Tag Archives: Film

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

Ryan Helps FOX Fix Their F**k Up: The Marketing of Deadpool

It all started with a clip of test footage. In 2011, the fully 3D animated video was leaked online and received massive attention. Of course, it starred the infamous Deadpool, cracking a few jokes and murdering a few bad guys. Fans realized this was definite proof of FOX debating whether or not to make a feature film for the “merc with a mouth.” Finally, after a few years of support and fans climbing up FOX’s ass about the idea, they made their decision.

From the beginning Ryan Reynolds was the man destined to play Deadpool on the big screen. Eventually, the director was announced to be Tim Miller. Of course, Reynolds had portrayed a version of the character before, in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but it didn’t exactly become a fan favorite character. Actually, Reynolds has stated that it was the lowest point in his career. This of course, became Reynolds drive to reinvent the on-screen character that both he, and the fans, wanted.

Eventually the release date, February 12, 2016, was announced, and soon after, the eventually beloved advertising campaign began. Primarily focused around TV spots and online videos, Reynolds and Miller set out to utilize Deadpool’s most unique trait in promoting the film. This, of course, being his tendency to break the “fourth wall,” talking to the audience and constantly throwing around references from the real world. This strategy provided the filmmakers with a very powerful means to entertain their audience, even months before the movie was in theaters.

The first video they created was simply a “trailer trailer,” or a very short video, advertising the release of the full-length trailer. It featured Deadpool, using a deep, narrator-esque voice while sitting in a leather chair smoking a pipe. He addressed the audience, simply informing them of the soon-to-be, full-length trailer.

Aside from the countless, typical trailers released all over the globe, anticipating fans were giving something a little more outreaching. Leading up to the film’s release, FOX produced a couple of “international” advertisements with Reynolds. One consisted of him merely discussing the concept of “Australia Day,” while jabbing viewers with a couple stereotypical Australian jokes, overlaid with a decent Australian accent. Another took place at some sort of Mexican festival, with Deadpool running around frantically, most likely saying some funny shit in Spanish.

A more peculiar addition to the campaign was a pair of PSAs, starring Deadpool of course. In one, he goes on to explain to men how to check their testicles for signs of testicular cancer. In another, Deadpool hands the mic to a female narrator, who explains to women how to check their breasts for signs of breast cancer. This was quite a peculiar way to advertise their product, but it was entertaining and quite hilarious at times.

Whether it was through breaking the fourth wall, breaking international borders, or breaking social norms by telling people to feel themselves up for safety, the creators behind the marketing for this film did a magnificent and entertaining job. The film ended up becoming the second highest grossing, rated-R, film of all time (as of 2016). And was all-around well-received by both fans and critics.

-Josh Comer

 

Why We Went “La La” for La La Land

What made La La Land so successful? Was it the star power of Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone and John Legend? Could it have been the amazing music? Perhaps it was the plot and storyline? As it turns out, it was probably all three.

la la land

It seems that Director Damien Chazelle took note in recognizing that “everyone loves a classic” and took the classical route the whole way, including in La La Land’s marketing plans. While Lionsgate still utilized all advertising platforms expected of movies these days, La La Land did it in a way reminiscent of years ago, nodding to classic film aspects that La La Land references. The quality of the posters speak for themselves:

Of course, it would have been quite the impressive fail had the star power of Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone and John Legend not brought the views in as well. For Chazelle to be lucky enough that Gosling and Stone had wonderful chemistry on set was the cherry on top: La La Land would be a hit.

La La Land was a hit of course, with the combined help of stars, posters, and trailer releases that did great, coming second only to Lion on Facebook likes/followers and official trailer views in the Academy Awards Social Media Competition, and ranking first on YouTube trailer comment growth with flying colors.  (See Here for more of Fanbridge’s charts) To add to their social media success, they also had ranked number one on Instagram follower growth.

A few well-known YouTube stars such as Dodie Clarke and Jon Cozart helped La La Land and shared their own talents with the world with a cover of the hit song “City of Stars” on YouTube.

The hits don’t stop on social media, as the soundtrack took Austin Texas by storm; so much so, that FonsPR decided to re-create “A Lovely Night” dance sequence in honor of the film.

While star power, music, posters and social media are all great for La La Land, it is surely the plot that carries the film full circle. The film was not marketed as a regular modern romance, because it simply wouldn’t have reflected the feel of the film. How perfect that the marketing campaign mimicked that of a 1950’s Hollywood musical! Rather than marketing it as a romance, they focused on the musical theatre element, which brings a comeback sense of nostalgia. What audience doesn’t love to reminisce?

As stated before, they did not ignore social media, however they had to play this strategically since it was marketed similarly to that of an older film. They did this by keeping the posters, pictures and video under the nostalgic lens, keeping the older-film feel (even if it was viewed online). Though difficult, they played this successfully as La La Land quickly became one of the most talked about films online.

The film was initially released in early December, primed for awards season. La La Land doubled its screens (to 1500) the weekend that it won 7 Golden Globe awards. Due to its success, celebrities and press coverage gave La La Land some well-deserved recognition, adding to its success. See here for more details.

The marketing campaign did not end after the release date. While La La Land may have gotten a “Love it or Hate it” response, everyone can agree that such response certainly got people talking. So much so in fact, that Jimmy Fallon parodied the opening scene of La La Land to the opening  of the golden globes. To read more about La La Land’s campaign, see here.

While the film may not be for everyone, there is almost always something that can be found to reach everyone’s liking. Whether it is the actors who brought the public in, the music, the romance or even the vibrant colors, La La Land is a film that won’t be forgotten any time soon.

What were your first impressions of La La Land? Do you think La La Land’s different approach to marketing was effective?

Madison Steffen

Nostalgia: The Secret Ingredient of American Pie

Nostalgia is a Greek word that means, “Pain from an old wound”, and although our American culture has shifted the meaning of the word to a more positive connotation, the pervasiveness of the idea in our culture is influenced by darker underpinnings of things that all of us share. We all want to go back, we all want to be kids again, we all want to share a warm hand on a cool fall day and not worry about the election, ISIS, and the inevitable heat-death of the universe.

nostalgiaThe easiest way to reflect on a simpler time is to let our entertainment do it for us, and certainly the movie landscape of the past five years has done just that. Year after year, the most popular movies are reboots, remakes or sequels of features that came out years ago. The prodigal son of this particular phenomenon is Star Wars, which has, not unlike its main antagonist, been revived from being a burning corpse on the lips of a volcano and resuscitated into a robotic, sterile, and lifeless version of its former self.

nostalgiaEight out of ten movies from 2015 were sequels, remakes, reboots or adaptations from another medium. Comic-book movies dominate, but Star Wars, Jurassic World, Fast & Furious 7, and a Cinderella remake all made the list as well.  This shows tremendous risk averseness and lack of creativity by the major studios. Currently, major tentpole blockbuster releases are the big money-makers, and studios can only afford to put out a handful of these a year, and it helps them fund smaller, independent films (usually under a different studio label). But it seems like studios are missing out on something.

Most of the movies that subsequently produced giant franchises (with spin-offs, merchandising opportunities and fan clubs) started out as films with a medium-sized budget. They were fun, creative, and weren’t afraid to take chances, much like the independent films of today, but they weren’t so small-scale that a silver screen treatment didn’t really do them justice. Who cares if the latest Woody Allen movie is playing in your local theater, watching it at home on your 50-inch display is going to be very much the same experience. 90% of the appeal of the original Blade Runner is seeing it on a huge screen, with the fantastic Vangelis soundtrack filling the giant Dolby 7.1 system. Much of that is lost at home.

Films like Star Wars would never be greenlit in the high stakes environment we find ourselves in today. How are we going to find the next big thing if studios aren’t willing to take a risk on a middle budget thing every once in a while? That’s where the big hits come from. A movie with a $200m budget has to be so focused tested to make sure that it isn’t a failure that by the end you’ve cooked anything that was still alive out of the movie. Sure the new Star Wars looked and sounded like Star Wars, but it was like a Ken doll. At first glance, it’s got arms and legs and hair and a face…but it’s missing the essential element.

nostalgiaBeyond the realm of movies though, this obsession with nostalgia and looking toward the past is influencing our culture in a larger way. The 2016 election has come down to the two most unpopular candidates in the history of American politics, and both of them are throwbacks to varying degrees of time. Clinton has the name recognition of her husband, and Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again” is lifted from an identical Reagan/Bush campaign from the 1980s. I’m absolutely convinced that, while there are many reasons to find Trump (and Hillary for that matter) despicable, there are just as many reasons to understand where a voter may be coming from when voting for him. They are scared at the world changing around them, and their way of life that they’ve known for the better part of seventy years now is eroding. Their defense mechanisms are coming online, and it’s the exact same mechanism that guides us all to the box office when the new Star Wars eventually comes out.

There’s an episode of the Twilight Zone called “Walking Distance”, about a man who gets burned out, and stumbles back into the past, to his childhood hometown. I’d like to end with the closing monologue

Martin Sloan, Age 36, Vice-President of media. Successful in most things but not in the one effort that all men try at some time in their lives. Trying to go home again. And also like all men, perhaps there will be an occasion, maybe a summer night sometime when he’ll look up from what he’s doing and listen to the distant music of a calliope and hear the voices and the laughter of the people and the places of his past. And perhaps across his mind there wil flit a little errant wish that a man might not have to become old, never outgrowing the parks and the merry-go-rounds of his youth. And he’ll smile then too because he’ll know it is just an errant little wish…some wisp of memory not too important really, some laughing ghost that crosses a man’s mind.”

Sam Strajack