Sunday, May 11, 2008

Taking a Few Weeks Off

In one week I'll be graduating college.

4 years of hard work has finally come to completion, which means it's time for a much earned break before heading off into the "real" world. So if you'll excuse me, I'll return to regular posting in a few weeks!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

This Summer Shaping Up To Be A Big One For Marketers

Ahh summer. For most of us it's a time for vacations, beach trips and days spent in the sun. For movie marketers, however, the summer represents a time where the money flows, the pressure builds and jobs are always on the line. With fewer sequels slated for release this year, more studios are putting their money into new franchise hopefuls, which can be an extremely risky endeavor.

According to a recent Variety article, it's expected to cost movie studios around $150 million to adequately market some of the larger films this summer. That's an astounding number considering most films cost less then that for marketing and production combined. It becomes especially daunting when you take into account the risk that the film flops and fails to make back the amount of money that was invested.

That said, I'm glad that Hollywood is finally taking a few risks with their summer offerings. Frankly, I've gotten tired of sequel after sequel after sequel. I mean, I love a good franchise as much as the next guy, but it's nice to have a change of pace. It will no doubt be another interesting summer at the movies.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Many Errors of Blockbuster

So continuing our discussion of Blockbuster and its many follies - the aged movie rental chain has recently put in a bid to buy electronics retailer Circuit City. I'll spare you the financial details, but suffice it to say, financial gurus everywhere are scratching their collective heads. This takeover bid is eerily similar to the purchase of Sears by Kmart almost four years ago. Both instances star two aging retailers with slumping sales who are getting beat by newer and quicker competition. As some analysts have already pointed out, why would Blockbuster want to expand it's brick and mortar base when the trend is clearly towards the digital realm?

While I understand the idea that content and hardware are merging into one-size-fits-all devices, you still have to remember - the content is being distributed through the internet. Wouldn't it make more sense for a video rental service to put as much money into the high margin (storage is cheap!) digital content distribution business then the low margin brick and mortar retail business? I just don't understand. Maybe I need to be on the board of a major corporation first - who knows.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Blockbuster Tries To Save Itself - Again

In the continued search for a video delivery system that connects with modern consumers, Blockbuster is looking into a streaming VOD service for your TV. The streaming device would come in the form of a set-top box, similar to Apple TV. Blockbuster's current main competitor, Netflix, is also looking into a streaming service.

I think by now it's pretty clear that the future of video rental services lies in the digital marketplace. So where does Blockbuster fit in? First of all, The Hollywood Reporter makes a good point - by introducing a VOD service, Blockbuster risks cannibalizing their brick and mortar operations. While I understand wanting to cover all the bases in order to make the rental process as simple as possible, I think that the digital rental concept belongs to a company that can exist primarily within that sphere. Blockbuster can't be dipping their toes into the water to see if it's cold - they have to jump right in.

This is where Apple has a clear advantage. Besides being first to market with Apple TV and owning an established digital rental service, Apple's core business model for this service exists almost completely within the digital realm. There aren't other retail channels sucking resources from the primary venture. Being first to market has also allowed Apple time to work out the kinks with their set-top unit. When - and if Blockbuster introduces a competing service, they will undoubtedly go through some major growing pains - as most first generation tech does. Unless Blockbuster can come in at a significantly cheaper price then I think most of their potential customers would simply choose Apple TV.

That said, Blockbuster needs this - badly. As this 2006 Slate article pointed out, Blockbuster is on the decline and needs a major breakthrough to prevent the almost inevitable slide into bankruptcy. Right now, the company is suffering from Kodak syndrome - clinging to the business model that brought initial success in the face of cheaper and better digital competition.

Here's an idea for the Blockbuster exec reading this blog - dump all the resources you can into this VOD device and immediately begin transitioning from expensive brick and mortar retail by systematically closing all retail locations - find a way to dump them on another video rental dinosaur - Hollywood Video perhaps? I truly believe that this is the only way that Blockbuster can survive in today's marketplace.

Friday, April 4, 2008

IMAX To The Min

In a move that screams careful planning and attention to brand, IMAX has signed a deal to distribute their films on mobile devices, TV, VOD, and other digital mediums. While I understand IMAX wanting to increase distribution of their films and thus their total audience, I'm not sure this is the way to accomplish that.

IMAX has always, and will always mean BIG. Big screens, big theaters, big sound, big movies. That's the appeal of IMAX and what sets the company apart from the local multiplex or the home theater. Sure, they make some good documentaries and the occasional feature film - but take away the spectacle of the large screen and I think their films would be lost in the shuffle of everything else.

When I was growing up, IMAX was a major attraction whenever my family and I took trips to the science museum. I liked seeing the films on the big screen and the feeling of complete immersion of the senses in the world that was being depicted on the screen. Lately, IMAX has made ventures into Hollywood film distribution in order to draw in larger audiences. I'm not sure what the official numbers look like, but I know whenever an anticipated film hits the IMAX screen (particularly popcorn flicks like 300), my friends and I are always itchin' to go. If I were an IMAX exec, I'd stick with this strategy and continue opening up new locations across the country. With HD screens increasing in size and decreasing in price, it's important for movie theaters to find ways to distinguish their product from what can easily be attained in the home environment - IMAX is the perfect solution to that problem.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Harvey Dent For District Attorney!

Can we stop for a minute to admire the beautiful work being done for The Dark Knight marketing campaign? After the untimely death of Heath Ledger, who plays The Joker in the upcoming film, I thought the marketing would be doomed. Up until that point, the marketing team had focused their efforts on Ledger and his sickly deranged Joker character. After his passing, The Dark Knight marketing team (42 Entertainment) switched their focus to the film's other villain, politician Harvey Dent - played by Aaron Eckhart (Thank You For Smoking). There's so much to talk about in regards to this campaign, it's multi-layered and extremely complex. But for the sake of this blog post, I'll be focusing on the efforts surrounding Dent, and his role in the film.

42 Entertainment has run a faux grassroots political campaign for Harvey Dent, without any association to the new Batman pic - other then the fact that Dent runs for District Attorney of Gotham City. The campaign for Dent actually started about a year ago when posters like the one below were plastered all over cities nationwide.

According to The Chicago Tribune, exactly 72 hours after the posters were put up, they were all defaced in exactly the same manner to wind up looking like this:

Supporters of Harvey Dent can point their browsers to, done up to look exactly like a website for a politician. There, you can check out videos and photos in support of Dent - think Youtube and Obama. There is also a section about the Dentmobile - a nationwide campaign that stops in cities recruiting help to "clean up Gotham City".

42 Entertainment has even gone so far as to create controversy between Dent, a rival politician, and a dissenting political group. There's a site for The Gotham Times, and a hijacked version called The HaHaHa Times. (Thanks to movie marketing madness for the info.)

I could keep talking about all the websites and minute details associated with the brilliant viral campaign, but I think it's best to let you explore. If I'm leaving anything major out, post a comment and I'll include it in a follow-up post. Go Dent!

Friday, March 28, 2008


If only ulterior motives were easier to disguise. I'm taking a look at the marketing efforts for Stop-Loss (opening in theaters this weekend) simply because I want to see the movie. Which could mean the film has been doing an effective job at marketing - or not. Either way, we'll find out.

So the interesting thing about Stop-Loss is this: it's an Iraq war movie that doesn't play up that it's an Iraq war movie. The Kimberly Pierce film (Boys Don't Cry) takes this approach because after a fall that was littered with films that either directly or indirectly had thematic ties to Iraq (Lions for Lambs, Rendition), marketers learned the hard way that the war just doesn't sell. So what is Paramount to do?

First - sell it as an MTV film. Slap "MTV Films Presents" in as many highly visible places as you can, and hope it finds its way to socially preoccupied 17-24 year olds everywhere. Second - downplay the Iraq connection in any and all advertisements, including the official trailer. Third - re frame the movie - don't sell it as an Iraq film, sell the pretty young cast as a close group of friends.

Compare the two official trailers on the film's website for a clearer example.

This one, which is listed as the second official trailer, was actually the first one I remember seeing last fall. (The film was scheduled to be released in the Fall of 2007, but the slew of Iraq movies coming out then forced Paramount to move the release date.)

This trailer, listed as the first official trailer, is the one that is used currently.

Big difference, right? The first trailer screams big, political, anti-war, anti-Bush movie - exactly the type that already failed at the box office. The second, however, frames the movie as a gripping drama about a group of twenty-somethings, which just so happens to involve the Iraq war.

This is a risky strategy for Paramount. On the one hand, it's clear that audiences aren't all that interested in the Iraq war at the box office just yet. (Though when the war is finally over, and we've all had time to reflect and digest, I think that will change.) On the other, Paramount could severely upset their audience by selling the film as something it isn't. Or, the movie ends up being a hit - it really could go either way. While I think it's sad that Paramount needs to dumb down the film in order to sell it - I understand the motives behind the decision. Here's to hoping that Stop-Loss doesn't become a box office loss. Who knows - maybe we'll finally have an Iraq film that finds a way to resonate with movie audiences everywhere.