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.
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 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).
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.
- 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
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.
- 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.