Thursday, April 28, 2005

NATO's Big Book

You might have noticed a couple of posts ago while I was making excuses for not keeping up with my blogging that I mentioned it was my birthay. One of the pleasant byproducts of having a birthday is the presents. And my brother (thanks Rito!) got me a great one!

For the year and a half that I've known of the existence of the National Association of Theater Owners, I've wanted to get my hands on a copy of their publication, The Encyclopedia of Exhibition. I'd been putting it off because of the $100 price tag. Also I don't like to buy books before I've seen them (especially ones that cost C-notes) for fear that I'll never actually read or look at them. So my strategy had been to do the same thing that I do with all moderately priced-to-expensive items that I really wanted. I put it on my wishlist.

(I know that it's rather strange that I feel guilty about buying things like Kobe jerseys, Cake CDs, Basketball shoes, and expensive books for myself but not about asking my friends and loved ones for them. It's a flaw that I hope to someday get over. In the meantime, my excuse is that if I bought them for myself, people would never have anything to get me for Christmas or my birthday)

Between sorting through shipments of DVDs via peerflix I eagerly waited for my book to arrive, and Tuesday, after a long day of work and San Francisco Film Festival going it finally arrived. Unfortunately, I only had the time between when I landed on the bed until when I passed out to flip through it, but it was enough time for me to get a sense of how useful it will be as a resource.

And the outlook is great! At first I was discouraged by the fact that it's essentially a spiralbound set of photocopies on glossy paper (the glossy pages are used for the high rez advertising throughout) and the huge section of the book devoted to marketing films that are about to come out.

But there are a bunch of cool things in there such as the listing of all the registered exhibitors, their contact information, and their presence in the united states. (I wasn't able to find any exhibitors headquartered in Hawaii, but I was able to find the chains that have screens there.) They also have some supplemental stuff such as the document that lays out the criteria for the film rating system.

But my favorite part is the statistics section. It isn't the vast ocean of rich moviegoing data that only the limits of my imagination could touch, but it does have a nice base of numbers to look at. Basic gender and age demographics as well as screen count in various regions over the last 10 years were all in there. There were even some telling figures about how a film's advertising budget was spent.

So one of my major projects is to make this data as useful and accessible as possible. I want to put up as much of this on the internet as I am allowed to (I don't want to steal any of the little revenue that must go towards funding the operation of NATO). There are a few graphs included, but I don't think they really capture the story the way a rich visualization would. I want to try to do what John Hollinger does for the NBA for the exhibition industry. I've never encountered data as compelling and insightful as it is in Hollingers work. And maybe it has just a little to do with the fact that I like basketball :)

But like I've said before, data is my fascination and I want to promote an understanding of it that is compelling, insightful and most importantly, does not have a manipulative agenda. Data has the capacity to tell enchanting stories about seemingly mundane and ordinary phenomena. But executives and pitchmen routinely abuse numbers like they're phony experts on the stand for celebrity justice.

But I digress. The important part is, the book's here, and until this information is available to everyone via the internet, I'm more than happy to offer its services to anyone who's curious. So if the description for it contains anything you think might be interesting, you can come to me to find out!


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