Tag Archives: Film

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

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

…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