Exemplary experience design

Why the Alamo Drafthouse's sneak premiere was so dang good

By now, you will have heard about the Alamo Drafthouse Theater's amazing coup with the new Star Trek movie. If you haven't heard, here's the plot:

1. The scene: a cool but globally insignificant cinema in a rather insignificant town.
2. The background: everyone's talking about the new Trek film. Opinions are divided, emotions are high. But the film is not out yet, and when it comes out it will first be seen somewhere globally significant. Somewhere far away. Not here. (See point 1). No sir, we are too insignificant for that. Sigh.
3. Because we are too insignificant to see the new film, we content ourselves with watching an old classic instead. Better than nothing, eh? It's a fun idea that fits our theater, but it has a slight aftertaste of valiant loser (see point 1). Sigh.
4. But then - the old classic melts and burns in the projector. The aftertaste of valiant loser gets stronger.
5. Sigh.
6. The management take the stage and try to get a discussion going while the film is re-spliced. Unfortunately, nobody has any questions.
7. Sigh. Sigh...
8. THEN... Mr Spock walks out on stage. MISTER SPOCK!
9. Mr Spock asks us if we'd rather be watching the new film. The one that isn't out yet. The one we are too insignificant to see first.
10. Mr Spock - MR SPOCK!! - tells us that the world premiere for the new film is here and now! Losers we are not!

This is just brilliant experience design for a bunch of reasons. So many, it almost becomes a "best of". How about:
  • It takes your customer's expectations (go see an old movie) and exceeds them (go see the World Premiere of the hot new movie presented by your childhood hero in person). What a terrific surprise!
  • Beforehand, we have the burned print and the lame discussion attempt. This massages our expectations down and makes the upswing to the climax even more dramatic. (Remember, this only works with captive audiences).
  • Of course this wrong-wrong-right is the classic one-two-and-a -THREE! of bait-and-switch dramatic structure seen in jokes. Two points are enough to establish a tendency, which you break with the punchline.
  • This whole shebang is supported by of the excellent customer community set up around the cinema. These guys have theme nights, food, live heckling by stand-up comedians, customer tours for renegade karaoke parties, their own beer...
  • The management have obviously gone the extra mile for their customers on this one. Not only did they get the world premiere of what is potentially the film this summer, they also got Leonard Nimoy - the nearest thing to a saint in the Trekiverse - to present it. That was more than one phone call, I suspect.
  • The idea and its execution shows the Drafthouse crew as hard working real people with the same groove as their audience. Remember, people buy from people.
  • The whole story is eminently tellable, as evidenced by its rapid dissemination through the internet today.

Great stuff. Oh, and here's the YouTube link.

Via Church of the Customer.
Trekpik by TCM Hitchhiker at flikr.

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