Tag Archives: Film

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

Advanced Tech and the Rise of Indie Film Quality

movie film strip

High quality video production technology for storytelling has never been more accessible. Nowadays, you can create beautiful pieces simply using a smartphone. If you want to get even fancier than that, the barrier to entry for high quality video production, namely price, has dramatically decreased.

red digital cinema  gopro

Those in the industry know that companies like Arri and RED have ruled the high definition video production scene with 2k-8k cameras. These cameras cost upwards of $20k. In addition to that their operators use stabilizer rigs and drones to get amazing cinematic shots which add to the production value and cost even more.

On the other end of the spectrum, GoPro just announced some new gear that does all of that for $1,100 and fits neatly in a backpack. Plus, many consumer DSLRs and mirrorless cameras now shoot in 4k and do it for around $3k or less which is far easier on the wallet than that Epic RED Dragon people keep raving about.

Another thing any indie-filmmaking-baller-on-a-budget has going for them is the ease of access to incredible resources for knowledge. NoFilmSchool, CreativeLive, and VideoCopilot are just a few of those great resources. When you pair the lower cost of high quality gear with the ability to learn the do’s and don’ts of filmmaking from anywhere with an internet connection, you have the opportunity to create some very high quality content.

Does this sound like the perfect storm for discovering the next Quentin Tarantino or just a sign that cat videos will have higher production value?

tarantino

Amazon and Netflix have taken notice of this trend and have been acquiring the streaming rights to many indie films at various film festivals. This is a good strategy to hedge their bets against the possibility of major studios and TV stations pulling their content as tv ratings decline and more consumers cut their cable cord. It has created an opportunity for indie filmmakers to gain global distribution for their work through these two corporate giants, which in turn gives the giants great diversity of content to drive subscriptions. It’s a win/win. Sounds great, right?

amazon netflix

As the saying goes, anything worth having doesn’t come easily. One of the biggest obstacles with any indie film project is funding. While this decrease in price of high quality video production equipment helps immensely, there are many other costs involved. For example, talent can be fairly expensive depending on the actor. A well-known actor with solid performance will come at a premium while an unknown will be a risk but cost much less. Let’s face it, the audience will not care if the film was shot in 4k if the acting is shit.

Many filmmakers, photographers, and creative storytellers will tell you that the best camera is the one you have with you. While I agree with this statement, I cannot deny the positive impact new technology has had on the production quality of creative work. It’s refreshing to see that high quality is no longer exclusively paired with the big six studios and that sometimes even the big six use gear typically aimed at the average joe.

The barrier of entry into indie filmmaking may have decreased with inexpensive gear and copious knowledge of technique online, but the aspiring indie filmmaker now faces a new problem. There’s a plethora of people producing films with high quality video. With that in mind, how does anyone stand out?

One of my favorite indie short films is Uncanny Valley. Yes it has amazing special effects but the more compelling part of this film is the story. It tackles a concept that is relevant, thought-provoking, and original. Hollywood blockbusters have been rehashing ideas for years now, so this was a very welcome retreat from that.

uncanny valley

That is the answer to my question. Original ideas stand out. But that’s just part of the answer. The other part is development. Original ideas that have been developed from pre-production to distribution are unstoppable. I believe this trend in technology and creativity will all lead to more original content being fully developed and produced at a very high quality. And I am very excited for that.

Devin Harschnek

Sausage Party: Another Step in America’s Global Entertainment Conquest

Sausage Party has been experiencing an unexpected wave of success. This wouldn’t be noteworthy, except the movie is an R-rated animated comedy. The key word being animated. Its success could be the spark needed to ignite a new era in American entertainment: the era of animated movies made for adults.

sausage-party

Trailer

Sausage Party is an interesting movie. The heroic journey of a sausage who falls in love with a bun catches one’s attention. This kind of movie would never have been produced had it not been for animation. It was animated because it was the best option; however, no studio wanted to touch it with a ten-foot pole.

Why?

south-park-bigger-longer-uncutFrom what I have seen, the biggest reason centers around the past performances of adult animated movies. The most notable one being the South Park movie. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, was released in 1999 and was successful.

Notice anything wrong with that sentence?

It was successful, but there were almost two decades between it and Sausage Party. Between the two, there hasn’t been any successful R-rated animated movie. The movie Hell and Back performed poorly, Anomolisa was praised by critics, but it bombed at the box office.

The South Park movie did well because it already had an established audience, with a TV show that is still going strong in its 20th season.

The other adult animated movies did not have an established audience and suffered because of it. I would say that’s because the animated movies were not good movies, but Hollywood sees something common among them. They were all animated movies that targeted adults.

Hollywood sees how well Disney and Pixar do with animated movies aimed at kids and then assumes an animated movie past the PG rating won’t do well. Sausage Party came along and proved that to be untrue.

If Hollywood needs further proof, then they can look at any of the long running animated series geared towards adults. South Park, Family Guy, or the Simpsons are shining examples. All three have been running longer than many popular live action series. It’s not hard to see that animation can be successful in more than kid’s movies.

If Hollywood is nervous about the overseas market, then they shouldn’t be. The Anime industry has effectively captured the world’s attention by not solely targeting children.

Anime is a massive worldwide entertainment industry. It reaches about 87.2% of the world’s population and is one of Japan’s largest exports. Some anime is meant for kids, with Studio Ghibli creating kid-friendly and more serious movies. But the majority of Anime is targeted at teens and adults. Anime contains a multitude of genres that appeal to a variety of audiences around the world. But America has yet to hop on the adult animation train.

studio-ghibliI personally hope America gets on the animation train as soon as they can. Sausage Party is a great start, but I hope some other movies come out soon. I love the artistic freedom animation gives directors. Hopefully they will love it too.

Disney and Pixar already make great animated movies and enjoy the freedom it gives them. Sausage Party is a bastion of hope for animation. It’s an R-rated animated movie made by an American studio. That’s something fresh and I like it.

There’s still a plethora of questions to be answered. Will R-rated animation catch on if ever in America? Or will it always stay kid friendly? Are people ready to see more animated movies for adults? What other reasons would keep American studios away from animation aimed at adults?

Only time will tell, but I have hope for the future of American animation.

Sam King

From Small Town to Tinsel Town: How Does the NAB Show Help Students Achieve Their Career Goals?

As part of the Digital Media Leadership program at the University of Northern Iowa, some of us are fortunate enough to be able to attend the National Association of Broadcasters Show (NAB) in Las Vegas. The addition of a set of sessions called “Post Production World University”, the 2016 NAB Show has placed a special emphasis on young professionals and the association’s desire to help them succeed. But does attending the NAB Show actually help students succeed in their careers? We think it does.

NAB Show PanelThe media industry is constantly evolving and upgrading. At the University of Northern Iowa we have access to multiple editing platforms and HD cameras. This practical experience is incredibly valuable, but having the opportunity to talk and meet with current media professionals and get advice for college students and recent graduates about the media world is something far beyond what we can expect from our day to day work in the traditional classroom setting. The ability to learn from masters of their craft and other currently successful members of the industry-this is what students gain at the NAB Show.

Whether a student plans on pursuing production, distribution, marketing, or any other career in the media industry, they will be able to find useful information at the NAB Show. While the sessions aimed at young professionals are designated as part of a “Post Production” conference, topics like “10 Rookie Portfolio Mistakes to Avoid” and “Understanding Intellectual Property” are vital to success in the media industry. The NAB Show is also a tremendous source of inspiration for those of us who are just breaking into the industry. Seeing successful creatives tell their stories, share their techniques, and give advice offers students who attend a leg up on other young professionals by learning certain tricks and tools of the trade at the conference rather than picking them up on the job.

NAB GoPro Booth   Canon Exhibit NAB Show

Personally, we are very excited to talk with individuals who work on large Hollywood films and ask them their advice for young professionals. Coming from a small state with few ties to Hollywood, other than being the birthplace of John Wayne, we plan to ask the speakers at these sessions what specific steps they took on their career path that led them to where they are and if they would recommend we try to follow a similar path. We hope to learn not only tips on how to be successful in the world of big-budget filmmaking, but also advice on what not to do or mistakes to avoid making.

It’s plain to see that students have a lot to gain from attending the NAB Show, especially students with ambitious career goals. Giving us the opportunity to attend the conference is just one of the ways that UNI is making our personal goals achievable.

Carly Beisel, Mackenzi Brophy, Olivia Guns