TripAdvisor Kicks Off Movie Tour With New York Screening

Targeting existing users as well as new customers, TripAdvisor launched an outdoor movie festival bringing a pair of films—Roman Holiday and Planes, Trains & Automobiles—to five major U.S. cities.

By Anna Sekula July 30, 2008, 12:28 PM EDT

TripAdvisor's New York screening

Photo: Jessica Torossian for BizBash

TripAdvisor's Traveling Movie Tour
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TripAdvisor, the travel Web site with consumer-generated content, traditionally hasn't spent much money on event marketing, but in a bid to reach out to users offline, the company is hosting free outdoor movie screenings in five major U.S. cities. Last night, in the World Financial Center Plaza, this film festival of sorts kicked off with a showing of Roman Holiday.

The promotion, designed to build the brand with a fun and unusual offering for consumers, travels from New York to Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, ending in Boston on August 28. To pull it off, TripAdvisor's communications department enlisted the help of the Michael Alan Group, a guerilla marketing firm that has already produced summer stunts such as a giant sand sculpture for Burn Notice and shirtless men to promote WE TV's new Web series.

To position it beyond a free film series, the online travel guide company linked the screenings to a national sweepstakes contest (prize: a trip for two to Rome) as well as a charity. In a partnership with Suitcases for Kids, a nonprofit organization that provides luggage to homeless children, TripAdvisor is encouraging attendees to bring old suitcases and bags (packed with snacks and whatever else they need for the movie), which they can then donate at the event.

“The charity appealed to us for its natural tie-in [to the tour and the brand], and we felt good about partnering with the organization,” explained Michele Perry, TripAdvisor's vice president of global communications.

Logistically, there were some challenges in setting up screenings in outdoor public areas. Such issues included acquiring permits for each city (each market had a diverse set of regulations from different agencies and venues, requiring a detailed site plan), organizing the necessary food and drinks needed for each V.I.P. hospitality tent, and securing public performance rights to screen the two chosen films. Getting approval from each venue on the movie selection also played a large role in the selection process.

A lot of thought was put into choosing the appropriate movies to screen. On top of considering those that focused on a foreign destination versus others that revolved around traveling, the planning team also needed to take the length and film rating into account. After looking at several options, TripAdvisor picked two family-friendly features that fit within the two-hours-or-less time frame: Roman Holiday, the Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck classic, and the edited-for-TV version of Planes, Trains & Automobiles, the 1987 comedy starring Steve Martin and John Candy.

On August 6 TripAdvisor will bring the movies to Miami's Lummus Park, hit Los Angeles's Huntington Beach Pier on August 13, arrive at San Francisco's Union Square on August 19, and finish on August 28 at the Boston Common.

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