Friday, July 6, 2012

"Marketing A Movie As What It Isn't"

They talk about a movie “opening big”, meaning it raked in big money on its opening weekend.  Why is that good?  Because, first, it’s big money, and raking in big money is better than raking in small money.  Second, having a big opening weekend affords the Publicity Department the opportunity to tout the movie as, for example, “The Number One Movie In America”, or “The Country’s Most Popular Slasher Picture.” 

Conventional Wisdom says that seeing the “Number One” designation influences people’s decision-making when selecting a movie:

(TO BE READ SLOW-WITTEDLY):  “It’s ‘Number One’, so it must be pretty good.”  

They then go to the movie because it’s “Number One”, and by so doing, the movie remains “Number One.”

Okay, let us step back for a moment.

There are numerous elements contributing to a movie’s “opening big” – the stars acting in it, its being a sequel to a previously successful movie (the words after “sequel” being redundant, because they don’t make sequels to previously unsuccessful movies), it’s a movie based on hit book, or comic book, or possibly a website – Just Thinking:  The Movie...


To some people’s thinking, however, the most decisive element in getting a film off to a fast start is the movie’s pre-release promotional campaign.

The way the film is marketed to the public.

The implication here is that a movie – like a presidential candidate – is a product.  And the range of possibilities for promoting that product are virtually unlimited.

Okay, here’s me, being endearingly but embarrassingly naive.

“Why not sell the movie as exactly what it is?”


Say a movie is sweet and charming with flashes of insight, and humor drawn from character.  Is that really how you want to promote it?

“Sweet and Charming”  (They had considered an exclamation point – “Sweet and Charming!” – but it didn’t really seem to fit.)

You drumroll the movie as it is, no more, no less.  Report in Variety on the movie’s opening weekend?

“‘Sweet’ Has Sour Debut!”  (Exclamation point deserved, due to record-low attendance.)

“Sweet and Charming” could not get the audience out of the house.

We’re sweet and charming.  Would you want to see a movie about us?”

“P.R.” professionals are highly adept at knowing what buttons to push to draw people into the theaters.  There are limits, of course.  You can not sell a war picture as a musical. 

“They played ‘Taps’ when the soldiers died.”


You take the movie, and you showcase the elements of maximum appeal, while deemphasizing what might possibly turn people off.  A recent example:  Ted the Family Guy’s movie about the man troubled by a talking Teddy Bear may trigger taste concerns, especially among women.  Females like stuffed animals:

“Look at the cuddly, Teddy Bear.  This movie is for you!

Okay, I get it.  You do whatever it takes to get them into the theater.  My question is,

Then what?”

You have this packed Opening Weekend audience, eager to see the picture they were promised in the ad.  The movie starts to play, and

This isn’t it.

Wouldn’t that make you angry?

You’re set up on a blind date with a guy, touted as having a glorious head of hair.  The guy shows up, he’s entirely bald, except for a rapidly thinning tuft in the front.

“It’s a glorious tuft though, isn’t it?”

Stop it!

Mission Accomplished – Stage One.  You got them in there on Opening Weekend.  But by achieving this objective, haven’t you simply expanded the army of attendees who will now leave theater and, through the proverbial “word of mouth”, tell potential future attendees not to go?

“Number One Movie Plummets In Second Week Collapse”

Short run victory.  Long run “Chapter Eleven.”

Generally speaking, are you not better off, as someone whose name escapes me at the moment once suggested, selling the movie as exactly what it is? 

By the way, Studio Bosses, if you are not a fan of “what it is”, why did you agree to make it in the first place?

Of course, I could be wrong about this.  I have never understood the motives behind the stars of Reality Shows.  I mean, I know about the fame and money and attention.  But does this concern never cross their minds?

“I am a truly unlikable person.  And with a Reality Show, that failing with no longer be a secret.”

Apparently, it doesn’t.  People continue signing up for Reality Shows.

And they continue marketing movies as what they’re not.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I am of the opinion that opening weekends should be measured in ticket sales numbers, rather than the accumulated money. That way, we won't get new "records" set every damn year through inflation alone.