The Lullaby tour continues, and really it’s the start of a new stage in the process. I’m writing from the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) airport, where I just spent the second weekend of our theatrical run. Our first weekend was in my backyard in Louisiana. But now, as we move forward, the film ventures into much less familiar territory.
These next couple of weeks are real times for me to learn: How to work a new city, managing expectations and how to remain in the black and sustain this tour beyond a few weeks.
Well, let’s start with how to work a new city.
Each city in our situation is really a new start. No one knows about us; we haven’t been on the TVs they watch or the magazines they read. So I always begin with trying to attain some “media-friendly” exposure. This includes sending out e-mails to the movie critics in the cities, the network news stations and the popular radio stations. I’m also using the Internet as much as I can. Looking up the individual cities on Facebook, joining the groups and fan pages with the most members and then posting something about our screenings on their walls.
Cedar Rapids was the first city out of my comfort zone. I had never set foot in Iowa before and really had no idea what to expect. But as I wrote last week, “It’s no longer about doing the kind of numbers we did Premiere Weekend. Now, the idea is sustaining ourselves financially as we continue into other markets.” My expenses, depending on the city, really boil down to flight, hotel and rental car. And at this point, with most cities, I’m working on terms (I pay them nothing upfront and receive a certain portion of the box office.) So as long as I can generate enough box office to cover my travel expenses, we can continue on to the next city.
So far here’s our schedule:
5/1-5/7: Bossier City, LA in the Regal Cinema at the Louisiana Boardwalk
5/8-5/14: Cedar Rapids, IA at the Collins Road Theatres
5/15-5/21: Davenport, IA at the Showcase 53 Cinemas
5/22-5/28: Shreveport, LA at the Robinson Film Center
6/5-6/11: Des Moines, IA at the Fleur Cinema
6/12-6/18: San Jose, CA at the Camera Cinemas 12
What kind of expectations should I have?
Well, folks, when you’re opening against Star Trek and no one has heard of your movie before, you can’t expect them to be breaking down the door to come to one of your screenings. You have to earn their interest. And the best way I know to do this is being there for a couple of days each weekend, doing introductions and Q&As before and after some of the screenings. This past weekend, I participated in eight out of the 15 screenings. That’s a good number, particularly given that I had participated in 15 of 15 screenings the previous weekend.
I spoke to a guy last week who self-released his movie a year or so ago, and he gave me some great advice about gathering e-mail addresses. He said as soon as I walk in to start my Q and A, I should announce to the audience that the movie will only get out there if they spread the word. And then I hand out my clipboard and ask the audience to pass it around for people to jot down their e-mail addresses. I tried this method for the first time
this past weekend. It worked so much better than my previous technique of just announcing that I have a weekly update list and asking people to come and find me if they want to join.
This e-mail list has been vital in so many ways, particularly now as I try to spread the word to critics and people in upcoming areas on the tour.
So, lessons learned so far:
1. I didn’t have a street team in Cedar Rapids before our arrival, and that probably hurt me a little. If I had gotten some postcards scattered around town at different places advertising the screenings, I probably would have seen a rise in business.
2. I’m still not sure whether I’ll break even on the week. It depends on the level of attendance Monday through Thursday. We will be close, probably plus or minus $100.
3. I still believe I’m taking the right path for the movie. But if you don’t like to travel, talk to strangers or roll the dice at the start of each week then I probably wouldn’t suggest this particular model.
Next stop: Davenport, Iowa. Wish me luck. I do believe this tour is something I’ll do more effectively at each stop, as long as I watch what works and what doesn’t.
After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors.