73 – How to Break Hollywood

The film industry’s main aim is not to make thoughtful and creative films, it’s upmost priority is to make money. The top 6 distributors of films in the world are Sony Pictures, 20th century Fox, Warner Bro’s, Universal, Disney and Paramount. All of the films distributed by these companies are distributed in such a way as to make the most money out of people possible. Sometimes this revenue will be made by individual tent pole franchises for which each of these companies tend to posses the exclusive film rights for. One of the biggest trends in modern cinema is superhero movies and each superhero makes it’s studio huge amounts of money, Sony owns Spiderman for which it is already rebooting and has plans for another 5 films to expand the series coming within the next few years, Fox has the X-Men and Fantastic Four for which 1 film is currently in post production with a sequel already announced before it’s even released which shows they have complete confidence that the first film will make a significant amount of money which will help fund the pending sequel. Warner Bro’s distributed the Christopher Nolan Batman series which brought in big revenue and allowed Nolan to have free reign to create Inception and the upcoming Interstellar, but also Man of Steel which made around 700,000 dollars worldwide which has given them enough money to be able to announce a Batman VS Superman film coming in 2016 which will require a huge budget which they would only spend if they knew they could earn it back huge profit on top.

But it is Disney is quickly acquiring the biggest franchises, essentially through absorbing other companies, in 2012 they partnered with Marvel Studios and distributed The Avengers which went on to make over 1 billion dollars worldwide and Kevin Feige, the godfather of the marvel cinematic universe, continues to produce almost 2 marvel films each year. Now they are even taking risks with more unknown properties such as The Guardians of the Galaxy which could lose money and will only make money with a lot of marketing which will cost a lot of money. However because of the huge amount of money Marvel studios and Disney have made over the last couple of years from The Avengers and the Iron Man series they can now afford to take these risks.

The conventional approach for Hollywood studios when releasing a new film is to first announce it. Sometimes this is done in a simple press release or at a big event such as ComicCon. At Sandiego ComicCon many of the studios often host panels with their directors, producers or cast and speak about their upcoming films. As ComicCon is a huge event for comic book enthusiasts it enables the studios to get the fans on their side before the film is even released. For instance at ComicCon in 2013 Warner Bro’s with Zach Snyder announced the Batman Vs Superman movie and the crowd went mad. This then creates huge buzz for the film, and then all the news sites and channels pick up on it and spread the word more. Already Batman vs Superman is becoming hugely ¬†anticipated despite being 2 years away from release. The comic book fans are the people who are going to be the most enthusiastic about a comic book movie so addressing the audience is such a huge and engaging way such as ComicCon gives the film a head start.

The studio will then choose a release date and announce this. The release date is chosen very particularly as to not coincide with any similar film by another big studio as by releasing two horror movies on the same day for instance would harm the profits made by both studios as the the target audience would be the same demographic and may choose between one film or the other. Therefore the ticket sales would be harmed for both films, so instead negotiations may be made to have the films far enough apart. In fact to go back to Batman Vs Superman, the film was originally supposed to be released on a particular weekend summer 2015, however the film then got pushed back to 2016, a few days after this announcement Marvel moved the release date of upcoming film, Edgar Wright film so of course I’ve practically booked a ticket already, Antman straight into this release date.

Sometimes a film may be shown months in advance to critics, such was the case with Avengers, this tends to happen if a studio is extremely confident with the film. Being shown early mean the critics spread the word that this film is amazing long in advance. Also months before the release there tends to be teaser trailers and then full trailers. The biggest trailers tend to be reserved for the U.S Super Bowl where they are guaranteed a mass viewing. These trailers build up the hype for the film even more.

There is then further promotion leading up to the release date where the cast will do junkets and appear on chat shows across the globe. Accompanying this will be posters on billboards, buses and buildings. There may be adverts on web pages like Youtube on the front page. Also TV advertisements will appear closer to the film date. Marketing can cost a studio up to 50 million pounds because of the sheer scale of advertising they cover.

The film is then released internationally in cinema’s and most of the revenue will be made on the opening weekend at the box office. The film may then stay in cinema’s for up to a month. About a third of the money made in the box office will be given to the cinema chain then the remainder once the films budget and the marketing costs have been removed reveals wherever or not the film breaks even. Sometimes if a film has Oscar winning potential the studio will release the film nearer the award season so that the oscar buzz encourages more ticket sales. Captain Phillips was even re-released in U.S cinema’s for one week following the Oscars as an attempt to probably refresh everyone’s minds and capitalise on their oscar nominations in an attempt to squeeze more money out of the public.

3 months later the film gets released on Blu-Ray, DVD and streaming services. The blu ray copy usually contains a great deal of special features, more so than the dvd, and it’s quality enables it to seem more appealing for consumers. About a year or two after this the film may be on television for free. The staggered releasing of the film is a way to milk more money out of it. If there is a film you want to see really badly you’ll pay to watch it in the cinema so you don’t have to wait (and maybe you like the experience), then the movie is taken out of cinema’s but you want to watch it again so you then buy the blu ray for another 10 or 15 pound. So altogether you’ve probably paid 25 pound. Whereas had the blu ray been released at the same time as the cinema you may just have bought that.

The problem with this is piracy though. As piracy increases cinemas and studios will make less and less money as people are just illegally watching them for free. Now people may say if the cinema price was lower we wouldn’t pirate. But the ticket price has to be high because take a film like Pacific Rim, the budget is over 300,000 dollars, it needs to make the money back somehow so you then pay for tickets to help them pay the cost of the budget and the marketing. Pacific Rim actually did struggle to break even so a sequel looks unlikely as they may expect a sequel to potentially make less money and then they would make no profit. So if you are a fan of Pacific Rim and want a sequel you must pay money for the film because it’s the money that allows them to make more films you’ll enjoy.

A film called A field in England attempted to break this model. A field in England is a art house film directed by british director Ben Wheatley.

This film got funding from the likes of the BFI and Film 4 but it’s budget was nowhere near the millions of the bigger studios so it could never achieve the cinema releases and marketing of the tent pole films. So instead of a nationwide cinema release A Field in England was instead released simultaneously across every platform (TV, Picturehouse Cinema’s, Itunes, VOD and DVD and Blu ray). This is practically unheard of for a studio to do but proved successful for A field in England and allowed them to reach a wider audience than they would have been able to. However this method I believe, even though it may have made A field in England more money, if this method was applied to the next Star Wars movie it would actually made the studio less money. As I believe the cinema experience is becoming less and less valued by the general public and people (assuming they wanted the film legally) would prefer to buy the dvd or rent the film on a video on demand service.

To increase the value of cinema’s many additional services have been provided by cinema’s namely IMAX and 3D screenings. Both would be costly and almost impossible to replicate on a home cinema system and definitely impossible on the current generation of Ipods, pads and phones. This may then encourage more people to go the cinema for films instead. Also there is a growing number of pop up cinema’s which are basically simple projectors placed in unlikely settings across the country in order to seem quirky and out there. People then decorate the areas with relevant decorations and encourage costumes and the like. Also wacky and interesting food may be required. All of these efforts are to make the cinema more fun and appealing for a cinema goer. Personally I’d much rather just sit in a standard movie theatre but people like me are going to become a niche as we go into the future that is ruled by flimsy little tablet computers. For bonus blog satisfaction points from the last sentence guess how I feel about tablet computers. If you guessed that I hate them then you just won 10 blog satisfaction points. Good for you.

As a public service announcement I beg of you, the public of the world, go to the cinema so they can always afford to run them. #SaveBBCThree


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