10 September 2010

Two or three things I knew about feasibility pioneer Harrison "Buzz" Price and "Markets, Markets, Markets"

The late Harrison "Buzz" Price, who died August 15 at the age of 89 was, as many better acquainted with him than I have already said, a person of great vision and accomplishment, with both hemispheres of the brain deeply engaged, and also a man of wit and warmth. I had the good fortune to meet Buzz shortly after I stumbled into the themed entertainment industry in 1987. That was the year I joined World's Fair magazine (no longer published), and as I got to know world expos, I also got to know industry players such as Buzz Price, who had done numerous expo feasibility studies.

This article also appeared as the cover story of InPark Magazine in November 2010.

To me as an editor and publicist, Harrison Price was a great resource - he didn't just know the industry, he was part of the fabric of the industry. He could always be relied on to provide a razor-sharp, witty observation or analysis - and was eminently quotable. In 1994, the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) established the Thea Awards, beginning with just one award - for lifetime achievement. Buzz Price was the recipient. Back at World's Fair magazine, we tapped Buzz to write "So You Want to Have a World's Fair" - a breakthrough article that holds up quite well today and which was reprinted, with updated commentary, in the 2011 TEA Annual & Directory (the same issue also contains an article by Leslie Morisetti about Buzz Price's legacy as the founder of economics feasibility for entertainment.)

Thinking about Buzz Price and the good things that came to me from the privilege of intersecting his grand orbit, the word "breakthrough" keeps coming to mind. After I became a freelancer in the mid-90s, Buzz recommended me for a marketing research project with a top company. It was a career breakthrough in terms of what I was able to achieve for the client and what I learned in the course of the project.

A few years later, in 1999 it was a thrill to be part of the team that brought Buzz Price in to deliver the keynote address for the annual conference of the Large Format Cinema Association (now merged with the Giant Screen Cinema Association). Chris Reyna was LFCA president and Therese Andrade was conference chair. Buzz took the assignment very seriously and did a complete market study of the industry. I was in a position to furnish him with leads for his study, and we spent a lot of time on the phone together. At the conference itself, I had the honor of introducing Buzz for his keynote.

I haven't been able to locate a copy of my speech introducing Harrison "Buzz" Price to a roomful of special-venue cinema producers, filmmakers, distributors, equipment suppliers, service providers and theater operators. But in my media relations role for LFCA I wrote a number of press releases about the conference, and there are two about Buzz Price. Click here to view them.

Buzz Price's LFCA keynote, "Markets, Markets, Markets," (a playful reference to Peter Guber's "story, story, story" keynote given the previous year) was extremely positive and received with huge enthusiasm. His research showed that there was plenty of room for growth in many areas of the special format cinema industry. I believe Harrison Price's vision of the possible futures of giant screen cinema was instrumental in helping an industry that was founded on a somewhat narrow footing and struggling with its business models begin to achieve a breakthrough in perspective. His findings are to a great extent being validated now with the explosion of special venue and special format immersive media such as 4D theaters, 3D cinema, and digital dome displays (fulldome) we're seeing in a wide variety of entertainment and education markets.

Thank you, Buzz. You had a gift for being professional and confident while also being genuine and friendly, and disarmingly frank. You were a powerful person but what you projected was joy and deep interest in the world around you.

Photos: Roy E Disney and Buzz Price, Harrison "Buzz" Price at his desk. Thanks to BRC Imagination Arts for the photos and video.