Getting on the List

Last week Dark Star Books received free movie passes for a local sneak peak of Ghost Rider. How about your store?

I’m seriously asking. Maybe it’s due to a fear of revealing information that’s privileged or proprietary that could benefit a competitor at your expense (or maybe it’s just a fear of being seen gossiping) but retailers can be rather reticent about exchanging ideas which could benefit us all.

Like…

About five years ago Dark Star started getting free movie passes in the mail, usually for youth skewing films which didn’t have a lot of promotional muscle behind them that could use as much positive word of mouth as they could get*, ranging from comedies like Super Troopers to the latest horror movie The Missing (for that one we not only received posters but several copies of Dark Horse’s strangely stunted, kind of smudgy looking graphic novel adaptation of it).

From the sell-out crowd that showed up last Thursday night to see Ghost Rider it’s clear we weren’t the only store in the area that agreed to distribute the passes, but the fact we keep getting them suggests we’re doing a good enough job of helping put people into those seats. I wish I could tell you how your store could be a part of this, but to be honest, I haven’t a clue.

And that’s frustrating because there are other lists I wish Dark Star were on. For instance, there’s a small independent music store in Yellow Springs that spontaneously started getting free promotional shopping bags featuring images from Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programs. We’d coveted them as we saw them being carried around town (I particularly admired the black ones with white skull motif from The Venture Bros.), but even after talking to the management of the music store we still couldn’t get on the list to receive those bags. The good news is they had so many of them they started sharing with us, just to get some of the boxes out from underfoot.

A couple of years ago I managed a comic shop situated next to a puzzle shop that every month received a box full of copies of the Lego Fan Club Magazine (theoretically only available to members of the club) which contained a Bionicles comic book – and this was quite a while before the Bionicles graphic novel from Wildstorm was released.

Now the puzzle shop never carried Lego products before, but the company that sent out the magazines obviously thought “You assemble Bionicles, that kind of makes them puzzles; close enough.” They had absolutely no use for the magazines, but they kept on getting them; naturally they ended up donating them to us…where they made quite a hit with the kids who visited us.

Incidentally on a Comic Book Resources Forum Stuart Sayger, artist of the current Bionicle Ignition comic running in Lego Magazine, claimed his was “the largest circulated comic book in the world!” Good thing the material has never been made available to the direct sales market, huh?

Dark Star isn’t really a card shop. Oh, we’ll get a couple boxes of Garbage Pail Kids cards and get sports cards for some collectors…and as an impulse item. But that’s clearly enough to get Topps to keep sending us not just tons of promotional material but box upon box of free cards. Not that I’m complaining, we find good use for them, but I have to wonder, are card shops getting this much free stuff from them?

Which brings me to the actual point of this column: are there any lists I’ve missed for free promotional material that we could/should be on? Maybe some retailers out there could help a Comic Book Guy out…

* From its opening weekend gross it’s clear Ghost Rider really didn’t need much in the way of positive word of mouth, though the TV spots for it were pretty scattershot; using the all too common Hollywood approach of attempting to make the movie seem to be all things to all people (some promoted it as if it were a love story, others as a horror movie, etc.). But store manager Tad Cleveland rightly pointed out they only got it right when they started running the commercials featuring the Goth girl talking about GR’s “edge look.” She was the one who really sold the movie – at least to me.