‘Tugg-ing’ Movies To A Theater In Upper Valley

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What if you could choose the movies that get shown at your local theater?  That’s the idea behind a new online film crowd-sourcing site called "Tugg." It’s building a following, mostly in large cities.  But the first place in Vermont to try it is the small village of Wilder, in the  Upper Valley.

Tugg debuted online last February. Here’s how it works. You log on to Tugg.com, find a movie you like, and start rallying your friends, using the phone, email or Facebook. The website keeps track, on screen, second by second, of the growing audience. And when there’s a break-even point, the film is booked, and tickets go out in email. 

The multi-purpose Wilder Center started the Tugg ball rolling a few weeks ago. To Manager Vicky Pridgen it seemed like a good way to avoid losing money on an event.

"You are going to make the minimum amount of money you need to make in order to have the event be a success," said Pridgen.  "If only 10 people RSVP before the deadline it won’t show, that’s not enough of a crowd to make a profit for Tugg or whoever the venue is. So it was exciting to have a really low-risk way of screening films and screening films people wanted to see."

It took only a few days to get the minimum audience-about 70 people-by advertising the documentary, One Day on Earth, via local listserves.

Tickets for the July 12th screening will be eight dollars. Ticket revenue is split between the distributor/filmmaker and theater, with Tugg taking a margin from that. The film documents a single day in countries around the world.

Alexandra Corwin was one of the first to buy a virtual ticket. A psychiatric nurse, she thinks gathering to see and talk about movies can bring neighborhoods together. And she likes being choosy about what she watches with friends.

"I don’t go to movies that I think are going fill my head with horror and violence and nastiness," said Corwin.  "I try to go to things that are uplifting and I think this will probably be aimed in that direction, too."

If, in the future, someone else does choose a horror flick, they’ll have to find enough other thrill seekers to fill the seats. The Wilder Center’s Pridgen hopes that local movie buffs will use the Tugg website to build their own audiences, let her know, and ask for her help with publicity.

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