers like me. No longer do I enjoy the creepy shorts, and no longer am I hopeful about the purity of independent film through Landmark Theatres. Do something, Mark Cuban.


  1. It sounds like some half-assed concept a marketing stooge came up with and no one ever really followed through on. Thanks corporate geniuses!

    I'm lucky enough to have two artouse chains to choose from. Laemmle is local and there is also Landmark. I'm closer to Laemmle and I like that they're local so they're where I go most often.

    I was worried about Landmark when Cuban snapped them up and they've definitely set one foot in the mainstream, but if that's what the have to do to continue bringing arthouse and foreign movies to theaters, I'll play along. Even with commercials. They offend me less in a Landmark than in a mainstream cineplex, though I still prefer they didn't have them.

  2. Right, I saw your summer posts about the new Landmark opening near you. The commercials have been somewhat forgivable, but they're nearing the line, if one exists. I actually don't even mind the Stella Artois bits. With Samsung I'm a little concerned the balance is shifting. Cuban is handing out business cards to his corporate pals and telling them, "just say something about independent film and no one will notice." Admittedly, I'm going to continue to going to the Landmark Theatres regardless, as I don't have the wondrous offerings you do out there, but I don't want to be tricked. Either go home or go all out.

    I'm sure somebody dropped the ball with BlueSeat, but maybe they've been replaced and a responsible person will step in. But really, what am I expecting?

    What I would like to see is Landmark roll out a rewards program. They've got nothing to lose with that.

  3. The encouraging thing about the new Landmark is that they seem to be doing pretty good business. It's not a perfect theater, but it's nice and it's focused on adults who are a little more serious about their moviegoing than the punks that turn up at the typical mall cineplex.

    Landmark in general is more mainstream than it was before Cuban bought it, but even that is a fair trade off, as long as there is still room for the indie and foreign stuff.

  4. Yeah, I fell for the BlueSeat thing too. Haven't gotten one preview screening.

    I really like your idea of a rewards program for Landmark. If the multiplexes (AMC, Regal) can do it, why not Landmark? I considered getting a Discount Pass, but I wasn't wild about the restrictions.

    And, yeah. The commercials are getting to be a little much.

  5. Craig, you're right in that the "new" Landmarks do well in keeping out the riff-raff, for the most part. The Minneapolis 3 aren't the newest buildings, but they have charm. I went to the E St. cinema in D.C. last summer, which I think was new at the time. I didn't even realize it was a Landmark because it was so fresh and clean, probably like the Westwood. It was weird seeing a first-run indie in a new theater.

    Nayana, you should definitely get the discount pass. If you go frequently enough, it's totally worth it. I always have one on hand just in case, since they last for 6 months. Really you just can't go Friday or Saturday night, but who wants to deal with those crowds anyway. By the way, do you know they raised the admission price across the board a couple of weeks ago?

    Maybe one day I'll start a petition for a rewards program.


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