Commentary

Regal Gets Vine Stars To Sell Long-Form, Big-Screen Experience, But The Inspiration Stops There

Movie theater chains appear to be at war with my home theater. I am not sure I get the logic of insulting the big-screen TVs, Blu-ray players and surround sound some of us invested thousands to obtain. I mean, I understand the desire to sell us on the uniqueness of the big screen. Even my tech-averse wife pronounces some weekend movie options as low-priority, can-wait-for-video titles. This is now the entertainment calculation we all make. But most of the lame, self-interested pitches I see for this effort are misguided. Do we really want to see our 55-inch HDTVs depicted as puny, tinny wannabe theaters?

Regal is stepping up the effort a notch with a new digital video series called “Date Night Fails” that tries to convince us that the home setting has pesky roommates, video buffering interruptions, bad snack food, and even the distractions of incoming phone calls and texts. Each two-and-a-half-minute piece drives the point into the ground mercilessly and beyond anything resembling humor, if they ever started there to begin with.

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The one interesting thing about the campaign is that it uses for talent the first generation of so-called “Vine celebrities.” These are everyday folks who have followed in the footsteps of their YouTube predecessors by mastering the format well ahead of others. People like Jason Nash, who stars in this series as Vince the bad date guy, are joined by others like Brittany Furlan, KC James and Arielle Vandenberg -- each of whom have carved out thousands of Vine followers with their cute series of 6-second pieces.

The ironic suitability of this match is as subtle as the video messages themselves. The masters of the shortest video form on the smallest screen are recruited to sell the big-screen, long-form experience. Yeah, we get it. But did Regal? The Vine stars are out of their element and their range in starring in short videos that seem epic compared to Vine. Why did Regal recruit them if not to leverage their talent, not just their Vine reach? Sure, there will be some promotion from the Vine stars themselves on that social network. But most of the Vines these amateurs make on their own are pithier and more creative than this branded online series.

Some of these filmmakers, most notably James and Vandenberg, really are talented explorers of the six-second form. If Vine has an internal aesthetic, it is closest to the three-panel comic strip of the Calvin & Hobbes variety or the one-panels of Gary Larson. The video has to absorb you into its scene and logic quickly and then deliver a punch line. Vandenberg has over 350,000 followers, and rightly so. Her nano-length comic scenes and black humor characters like Homeless Barbie are sharply conceived and well-executed.

Ironically, Regal's much longer branded videos are composed of multiple scenes that achingly make the point about the weaknesses of home theater. Any one of them could have been made funnier and less pedantic in the hands of one of the Vine makers they recruited.

To their credit, Regal and its agency are making better use of the Vine celeb James on Vine itself. James challenged his followers to give a post 100,000 likes, and he would go to a Regal Cinema with a horse. They did and he did. We wish some of that good horse sense would rub off on the Web campaign.     

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