By Chris Shore
Having cut my teeth on wrestling in the 1980s, I was intimately familiar with the father of today's PPVs, closed circuit television. Early major events, like the WWF's WrestleMania and the NWA's Starrcade, were broadcast across closed-circuit television and shown in arenas and movie theaters across the country. I didn't attend many, but the ones I did attend were loud, boisterous, and for an eight to ten year old child, completely fascinating.
So when TNA announced that Bound for Glory would be shown in theaters, I quickly volunteered to go and see if it would be like my childhood, with fans cheering and booing at the top of their lungs like the action on the screen was happening live in front of them. I did not get my childhood. Instead, I got nine people, plus me, watching a middling PPV in relative silence.
I blame the small crowd on an embarrassing lack of promotion by TNA. I do not think that a huge push by TNA would have filled the theater, but when you consider that even in Los Angeles the crowd was a whopping 25 people, you realize how few people even knew about the opportunity. The goal of this promotion should have been to catch casual fans. The $14.95 price point--which as best as I can tell was the universal price--provided wrestling fans who were curious about TNA an opportunity to see TNA's biggest show of the year without swallowing a PPV charge. As it was, only the most faithful of TNA fans and internet fans even knew the opportunity existed.
The experience itself was a mixed bag. The big screen helped the show a lot. I am probably TNA's biggest critic here at Dot Net, and yet I found the show better than either Jason Powell or Will Pruett. The fans in attendance were quiet, but with only 10 people in the room any noise would have made you stand out, and as a race, we generally don't like to stand out so I wasn't surprised. TNA has some chaotic camera work at times, and that led to a couple of motion sickness moments. I freely admit I am sensitive to that sort of thing, so it could have been just me that reacted that strongly. Still, when Jeff Jarrett walked straight into the camera I think everyone was disturbed by his 20-foot head.
When the show ended, I told the eight remaining people--two left during the show for unknown reasons--that I was writing an article about the event and would love to have some comments. One couple said they would, and I met Brandon and Celicia in front of the theater. They told me they usually watched PPVs in a bar, but they wanted to try it in the theater. Brandon spoke about the closed circuit history of the industry and that this was a good idea, but both pointed out that the hype should have been better because it would have been a better crowd.
Both thought that watching in a bar was a better setting because it allowed for more food and drink opportunities, and a bar is a place where you feel freer to react to what is on the show. I asked them if bars were not an option, did they think coming to the theater is a viable option. Celicia said she felt it was because it allowed for couples to have a date night around wrestling. Brandon pointed out that they spent $30 to see the show, and even with movie concession stand prices, they were able to see the show with food and drink for essentially the same price as they would have paid to watch it at home with no snacks. Both were impressed with the show, giving it an eight out of ten.
My final judgment on the experience is that there is something to be said for this format. UFC has tried this in the past and not been successful, so I am not sure if the costs outweigh the benefits. With many fans engaging in "communal viewing," the price point is still high enough to prohibit a big group coming out to watch in the setting. But I do think Celicia has a point. There aren't many "date night" opportunities for wrestling fans other than live events. I have no idea how many couples even consider wrestling a "date night" worthy event. If that number is large, and if TNA or some other group can find those couples and target them with advertising, then the movie theater could be a viable option. Otherwise, I expect wrestling to have the same results that UFC has had.
Questions? Comments? Anyone, anyone? Let me hear from you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @TheShoreSlant with whatever is on your mind.
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Shore's Blog: TNA's Bound for Glory live from a movie theater near you
Oct 19, 2011 - 09:53 AM
Oct 19, 2011 - 09:53 AM
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