Category Archives: Media Distribution

The Battle for the Cinema: Who has the Best Superheroes?

When you compare superhero franchises, it is safe to say that Marvel is currently the clear winner, but why? DC has been making movies for the same amount of time, but Marvel seems to only get bigger and bigger even as DC struggles.

SuperheroesDC and Marvel both are in the same genre, but both take their movies in different directions. In recent years DC has made most of their movies kind of dark in tone and theme. More of a realism, that your actions have consequences, and they kind of focus on the adult audience. Marvel, on the other hand, has tailored their movies with more of a lighter tone and they have more humor in them. They are movies that anyone can really grow to like, from young children to older audiences.

DC tried their own take on making their funny movie with the 2016 release of Suicide Squad, but the movie did not live up to the hype. You could not go anywhere without hearing the songs for the movie, or seeing a trailer for it. Another movie that came out around that time that was Marvel’s release of Guardians of the Galaxy. Not much was know about Guardians when it was released, but it grew quite a following. Both Suicide Squad and Guardians ended up about doing the same at the box office, but with Guardians doing a bit better.

SuperheroesAnother good pair of competing movies was DC’s Man of Steel vs Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World. Both of these movies came out the same year. The Superman movie was supposed to launch a new franchise, but the film did not do as well as hoped. The Thor movie did just roughly the same number, even though Thor is easily not the most popular of the Avengers.

Marvel has also done an incredible job in bringing all of their shows and movies together. All the shows that are owned by Disney are in the same universe as the movies. After the first Avenger movie, Marvel and ABC created the show Marvel Agents of Shield which took one of the characters from the movie and brought the show around him and Shield. This gave fans a way to keep their love of Marvel in check while they made new movies. They even had a cameo of Samuel L Jackson play Nick Fury at one point. If you want to learn more about it, you can find it here.

SuperheroesCompare it to DC where they have a flourishing TV shows like Supergirl, The Flash, and Arrow. Instead of bringing The Flash from the TV show to play in the movie, they hired someone else to play Barry Allen and never really gave the TV show actor a chance. This gives fans two different DC universes to like instead of one as a whole. Some fans may like one better than the other and might not support the other

I personally hope that DC does become more popular and will be able to compete at the same level with Marvel. Marvel is on it way out with some characters due to contracts and you don’t want to just exhaust a character.

-Joey Linder

Unlocking Disney’s Vault: Saving the Classics for the Next Generation

“Time is running out!

Soon your favorite Disney movie will be placed back into the Disney vault FOREVER!”

DisneyWell no, not really! Forever is a very strong word, and luckily Disney is smart enough to realize that permanent disappearance isn’t a great marketing strategy. If Disney actually locked films away to never be seen again, it would defeat the entire purpose of the vault, which was created so that its films would not be forgotten!

But why exactly did the vault strategy start? Well it all started with Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Snow White was released in 1937, and became a huge hit. Because of its popularity, Disney re-released the film seven years later in 1944. One needs to remember that in the 1940’s, there was no VHS’s, no DVDs, and no online streaming. If you missed the film in theaters, you might never get to see it again. By re-releasing it in theaters seven years later, a whole new, younger generation of children were exposed to Snow White all over again. Because the re-release was wildly successful, and a dependent source of revenue for Disney during war time, they continued the practice of opening the vault for many years to come.

With the 1980’s came the VCR, and with it, the opportunity for a marketing change. Releasing a film to VHS sales was a bit of a risk, and the first movie to be sold was Pinocchio. Though Disney was worried people would only buy the tape once and would pass it down, many people bought and kept their own and Disney decided to continue to release films from the vault not through theatres, but onto VHS tapes. This Vulture article talks more about Disney’s struggle to decide whether or not to release onto VHS.

The brilliance behind the vault-release strategy is the ability to avoid the cheapening of videos as time goes on. Normally, the longer a video is out on store shelves, the more the price drops. By Disney choosing to “lock up” and release from the vault every 7-10 years (per movie), Disney can charge full price for an older film!

Though making money is an important part of the vault strategy, it is not the only thing Disney is focused on. In order to maintain its popularity as time goes on, Disney realized they needed to find a way to stay relevant as new generations were born and previous generations aged. Besides continuing to create new content, they needed to find a way to keep older films recognizable to the new generations as well. The vault strategy has allowed them to do this, by re-releasing films to newer younger generations who had not been exposed to the films in previous years. This E! News article explains the generational strategy of the vault a bit further.

DisneyBut what does it take for a film to be allowed into the vault? Though there are no set criteria, generally there are no live action films, no Pixar films (with the exception of Toy Story 1 & 2). Some sequels are allowed in the vault, but not all of them.

As time goes on, Disney may have to rethink its strategy for releasing films from the vault as more and more movies become available for streaming. This should not be a problem for Disney, based on their history of changing from theatrical film to VHS tapes, to DVD/BluRay rather seamlessly. For a more extensive look at the vaults history and the entire list of films in the vault, check out this Disney fandom article.

-Madison Steffen

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

Research says no. Yet, scripts say yes.

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.

This post is not suggesting a demise of male-led films, it only hopes to persuade the idea of leveling 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 listen to it.

-Laney Kraus-Taddeo

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

Virtual Reality: The Distribution Dilemma

We’ve all heard it before, “content is king.” However, without an effective means of distribution, even the best content could fall short of its potential within its respective market. In this blog post, I will explore the current state of the virtual reality (VR) industry, the two main distribution problems it has, and one company that thinks it has a solution to these problems.

virtual realityThe Current State of the Virtual Reality Industry: If you have been on Facebook within the last year then you’ve probably noticed the recent trend in the amount of 360 degree videos distributed online. 360 video allows the viewer to choose their own journey, as these videos are created with smartphones in mind, allowing for the user to watch the video on a device they already own. Although 360 video is an early form of immersive video, a truly immersive experience will come with VR.

VR can be defined as an environment, either one that currently exists which is simulated or one that is created from scratch, that can be explored by a person with proper VR equipment. Some of the equipment needed can be as simple as a smartphone that is mounted in front of a person’s eyes via cardboard (Google Cardboard). However, in order to create a more immersive VR experience, the VR industry is making a push towards head mounted displays, or HMDs.

Some of the more popular HMDs created recently are the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive which both allow you to consume VR content with the intended effect of being extremely immersive. There is no doubt we have the technology, but much like the current situation of 4K television content, we are missing an effective and efficient distribution method to consume this VR content.

 The Distribution Problem: The problem with VR comes with its distribution and getting the content to work on all of the different VR platforms and devices. First, the bandwidth needed to consume VR content smoothly is fairly significant and creates problems for large files. Because of this large amount of bandwidth needed, VR content creators are forced to give up quality in order to make the files more manageable which results in heavy compression.

Another problem that emerges when trying to distribute VR content is transcoding and making the content viewable on many different VR devices. Before we had the two major smartphone operating systems (iOS and Android), we had a similar problem of guaranteeing applications to work on multiple devices (forcing developers to choose one platform over the other). Although these two problems are major obstacles for VR content creators, there are still companies looking to solve these issues. This is where Jaunt comes in.

virtual reality jauntThe Distribution Solution: Jaunt is a cinematic VR start up that gained major attention after Disney invested in them in September of 2015. Since then, many employees from Disney owned production company, Lucasfilm, have joined Jaunt’s team to expand their presence in the VR industry. Why does this matter? Jaunt is looking to solve the distribution problem the VR industry has by creating a way to consume VR content via their website and a mobile application full of curated content from many content creators in a way that is efficient in terms of bandwidth.

virtual reality contentJaunt’s website and mobile application not only provide a way for people to access high quality, cinematic VR content, but it also allows them to view the content on many different VR devices. Jaunt is able to transcode their VR content in order to guarantee that it will work on the majority of VR devices that consumers currently own.

After looking at the problems with VR distribution and Jaunt’s attempt at addressing these issues, it is easy to see that we are still in the early stages of VR, but we’re not too far away from VR becoming a common way to consumer many types of media.

What do you think? Once VR content can be easily distributed and consumed, would you buy a HMD? Also, what are some of the other ways you can see VR technology being used in the future?

-Kyle Stoutenberg

Social Media Live

Your 6:00pm local news is no longer your only source of live content. Over the past two years, we’ve seen network news companies go live on Facebook, the NFL stream live its first game on Twitter, and people from around the world, famous or your average cat lover, stream live on Periscope.

social media facebook live“Going Live” on social media is the new sexy thing. People will stream anything and everything to grow their social media audience, to inform the general public, and to simply say “hello”. We’ll look at who’s using Facebook, Twitter, and Periscope, what Facebook has done to promote its Facebook Live and how Twitter is changing the streaming game, and how it could be utilized in the future.

social media twitter   social media periscope   social media facebook

To understand why going live on social media is popular, we need to know three things, who is on Facebook, Twitter, and Periscope, what the potential reach of people is, and which one is most effective. Facebook has the most users of the internet on the site.

As of August 2015, Facebook had 72% of the Internet users using its site. 77% of the women on the Internet use Facebook compared to men. 82% of people 18 to 29 years of age use Facebook. Twitter has 23% of the Internet users using its site. 25% of male Internet users use Twitter compared to 21% of women Internet users. Periscope has only 1% of Internet users and 71% of men post Periscope URL’s.

Clearly Facebook has the larger reach and even though Twitter owns Periscope, their reach doesn’t even come close to Facebook’s. We can see that with the percentage of Internet users that Facebook has, they clearly have deep enough pockets to pay high profile people and organizations to user their latest feature, Facebook Live.

After 2015, Facebook’s revenue increased 40% and they made $18 billion in advertising and they are on a steady pace to do well in 2016. They have the money to pay people to play with their new toys. Facebook was a little late to the social media live party. They launched Facebook Live on April 9th of 2016 and Pericope was launched back in 2015.

But how has Facebook Live brought this whole social media live to the forefront of social media culture? They paid a lot, and I mean a lot, of people and organizations to do so. Facebook made a deal with ABC to Facebook Live 74 hours of the RNC and DNC during the 2016 Presidential race which delivered 28 million views, but with no dollars attached.

social media rnc dnc liveIt’s tough to make money off of Facebook Live because it has no ad support or ways to advertise. But Facebook is all about getting its new things in front of people. Facebook has spent over $50 million with almost 140 different video creators to use Facebook Live. The graph below shows how much they’ve spent on who.

social media live contentI know it seems like Facebook is doing everything with the new live technology, but Twitter has signed a deal with an organization who owns a full day, the NFL. This year, Twitter signed a deal with the NFL to live stream 10 Thursday Night Football games during the 2016 season. Twitter had to pay a hefty sum of $10 million and could only sell some of their ad inventory exclusively but Twitter has attracted quite the audience, especially for the first game of the 2016 season.

On average, every minute of the game had about 243,000 people watching the Twitter stream. On the television side, 15.4 million people were watching on CBS and the NFL Network. Twitter’s first live stream of the game reach 2.1 million people who watched only a small portion of the game. Even though Twitter has only 23% of Internet users, 2.1 million people being reached due to a Thursday Night Football game made some people perk their ears which can really start changing the live streaming game.

What can live streaming on social media do for the future? If you think about it, it can really change the game of advertising and can be a way to promote concerts and events, businesses, or inform the general public easier. It’s cheap to stream live on social medias. If you have a phone and enough storage space to download Twitter, Facebook, or Periscope app, you too can stream live. You don’t need a television tower, big expensive equipment, a vehicle, or anything that it normally takes to do a live television broadcast.

Social media reaches so many people around the world you can reach anyone, anywhere, at any time by simply going live. But how is it going to affect the distribution of content? I don’t think it will change much. It’s a new way to distribute content but not a way to replace a current way of distributing content. We still have people who are making those fun live stream cat videos and that means one thing, it’s a social media tool more than broadcast tool, right now.

Where do you see social media livestreaming in the near and distant future going forward? Do you follow pages on Twitter, Facebook, and/or Periscope for live information consistently? What other ways can social media livestreams profit besides ads? Comment below!

Connor Kenney

The SEC and CBS: The Crimson Tide Brings in More Than Just National Championships

It’s a crisp Saturday morning in October. The air in Tuscaloosa, Alabama is filled with thick, alluring barbecue smoke. It is game day, and the number one ranked Alabama Crimson Tide are poised for yet another victory. This is a typical Saturday not only in Tuscaloosa, but for the Southeastern Conference (SEC) as a whole. People take SEC football seriously down there, and it shows in more ways than one. Consistent victory is an expectation of SEC teams, sure. But take a look behind the curtains, and we’ll see a different level of dominance.

SEC games are in high demand for sports fans, so who’s the lucky sonofabitch distributor that gets to provide it? CBS has had a tight wrap on SEC content for two decades, and they very much intend to keep it that way.

sec cbsSince 1996, CBS has been the main television partner for the SEC. While other networks have rights to distribute SEC content, CBS gets a “first dibs” of sorts. For example, CBS airs all weekly in-conference games and out of conference games where the SEC team is the home team. If the particular game in question does not meet either of these two stipulations, the ESPN Family of Networks has the broadcast rights.

Despite having the rights to broadcast great football, CBS is not without its competition from the environment. We are living in a period of great change, and while the NFL is feeling the negative effects of this change, Southeastern Conference games are enjoying a steady increase in viewership. But why?

It all comes down to Saturday.

All college football is played on Saturdays. The reasoning for this is that since no NFL games are on Saturdays but rather Thursdays, Sundays and Mondays, the two will not have to compete for what is mostly a shared audience. Saturdays are also the most optimal days for the student athletes to participate in both their academics and sport effectively.

This formula has worked well in the past, but a new social climate is beginning to steal viewership away from football, NFL primetime games especially.

Take for instance any of the seven games of the 2016 World Series. ALL seven games outperformed the last month of NFL primetime games. In fact, game seven was the most watched baseball game of the last decade and a half, garnering a massive 25.2 rating.

NFL primetime games also had to compete with two of the three presidential debates, which of course did not pan out well for them.

So why through all of this environmental turmoil can the SEC on CBS stay afloat? I may be biased, but I firmly believe the Alabama Crimson Tide has a strong pull that cannot be ignored.

sec crimson tideIn fact, if we were to take the top ten most watched SEC on CBS games, seven of them featured Alabama, whether they won or lost.

sec games

While CBS has “first dibs” status on all in-conference SEC games, their contract stipulates that they can only broadcast five games of one particular team per season. Guess which team they maxed out on for both the 2014 and 2015 seasons? CBS even paid ESPN a premium to allow them to broadcast a sixth Alabama game in 2015, being the much hyped in state rivalry game, the Iron Bowl.

While the numbers speak for themselves, I highly recommend you turn on your television and watch Alabama play football. They have the ability to inspire much more than national championships.

-Cal Gruening