Monday, March 15, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 64


I had planned carefully for months for the big screen debut of the Batman movie. Everything was under control. Well, maybe not. Three weeks before the special screening, the Showcase Cinema called and told me they weren’t sure if the Batman movie would be playing in the downtown Worcester theater. They had opened a theater in another section of town and wanted to have the film there instead of downtown. I explained that I had completed almost all of my promotional work for the originally agreed upon location and the special tickets had already been printed. They didn’t care.

It was interesting to me that most of the theater managers had so little confidence in this movie. Tim Burton had directed two other movies that were only minor hits but there was a lot of good “buzz” on this movie within the comic book industry. A few small companies had managed to buy the licensing rights to produce toys based on the movie and a few other companies started making t-shirts featuring Batman and the Joker that were actually based on the comic book series instead of the feature film. We bought and sold hundreds of these t-shirts in the months before the movie’s release. As it got closer to the actual opening day of the film the serious comic book collectors were buying almost anything with Batman on it.

The comic book series had been selling poorly for a few years. Sales had slipped in the United States to around 100,000 copies per month of the Batman comic book. Because of the collector interest in this soon-to-be-released movie, sales of the Batman comic book soared to almost 500,000 per month! Back issues of the comic book series from the 1960’s and 1970’s were flying out of our store and our stock was rapidly dwindling. Comic book stores all around the country were reporting huge increases in the sales of Batman related merchandise because none of the big department stores had enough confidence in the movie to order large quantities of the toys and t-shirts. Our little comic book industry basically had an exclusive with this film.

I knew that I’d have to convince the Showcase Cinema management that it was essential to play the Batman movie in the downtown theater as we had contracted for the success of this event. I finally went back to Carol Boole, my inside contact of the company that was in charge of this release, and begged her to try to fix this mess. Two weeks before the film was to be shown, she worked out a plan with the Showcase manager. The Batman movie would premiere at the other location and first thing the next morning they’d have a courier bring the film to the downtown location in time for our special screening. Then the courier would rush the film back to the other theater in time for the noon show. I had no choice but to believe that this would actually work.

Two Saturdays before the screening I was going to give away the five hundred free tickets. The night before the ticket give-away, I stayed late to clean the store and have everything organized for the morning. I didn’t have any idea what to expect. Would there be very many people interested in waiting in a line for a free ticket to a movie that many thought might be a “bomb?”

Next chapter: Batmania

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