Up, up and away for web site, devoted to Hollywood insiders' data, promoted at Sundance
Editor's note: This story was written for Comm 3110, "Beyond the Inverted Pyramid," an advanced news-feature writing class in the USU department of journalism and communication.
With an extensive database, including the hit movie Toy Story, ShowBIZData.com is headed toward where Buzz Lightyear calls, "Infinity and beyond."
When visiting ShowBIZData.com, you can find who directed, produced, and wrote Toy Story or any other movie. You won't wonder how much money a movie made, because all the numbers will be there. Not to mention, you could see how the movie fared in Germany or 11 other countries. And in case you haven't seen it and want a little description, you can find that too.
"ShowBIZData.com is one of the most comprehensive entertainment information databases in the industry," Heather Mason, vice president of sales and marketing, said.
After clicking on the Web site, a person can find the entertainment headlines for the day, ranging from Steven Spielberg's health condition after having one kidney removed, to the box office success of Scream 3.
The site also gives anyone easy access to the Daily U.S. Top 10 films, which include up-to-date box office reports, with the amount of money made that day, along with the total of money made so far.
Scrolling down the page, you can also find the dates of upcoming releases and recent movie reviews.
ShowBIZData gives the "everyman" access to Hollywood, Mason said.
Deeper into the Web site, you can quantify your data with graphs, Mason said.
ShowBIZData has the capability to compare the information of one person, movie, or company to another. The information can be compared between years, amount of money made, amount of movies produced, and more. The possibilities seem to be endless.
The depth of the site includes being able to find out that the director of Toy Story also was the director and a voice in A Bug's Life. Or that five other movies were released on the same day as Toy Story. The site gives its customers a search engine that can find news articles relating to a movie, and it also has links to sites where you can buy a movie.
Much of the information in the database can be visualized with graphs. From a graph, a customer would be able to see that the amount of money Star Wars: The Phantom Menace made skyrocketed after its release in May and began to level out between August and September.
The site can answer questions such as, "What kind of money is in the movie industry in Australia?" or "What kind of money did Mel Gibson make in Australia?" using ShowBIZData's information, said Melissa Knighton, a ShowBIZData intern from USU, who worked at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City.
For example, Mason said horror movies seem to be popular right now, after box office hits such as the Blair Witch Project and Scream 3. Movie producers were thinking that if they made more horror movies, they would be profitable.
With ShowBIZData, Mason was able to compare 1988 to 1998 and see if horror movies were really more marketable now than they were in 1988. After using a simple line graph, Mason found that the general trend between the two years was similar. What people want to watch is actually not that different, Mason said.
When producers have access to this kind of information, it will affect what movie ideas they buy, Mason said.
ShowBIZData is able to tell producers what people want to watch. Ultimately, to you, as movie watchers, it could mean whether you're watching a comedy, horror, or drama next Saturday night at the theater.
"We know famous people use ShowBIZData," Mason said, and there is even a rumor that Steven Spielberg uses the site.
The company was started in 1997 by Oliver Eberle, president and CEO, in the garage of his home. Working in the computer industry of Germany and producing films including Stargate and Universal Soldier, gave Eberle the combined experience of the Internet and the film industry. With that experience behind him, he married his love of the Internet and his love of movies, to create ShowBIZData, Mason said.
The capabilities of the Internet allow ShowBIZData to gather tons of entertainment information and organize it in one place, so the secrecy of Hollywood can begin to be unveiled, according to a ShowBIZData press release.
ShowBIZData gives the "everyman" access to Hollywood, Mason said.
Some people believe there are invisible bars between the public and Hollywood. If there is, ShowBIZData aims to tear them down.
However, having an Internet-based company can be tiring for its employees. Mason, a 1996 USU communication department graduate, has worked in the film industry since her graduation.
People in the film industry already work about 12-hour days, but adding the Internet to that makes them even longer, Mason said. The Internet doesn't have opening and closing times. And it doesn't close on weekends or holidays. Keeping ShowBIZData up-to-date and running is not a 9-to-5 job, Mason said.
The company employs five data programmers to enter the always-changing information and three web programmers to make sure the site is organized and accessible, Mason said.
While continuing to improve the site, the company also set up its first-ever interactive lounge at the Sundance Film Festival. The lounge was set in Harry O's, a club in an old Park City building. It was decorated like a Los Angeles club, Andrea Pickett, a ShowBIZData intern from USU, said. The walls were covered with giant plastic packaging bubbles, about 5 inches around and the lighting was dimmed by paper covers put over the bulbs to give a hazy effect, Pickett said. There were tall, round tables, with bar stools around the room and a bar in the middle where people went to get coffee or juice. Around the edges of the room, were little booths set up to barely fit a computer, Pickett said. People at the festival could sit down, have a drink, e-mail their friends, and check out ShowBIZData.com, Knighton said.
The interactive lounge was a place where the independent film community met Hollywood at the new frontier of technology, Eberle said in a press release.
"ShowBIZData conceived the lounge as an informative and fun manifestation of our philosophy- equal access to crucial information for everyone," Eberle said.
"People in the industry were liking it," Knighton said. "People would say, `Wow, so this is what ShowBIZData is. This is something that would benefit me.'"
ShowBIZData also plans to host more interactive lounges at film festivals in Italy, Canada and France.
The company also launched a program that allows filmmakers to "pitch" their ideas online to producers at the film festival, Knighton said.
"People outside of the Hollywood system will now have a chance to get movie ideas in front of industry insiders they generally have no access to," Eberle said in a press release.
In order to pitch an idea at Sundance, anyone who wanted to, could be videotaped for two to five minutes selling his or her ideas for a film. Then the videos were available to view on the Web-site the next day, according to a ShowBIZData press release.
Pickett watched pitches being made and said it was simple. All the participants had to do was write a short summary and stand in front of the camera. During Sundance, three deals were made by using ShowBIZData's lounge, Mason said.
After spending a week at the Sundance Film Festival, Knighton said she thought the reception was good, but "As a person not in the film industry, I wouldn't get involved unless it was a hobby for me."
For a person not in the film industry the entertainment headlines and box office numbers might still be interesting. Also, many people not in the industry like to follow a movie star, and using the site's database makes that easier, Mason said.
In the future the company plans to hire a reporter to add more entertainment news to the site, and an in-house film reviewer, Mason said.
Anybody has access to the site, but before a person is allowed to look much past the home page, he or she must subscribe to be a member and pay the $29.95 monthly fee.
Despite the fee, 10,000 have subscribed and 25,000 have signed up to receive a free monthly newsletter sent by e-mail, Mason said. The company has figured that the site is looked at about 1.5 million times a month.
With a click of a mouse, ShowBIZData is allowing anyone, who will
pay the cost, to go "to infinity and beyond" with the entertainment
industry information stored in this Internet-based company.