Thursday, March 26, 2015

Franchising: the curious case of WT's Cornetto Trilogy

- A look at what we mean by franchising, with examples from Working Title
- The concept of hybridity, and why producers and distributors combine genres
- The example of the Corentto Trilogy (for both hybridity and franchising): the budgets, box office, trailers + links for each
- Analysis of how these might reflect WT's production strategies:
-  strong long-term creative relationships
- emphasis on popular genres; hybridity
- 15-ratings
- franchising
- intertextual references (postmodernism) 
- star strategy
- narrow representation of Britain?
- enviable international distribution ... lost?
- closing WT2: whither the WT low-budget films? 

Franchising, alongside the tentpole strategy (itself rendering four quadrant audience targeting virtually mandatory for would-be blockbusters), has become a predominant model for film producers, one encouraged by distributors looking for easy-to-market titles with built-in recognition and existing audiences, and exhibitors looking to reduce the element of gambling involved in selecting titles for their busy multiplexes.
This post will consider the Cornetto Trilogy...
The big story for the past decade, building on the Michael Bay template of CGI spectaculars, with narrative of secondary concern, has been the seemingly endless line of Marvel and DC Comics superhero comic book adaptations, with 2013 no exception and no sign of any let up in this flow. There are some who loudly decry this trend (eg), notably Alan Moore. If not these then other sci-fi/fantasy epics, from Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter and now The Hunger Games and The Hobbit, alongside animated titles such as Shrek, Toy Story and Monsters Inc, have formed the cinema diet for the bulk of the movie audience, with some horror, comedy and rom-com hits breaking through and an occasional straight or period/costume drama. Split sequels with single book adaptations running to two films is another growing trend.
Indie report on the 2013 UK top ten
Of the 2013 UK box office top ten, only 3 weren't part of a franchise - and the past tense is significant as The Croods will definitely and Frozen ('original' but based on Hans Christian Andersen's Snow Queen) will most likely have sequels:
Iger [Disney CEO] also revealed to Fortune that a stage version of the film, which features voice overs from Broadway stars Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad, is currently under discussion at the House of Mouse ....
In addition, movie audiences may soon be treated to a sequel of the Nordic-themed saga, following strong sales of licensed toys based on the film.[]
The Croods received generally positive reviews, and proved to be a box office success, earning more than $587 million on a budget of $135 million,[4] and launching a new franchise, with a sequel and TV series already put in development.[9] [Wiki]

Monday, March 23, 2015

WT's relationship with NBC-Universal reduced to first look

UPDATE, MARCH 2015: Seems apparent that this has severely dented WT's ambitions; they'll now have to be smarter and try to create hits (it seems) with sub-$20m budgets, a long way from the tentpole level of Green Zone: About Time ($15m), Theory of Everything ($12m) - the Oscar bait strategy of the latter (with top class production values) has worked well.
I might later consolidate several past posts on this, but for now: WT has an ongoing production deal with Universal running to 2015 (the arrangement was due to end in 2013). Signed in April 2012, the new deal sees a significant change which gives WT back some of the freedom they lost when initially hooking up with Hollywood majors back in 1992 (Polygram, who sold out to Universal in 1999), but means they're not so sure of getting distribution for WT productions in future:
Universal Pictures has re-upped Working Title Films partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner through 2015. This comes after the studio re-upped Imagine Entertainment in January, keeping the studio’s most tenured production companies in the fold. Like Universal chairman Adam Fogelson and co-chairman Donna Langley did with Imagine, Working Title’s deal has been scaled back; instead of exclusive, it is now a first-look deal. The Working Title pact was due to expire next year. Working Title’s films at the studio have grossed $4.25 billion since they began with Universal in 1999, and Bevan and Fellner bring a British sensibility and a supply of prestige to the studio. [emphasis added]

Saturday, March 21, 2015

DISTRIBUTION Director sues to enforce final cut right

Abel Ferrara threatens to sue over US cut of Welcome to New York (Ben Child, Guardian)

We'll be hearing next week from a local filmmaker who's seen his debut feature radically repackaged by an American distributor. That may end up proving commercially useful, but, like the article below (and the book on Harvey Scissorhands Weinstein that I've frequently recommended), its a good reminder that distributors can get hands on with production, albeit post-production, as much as producers, through marketing, can have a hand in distribution (self-distributing is a further relevant element here).

The maverick film-maker Abel Ferrara is threatening to sue the US distributors of his controversial film about the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal, Welcome to New York, to halt the release of a version made without his involvement for the American market.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

EXAM: Use of Examples

What type of point should we make to pick up marks for 'Use of Examples'?
There are a wide range of facts, figures and details we can utilise...

Thursday, March 05, 2015

MARKETING Do viral campaigns REALLY work?

Another Vaughn flop sparked off this article...
They can do, but often fail to boost box office, even if the campaign materials have been enormously popular, according to Ben Lee. He cites the now classic case of a vibrant, highly engaged social media campaign that failed to stimulate comparable box office...
But although studios continue to distract attention from the movies themselves with such trickery, the proof is in the rather deflated pudding. In the summer of 2006, the most talked about film by far was New Line’s high-concept thriller Snakes on a Plane. As soon as it was announced, the film became online catnip, and fake trailers, artwork and fan fiction flooded the web. The official campaign capitalised on this outpouring with reshoots to include fan-created dialogue, a competition for bands to send in music for the end credits, and prerecorded messages from star Samuel L Jackson that you could send to your friends’ phones. But the buzz failed to turn into box office, and the film opened to a disappointing $14m in the US.
While adding some colour to a mediocre film’s campaign helps to increase awareness and online conversation, it’s failed to translate into an increase in box office. A study last year by Nielsen showed that the younger, more digitally aware consumers who would be the core audience for online stunts are losing interest in the cinema, with a 15% decline in their attendance year on year. It’s also worth remembering the importance of simplicity. Google conducted a survey which found that a film’s official trailer is three times more important than any other information source when it comes to influencing moviegoing decisions.
Lots of other useful examples in the full article!

Great publicity campaign, shame about the movie.

China beats US monthly take. Birdman 125% Oscar bounce

The box office columns continue to be a rich source of context and analysis. This column in global box office highlights two industry trends - the Oscar bounce (Birdman grew by a sensational 125%, with the distributor TRIPLING the screen count), and the inexorable rise of the Chinese film market. February 2015 saw the monthly Chinese box office beat America's for the first time, with the annual take widely predicted to exceed America's $11bn by 2018, with huge implications for production (casting, settings, varied cuts as with World War Z for different markets...):
China’s hesui pian – its New Year films – have become hotly contested fixtures, as shown by the news that February was the first ever full month in which the country’s box office exceeded the US’s: $650m to $640m. This happened largely because China’s key release window coincides with a month of no great consequence in the American box-office calendar (a big July, containing Independence Day, can bring in $1.3-1.4bn). But February’s figures are still a minor watershed in the lapping of the box-office tides, a sudden toe-wetting promising the big wave to come. And that is where Chinese annual takings finally wash over the $11bn mark the US has been hovering around for much of the past half-decade; even taking the most conservative Chinese annual growth rate (30%) of the past few years, that is due to happen in 2018.

Theory of Everything used US products

A rather neat way of illustrating the commercial approach of WT:
Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything picked up an award for product placement achievement in an Oscar-nominated film. One pivotal scene employed the detergent Tide after it was deemed more familiar to US audiences than Daz.