Category Archives: Film

Film Trends & Issues on Modern Media Mix

Not Seen and Not Heard: Is the Film Industry Ignoring its Female Audience?

Since 2012, women have consistently made up 52% of moviegoers, according to the Motion Picture Association of America’s 2016 report. Male characters, however, are seen and heard twice as often as female characters. Does this mean that male-dominated movies are out-performing female-led films? Are male-led films what women want to watch?

The research says no. But movie scripts give men more lines and more screen time.

There are institutes dedicated to analyzing female representation in films and one of the most respected is the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Other researchers concerned with the same issues can be found at Polygraph’s The Pudding, at Google, and at The University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering’s Signal Analysis and Interpretation Lab.

FemaleThese groups measure the representation of both genders by examining film dialogue, counting the number of words each character and each gender has. In addition, according to Google’s Gender Equality in Films analysis, new tools, like machine learning, have emerged “to detect different characters on-screen, determine their gender, and calculate how often and for how long they spoke in relation to one another.”

In a September article in Box Office magazine titled “Diversity in Hollywood,” author John Fithian cites important findings from the University of Southern California’s SAIL tool that analyzed 1,000 scripts, revealing that men had 70% of the dialogue, and that women played just 29% of the roles.

It seems as though male-centric movies keep getting written, produced and released, but are these male dominated films more profitable than female-led films?

According to the Geena Davis Inclusion Quotient, “films led by women grossed 15.8% more on average than films led by men.” Google’s analysis echoes this concept by comparing the average earnings of male-led films ($75,738,095) to the average earnings of female-led films ($89,941,176). These earnings translate to female-led films earning 16% more than male-led films.

If females make up the majority of a film audience, and if they support female-led films 16% more than male-led films, then why is there such a discrepancy in onscreen representation?

Here are a few examples of “female-centric” films, where female characters deliver at least 51% of the dialogue:

The Help has 92% of its dialogue spoken by female characters. The film opened with the 7th largest Labor Day Weekend gross, and its global box office totaled $217mil.

Bridesmaids has 82% female dialogue. The film’s global box office totaled $288mil, and is the #1 R-rated female comedy.

Inside Out measured 64% female dialogue. Inside Out grossed $858mil globally, and the film holds the #1 opening for an original movie. The previous record holder was James Cameron’s Avatar.

Female

These percentages were estimated by The Pudding’s 2,000 script analysis which can be found here. The Box Office Gross-to-Date estimates are from BoxOfficeMojo.

Each of the above films is from a different genre (drama, comedy and family), and the trend is apparent across the board. Female-centric films are profitable, and female-centric films are very different from films with a lead female protagonist. There are great female protagonists, like Rey from Star Wars and Anna and Elsa from Frozen, yet Star Wars has only a 28% female dialogue rate, and (surprisingly) Frozen has a 43% rate.

According to the The Pudding, though there may be strong, female protagonists, men occupy at least two of the top three roles in 82% of the film and this occurs in about 82% of the films analyzed.

We need to level the playing field! This kind of research is a great first step, because there are already those in the industry measuring these concepts and identifying these issues.

Now, it’s up to screenwriters, producers and audiences to give women a voice, and to listen to it!

-Laney Kraus-Taddeo

…And We are Back with Avatar: Here Come the Sequels!

After achieving the status as the highest grossing movie of all time, Avatar is coming back with four new movies to be released over the next few years. The second movie began production on September 25th of this year. Many have wondered what the next movie will be like. Will it take place directly after the first one, or will it fast forward, since it will have been eleven years after the original film came out?

AvatarThese questions have been answered with the addition of children who have been added to the cast. The word is that these new children will be playing children in the clan. Some are also supposed to be Sully and Neytiri’s children as well.

Along with the new cast, Cameron has revealed some new information about what the new movies may contain. In an interview, James Cameron said that the new movie is supposed to take place with Sully and Neytiri controlling the clan. He continued by saying that the clan will leave the forest and find new environments, including underwater and volcanic environments. The producers plan on focusing less on Sully and Neytiri, and put more emphasis on the children. In an odd comment, Cameron promised that this movie will make “you s**t yourself, with your mouth wide open.”

With the first Avatar movie raking in over $2.8 billion in the box office alone. Cameron and Fox have high hopes for the next four movies. Cameron originally only had a contract with Fox for two more, but after him and his team overwrote, Fox was more than willing to create two more.

The combined production for the four movies will be $1 billion. If each movie plans on being roughly $250 million each, then they are only spending roughly $13 million more than the first movie for each of the sequels. Cameron believes that the first movie was so successful due to its story. Most fans, however, liked the movie due to special effects at the time, and they thought the story was average or nothing special. It will be interesting to see how the new stories turn out. Will they be better than the first?

The next Avatar movie is expected to be released around Christmas 2020. Release dates for the other upcoming movies, are tentative.

-Joey Linder

Is La La Land Singing for Musical Movies?: The Return of the Modern Movie Musical

Hollywood has a long-standing history with the movie musical, the golden age of musical theatre movies gave us stars such as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Yet, for the last several decades, the large-budget, over-the-top musical movies had fallen out of Hollywood’s good graces. Rewire did a great in-depth look of the historical context of Hollywood’s musical love affair.

La la landLa La Land’s success definitely brought the old-fashioned Hollywood musical back into the spotlight, but with the huge popularity of Broadway shows like Hamilton it will be far from the last musical movie adapted from the stage or otherwise to come to the big screen in the next few years. In fact, Aladdin, American Idiot and more are in some stage of production according to an article in Playbill.

Hollywood is also tapping into some of Broadway’s hottest talent to act direct and more for these new movie musicals. To name a few, Ben Pasek and Justin Paul were tapped to compose for the ode to the Hollywood musical La La Land, who currently have a Tony award winning musical Dear Evan Hansen currently running on Broadway. The pair also composed for the upcoming release The Greatest Showman based on the life of PT Barnum, as well as collaborating on some new songs for the live action version of Aladdin.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is another perfect example of this, getting in with Disney via Moana, has now composed for the upcoming Mary Poppins returns which he also starred in beside Emily Blunt, as well as additional forthcoming projects from Disney animation. Needless to say, he’s kept plenty busy since leaving Hamilton in July of 2016.

Damien Chazelle also has everything coming up roses for him since the success of La La Land, since he landed a deal to direct several episodes of Netflix’s new musical series The Eddy. The series will center around a nightclub, the house band, and its owner. On top of directing Chazelle will also be executive producing according to Variety.

The series marks a first for Netflix being its first venture into musical theatre of any sort for its original programming. This could mark a new era into musical theatre being made by streaming services instead of exclusively broadcast networks and large studios.

Musical theatre within television has seen much less of a downturn, seemingly being much more steady over the years. Shows like Glee definitely brought it back into the limelight, but the phenomenon of the musical episode was definitely popular long before. With shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer tackling it as early as the late 90s to 2000s. Many shows since have gone on to do one off musical episodes, including Grey’s Anatomy, Once Upon a Time, and The Flash being a few in more recent years.

La la landShows like Crazy-Ex Girlfriend have gone so far as to build their entire premise around it, and have numerous awards including Emmys and Golden Globes to show for it. While not always the most highly rated, it’s critic’s darling status kept it around for a third season. Which will premiere on the CW on October 13th on the CW network.

Overall, the fate of the Hollywood movie musical seems sealed, with musical theatre reaching younger audiences and Broadway being out of fairly reach for most teenagers. Hollywood movie musicals may land in a sweet spot for many of the newest generation of musical theatre fans, provided Hollywood can cater to the hip crowd.

-Taylor Lien

Disney’s Distribution Dilemma: Coco Needs Some Frozen Fever

What happens when movie fans become upset with your upcoming release and you are worried about the potential loss in ticket sales? You slap some Frozen on it and call it good. This is, in my opinion, exactly what Disney has done with its upcoming release of Coco. They are able to use this technique to support Coco mainly because Frozen is such a coveted property.

FrozenWhile, as I will discuss later, using this method of premiering shorts in front of films is not something new for Pixar, it is becoming something new for other distribution and film companies particularly within the independent arena. Utilizing this method could lead to additional revenue sources for these companies.

Before we get into the thick of things with Frozen and the other companies, let’s discuss Coco and why fans are so upset with Disney. Some of you may remember a certain 20th Century Fox film titled The Book of Life.

According to reporting from Polygon, it’s a colorfully animated film that tells the story of “living characters venturing into the Land of the Dead” based around the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos. Music also plays a huge role in this film. What’s the issue with Coco? It’s basically the same.

  Frozen

Disney’s Pixar actually announced their concept for Coco slightly ahead of 20th Century Fox, they just beat Pixar to the box office. While this fact may help Pixar’s reputation slightly, it is hard to change audiences’ minds once a rumor takes hold.

Another reason fans are upset with Walt Disney and Pixar over Coco involves the composition of the production crew. The Book of Life had “several Mexican producers and animators onboard” while initially Coco had an all Caucasian team lined up. After some additional outrage by fans, Disney enlisted an all Latino cast for the film along with a “coalition of cultural consultants.”

Additionally, the Walt Disney Company did not do itself any favors in the publicity department when it attempted to “trademark ‘Dia de los Muertos’” as the original name for Coco. Not a smart move, but if Disney knows how to do one thing right it is to use magic. In this case, hopefully to save a movie from flopping at the box office.

This is where Frozen comes into the equation as a saving force for Coco. The third installment in the Frozen series, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, will premiere exclusively in front of Coco in theaters. This may seem normal for Pixar as it has been a tradition since A Bug’s Life was released to include an original short at the beginning and/or a feature short included in the credits as “outtakes”.

Some examples of these include: For the Birds released with Monsters, Inc.; Blue Umbrella released with Monsters University; Piper released with Finding Dory; and Jack-Jack Attack that was in The Incredibles credits.

For a full list of films and their accompanying shorts click here.

Frozen  Frozen

Normally these shorts are created by so called amateur animators and generally are not directly affiliated to any major property. Coco’s short, on the other hand, is a well-known Disney property that had a lot of effort put into it.

The point of contention occurs regarding the originally planned distribution method for Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. Early in its development it was said that ABC, which Disney owns, would premiere it as a television special. Eventually deemed “too cinematic” it was decided the short film would become a theatrical featurette instead. For more on this click here.

While this may seem a coincidence, I feel as though the Walt Disney Company realized they wouldn’t fully recover from the lingering “ghost of The Book of Life” and their “ill-fated ‘Dia de los Muertos’ trademark attempt” without taking additional measures. Can you say oops?

FrozenAll in all, the Walt Disney Company realized that Coco’s box office performance wouldn’t be at par with what they needed, so they altered the distribution pattern for Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. Now having it paired with Coco in theaters not only gives the feeling of exclusivity, but it will also draw all of the Frozen fans to the theaters to see the next installment in the very well established franchise.

Interestingly enough, the Walt Disney Company is not the only one putting exclusive content in the form of short films ahead of major releases. Within the independent film business, Neon is a company that is starting this trend up again.

Neon, the “distribution shingle launched by Tim League and Tom Quinn” (Winfrey) buys independent short films and places them with their other independent properties for distribution. The first installment for Neon was 5 Films About Technology which premiered alongside Colossal. As of now, Neon only places shorts in front of its own properties, but only time will tell if they decide to sell the rights to short films to other distributors.

Is placing short films with major releases an effective method of distribution for major film studios to use in the future to get a larger audience in attendance?

-Piper Davis

The Minions Sure Know How to Rake in the Big Bucks

This past summer has had numerous box office hits, including the worldwide release of Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, Spiderman: Homecoming, Dunkirk, Cars 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales, Baywatch, Atomic Blonde, and Despicable Me 3, which happened to bring in the most revenue at over $1,005,854,581 and was ranked second-biggest animated opening of all time (The Numbers). So how does a film, like Despicable Me 3, generate all of this revenue?

MINIONS

The blockbuster film emerged in the 1960s when Hollywood studios were experiencing financial difficulties due to the Paramount Decree, where these films helped the studios to “differentiate their products from the supply of competing media, such as television and helped revive the theater as a privileged place for the film experience and high quality entertainment,” stated Tanner Mirrlees (Designing Global Entertainment Media, 2013).

In fact, some of the biggest blockbuster films that were mass marketed and released, was George Lucas’s Star Wars and the hit film Jaws– along with many others. These films emphasized the exchange value of high-concept, mass-marketed, mass-released, and mass-targeted films, complemented with synergetic merchandising.

Blockbusters are able to stand out from the rest of films as they have large budgets, are marketed globally as high-concept and “must see” events, have big releases, and are designed to create as much revenue as possible, not only by collecting box office receipts, but by also spinning off commodities.  They also target a global, rather than a national based audience.

MINIONS The Despicable Me franchise has shown that there is life outside Pixar and Disney, both commercially and artistically in the blockbuster animation world. Despicable Me features the “despicable” character of Gru, and its little yellow creatures that are shaped like Tic-Tacs, in my opinion.

With Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment as the main production companies, the overall budget of the film was estimated at about $80 million, nearly matched by its $75 million opening weekend (IMDb). The 90-minute film, however, did not look as promising as the previous Minions and Despicable Me 2. In fact, the opening weekend was 14% lower than Despicable Me 2 and 37% lower than the Minions had opened up with (The Numbers).

The PG animated film raked in over $260 million in domestic revenue and over $748 million in foreign revenue. The largest foreign market was China, raking in over $158 million, with Japan coming in second at over $61 million (Box Office Mojo).

Its strategic marketing also had a lot to do with its success. Bloomberg reported that Universal’s parent company, Comcast, and its partners spent a combined $593 million publicizing the film, with less than half going towards traditional TV and print ads. The Minions have truly taken over the market appearing on merchandise, Tic-Tac packages, Chiquita Bananas, iPhone cases, Twinkies, etc.

Another franchise that has done well outside of the U.S. is the Ice Age franchise, where more than 80% of its revenue comes from the foreign box office. In fact, the fifth installment bombed its U.S. opening but went on to succeed in the global market (The Numbers). Opposite of this foreign success, Finding Dory and The Secret Life of Pets both had stellar runs at the U.S. box office, where Finding Dory was able to gross over $782 million globally.

Feel free to respond with your own personal opinions on how the Minions and the Despicable Me franchise has continued to succeed over the past few years. Are you a fan? Or, are you surprised at how successful this animated franchise has become?

Link to the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euz-KBBfAAo

-Savannah Necker

Moana: Disney’s Venture into New Seas, You’re Welcome?

Moana is a Maori and Hawaiian word that roughly translates to “ocean, wide expanse of water, or deep sea.” (behindthename.com). Leave it to Disney to take this translation literally and produce a marketing campaign that was equally expansive and in a sense, deep.

MoanaMoana is Disney’s latest animated feature film to come out riding strong on the so called “Frozen wave” established with the release and success of Frozen in 2013. To ensure this success, the official trailer stated that Moana was “from the creators of Frozen” to provide a credible base for the film to stand on with viewers.

Disney used a variety of marketing tactics from the traditional to pushing the boundaries of what is new. The few that I will be discussing in this post are the traditional posters, trailers, and television spots along with the new Weather Channel backgrounds and full out vessel takeovers. Much like with Tangled, this campaign had a more boy-friendly feel to it. It was filled with more action clips than a more traditional Disney campaign would include.

Firstly, it would not be a marketing campaign without trailers and posters to constantly remind us that the movie is coming. Moana had several posters created to show off the main characters, the setting, and intrigue the audience about the plot line to be followed. In addition to this, a teaser and full official trailer were created to further intrigue audiences about the film.

The recent Olympics in Rio De Janeiro also gave Disney a unique opportunity for this campaign. What better time to advertise then when it’s quite possible the whole world could be watching? Granted it most likely aired in specific markets, but there were still high volumes of audiences. Thus, producing an extended promo was a good call on the part of Disney to ensure maximum exposure with relevant audiences.

Moving on now to the newer and more unique marketing strategies that Disney perused; starting with its frequent marketing partner, The Weather Company. What this company does is offer geotargeted promotions through its Weather Channel App. These appear in the form of branded backgrounds on the current weather screens of its users.

While other movies have used these branded backgrounds, such as The Penguins of Madagascar in 2014 produced by DreamWorks Animation, Moana was the first to use the new animated backgrounds. The backgrounds that users saw were based on the current weather conditions in their area. The branded backgrounds mimicked those conditions and subtly brought them to life.

There is one shortcoming that I can see with this campaign thus far; it was only available in select markets within the U.S. For a complete list of these cities and markets and more information about these branded backgrounds, click here.

One more element was incorporated within this app to appeal to the consumer desire for convenience. The app allowed users to purchase tickets to Moana at local theaters through a specialized website: Moanatickets.com.

A new adventure that Disney took on across the pond, in the UK, was turning an MBNA Thames Clippers’ catamaran into a Polynesian Wayfinder vessel. Thames Clippers provide river bus and cruise services on the Thames River in London. This was MBNA’s first partnership with Disney and with any company on a theatrical release for that matter. The goal was to immerse the customers in the movie and make them inclined to see it.

Perhaps saving their best promotional tool for last at the annual D23 Conference, Disney brought out the big guns to talk about the movie: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who voices Maui in the film. It may come as a surprise, but The Rock can sing ladies and gentlemen. If you haven’t heard his song yet, please watch it below. It will hook you and have you singing for a while. Which leads me to my next and final point.

Marketing and promotion for this film extends beyond everything done before the movie’s release date. Disney has several of its own official YouTube channels, one of which is called DisneyMusicVEVO. Often these channels contain the songs and most popular clips from the animated films.

This serves as a marketing tool in two ways: one to lure new viewers into the theaters by hearing about such songs either from word-of-mouth or by stumbling across the videos. Two to catch repeat viewers who see the video and realize how much they liked the movie and return to see it again.

Disney has produced an impressive campaign to market Moana to a diverse set of audiences, while also returning to its core demographic of young females as it is a female-centric film. Personally, I have not seen the film, but am intrigued to do so since “Your Welcome” has been playing on my computer for multiple weeks now. If you are curious as to how well this campaign translated into dollars for Disney on opening weekend, click here.

What are your thoughts about the movie in general? What aspects, if any, of this campaign drew you in to see the movie? Do you think that Disney went too far in its campaign by taking over a tourist vessel or was it simply a genius marketing move on their part? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Piper Davis

10 Cloverfield Lane: Infecting Fans with Viral Marketing

10 Cloverfield Lane and its predecessor, Cloverfield became cult favorites not only because of the films themselves, but in large part due to the mystery and speculation that accumulated around their respective viral marketing campaigns. Cloverfield of course wasn’t the first film to utilize viral marketing as a way of generating buzz (most people would likely point to The Blair Witch Project for that title), but it’s fair to say that the marketing for the original Cloverfield perfected the strategy.

The first teaser trailer for what would eventually be known as Cloverfield was shown in front of screenings of the first Transformers film. The trailer didn’t even include the title of the film, only a release date. From there, the mysterious journey began. Interested fans soon unearthed several websites connected to the release date and other details from the trailer (none of which can be linked to currently because most were running on an outdated version of flash which is no longer supported by almost all computers.)

Once these websites were discovered and decoded, word spread to various film blogs, news, and entertainment sites. The intrigue around this project grew and grew up until the day it was released. Eventually, the first Cloverfield was produced on a $25 Million budget, and made $170 Million at the box office worldwide.

The first teaser for 10 Cloverfield Lane was released during the super bowl in February of 2016, with a release date showing the film was going to come out only one month later. With its connection to the original Cloverfield, fans of the film knew there was more to the story. They unearthed an official full trailer as well as an electronic correspondence between two of the film’s characters. All of this immense detail was revealed without ruining anything regarding the plot of the film itself. 10 Cloverfield Lane went on to earn $108 Million at the box office on a $15 Million budget.

Utilizing a strategy of viral marketing on the first Cloverfield was an extremely risky move. Cloverfield wasn’t an established brand and had no recognition whatsoever. There was no guarantee viewers would find, or even be interested in finding, the secret websites set up to advertise the film, however both of these films were great successes. Why? J.J. Abrams famously describes his method of storytelling as the “mystery box” where the filmmaker keeps as many elements as secret as he or she can so as to amaze the audience when the mystery is finally revealed. Creating a campaign of viral marketing around a film or other piece of media made with this “mystery box” mentality brings viewers deeper into the mystery itself, often revealing more questions than answers. This makes viewers invested in the story and the film before it’s even released, virtually guaranteeing that their interest will translate into ticket sales.

Cloverfield

We’ve seen since the late 90s that viral marketing can be a great way to cheaply create buzz and excitement around a low budget film through word of mouth and free publicity. With its intricate and interconnected branches of its marketing strategy, Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield perfected the art of essentially spending as little money as possible for the greatest reward.

Olivia Guns

Nintendo is Switching Things Up: But How Effective is the Switch?

What’s all this commotion about a “Nintendo Switch?” If you live under a rock and haven’t heard yet, the Nintendo Switch is Nintendo’s new gaming console that is both a home console and portable gaming system hybrid, allowing gamers to play games in their homes and on the go.

“Nintendo’s innovative new console lives up to the hype,” according to many websites like Vice. And they’re not wrong. Just look at the first few minutes of Nintendo Switch’s Presentation Reveal! Can you feel all that hype through all those lights, sound and that countdown?

Why is there such a hype for Nintendo’s console in the first place? Nintendo is a strong brand and has a strong fan base. Nintendo has captured the hearts of many gamers from the Nintendo 64, to the Wii, along with many of their iconic IP characters such as Mario and Link. No wonder the Switch looks successful even before its official launch!

There were many rumors about the Nintendo Switch before the official reveal. While that could be bad for the company, one wonders if those leaks were intentional. It certainly helped enhance the already existing hype for the new console. And the rumors were very detailed, stating before any crucial information about the console was officially revealed that it would be a hybrid console.

While the Wii may have been a huge success for Nintendo, its advertising campaign…wasn’t that great. And don’t let me get started on its successor, the Wii U. Even the name of the console itself wasn’t the best.

Nintendo needed to switch things up. Which is why the Switch is so perfect. It’s innovative and what the consumers want! Plus, the product itself works well, many who have already gotten the chance to hold a Switch have stated that it just feels right.

The name itself is clever and works brilliantly. It’s catchy and tells the consumer what the product is all about: switching up the gameplay. Even their advertisement as well as the Switch short animation logo are quick, simple, effective & catchy. You won’t be able to have that little animation and click sound out of your head.

The Campaign Switch!

Nintendo SwitchThe Switch’s campaign itself was fairly simple. It started out with a system reveal trailer that clearly shows what this new gaming system is all about. However, it is missing commentary and other key information such as an official game lineup and release date. The missing information may have been also used to enhance the already high hype surrounding this console.

This trailer was followed a few months later by an official one hour long Nintendo Switch Presentation which aired and was streamed worldwide live. In it, Nintendo officials showed off and explained various features and games that will be coming out the Nintendo Switch.

Many ads were also released afterwards, as well as some airing during the key time frame for American audiences: The Super bowl. Nintendo also uses a lot of social media, especially twitter to let their fans know when and how new information about the new console will be released.

The ads themselves are also well done. They aren’t too confusing, showing what the product is and its potential.

Switch up the timeline?

The most confusing aspect of Switch’s campaign, is it timeline. Why all the wait? Why was the NX (Nintendo’s Switch working title) not revealed at E3 (a summer gaming convention, known for its gaming consoles and games reveals)? Why was the Switch revealed by a short trailer with no commentary and followed with no new information for months until the presentation?

While many people argue that this is a failure of the Switch’s campaign, I see more potential in its reasoning behind it. I believe this timeline was intentional to add even more hype to the console. Since the console was surrounded by a lot of mystery and many fans, this wait made them even more excited and curious for this console. Even when rumors started surfacing that Nintendo wasn’t going to be able to make a console by March 2017 (since there was no new information regarding the console officially from Nintendo for a long time) and that the NX was already dead, everyone was getting their wallets out, excitingly waiting for any new information they could get. Carefully teasing, one by one its fans, Nintendo found a new and innovate way to hype up their new product before its launch!

The Overall Switch?

Overall the Nintendo Switch has a very effective campaign. The product itself works, its ads are simple and clear and the console is living off its hype. What about you? What do you think? Are you excited for Nintendo’s new console? Do you plan on getting it on its release, March 3 2017? Do you plan on getting it in the future? Do you think it will succeed or is it getting to much hype and will come crashing down as a disappointment?

Clara Tosi