Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Restaurants Think Millennials Eat Different Than Normal Humans

Look at those crazy Millennials in that picture. When they're not styling their hair or being ironic they are always on their phones sharing their entire life with the world digitally. This is how marketers generically perceive this generation*.

*The exact time frame of the Millennial generation (also known as Generation Y and Echo Boomers) varies depending on who you ask. It is sometime between 1978 & 2000. Some divide that time frame into two different generations: Gen Y = born late 1970s to 1990 , Millennials = born 1990 - 2000. Dividing it makes more sense to me as the behaviors and attitudes of a 32 year old today (born 1978) are a lot different from those of a 10 year old today (born 2000).

Millennials are defined by 2 things:

  • They are constantly online, either on the computer or their cell phone
  • They share everything about themselves.

That's it. There's nothing else to them. You can sell and justify any business decision based on these two generalized attributes. At least that is the impression that I got this morning when I read a USA Today article about new menu items being rolled out by national restaurant chains including California Pizza Kitchen and Cheesecake Factory. The chains are adding small, cheaper, tapas-style items to their menu that are meant to be shared among friends. Their logic behind this new addition: Millennials like texting and sharing and stuff, they will like sharing food too (and then possibly Tweeting about how awesome it is?).

From the USA Today article:

Casual-dining chains are trying just about anything. They're particularly eager
to attract socially minded Millennials who are just as comfortable sharing a
plate of food as they are sharing social media.

"This is how the next generation is eating," says Bob Hartnett, CEO at Houlihan's, which just rolled out 23 small-plate items.

WHAT?! When did we start eating differently? I'm not saying these new menu items are a bad idea, they're not. I do, in fact, enjoy ordering a bunch of small plates and sharing among friends, but why is this being considered a Millennial only activity? When I'm out at a tapas-style restaurant I don't see only a 20 somethings sharing food, I see people of all ages and backgrounds be it friends, families, or coworkers. It appears to me that this is how EVERYONE is eating.

It is just as illogical to say that Millennials are eating differently, than it is to say Millennials are all over social media, when data has shown that Baby Boomers are the growing demographic in Facebook and Millennials have no use for Twitter. Face it, everyone is online all the time sharing info, and everyone likes to share food when they go out to eat. If you don't realize that when developing a marketing strategy, you're leaving out a large part of your target audience. We have progressed beyond, "kids these days and their crazy technologies." Either we are now all Millennials in some shape or form, or maybe, just maybe, there is more to the Millennial generation than the generic definition placed on them.

Where do you stand? What defines a Millennial to you? What additional attributes would you add?

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

2010 Cleveland Concert Season Playlist

Well the snow is melting, the Indians are almost through with spring training, and the Cavs are getting ready for the playoffs. Spring is here, and with it comes a whole slew of bands and musical artists coming to the Cleveland area. My spring/summer concert lineup is filling up fast. There's a lot of good acts touring this year. Here's what I plan on, am considering seeing, or would like to see if I didn't already have plans:

April 4 - Julian Casablancas - House of Blues Cleveland
April 8 - Fanfarlo - Grog Shop
April 11 - Wilco - Carnegie Music Hall, Pittburgh
April 13 - The Hold Steady - Beachland Ballroom
April 13 - Wale/K'naan - House of Blues Cleveland
April 30 - Yeasayer - Grog Shop
May 5 - Frightened Rabbit - Grog Shop
May 11 - Pearl Jam/Band of Horses - The Q
June 9 - Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros - House of Blues Cleveland
June 10 - She & Him - House of Blues Cleveland
July 20 - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers/Drive-By Truckers - Blossom Music Center
July 26 - Kings of Leon - Blossom Music Center

That's my schedule. What's yours? Are you going to any of these shows too? Am I leaving out a group that I simply MUST SEE live?

I leave you with my Summer Concert playlist featuring all of the artists listed above. You'll find it on the right sidebar under my Twitter feed. Give it a listen, and feel free to create and share your own similar playlist in the comments. I love discovering new music, and we all need something to listen to to make it through the work day. Read more!

Monday, March 22, 2010

'Nurse Jackie' Character Uses Twitter in Real Time; the future of interactive television?

How are you feeling this morning? Everyone nursing a wicked hangover from the wild 'Nurse Jackie' viewing party you went to last night to celebrate its second season premiere on Showtime? No, me either. Did you at least read the tweets from one of the show's characters last night(@DoctorCoop)?

'Nurse Jackie' is Showtime's latest attempt to launch a successor to the aging "comedy" 'Weeds.' It stars 'The Sopranos' Edie Falco as Jackie, a nurse in a NYC emergency room. Like all of the main characters in Showtime's half-hour shows, Jackie is a dysfunctional anti-hero. She's just your regular run of the mill no nonsense nurse, wife, and mother with a pill addiction and fidelity problems. There's also a ZANY cast of supporting characters that fill up the hospital with their own quirks and problems.

Yeah, it's about as lame as it sounds. Jackie is an annoying character that gives the viewer very little reason to root for her, and despite all the zaniness, the show is rather dull. I watched the entire first season assuming at some point things would get exciting and interesting. They never did. I was going to ignore the show's second season, which kicked off last night, but I had to see how their unique interactive Twitter marketing experiment would play out.

As the New York Times reported, in the episode the comic relief character Doctor Cooper (Peter Facinelli) would tweet about something in the episode, and his message would post to his Twitter account in real time, blurring the lines between fiction and reality. Kind of a cool idea, right? So how did it go down? Learn after the jump.

I'll set the scene for you. INT - HOSPITAL HALLWAY - DAY

About 10 minutes into the episode (so around 10:10 PM EST) Doctor Coop, who mistakenly believes that Jackie has a thing for him, asks Jackie out to a game that he has good tickets for. Jackie brushes Coop. We end the scene with a dejected Doctor Coop walking away and starting to pull out his phone. A few seconds later this message shows up on his Twitter account:

That's it. Nothing very earth shattering, but experiments like this do open the doors for more creative interactive marketing of television programs, and a great way to bring eyeballs (and therefore $$) to a particular show. A report issued by the Nielson Co yesterday found that multi-tasking is on the rise. The number of television viewers who simultaneously surf the Internet increased by 35% in 2009. The networks can use social media as an interactive TV Guide, reminding the viewer that 'How I Met Your Mother' is on now, and they should change the channel from 'House' to watch (and participate in) it. Plus, if you're on Facebook or Twitter and all of your friends are discussing what they're watching, don't you want to watch too and join in the conversation?

Extending the world of a fictional television series beyond the weekly episode and onto the Internet is not necessarily a new device. CBS' "How I Met Your Mother" has successfully used this marketing device by mentioning a website or video on the show, and then actually creating the "fictional" site mentioned, but it takes planning from both the creative forces behind the show and the CBS marketing department to do it effectively.

For example, did you catch the Super Bowl commercial with Neil Patrick Harris's character Barney Stinson holding up a sign in the stands with a phone number to call him? If you did in fact call that number, you would have heard a message from Barney asking you out on a date. On the program the next night, the characters on the show watched the Super Bowl wondering where their friend Barney was, until they saw him on TV, the same way you the viewer saw him. Barney's story in this episode was about how he was going crazy because all of these girls called his phone and now he has too many woman to choose from. If you were a woman who called that number the night before, Barney was talking about YOU!

Why go through all the effort to do this? To create a stronger connection between the viewer (consumer) and the program (brand). It builds brand loyalty. By interacting with these sites or videos, the viewer is essentially entering the fictional world of the program. They are seeing and experiencing the same things the characters are. Watching the show has transitioned from a passive activity to an active one. The fan or viewer feels they have a personal investment in the brand and will hopefully return to it week after week.

With fictional characters using Twitter in real time, the lines blur even further. The viewer is not only entering the world of the show, in their own way they are now experiencing the same things that are happening to these characters as it is happening to them.

This is a great way to market a show, and maybe even work in some paid product placement, but it also opens the door for a lot of creative opportunities.The success of 'Lost' has proven that when viewers are passionate about something they are willing to get online and dive deep into the world, all the while spreading positive word of mouth about the brand.

The networks should start experimenting more. How about a serialized show, a season long 'Twin Peaks'-style mystery, with every character and suspect tweeting their point of view and opinion in real time and throughout the week? The viewer would have to put together clues and cross reference stories to solve the big whodunit. I'd give it a shot, would you.
Or how about an SNL-type live improv sketch comedy show that allows the viewer to tweet suggestions to the cast just like if they were at a live Second City show?

There are a lot of cool marketing possibilities here. That being said, I don't think I'll keep up with 'Nurse Jackie.' It's still too boring. I will continue to follow @DoctorCoop though. If something interesting happens, I'm sure he'll tell me.

What do you think of scripted television shows incorporating real-time Twitter messages from characters? Would you participate or do you find it intrusive? How would you like this used in your favorite show (assuming Jack Bauer can find the time to tweet)?

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Famous Hollywood Scenes Get Simpsonized

Sunday night has turned into an evening clogged with television programming. There's always been something on for the reality nuts ('Amazing Race,' 'Undercover Boss,' 'Celebrity Apprentice,' Whatever is on VH1), but recently there's also been an influx in other quality programming, including HBO's 'The Pacific' and Discovery's 'Life' miniseries, and the new season of one of my favorite shows AMC's 'Breaking Bad,'

With all those viewing choices to pick from I wouldn't blame anyone for not catching last night's episode of 'The Simpsons.' Honestly, you didn't miss much. Like most modern episodes of the series, this episode was an entertaining way to spend 30 min, with a few laughs, but suffering from weak plots that suffer even more thanks to odd story structure. That being said, last night's episode did feature a visit from First Lady Michelle Obama (which was cool until you find out she was actually voiced by actress Angela Bassett), and a sort of fun montage of famous Hollywood kissing scenes getting the Simpsons treatment as Bart receives CPR from his crush (don't ask).

You can check out the montage below. How many of these scenes do you recognize? Can you tell which ones were slightly altered?

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I hope the day brings you lots of good luck. To celebrate eat some corned beef, drink some Guinness, and of course watch this classic St. Patrick's Day web video:

No web video is complete without the dance remix ...

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Fiction Becomes Reality: UHF Television Station for Sale

Do you have half a mil lying around and are looking for a new job and/or hobby? If so, you're in luck because for the low low cost of $500K you could be the proud owner/operator of a Western Michigan UHF television station!!!

As the New York Times reports, current station owner Bud Kelley listed WMKG-LP, Channel 38 on eBay and is pricing it to sell (although it now looks like it has been removed). Although still not ready for the digital transition, you can own the broadcasting license, facility, equipment, and the ability to program whatever you want (as long as you keep the Thursday night Bingo show).

Some quality programming could turn this station around into the highest rated station in the region. It can happen. Need proof? Look no further than American treasure "Weird Al" Yankovic and his 1989 cult classic "UHF":

There's plenty of show ideas right there! All you need now is an eccentric, frantic janitor and you're all set. Look out Western Michigan, you're in for a wild ride! Read more!

Monday, March 15, 2010

34th Cleveland International Film Festival

The Oscars have come and gone and awards season is (finally) over, right? Not in Cleveland. Here the fun is just getting started!

That is because this Thursday the 34th Cleveland International Film Festival kicks off at Tower City Cinemas downtown. One of the largest film festivals in the world, the 10 day festival features more than 300 films, documentaries, and short films from 80 countries.

My wife and I had a great time at the Greater Cleveland Film Commission's (GCFC) Road to the Red Carpet event on Oscar night. Thank you to Cleveland Metromix for the tickets (pictures of the night can be found here, we're somewhere in the album). They really pulled out all the stops for this event and Pickwick and Frolic was a great location. If you want to get your $ worth out of a charity event, you shouldn't look any further than Road to the Red Carpet.

Anyway, while at the event I entered an Oscar pool, picked everything correctly, and won several passes to the Film Festival (which is put on by the Cleveland Fim Society NOT the GCFC. The two organizations tend to get confused with one another, but have 2 very different missions. The GCFC focuses on bringing film work & jobs to Northeast Ohio, and the Film Society focuses on film preservation and the festival).
So, what should I see? What are you seeing? I could use some suggestions. Check out the festival program here and let me know what you plan on seeing. I welcome all opinions. I might even give you a ticket voucher. Chances are I won't have time to use all the ones I have. So let me know what you'd use it on.
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Sunday, March 7, 2010

2010 Best Picture Reviews: All the Rest

Better last minute than never, right? When I set out to review all 10 of the Best Picture nominees this week I failed to anticipate how busy I would get. Even though my eyes were bigger than my stomach, I’m not one not to finish what I started, so here is my (very, very, very, very) brief attempt to review the remaining 6 nominees before the Oscar ceremony tonight.

First, in case you missed my earlier posts, check out my reviews of A Serious Man, An Education, Avatar, and The Blind Side.

And now the rest …

District 9

An impressive original sci-fi film. "District 9" can pass itself off as a summer blockbuster and a small, emotional movie examining how we treat cultures different than our own; not the typical alien invasion film. Although it abandons some of its ethical statements and documentary style as the movie progresses into a gigantic battle, it’s a fun ride from start to finish. The less I tell you about this movie the better. It never goes where you expect it to, and that’s a good thing. It won’t win Best Picture, but it will be one of the few nominees that we are all still talking about 5 years from now.

The Hurt Locker

This small movie about a three-man US bomb squad in Iraq is considered a front-runner for the big award. Will it beat “Avatar?” Maybe, if the voters felt like awarding a smaller film. Don’t be fooled though, despite a small budget “The Hurt Locker” isn’t a wuss, it’s an intense, suspenseful action film. Although set in Iraq, it does not get political. The plot is simple: survive 38 days. It’s easier than it sounds once you see the insane positions these soldiers have to put themselves in on a routine basis. As the movie points out, it takes a certain kind of person to do this, and “The Hurt Locker” does a great job exploring who that person is and what makes them tick. If anyone is going to beat James Cameron for Best Director, it will be (Cameron’s ex-wife) Kathryn Bigelow for the way she captures both the intensity of bomb diffusion and the quiet times in-between missions.

Inglorious Basterds
This movie was not what I expected. Being a Quentin Tarantino movie I was expecting lots and lots and lots of blood; “Kill Bill” set in World War II. While the movie is bookended by two fairly violent scenes, the majority of the film is blood free. The cat-and-mouse game being played between the Good Guys and the Nazis as they sit across from each other at various tables in houses, restaurants, and bars is at times almost unbearably suspenseful. I enjoyed Tarantino’s revisionist history of WWII not for the gore, but for the way it was constructed: as a series of inter-connected short films that slowly become one. This method kept me engaged in the story even during the typical Tarantino dialogue scenes that run a few minutes too long. Trying to figure out where the story was going was half the fun. This is my pick for an upset for Best Picture and Tarantino’s best chance at winning the big award to-date.

Everyone knows this movie as the one where an unspeakable amount of bad things happen to a poor teenage girl. I won’t list all of those things here; it’s worse than you even think it is. Yes, “Precious” is a good movie with strong acting and a powerful true tale of strength and perseverance, but it’s also tough to watch. This is the type of movie you will get in the mail from Netflix because you know it’s a movie you’re "supposed to watch," but you’re never in the mood to watch something this dark and it sits on the counter for 2 months until you return it unviewed. If that happens, I don’t blame you. A strong film, but I would never call this entertaining.

My wife can’t even tell you the plot of this movie without starting to tear up. I’m serious. The movie with talking dogs, blimp battles, and giant birds with a love for chocolate makes her cry. That’s because the guys at Pixar know how to make a good movie. All the crazy talking dogs in the world are meaningless unless there are some strong characters with strong motivations that drive everything. It doesn’t take much to lay that ground work. All you need in “Up” is the first 10 minutes. From there the movie can go in any crazy direction it wants to just as long as it remembers to come back to the simple relationships between old man Karl and his chubby friend. This will win Best Animated Movie and possibly Best Score. “Up” becomes a little too much of a kiddie cartoon in a few scenes towards the end, and that might hurt its chances as Best Picture.

Up in the Air
Although it won’t win Best Picture, “Up in the Air” is the movie that best portrays what life in 2009 is like. George Clooney carries the picture well as a traveling businessman whose job it is to fire people. “Up in the Air” address a lot of the insecurities and concerns we all have right now with our jobs, the economy, the way technology has made making personal connections both easier and at times harder and less authentic, and what really matters in life (and one of the best soundtracks of the year). The ending is a little sloppy and some would argue ruins the whole film, but it stays true to the characters, and attempts to address how we live right now in a funny and entertaining way.

That’s all 10. Sorry I was so brief with these final reviews. Time got the best of me.

Where are you going to (or where did you) watch the Oscars (or do you even care)?
Me, I’ll be at the Road to the Red Carpet party, a charity event for the Greater Cleveland Film Commission, a great nonprofit that works hard to bring film and production work to Northeast Ohio (i.e. “Spiderman 3”).

As always, if you agree or disagree with me, let me know in the comments.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

2010 Best Picture Reviews: Avatar & The Blind Side

Continuing my (alphabetical) reviews of the 10 Best Picture nominees in preparation for Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony, today brings two of the highest grossing movies of the past 3 months: "Avatar" and "The Blind Side."

Chances are that if you wanted to see either of these movies, you probably already have. Nevertheless, after the jump, I take a closer look at these 2 films. Agree or disagree with me? Let me know in the comments.


Unless you've been living inside a rock that's under another rock that's lying on the bottom of the ocean, you've heard of "Avatar." It's now the largest grossing movie of all time with a worldwide intake of $2.5 billion (although with 80% of the US domestic gross coming from the 3D version of the movie, the extra $3 surcharge for 3D movies is inflating that number quite a bit).

So is it worth all that money? Sure, why not. In "Avatar", writer/director James Cameron was able to construct a perfect storm of everything that makes his past blockbusters, including "Terminator 2" and "Titanic," a success: sci-fi action, romance, and groundbreaking technology. "Avatar" has something for everyone of all ages.

Visually, the story of paralyzed soldier Jake Sully using Avatar technology to pose as a member of the blue alien-like Na'vi tribe that resides on a distant moon (it's not as complicated as it sounds), is unlike anything we've seen on film for a long time. The vivid colors, landscapes, and unique creatures of the Na'vi world fully transport the viewer, and the tense action scenes keep everyone on the edge of their seats.

The film's main weaknesses are the dialogue and some of the acting. Like "Star Wars" before it, "Avatar" is going to be mocked for years to come for its cheesy, sometimes poorly written dialogue. Some critics complain that the movie is just a generic sci-fi blend of many existing blockbusters, including "Dances With Wolves" and "Ferngully: The Last Rainforest." I say, what's so wrong about that? Yeah, there are elements of many other hit movies in this, why do you think it's making so much money? In a year when big budget crowd pleasers included the awful"Transformers 2" and "GI Joe," the willingness of Cameron to take risks creating an entirely original world should be commended.

That being said, I'm not sure it should win Best Picture. It's not perfect, and a little too long. Instead, I think "Avatar" should be awarded a Special Achievement Award for the way it advances movie making, similar to the award presented to "Toy Story" in 1996.

Bottom line: One of the best movie going experiences of the year, but the dialogue, acting, and occasional story flaws are too much to award it as Best Picture.


The Blind Side

"The Blind Side" is the only movie out of the 10 Best Picture nominees that I can safely say should not be nominated. Give it a Family Circle magazine award for Best Family Film (take that "Squeakquel"!), but don't elevate its status to the Best Picture category. To put it in football terms: "Blind Side" is playing JV while all the other nominees made Varsity.

Am I too cynical to enjoy an uplifting "true story" that tugs on the heart strings? No, not when it's a good movie. Look at fellow nominee "Up." That movie is a cartoon with talking dogs, and it still has more three dimensional characters than "Blind Side."

I think Michael Oher's story of facing adversity and rising up from the ghetto to the NFL, thanks to the help of a loving family that believed in him when no one else would, is an inspirational story worth telling. "The Blind Side" takes a crack at it, but they water it down with stereotyped characters, generic dialogue, and very little actual conflict. It's a Hallmark made for TV movie that is trying to pass itself off as something more. Plus, as anyone who has read Oher's autobiography can attest, the movie takes SEVERAL liberties in an effort to play up the cheese.

There are also basic structure problems. At 128 min. it's a long movie for a family to sit through, especially when the entire third act veers off into courtroom drama territory right when I was ready for it to be over.

Bottom line: A harmless family film with a good story, but not anywhere near the quality of a Best Picture.


What did you think of "Avatar" and "The Blind Side?" Tomorrow I'll tackle "District 9" and "The Hurt Locker."

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

2010 Best Picture Reviews: A Serious Man & An Education

Well Oscar time is upon us. The big awards show is this Sunday night. Who are you rooting for? Have you even seen any of the nominated movies? In past years your answer to that questions was probably "no," but this year, in an effort to increase TV ratings (& DVD sales), the Academy increased the number of Best Picture nominees from 5 to 10. The thought was that with 10 nominees, some big budget studio movies that people have actually seen would get to join the art house crowd, and the masses would tune in to root for their favorite movie.

Well some big studio films DID in fact get nominated for Best Picture. Time will tell whether that results in a ratings increase.

I'm a movie buff, but could care less about the actual Oscars. I'm fine stopping at the nominees. Give me a list of some of the best movies and performances of the year and I'll choose what I like from them; no need to declare an ultimate winner.

Regardless, I have seen 9 out of 10 of this years Best Picture batch. So I thought I would spend this week briefly reviewing the contenders. After the jump I take a look at "A Serious Man" and "An Education"

A Serious Man

Two years ago the Coen Brothers won the Best Director/Picture combo for "No Country for Old Men." They followed that up with "Burn After Reading" and now what they claim is their most personal film, "A Serious Man."

Set in the suburban Midwest in the 1960s, the movie centers on Larry Gopnik, a middle aged professor with a lot of problems piling up at once: He might not get tenure, a student is blackmailing him, his wife wants a divorce & wants to date Larry's friend, his kids are brats, and his brother is a nutjob with no job prospects sleeping on Larry's couch. All of these problems cause Larry to wonder why God is "punishing" him for simply trying to get by and be a serious man. He visits 3 rabbis to receive guidance and clarity.

Now I like the Coen Brothers generally, and this movie is well done, and does a good job at capturing Larry's frustrations with his life, but the movie just isn't that interesting. Maybe I'd get more out of it if I grew up Jewish, in the Midwest, in the 1960s, but I didn't do any of those things. The acting and the Coens' portrayal of the 60s keeps my interest for a while, but the story is too mundane to keep my interest for the whole movie. I lost interest about 2/3 of the way through. I get that it's sort of the Coens' point that all of these typical problems that Larry faces are a part of life, and how we look at these problems determines whether they destroy us or not, but the conflict is so mundane that it isn't compelling for everyone.

Bottom line: Cool style and acting w/ a story that is not for everyone. Not likely to win.


An Education

This is the one Best Picture nominee that I haven't seen, so I can't really provide any insight into the movie. This just isn't my type of movie. I know it's based on a book, but it looks so generic. I can pretty much tell what it's about just by looking at the poster. Young girl in the 1960s, probably in Europe, falls in love with a much older man. He might be tutoring her or she might be tutoring him, I'm not sure. Either way, through their relationship she receives "an education" on life and love, and her eyes are opened as she matures from a girl to a woman.

I haven't seen the trailer yet or read much about the movie, but I'm pretty confidant I'm in the ballpark. I have yet to have someone prove me wrong. Have you seen it? If so I'd love your insight. I'd be willing to post a guest review if you write a good one up.

I'm sure it's a good movie if you like these types of films. I am a fan of the novels by Nick Hornby, who adopted the script (& received an Oscar nomination for it) but did not write the book it is based on. Hornby's books have been turned into pretty good movies ("High Fidelity" & "About A Boy") so I bet he's good at writing a film script too.

Bottom Line: No idea, but it would be quite an upset if it wins Best Picture.

Trailer (After watching it for the first time, my guess review does not change):

Have you seen "A Serious Man" or "An Education?" Do you agree or disagree with my reviews? If so, let me know. Tomorrow: "Avatar" & "The Blind Side."
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