Dunkirk: Global Success Amidst the Summer Movie Drought

This summer, Christopher Nolan released his interpretation of the 1940 Battle of Dunkirk in France through his movie experience of Dunkirk. There is no shortage of war movies, and the Battle of Dunkirk itself has had numerous movies already, but Dunkirk shone through. In a summer that was a flop for many major studios, Dunkirk managed to be the 5th highest domestic grossing film of the summer. So, what makes this movie stand out from the others?

movieOn the opening weekend of July 21, Dunkirk got $50.5 million in 3,720 domestic theatres. With only a budget of $100 million, Dunkirk made back its money domestically by the second weekend. Released mid-July, it was a surprise to many about Nolan’s choice of a mid-summer release, especially if Nolan wanted this movie to be considered for an Oscar, as many Academy Award contenders like to open in the winter months. This timing definitely did work in Dunkirk’s favor, as Dunkirk released before other movies that would be possible competition for theatre space, and the movie is still being shown in theatres 16 weeks after release.

Similarly it intrigued people that they would release such a heavy topic film for the summer, when most would think of summer movies as light and happy films. But Sue Kroll, the Warner Brothers President of Worldwide Marketing and Distribution, explained that “By dating it in the summer, it’s declarative. It positions the movie as a big cinematic experience.” The combination of having a summer film, along with the fact that Nolan didn’t want this film to be a niche movie, made it so this movie appealed to more of the casual moviegoer. It wasn’t targeted as an award-winning movie; it was targeted to be a film for everyone to experience.

While Dunkirk was succeeding, and rising to the top in the United States, it also exploded globally. Distributed to 41 other countries, the total foreign gross was $337 million. It was expected to automatically do well in the United Kingdom, as the characters of the film were from the United Kingdom, and it was received very well there with a total of $73 million. Dunkirk also did very well in China with a gross of $51 million.

Another factor with Dunkirk that made it apply to a wider audience than most war movies is the way in which they told the story. The typical American way of storytelling, like in most war movies, usually involves an individual or group of people who bond together, go into a major fight, and come out the other side. There’s a distinct progression of problem and resolution.

Dunkirk morphed this aspect of storytelling by dividing the story into three sections that are happening at different times but are weaved together throughout the film. One section happens over the time of a month and follows a small group of soldiers on the land. Another section happens over the span of a day with civilians out on the sea trying to help the war in whatever way they can. And then finally there is a section that happens over the course of an hour in the air with a pilot.

movieThis alone makes Dunkirk stand out from other movies, and I believe that this kind of telling a story has a more global appeal. Foreign films are typically more focused on the experience and emotion that a movie can make you feel, and especially with a topic such as war; there usually aren’t many happy, wrapped-up resolutions. You don’t even know one of the central character’s name, but throughout the movie, you feel the intensity and severity that this particular soldier is going through.

While many preemptively predicted that while this film would do fine due to the fact that it was a Nolan film, it was not expected to do great. But now many critics are predicting that Dunkirk will be up for a number of Oscars, including the possibility of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance), Best Screenplay, and Best Original Score.

movieOn the same note, Dunkirk was able to obtain a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, which not a lot of movies these days are able to hold. Nolan was able to fascinate both critics and audience members, and it is probably because he was able to make the movie simplistic and relatable while also not compromising the complex emotion of the film.

We will have to see in March next year if Dunkirk will be able to claim a couple major Academy Awards against its competition. But Dunkirk was able to understand the power of global distribution and harness the market worldwide in 42 countries, making a wonderful profit and impressing audiences everywhere with its original take on storytelling and war.

-Rachel Renes

A Monopoly Crumbles: Distribution in the Video Game Sector

A monopoly is crumbling. This isn’t a monopoly over oil or diamonds, but over video game distribution. Steam, the king of distributing video games, is being challenged by multiple competitors.

Video GameSteam is the largest computer video game distributor in the world with 125 million active users. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Unfortunately, Steam is relatively unchallenged in the world of distribution. Sure, platforms like EA’s Origin and Blizzard’s Battlenet are alternatives, but they are only used for a select amount of games each company has acquired. Steam has tens of thousands of titles.

While Steam does have a positive overall reputation in the video game world, they could still use some competition. It’s not good for the consumers to be forced to depend on one service for distribution.

As pretty much everyone knows, monopolies aren’t a good thing. Steam’s position allows it a lot of power in pricing its games, and unchecked bargaining power because the sellers can’t go anywhere else to sell their PC game effectively.

But now all of that is changing.

Video Game Last April, the video game company known as Tencent announced that it was going to rebrand its online services to create a platform where users may buy and play games. This will be a platform nearly identical to Steam. Tencent is calling their new platform WeGame.

Tencent may be an unfamiliar name to some, but their products are big, and they are a huge brand in China. The own both Riot Games (League of Legends) and Supercell (Clash of Clans).

League of Legends alone is significant as it is the most popular video game on the market. Clash of Clans has a strong following as well. Additionally, Tencent has significant stakes in Activision Blizzard and Epic Games, two major studios in the video game world.

Most importantly, it is estimated that Tencent has 200 million active users, thanks to China and the Asian Market.

Video Game The new platform was officially released September first about two months ago. Here’s the link to their slick new platform. Now there is one noticeable problem with Tencent’s platform; you need to speak Chinese.

Despite Tencent being a “global game distributor,” there is no non-Chinese version yet. It has only been out two months, and Tencent has promised to bring it to as many countries as possible, but for now English users will have a hard time using the platform.

Despite the lack of an English version, China’s market alone is enough to challenge Steam. Things will only get worse for Steam as they will be in more trouble once WeGame can effectively hit American market as well as others. But WeGame isn’t the only competitor Steam may have to worry about.

Twitch announced several months ago that it would be selling games via Twitch. It is clear that Amazon, Twitch’s parent company, wants a slice of the market. Twitch’s offer is unique as well since it will give its Streamers a piece of the revenue earned off the purchase, which will encourage the Streamers to positively influence other users to buy from Twitch.

Video Game The rise of Twitch is an interesting development, and one that shows no signs of stopping. Similar to how YouTubers have become famous and wealthy due to their videos, Twitch Streamers are starting to do the same thing. Viewers on Twitch can now buy the game that their favorite Streamer plays, and that Streamer gets a cut of the profits, which actively encourages Streamers to promote the games they play.

This method of advertisement has been effective in the last few months that Twitch began selling games. Twitch has doubled its library of games and partnered with more game companies. If this pattern continues, they could easily become a significant threat to Steam.

It is unlikely that Steam, or its parent company Valve, will simply fall apart and disappear. However, it is likely that Steam will have to deal with some serious competition. WeGame and Twitch are already threatening Steam’s grip on the market. More competition is good for the market and consumers, so this is welcomed. It looks like another monopoly will be a thing of the past.

-Sam King

Switching Up How to Catch Them All

Since 1980 Nintendo has held a monopoly on handheld gaming.  From the Gameboy Color all the way to the New Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo has had minimal competition in this market.  With the release of the Nintendo Switch on March 3, 2017 many questions have arisen.  Being the world’s first “hybrid console”, since it’s both handheld and a console that can be played through the television, it really shakes up the world of gaming.  Having the New Nintendo 3DS and the Switch can possibly result in Nintendo competing with itself and causing self-cannibalization.  So, what’s the next move for them?

SwitchA lot of 3DS owners only have them to play one of the world’s most famous and profitable franchises, Pokémon.  Game Freak, the developer behind Pokémon, has recently announced that Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, released on November 17, 2017, would be the last main title released for the New 3DS.  All games after that will be released on the Nintendo Switch.  In my opinion, this may not be the most profitable at first, but it will be in the future.

SwitchThere are several reasons why I believe that it will not be profitable right away.  The original price point of the New Nintendo 3DS was $199.99 and the price of the Nintendo Switch is $300.  That doesn’t sound so bad, except for the fact that the New Nintendo 3DS only has a resale value of $60.  That doesn’t put a huge dent in the cost of buying a Switch.  In the first 3 months the Switch sold 4.7 million units, while the New Nintendo 3DS sold 4.3 million units in the first 3 months.

Nintendo moving everything over to the Switch has its advantages and disadvantages.  Obviously, the graphics would be way better on the Switch.  The Switch also has a much better multiplayer interface than the 3DS.  The Switch has also been experiencing some problems that might make people not want to buy it right away.  There have been multiple cases of the controllers (joy-cons) not connecting to the system.  Also, the charging points have not worked for many Switch owners.  There have even been some cases of Switches not turning on.

Switch

How is Nintendo going to handle this switch?  They could do some kind of trade-in deal for 3DSs’ for more money.  Nintendo could also just count on 3DS players to splash out the cash and switch to the switch.  Another probable thing is for them to just discontinue 3DS games.  So what do you think?  The switch over sounds messy but will it be worth it in the end?

 

-Mitch Diamond

Sony v. Microsoft: The Console Wars

Over the course of the 2000s, two major companies have been competing for the attention of the serious gamer. The Xbox and the PlayStation consoles have both been integral to the advancement of not just gaming technology, but the driving force behind a few technological advancements. Sony’s PlayStation series has been known as the go-to console for most serious gamers, while Xbox focuses on being the all-in-one console. The different advertising strategies often attract different people, but with advancements in modern day systems, the main differences will be the exclusives and aesthetics.

ConsoleThe first iteration of PlayStation came out in the late 1990s, and stayed the leading console for many years. For the longest time, Sony had no competition, that is until the early 2000s when Microsoft released their flagship console, Xbox. Over the course of the next couple of years the two companies would start to sync up their release dates and start a pattern of pumping out new consoles. Every 5-6 years a new console is released but within those years are mid-cycle upgrades. For the two companies, they release a slim, and then a slightly more upgraded version (in terms of processing power) around a year later.

ConsoleOne key problem faced with these consoles is future proofing. When a new console is sent out every year there isn’t much room for improvement. Many people won’t buy a new system unless there is a significant change. With the introduction of Project Scorpio Microsoft aimed to create a system that would be one of the most powerful. With boasted true 4k gaming Microsoft’s current console, the Xbox One X, has the most powerful processor to date. As well as this they have made their newest console backwards compatible all the way to the original Xbox. Their mission is to make console gaming comparable if not better than computers.

PlayStation’s main focus is a little more different than Xbox’s, where Xbox focuses more on graphics, PlayStation focuses on content. Overall both consoles have good exclusive games, but PlayStation can brag about having a higher percentage of high reviews on their games. Sony’s newest upgrade to the PS4 is the PS4 Pro. This console says it has a 4k experience, but in all actuality it uses a process called supersampling . This process can lower the frame rate of a game, which is very bad when dealing with games that require quick responses. However, Sony’s PlayStation VR is one of the leading headsets in terms of gaming graphics. So much so that they have said they don’t want to advance any farther than they are now, so as to not scare away future competition. When asked about the future of VR in their consoles, Microsoft simply shrugged off the question and instead pointed out their new features of game sharing and backwards compatibility. Unfortunately, PlayStation is more focused on the future of gaming, so they will not be incorporating backwards compatibility.

One problem suggested with the speed of advancements in gaming technology today is that by the time a console is finished, it will already be outdated. A good point to bring up is how Sony released the PS4 pro with already next level graphics, only to be outdone by Microsoft the next year. To combat this both companies can be seen talking about producing consoles faster, or with better gear. The latter will make consoles more expensive and the former will make consoles less worth purchasing.

-Roberto Estrella

Changing the Music Distribution Game

Thanks to the rise of the Internet and digital distribution, it is now easier than ever before for music artists to get their music to the masses. Since the beginning of the music industry labels have had to use artists to survive and artists have needed labels to be relevant. The case is not so today! Today having a label is almost an obsolete practice.

musicThere are some pros to having a label. They can manage an artist’s marketing and show promotion, they can help set up tours and manage tours, and they can manage the distribution of an artist’s music in stores and online. The issue is that a label usually takes a large chunk of the artist’s revenue leaving them only the revenues from live shows. Today, a successful indie artist can just hire a tour manager and a marketing and promotions manager, instead of dealing with a substantial decrease in revenue that comes with a label. The lack of a label also allows an artist complete creative control with their music so they don’t have to change something just because the label thinks it could reach a wider audience.

There are a number of options when it comes to indie music distribution. One of the most popular digital distributors is Distrokid. Distrokid offers multiple levels of subscription based service the lowest being pay $20 a year and upload as much music as you want to any of its over 150 partners. These partners include Spotify, iTunes, Google Music, Pandora, and many more! The only downside to this service is that they do not produce physical copies of discs, however artists like Chance the Rapper have found success without even releasing physical copies of their albums so this may be less of a drawback than people think. If you’re looking for a service that makes physical copies CDBaby and Tunecore, however these services are on a per album basis rather than a yearly subscription.

Other services that have risen to help independent artists include music sharing websites such as Bandcamp and Soundcloud. Soundcloud is a music sharing community where people can just put up what they have been working on free for anyone to check out at anytime. Bandcamp, on the other hand, is more similar to something like iTunes. It’s a place where artist can sell their music, as well as set up a profile where they can sell merchandise. The artists have complete control over the prices they set on Bandcamp and can even do a pay what you want option. Many artists like this website because they feel it helps foster community.

Based on the information provided by Samuel Orson in this article, we can get an idea of the payout with some of the digital services. With iTunes an artist receives %77 percent of the revenue for each purchase, with Spotify and artist receives about $.004 per stream, and with YouTube artists receive $.0004 per stream. Samuel also gave insight into some of the revenue breakdown for Bandcamp. He mentions how Bandcamp give you a larger chunk of the profit the more people pay for your music. So an artist can get about %77 for an album that sells for $5 and close to %80 with an album that sells for $10.

musicBut who would I be if I didn’t put my money where my mouth is? You can check out my artist profile and my EP Reset Navigation on Spotify and iTunes, distributed through Distrokid. As well as, my Bandcamp profile here. Who knows maybe I’ll write the next indie hit?

-Jonathan Carpenter

The SOLO Film to Keep in the Star Wars Tradition

Disney is producing a Han Solo standalone movie? What’s next, a Jabba the Hutt film? Actually I think I might have spoke too soon on that last one… Regardless, in 2015 Disney announced their expansive slate of films through 2020, which included the “Solo” pic along with the likes of two more saga films and the first Star Wars standalone film in Rogue One. It was a bit of a risky move to dive into a realm outside of the saga stories, but Rogue One showed it could be possible, and financially successful. Each of the announced films were slated to be released in December of their respective year, all except for one of them. The then untitled Han Solo film was set to be released in May 25th of 2018, making it the lone, or “solo,” Disney produced film to keep with the Star Wars summer tradition.

Star Wars Since May of 1977, the Star Wars franchise had become famous for its summer releases and for paving the way of the blockbuster movie along with Spielberg’s Jaws. Each film in the franchise after was released around the third or fourth weekend in May, until The Force Awakens broke the tradition. Since Disney has been releasing all their new films in the month of December and carving a new tradition, why break from that and keep Han Solo in May?

One of the reasons could be that since Han Solo is a classic character that harkens back to the original trilogy film, all of which had summer releases. Therefore, Disney might want to replicate that traditional feel with this iconic character. Another reason could be that Disney might want to avoid the bloated winter holiday movie season slated in 2018. Paramount is releasing a Transformers spinoff film titled Bumblebee in December, Warner Brothers has Aquaman , and Disney themselves plans to release the long awaited sequel Mary Poppins Returns as well. December of 2018 definitely seems like a month to avoid at this point. Yet again, is May all that great of a month to release the film in either?

Fast forward from 2015 to 2017 and the now titled Solo: A Star Wars Story is well into production… that is until directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were suddenly fired over creative differences with Disney. Subsequently, Hollywood veteran Ron Howard was brought in to rein in the film, and Disney insisted the film would maintain its May 25th, 2018 release date despite the ongoing mess. Is this really a good idea though? A film of this caliber should take all the time it needs, and I’m not so sure having directors fired mid-production paints a picture that the film is in good shape. In addition to behind the scene trouble, there remains a large and potentially self-cannibalizing elephant in the room.

Star Wars Disney and Marvel have had plans in place since late 2014 to release the highly coveted third installment in the Avengers franchise in May of 2018, just three weeks before Solo. Will this create unwanted competition between two in house franchises? In its third weekend of release, around the same time frame that Solo will be released, Avengers was still making around 36 million dollars at the box office, and the sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron was making 28 million dollars. Could releasing Solo in that time period potentially step on the toes of an expected financial blockbuster in Infinity War? I’m not so sure it won’t, but I trust the number crunchers at Disney know what they are doing.

Solo has put itself in quite the dilemma. Despite all the shake ups behind the scenes of its production, the film is set on being rushed to release in May of 2018. Unfortunately, there is not many other windows in which it can be released as it really can’t follow the new Disney tradition of December releases because of the expanding Hollywood winter season. Its current release in May could potentially cannibalize its companion in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What to do, what to do… I guess we’ll just wait for May and see what happens.

-Tristan Bennett

Social Media Marketing in Modern Distribution of Films

The landscape of the film industries distribution strategy has changed dynamically in the last 10 years. From the perspective of windows of distribution, attention has shifted from the traditional theatres and television screens to mobile technology. The opportunity to get in front of a potential fan of a film by interacting with them through a device in their pocket is the power play of the digital age we currently living in.

Within the device, social media offers one of the most cost-efficient and strategic implementation of digital marketing channels in distribution tactics today. Production teams and executives can not only build networks for their studio brand names, but also build something similar to “personal brands” surrounding each individual project.

I’m Scott Burak, and I’m speaking from my experience of being the Co-founder of ADFly, LLC, a social media strategy and digital marketing development agency.

As the world continues to innovate and become more connected, these changes will become more frequent, and the studios have to continue to adapt to emerging technologies. This means opportunities for specialists and consultants in niche marketing channels across the ever-growing list of online content distribution platforms.

Social Media

Social Media Case Studies of Film Distribution

I’ve decide to investigate the social media strategies of two films, one launched through major film studios as well as one distributed independently.  For the sake of being festive this Halloween, I looked into two successful horror films (interestingly not released during scaring season).

Studio: Fox

Project: Devil’s Due

Distribution: 20th Century Fox

Release: January 17, 2014

Premise: American psychological horror film focusing in on a newly wed couple starting their family together. They decide to document their life and begin recording events that lead up the climax of their story. It becomes evident early that the woman is experiencing an uncommon and unpleasant pregnancy.

Strategy: Viral Video with over 54 million views on YouTube. Such a popular platform reached the mass markets without precisely targeting their audience. However by gaining a following for the film with these initial marketing efforts, they were able to parlay their foundation to find other similar people whom might enjoy their film.

Results:

  • Production Budget: $7,000,000
  • Box Office Returns: $15,800,000
  • Return on Investment: $8,800,000

Independent Film Studio Social Media Distribution

Studio: Animal Kingdom

Project: It Comes at Night

Distribution: A24

Release: June 9, 2017

Premise: American psychological horror film staged during a health crisis with a highly contagious outbreak that is wreaking havoc on across the planet. The main character and his son live deep in the woods and fight off other survivors looking for resources and shelter.

Strategy: Organic social media strategy played a huge role in the marketing of this project. Regular postings leading up to the release directed at a following of people that showed initial interest in the film. Then they leveraged Facebook as a platform to identified similar demographics and interests among their core audience and implement precise awareness marketing to ideal consumers.

Results:

  • Production Budget: $2,400,000.00
  • Box Office Returns: $19,300,000.00
  • Return on Investment: $16,900,000.00

Ongoing Innovation in Digital Distribution

Obviously studios and distribution networks should not see the digital revolution as a threat, but as an opportunity. With powerful analytic technology and targeting methods, comes the potential for greater ROI with strategic planning in distribution. Ultimately meaning more bang for your buck in marketing dollars.

On the horizon, I see the incorporation of two disruptive technologies that will again reinvent the way production houses push out their content digitally. I believe virtual realty will provide a platform for endless creative projects as the technology becomes more affordable and commercialized. Not only could entire projects be produced within whatever becomes the standard VR format, but studios could also get their feet wet in by incorporating small-scale projects in marketing and promotional strategy for films that are traditionally produced and consumed.

Additionally, I believe that artificial intelligence is something that any digital savvy distributors will take advantage of especially from a marketing standpoint. Being able to program computing technology to make informed decisions by aggregating information between engagement, demographics, and messaging strategies; the most profitable, most successful strategies will become apparent through mass data manipulation. This also leads to extremely relevant marketing and messaging to hyper-segmented target audiences by better understanding the correlations between what a certain group of people like compared to another.

Even more, I predict we will see incredible, personalized experiences at the crossroads of these two technologies. Imagine how an immersive virtual realty experience that adapts to how the user is interacting with the content could change the way people consume entertainment.

Regardless of which of these technologies’ potentials becomes an actual reality, one thing is for certain; Entertainment executives and content producers need to stay on their toes and ahead of the digital curve if they want to take advantage of the future of digital distribution platforms.

-Scott Burak

A Whole New Game: Independent AAA

Today’s video game industry seems more homogenized than ever. Now, almost every big budget game is required to have an open world with multiplayer, downloadable content, and invasive microtransactions stapled onto it with no regard to player satisfaction. As more games seek larger revenues, the future of AAA video games looks bleak. But one game may have set a precedent that will change the market for the better.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was released on August 8th, 2017 for PC and PlayStation 4. According to its developer Ninja Theory, it’s a cinematic psychological horror action-adventure game based on Celtic and Norse Mythology. That kind of subject matter isn’t something commonly seen in the market. It can be seen as risky and doomed to fail as it doesn’t play it safe. But Hellblade isn’t like other AAA games.

gamePrior to Hellblade, Ninja Theory developed Heavenly Sword and DmC: Devil May Cry along with other games of generally high quality. What sets Hellblade apart from Ninja Theory’s previous projects is that it’s self-published. Before, Ninja Theory relied on large publishers like Namco-Bandai and Capcom for marketing and distribution. But with Hellblade, they’ve done everything independently.

Independent games have been around since the beginning of commercial video games. But the independent market didn’t get to where it is today until the rise of digital distribution. Services like Steam and GOG have allowed almost anyone to self-publish their games and have a chance at commercial success. Most indie games are developed by small teams with relatively small budgets. But Hellblade is different as it was developed by an established studio with a budget more comparable to that of games released my major publishers.

Ninja Theory describes Hellblade as being Independent AAA. According to their website, an Independent AAA game is a game of AAA quality but with the more focused game design, lower price point and open development process that defines indie games. Hellblade has taken this philosophy head on. It’s single player only, released for just $30, and heavily focuses on mental health issues. This is all unheard of with AAA games from major publishers. Without independence, none of the risks Hellblade made would’ve been possible.

Despite being one game in a vast ocean, Hellblade may have created waves that will alter the future of AAA gaming. If other major non-subsidiary development studios see Hellblade as a success, they may choose to follow Ninja Theory’s footprints. This would allow for complete creative control of their own intellectual properties. They could choose to charge however much they wish. Bloated downloadable content and microtransactions forced in by publishers could no longer infect their projects. If Hellblade sets this precedent, a new age of high budget independent games could be on the horizon.

gameAAA games from the major publishers aren’t going away anytime soon. Neither is all of the nonsense we associate with them. The AAA market continues to be lucrative enough for them to remain unaffected. But major development studios no longer have to be reliant on publishers. The internet is now powerful enough for a prominent developer to market and finance a game on their own.

The recent closure of Visceral Games by EA shows that now may be the time for developers that can become independent to make the move. Hopefully, Hellblade can give some the confidence to release their own Independent AAA games.

-Andrew Levesque