A Cooler ‘Coachella’

For those wanting to relive past glories of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, or who simply want to know what they missed out on, Big Screen Concerts made quite a splash January 24th with a one-time-only showing of the concert film “Coachella” at 115 movie theatres nationwide.

The film provided two hours of the Coachella experience without the heat, the sweat, the crowds and the camping, as well as a promotional bump to the 2006 festival scheduled April 29-30. Tickets were to go on sale February 5th, and Goldenvoice, which organizes the show in the California desert, is expected to announce a preliminary lineup shortly.

The screening marked something of a watershed for Big Screen Concerts, a division of National CineMedia – itself a joint venture between AMC Entertainment, Cinemark USA, and Philip Anschutz’s Regal Entertainment Group. The world premiere screening of “Coachella” wasn’t the company’s first national night at the movies, but it was arguably its best publicized.

It’s been a while since music fans were treated to quality concert movies, dating back to “Woodstock,” “The Last Waltz,” Pink Floyd’s “Live at Pompeii” or “The Grateful Dead Movie.” The form seemed to die out with the advent of MTV and the video rental business that allow fans to watch their favorite artists in the comfort of their living rooms.

Big Screen Concerts, with “Coachella” and previous concert films including Green Day‘s “Bullet in a Bible” and a showing of Bruce Springsteen‘s “Born to Run” 30th anniversary film, seems to have found a way to fill dormant theatres on weeknights with music fans.

“The idea came from trying to figure out what types of content, other than movies, might bring people into the theatre from Monday through Thursday,” National CineMedia CEO Kurt Hall told The New York Times. “There is a 75 percent drop-off in movie attendance during the week, yet it seems that there’s always an urge among people to get out of the house.”

Big Screen Concerts has access to more 13,000 screens nationwide, and admission fees are slightly higher than the average movie ticket price, depending on the event being shown.

It’s also a nice piece of synergy, given the participation of Regal – part of the Anschutz empire that includes concert promoter AEG.

Artist managers are beginning to hop on the concert movie bandwagon as well. According to the Times, KISS manager Doc McGee sees the advantage to the big screen and is partnering with Big Screen Concerts for future events.

“It’s hard to get excited about a band when you’re looking at them on your laptop,” McGee told the paper. “You don’t get that 5.1 surround sound, or the crowd participation.”