Category Archives: Film

Film Trends & Issues on Modern Media Mix

The Tangled Web of Sony and Disney: Spider-Man’s Past, Present, and Future in the MCU

Like every superhero origin story, the Disney-Sony deal to share the Spider-Man franchise is full of ups, downs, twists, and turns. From a shocking withdrawal from the MCU to a triumphant surprise return, late August through late September was quite a ride for Spider-Man fans. The stage was set for the Disney and Sony conflict all the way back in 1998.

The Origin Story

1998 was a low year for the comics industry as a whole, and Marvel Studios was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. In a last-ditch effort to stay afloat, Marvel divvied up and sold the film rights to several major characters and franchises to Fox, Sony, and Universal.

Spider-Man and his related characters were bought by Sony, with the stipulation that a movie must be made every 5.75 years, or the rights would revert back to Marvel. Marvel retained the film rights for the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc., because at the time, they weren’t popular and were worth almost nothing.

Fast forward several years to the 2009 Disney acquisition of Marvel/Marvel Studios and subsequent birth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Kevin Feige’s gamble of taking the relatively unknown characters that Marvel had the rights to and giving them feature films had paid off enormously, taking the company from the verge of bankruptcy to one that was pulling in millions and billions every year. Despite the advantage of owning one of the most popular superheroes of all time, Sony was having mixed success.

The first two installments of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man franchise were enormously successful, only to have the third flop. The Amazing Spider-Man series struggled to gain footing, the third being scraped altogether. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had the additional problem of being sandwiched between Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy in theaters.

The Team-Up

After the infamous Sony hack of 2014, it was revealed that Sony and Disney executives had been in contact discussing potential ways for Spider-Man to join the main Marvel Cinematic Universe. The talks had begun in October of 2014, a few short months after the Amazing Spider-Man 2 had a lackluster debut. The deal was publicly announced on February 9th, 2015. It consisted of three solo movies and three additional appearances in the MCU.

In this deal, Sony would put up 100% of the funding for the solo movies and would get the final creative say during production. In return, they would net 95% of the profits. They also got a portion of the profits for movies where Spider-Man appeared but was not the lead. Disney would receive 5% of the first-dollar gross on the film and all the merchandising rights. They also got additional money if the film reached certain box office milestones.

It was a mutually beneficial deal for both Sony and Disney: Sony got to play in the MCU sandbox (and jump on the profit train), while Disney got access to one of the most popular superheroes of all time.

The Big Battle

After seeing Spider-Man: Far From Home rake in over $1 billion at the box office, Marvel and Sony sat down to renegotiate the terms of their deal. Disney wanted to put up 50% of the financing for the next Spider-Man film and receive 50% of the profits in return. Sony unsurprisingly said no. Spider-Man is by far raking in the most money of Sony’s current projects, and they were understandably reluctant to let any of that go. Neither side was willing to budge. On August 30, 2019 it was announced that negotiations had failed completely and that Spider-Man was out of the MCU.

The public outcry was enormous. Fans and even stars and directors of other Marvel movies lobbied the companies to return to negotiations. Avengers: Endgame co-director Joe Russo commented that the split was a “tragic mistake”. Sony issued a statement via Twitter in response, noting that they were “disappointed,” but respected Disney’s decision (Sony’s full statement)

Behind the scenes, Spider-Man himself Tom Holland was making appeals to both Sony film chairman Tom Rothman and Disney chairman/CEO Bob Iger according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was being employed by both studios for different projects at the time.  

Unexpected Victory

After nearly a month of mourning by fans, shocking news broke just after 8am on September 27th. Disney and Sony had quietly returned to the negotiations table in previous days and announced a new deal that would keep Spider-Man in the MCU for at least two more movies: one solo film, and one additional appearance. The specific financial aspects of the deal were not publicly revealed (Disney and Sony joint statement)

“I am thrilled that Spidey’s journey in the MCU will continue, and I and all of us at Marvel Studios are very excited that we get to keep working on it.” said Kevin Feige (Marvel Studios)

“I could not be happier we will all be working together as we see where his journey goes. This has been a winning partnership for the studios, the franchise and the fans and I’m overjoyed it will continue.” Added Amy Pascal (Pascal Pictures/Sony).  

The companies both highlighted that the outcry from fans on social media was a huge factor in returning to the negotiations table, along with Tom Holland’s behind-the-scenes diplomacy.

What do you think? Are you disappointed the independent Sony Spider-Man Universe has essentially been scrapped now that he’s returning to the MCU? Are you hoping to see more Spider-Man characters make the jump into the big universe? Let us know in the comments below!

-Hannah Butler

Are Movie Theaters Dead, Dying, or Fighting Back?

Ever since 2010, when Netflix began added on to their successful Blu-ray and DVD renting business, by introducing streaming to its platform, the film and media industry has changed significantly. Back then, it might’ve been insane to consider the possibility of anything rendering theater chains obsolete, or even knocking them off their feet for a second, but nowadays, the conversations have shifted. 

Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and soon to be on the market, Disney+ all have original TV shows, Movies, and even experimental media (like Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch on Netflix) that they have all to themselves, with little to no theatrical runs. The historically significant 90-day theater window has slowly withered down, and now even movie director giant, Martin Scorsese’s next production, “The Irishman” will only have a three-week theatrical window, before coming to Netflix. With all this information you have to ask yourself, are theaters dying? Not exactly. 

According to a study done by EY, the relationship between streaming and theaters might not be a competition, but the opposite. The study shows that there is a clear positive relationship between the two, which is for the most part consistent through all races, genders, and age groups. 

EY Chart A

As much as I, a 20-year-old college student would love to scream from the rooftops about the death of theaters, Chart A, above, shows a clear trend: those who watch a lot of streaming, generally watch the same amount of movies in the theaters. The same goes for those who don’t watch much streaming at all, they aren’t flocking to the movie theaters to see more (on average), they just aren’t interested in media consumption. The only slight exception to this is the 18-27 age group, who seem to be much more interested in streaming than movie theater watching (see Chart B, below). 

EY Chart B

This can be connected to the fact that the majority of this age group is busier than the others, with many of them in college, starting a career, or trying to settle their life, and just don’t have time to make the trip to the theaters. However, this is not a huge fork in the road for theaters by any means, as the other age groups are very consistent in this fact: people who like movies, are gonna see movies more, regardless of platform or price tag. 

Even so, there are many big names within the film scene who look down upon the business dealings of streaming services, Netflix in particular. Stephen Speilberg voiced his concerns during an acceptance speech, preaching the importance of the theatrical experience and how detrimental it is to the film watching experience. He even went so far as to say streaming service practices of not releasing films into theaters was harming that experience. Netflix responded with a tweet addressing this, speaking on the importance of art being available for all, regardless of social or financial status, as well as the importance of having multiple avenues for creators to share their art. 

It’s interesting that even though all the data points towards the two business models not harming each other at all, yet there is this obvious competitive reasoning for the majority of their decisions. In response to streaming creating a subscriber based business model, theaters have been experimenting with their own subscription service.

Regal Theaters charges from $18-$24 a month, giving customers access to unlimited movies at specific locations, depending on how much they choose to pay. More money spent, meaning more locations this is viable. However, you are required to commit to a 12-month plan, and you only get 10% off concession. 

AMC also has a slightly less interesting subscription plan, allowing three movies a month for $20-$24 monthly, but this also includes IMAX and 3-D movies. Again, you must spend more to have more access to certain locations. Cinemark also through a lazy deal in the mix, giving customers a low price of $8.99 a month, but only for one free movie a month, and some discounts on concessions. 

Many analysts believe this could actually be good for theater chains, smoothing out the revenue intake to a more consistent flow of money, and good for filmmakers, as this allows for theaters to take more risks on independent, more niche films. However, others point out some glaring negatives that come with this new trend. 

People tend to only go to the most accessible movie theater to them locally, and bringing subscriptions in the mix could make it harder for smaller, independent theater chains to compete. This could lead to the death of theaters that either can’t afford to implement a subscription service, or don’t have enough customers to do so. Many theater subscriptions also offer a discount on concession, which can be a driving force for many people, and small theaters can’t afford to do that. This could reduce competition significantly, even bringing the amount of competing companies to three or even two. 

Moral of the story: this streaming versus theaters competition might not be as intense as you might think. A telling development is most likely going to be the release of “The Irishman” in November, as well as Oscar season. But there is no doubt that streaming has changed the industry, and will continue to. Let’s hope this “battle of the platforms” results in some great content instead of an IP war, because if it becomes that, it’s gonna be a long year of more of the same type of stories we’ve been seeing for years. 

The death of theaters may still be far off in the distance, but don’t be surprised if this dialogue becomes something more in the next five years or so. 

-Alan Moore

The Success and Future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Marvel

For the past 10 years Marvel has been able to create success by producing twenty movies that fans have fallen in love over. How has Marvel managed to keep the attention of moviegoers through the span of movies, and how have they been more successful than other movie companies? According to the director of Captain America Civil War and Winter Soldier it is simple, “They don’t have Kevin Fiege.”

There is more that helps point us to how Marvel has been so successful. For starters, Marvel constantly puts out good movies. The consistent quality over the course of these past ten years has been impressive. There is no true standout “bad” movie in this series of movies. Kevin Fiege, who oversees the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe, does a very good job of planning most of the movies almost three years in advance of their release.

According to Paul Bettany, who voiced Jarvis and played the character of Vision in a handful of the Marvel movies, “The movies are made by fans…Their love for these stories is really infectious and you become really invested, and there’s a lot of invested people beyond the financials of it all.”

On top of that they have been able to connect every movie together in a 20-movie series! The interconnection of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is something that no other movie franchise has done successfully or even tried. In an article written by Peter Suderman over at Vox.com, he talks about how the connection is almost like the MCU is more like a serialized television show than a collection of marginally related movies. Each movie is just another piece of a television series except they are released 6 months apart and are two hours long.

Now all of this is great and all, but what happens when so many of the actors that play major roles in the movies leave the company. The MCU was originally built off the three characters of Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man and all three have contracts with Marvel ending in the next couple of years. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth all have talked about how Avengers 4 may be their last movies in the MCU. There have been rumors about Chris Hemsworth doing one last Thor movie and Chris Evans has stated he is open for a contract renegotiation with Marvel but nothing is set in stone. On top of that Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Chris Pratt (Star Lord), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), and Samuel L. Jackson all have just one or two movies left on their contract.

Marvel

If all of these characters end up leaving what does that mean for the franchise? They have to try and get fans to fall in love with the new characters like they did with Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man. The new characters need to be memorable and Marvel already started to do this with the characters of Spiderman, Black Panther, and to some extent Ant-Man.

Moving forward with Avengers 4, the next movie that is supposed to explain everything from the tragic ending of Avengers Infinity War. (SPOILERS AHEAD THROUGH INFINITY WAR!) With characters like Spiderman and Black Panther turning to dust in the final scenes, fans are eager to see what will happen and how these characters might come back. We can assume all of the characters who died will return due to their future releases of sequels in the coming years. Many fans speculate that Captain Marvel, whose beacon is seen at the end of Avengers Infinity War is a huge key to what will happen.

Marvel

Also, a theory has been floating around about quantum realms and time travel thanks to the recent Ant-Man movie. However, with no trailer released yet, we will all just have to wait and see what crazy spin Marvel will throw at us next.

-Brandon Haraldson

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Failure – The Ongoing Struggle of DC Comics in Film

Cinematic universes. The goldmine idea of having crossover movies that Marvel Studios has taped to create a film empire that other film studios try to replicate. While many cinematic universe projects like Universal’s Dark Universe or Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man usually fail and fizzle out after two movies, Warner Bros and the DC Comics superhero films have held on, for better or worse.

After a failed first attempt in 2011 with Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern, Warner Bros decided to try again with cinematic universes in 2013 with the Superman film Man of Steel. This film would mark a new era of DC Comics films after Christopher Nolan’s beloved Batman trilogy came to an end. This universe was to be carried by the vision of director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen), and producer Charles Roven. 

DC Comics Man of Steel starred Henry Cavill  and was released to moderate success, making roughly over $600, and being generally accepted by viewers and critics. Warner Brothers then announced a sequel featuring a new Batman portrayed by Ben Affleck would be released along with an entire slate of movies featuring projects like The Flash and Justice League sequels.

In 2016 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released and critically panned, with audiences and critics not enjoying the dark and grittier tone of the movie compared to the competing Marvel films. Suicide Squad also released to more critically panned reviews. Regular audience viewers were more approving of the film however, pushing the film to make over $700 million dollars (surprisingly making more than Man of Steel and almost matching Batman v Superman). This would set in motion the deep changes that were to come for the DC universe.

Wonder Woman, seeming now like lightning in a bottle, leapt into the box office and did extremely well, being loved by both fans and critics. It was hopeful, optimistic, fun, and wasn’t trying hard to build a franchise. Suddenly, the dark and gritty vision of the Justice League that Zack Snyder had started filming was looking problematic. During this time, Charles Roven left his position of looking over the DC films and instead handed the reins over to comic book writer Geoff Johns and producer Jon Berg.

DC Comics

The success of Wonder Woman and audience response to Suicide Squad split DC into a couple different directions. Films not previously announced on the film slate were announced left and right, mainly focusing on different Harley Quinn spin offs. Other projects, like The Flash, were suddenly trapped in production hell, as rumors of actors like Ben Affleck wanting to leave the franchise grew amongst other studio meddling stories. Zack Snyder while working on Justice League was suddenly replaced by Avengers director Joss Whedon. This move on Warner Bros part was likely to infuse the light and hopefulness that Marvel films and Wonder Woman were able to provide.

Justice League was released to negative reviews and numerous controversies and stories, ranging from Henry Cavill having a CGI mouth due to reshooting with a mustache and entire important chunks of film being removed due to a Warner Bros mandate to keep the film under 2 hours. It was also the lowest grossing box office film of any DC film so far in the series. This heavy blow began another restructure of DC, with Jon Berg and Geoff Johns leaving their roles, and being replaced by Walter Hamada.

Currently, DC films is different. Superman star Henry Cavill has recently left the role, and Ben Affleck’s part as Batman is up in the air. All DC projects are to be lighter and hopeful. They also are creating solo films that aren’t connected, differing from Marvel. Personally, as a huge fan of the initial film Man of Steel and these characters in general, it’s sad to see everything fall apart. I followed these films religiously, but have become numb to the idea of them being anything great. What do you think? Should Warner Bros have continued to try and build up this franchise, or should they have found their own avenue?

-Tarrell Christie

Disney Play: Yay or Nay?

Coming in 2019 is the new Disney streaming service to be known as Disney Play. Imagine Netflix or Hulu, except everything Disney. No, it won’t be completely full of Princess movies and cartoons, as it will also contain everything else that Disney owns. Movies and content from the Marvel Universe, Lucasfilms, and 21st Century Fox will all be featured on Disney Play, as well as some original content that will be sporadically produced. So whether you like it or not, say goodbye to Disney content on Netflix, and say hello to Disney content on the all new Disney Play.

Disney Play All Disney content will be removed from Netflix within the next few years. The majority will be removed in 2018, but a few films in the Marvel Universe will remain on Netflix until later in 2019. Disney is very excited about breaking into the streaming service world, where it will compete directly with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Disney already owns 60% of Hulu so some may ask why they feel the need to create their own streaming platform. The answer is that Disney felt the need to put their own brand name out there in a streaming crazed world. Although the new service will take precedence, there will still be plenty of Disney owned content that will appear on Hulu.

One of the promises that Disney CEO, Bob Iger, made to the world when announcing Disney Play was that it would be a cheaper streaming service than Netflix. The cheapest package that Netflix offers is $8. Based on Iger’s claims, expect Disney Play to be less than that. Having a cheap streaming service is obviously a great way to attract business. However, depending on how low the price actually is, some may start to question the fact that the service is so cheap and maybe raise an eyebrow at the content that is being offered.  So how cheap can Disney Play be? I guess we will find out come 2019.

Disney PlayAnother way that Disney plans on bringing in subscribers is with original content it will produce occasionally. The first movie that will be featured on Disney Play is called “Timmy Failure.” The movie will be based on the book that was written by Stephan Pastis. The movie carries a $42 million budget and will be premiered on Disney Play in 2019. Other original content that will be featured is a new Star Wars series called “The Mandalorian” that will be exclusive to Disney Play. The series is a 10-part series that carries a $100 million budget. Disney hopes that the big name series will excite Star Wars fans worldwide and bring in more subscribers. (Here is the first known picture of the new series “The Mandalorian”.)

Disney Play still has plenty of unknowns and what ifs. Details revolving around the new streaming service have been kept pretty secret since the idea was announced in 2017. I would expect more info to be released as the kickoff date approaches. There are many speculations about Disney Play but few will know until it is actually right in front of us.

I am really interested in seeing how successful Disney Play will be. With limited content compared to other streaming services, Disney Play will be up against some heavy competition in the streaming world, but that does not scare Disney chief Bob Iger. Iger seems to be very confident of what Disney can do, and he looks forward to watching Disney Play kickoff. So I ask you, what do you think? Disney Play: yay or nay?

– Christian Ellsworth

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

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