Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Night at the Museum - film and reality

Just a few grabs from recent news:

Thousands visit Natural History Museum after Ben Stiller movie.
New York's American Museum of Natural History has seen a 20 percent jump in attendance over the holidays. And museum officials say it's due in part the new Ben Stiller comedy... But the museum's president says the increase in attendance can also be pinned on a spike in New York City tourism.

Don't forget your sleeping bag! American Museum of Natural History launches sleepover program.
"A Night at the Museum" monthly sleepover program officially begins Saturday, but word-of-mouth has spread quickly -- it's booked through March.

Suddenly, this museum is hot!
Attendance at the American Museum of Natural History, in Manhattan, soared higher than a T-rex skeleton over the holidays — thanks in large part to the popularity of the new kid-oriented comedy Night at the Museum.

Fake Museum Increases Attendance at Real Museum
To respond to the increased attendance and frequent movie-related questions of museum visitors, the AMNH "scoured the movie" (pity the poor intern with that duty!) so they could "tell visitors what was here and what wasn't" according to AMNH director of visitor services Brad Harris.


I pretty much figured this would be the case; the presence of any museum in the media (generally visual) will always mean an increase in interest, whether it's been seen via advertising or something like a film such as this. More often than not it will give a lot less than 100% of an idea of what the museum is and what it entails. (We get countless people phoning my work with little to no idea of what the museum/sciencentre actually are and what's in them.)

So with something like this, where you have a movie ostensibly set in a museum where it's really a set of a museum, there's going to be confusion, along with excitement. It's really, really awesome that the movie (which is fun and terrific, by the way) is making people enthusiastic about heading along to the AMNH again or for the first time (or heading along to any museums at all!). I can imagine it must be overwhelming for the staff and management somewhat - although I do wonder if they somehow wrangled it in their favour, to lend their name and facade to the film.

However! As the last quote highlights, folks are getting mismatched ideas between movie museum and real museum - of course people are going to be expecting the dioramas (&c) they see in the film - if i'd not been anywhere near the AMNH (as I haven't), i'd expect a reasonable amount of similarity - after all, the sets were magnificent. It's a real pity that the popularity of the museum has been such a boon for its popularity, but is in some ways also sabotaging its reputation, via the creation/enhancement of people's expectations.

I hope that the streak of popularity continues throughout the year and well beyond for the AMNH, but I also hope that it's because they have a strong enough presence (maybe even 'brand', if you like) and exhibitions/public programs interesting and enthusiastic enough to keep people entertained and coming back, regardless whether they've seen A Night at the Museum or not.

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