I have a lot of ideas that never go anywhere. Sometimes this is due to the fact the ideas were never all that great to begin with, but more often than not - I choose to believe - the real reason is a lack of time and money. You probably feel the same, and unless you are one of the few people who have the ability to fund all of your crazy ambitions like a modern Willy Wonka (if that is you, email me) you often wonder how many ideas of any size will go unexplored.
This year I set out to make a change. Instead of simply maintaining a carefully crafted list of good, but impossible ideas I was going to make things happen. The one concession I made was that I might have to scale my ideas to fit my schedule and budget, which is honestly never a bad idea in any business situation. I’m sure a few of these ideas will come to light as we get further and further into 2017, but so far I have been able to cross off one idea with some modicum of success.
Box Office Challenge is a weekly contest I host on my personal Twitter account. Each week, I select a film opening that Friday and ask everyone on Twitter to guess the total opening weekend domestic box office gross. The winner receives a letter from me via the postal service (yes, real mail) along with a DVD or Blu-ray of my choosing. In fact, many films come from my personal library, which has grown in leaps and bounds since I started writing about film. I try cater each selection to the winner, and so far no two people have received the same prize.
The rules of Box Office Challenge are simple:
- Limit one entry per person
- No number can be used twice. (Ex: If I guess 11 million, you cannot guess that all well. You can, however, guess 11.1, 11.2, etc).
- We use Price Is Right rules, so the person closest to the actual number without going over is the winner.
- All entries must be received by 7PM EST on the Thursday before the film’s official release
It took numerous attempts, but I managed to get most of this across in a single tweet. Here’s a recent example:
My goals for this idea were simple: I wanted to share movies I loved with people who might not have seen them without making them pay money to do so. There are probably a number of publications that would love to do something similar through their official feeds, including some I write for, but I wanted this to be more personal. I wanted to make friends, and I was hoping those friends might also love exploring the wide world of cinema.
The first week I had ten entries. It was nothing special, but a few people I only know because of my work online played along and it was fun to see them engage with me. The next week the number ticked upward. Not much, but enough to show me that repetition would breed increased engagement. The week after that the same thing happened. And again. And again.
Box Office Challenge has not changed the entertainment industry. I think the maximum number of entries in any given week so far has been somewhere between forty and fifty, but after just six contests I don’t think those numbers are anything to scoff at.
More importantly, I achieved my goal. I took an idea and turned it into a real thing. Even better, I met the goals I had for that idea, including building relationships with people I did not know well prior to the contest’s creation. I have mailed films all over the country, and each time I’ve included letters that were three pages or more in length. I’ve had real conversations with people I only know because of a blue icon on my phone and the thoughts in my head that I never imagined possible, all because I took a chance on something that even I will admit is largely pointless. It’s just a game, and a pretty silly one at that, but for some reason it brings people together.
And I guess at the end of the day that is always my real goal. I want to bring people together. Our world feels so heavy recently, but I know there is relief in togetherness and community, no matter what form it may take. I am at my best when I am applying the skills I have to encouraging, developing, maintaining, or simply embracing a community. This game allows me to do just that, and a part of me always hopes that is what comes across. I may be a nerd, or just another blogger who thinks they matter way more than they do, but this I know to be good and I feel better doing it.
My next goal is to continue Box Office Challenge throughout the summer. From now until the end of August I want to give away a movie a week and grow the competition to be double its current size. Having a hundred players would legitimately blow my mind, but with hundreds of millions of people on Twitter it’s certainly not a stretch to think it possible.
Here’s to the next idea.