Hero. Villain. International fugitive from US justice.
And star attraction at a major Hollywood movie premiere.
Edward Snowden can lay claim to being all of the above.
Thanks to his recent video conference appearance live from Moscow at the first screening of Oliver Stone’s latest release, Snowden, the most wanted man in the world could become a trendsetter for the way Hollywood unveils its latest masterpieces.
Despite obviously not being in the room at the movie launch that ran alongside the recent Comic-con event in San Diego, Snowden was able to answer questions from the film’s audience, and lend his unique star power to the event, guaranteeing press coverage for the movie.
So if video conferencing can bring one of the most secretive and controversial men on the planet to a public meet and greet, what else could it do to enrich the Hollywood marketing machine?
Stars on Demand Through Video Calling
For a man who once worked at the forefront of high-tech message encryption, covert surveillance, and NSA networks that span the globe, Snowden’s remote Comic-con appearance was a rather low-tech venture.
He appeared via a Google Hangouts video call, his chat window simply projected onto a screen behind the film’s creators, without holograms, or even 4K quality visuals. And he took real-time questions from the audience as nonchalantly as if he were seated next to them as strangers in a bar.
That’s just everyday office equipment, and its being used to headline what will no doubt be noted as one of the film industry’s bigger events of the year.
However, while the visuals were a little muted by Hollywood standards–in fact, they were completely outshone by the holographic appearance of Accenture’s human resources chief at a company meeting earlier this year–the Q&A did act as proof that a star can still carry the night even if they’re not physically present at a premiere.
And that could make things interesting in Tinsel Town.
One Star, Many Locations
In February last year, Hugh Jackman conducted a press conference in Madrid to promote the film Chappie while seated in a hotel in Berlin.
The star made use of Musion 3D video conferencing technology to answer questions from the media in what was hailed as the world’s first holographic press conference.
This is more like the way a video conference call should look at a Hollywood movie premiere.
While Jackman’s likeness was transported to only one remote location, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi used the same tech to appear simultaneously at 88 different political rallies during his 2014 campaign.
So, combine the star turn of Jackman’s appearance with the scale of Prime Minister Modi’s feat and the hype of the Snowden guest spot, and you have the potential future of Hollywood opening nights: simultaneous, around-the-world premieres, each featuring an interactive appearance by the film’s headline star.
And this needn’t be reserved for just the biggest budget studio productions. The cost of the Musion machine that uses the centuries old Pepper’s Ghost mirror trick to render these 3D film stars is around $30,000.
That’s about one-eighth the cost of an Oscars tote bag.
Video Conferencing for a Box Office Hit
Such a multi-city, multinational approach to the traditional movie premiere could produce a big uptick in opening weekend sales.
Imagine the global hype as a holographic Tom Cruise or Leonardo DiCaprio introduces their latest film simultaneously in New York, LA, Paris, Tokyo, and Sydney. Of course, some of these premieres will be matinees, some prime-time affairs, and some special midnight screenings, but the star power is present none the less.
The remote nature of the display also means busy actors need not make arrangements for publicity events such as these within their schedules. They could appear from the set of whatever picture they’re currently filming, and the two-way nature of video conferencing means they could answer questions from audience and press members as well as speak about their project.
The video link on the presenter’s end need be nothing more than commercially available, HD quality camera equipment that retails in the hundreds of dollars (or less) not thousands. Advanced hardware is only required on the receiving end, which isn’t a problem for theaters already set up with large projection devices and other equipment.
So the next premiere coming down the Hollywood pipeline could be hosted by anyone, from anywhere. Who knows, maybe Julian Assange will host the Oscars live from the Ecuadorian embassy in London next time around? Stranger things have happened.