A few years ago, General Mills offered a free movie pass in every box of their varied breakfast cereal brands. For a cinephile, it seemed a little too good to be true… And in my experience, a true opportunity is a rare thing.
I’ve got a friend, however, who calls me up all the time with “opportunities.” He’s a typical Canadian film jack of all trades. Actor, writer, grant application filler-outter. And to him, everything is an opportunity.
Calls for scripts by anonymous producers. Sketchy overseas investors looking for material through a friend’s roommate’s brother. This kind of thing. He even signed with a person calling himself a literary manager who’s never had a script sale, nor another client and who by all other accounts isn’t even in the film business.
Phone rings: I just heard about this great opportunity.
I bought a couple boxes of the General Mills cereal that contained the movie passes. I would have bought a couple boxes anyway. The passes just helped me choose which brand.
I had to verify this offer.
At home I took a look at the passes. The fine print, of course, is only printed inside the box. Expiration dates, eligibility, restrictions. Everything looked alright… Real good, in fact…
I called the cinema. Bypassed the automated system. Human agent. They confirmed they accepted the General Mills tickets.
Hm… So far so good. Better make a trial run. Wife and I go check out a film. Movies are expensive. And being in a feast or famine industry, some years can be pretty lean. So this was a nice treat for us. Most important, the passes were accepted.
Free movie. No strings. On boxes of cereal that I’m going to consume anyway. Now that’s and opportunity.
On the drive home we hit the supermarket again. Cleaned them out of the brand that contained the movie passes. Only eight boxes left – our secret was out. We headed for another store. Jackpot. A freshly stocked aisle.
I did a little mental math on the spot. This involves a lot of time and blank staring on my part. I’m not terribly bright. The price of different brands verses the weight of each box. The best value for the money. And how many weeks between now and the expiration date on the passes. How many bowls of cereal before the best before date on the boxes.
My Punch Drunk Love moment.
We filled a cart. No limit per customer. Thirty boxes. Enough passes for the two of us to see at least one film a week for the four month offer period. Enough cereal for a year.
Over the next few weeks I became an expert at x-acto knifing the coupons out of the boxes blind without opening them and without puncturing the bag inside.
General Mills has run similar movie pass campaigns in our region every year since. Always at the same time, February to May. The campaign’s have gotten progressively less desirable since their inception. Two for one deals. Free small popcorn or drink. This year you have to register online; no doubt a data mining trap. It’s never again been as lucrative an opportunity as that first run.
If true opportunities are rare, then opportunities that just present themselves to you are one in a million. This was such an occasion. Frivolous as it may seem. And I still vetted it thoroughly before cashing in.
My friend never does. He throws himself at every offer that comes along. And it’s never worked out for him. Not once. And best I can guess it’s not out of stupidity but sheer desperation.
I sympathize. I think we’ve all been desperate at some point. You don’t push a shopping cart stacked with thirty boxes of Oatmeal Crisp to the register without having experienced a certain amount of dejection. But you don’t slide those free passes across the counter at the box office for the next four months without a little bit of grin either.