Movie Marketing Update
January 2005
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Mel Gibson Refuses to Play the Oscar Marketing Game

Posted on Tuesday January 18, 2005
Filed under Awards Watch

A sparse article has popped up on claiming that Gibson has told his marketing staff at Icon to forgo marketing 'Passion of the Christ' because he wants it to win solely on its artistic merits:

The actor/director finds the Hollywood trend of spending millions promoting Oscar hopefuls ridiculous - and he has told his own marketing people not to get involved.

He says, "I think films should be considered on their artistic merits and that's all.

"It's kind of like a presidential campaign or something and it's just not that important."

Given the crafty marketing behind 'Passion' last year, one has to at least suspect the possibility of this being a clever "anti-marketing" marketing campaign aimed at the Academy.

Mel Gibson: Oscar Should Go to the Best Film, Not the Best marketing.

World Wrestling Entertainment Launches WWE Films

Posted on Tuesday January 18, 2005
Filed under Movie Marketing

According to Business Wire, Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Entertainment and Stone Cold Steve Austin have come to an agreement for a three-picture deal under the WWE Films banner. The new division is slated to produce 2-4 films a year in-house. Distribution and home video plans have not yet been disclosed.

According to WWE Films Producer Joel Simon, the company will leverage its entire product line to market action and horror flicks to its extensive male fan base:

WWE's investment in its film products will include using all its various media platforms and marketing expertise to promote these films to the public. "There is a synergy within WWE that allows us to put our entire marketing and media infrastructure behind the opening of a WWE movie," stated Simon. "We can promote our movies within our television programming, at our more than 325 annual live events, on the internet, and in our two magazines, "Smackdown" and "Raw", as well as in our many home video and DVD offerings in order to expose our movies to the huge global WWE audience."

Is that the confident, bellicose swagger of a a pro wrestler or a Hollywood exec? We'll see if Hollywood tag-teams 'em or not. They're paying close attention though, since they've been milking the wrestling audience goldmine for years - just check out the WWE site to see the 'Friday Night Lights' ads plastered everywhere to get a taste.

Stone Cold Goes Hollywood!!!

FilmFlex Launches VOD Service in the U.K.

Posted on Tuesday January 18, 2005
Filed under Video on Demand

According to Variety, FilmFlex, a joint venture between Sony Pictures Television International, Walt Disney Television International and the On Demand Group, in launched their new VOD services today. The offering, which serves customers of U.K. cable companies NTL and Telewest, will offer hundreds of new release and back catalog titles. However, according to the article, it looks like VOD technology is lagging across the pond:

[the service] will compete with BSkyB's digital video recorder system, Sky Plus, already in half a million of the satcaster's 7.1 million subscriber homes. While it does not offer VOD, auds can assemble their own viewing schedules including movies.

VOD has been slow to develop in the U.K. due to the lack of technical infrastructure.

Local services are available in London via HomeChoice and in Hull via Kingston Communications. But faster takeup of broadband may change that.

Broadband services of the sort that enable VOD and high-speed internet services have lagged in the UK and throughout Europe over the last several years, but according to several published reports like this, we may see them quickly catch up:

Strategy Analytics' recent report, “Broadband in Europe: Competition Heats Up At Last,” predicts that European countries will boast an average broadband penetration rate of 40 percent by 2008, with countries like Sweden, Switzerland and Belgium seeing penetration rates as high as 60 percent.

With the rapid spread of higher speeds, the marketing needs of telcos and cable providers is shifting:

Broadband marketing is now entering the third phase in its evolution," says Martin Olausson, senior analyst with Strategy Analytics. "Price tiering aimed at different user segments is now widespread, but successful service providers will be those that embrace multiple broadband services such as VoIP and video." - FilmFlex bows VOD services

Palm Pictures Appeals MPAA Rating of GUNNER PALACE

Posted on Thursday January 13, 2005
Filed under Film Publicity

logo_palm200.gifIndie distributor Palm Pictures will appeal the MPAA's decision to give Iraq War film 'Gunner's Palace' an R rating for language. Here's the director's response, according to Palm's press release:

"No doubt, there is strong language in the film, but taken in context of the subject, soldiers at war, the language is not gratuitous," said Michael Tucker, Co-Director of GUNNER PALACE. "We may not like or agree with what the soldiers say in this film. Some of us may even find their language offensive. However, their voices deserve to be heard--without restriction--in the country that sent them to war. This is a film about war and the reactions of the young people fighting in it. Those reactions are expressed through the language of the day. To restrict access to the film via an "R" rating is essentially censoring the experience of the American soldier. As Americans, one way we can support the troops, is by listening to what they have to say. To do this, to honor and respect their experience and sacrifice, we ask the MPAA to constructively work with us to bring the soldiers story to an audience that will include teens who are mature enough to see this film."

I see the director's point and understand the marketing need for a wider audience, but I think the MPAA isn't going to budge on this one. If any teen was going to go see this, I would expect them to be at the age threshold where they could get in on their own anyway.

You can read the full release here.

MCN Press Release.

Nielsen Launches Indie Film Market Research Arm NRGi

Posted on Tuesday January 11, 2005
Filed under Market Research

According to Variety, Nielsen Entertainment Research has launched a new arm called NRGi to focus on market research for the indie film sector. According to Joseph Craig, the freshly-minted NRGi GM:

Craig said the label will service the indie feature sector, from studio specialty arms to standalone players and individual filmmakers.

Craig added that potential clients for his firm will include "all of the arthouse distributors and each of the independent minded mini-majors -- even the filmmakers themselves -- that are trying to figure out what's working and what's not about their films."
Hmm. Maybe everyone in L.A. has NRG on speed dial, but how are New York filmmakers supposed to find these guys, anyways? I've yet to find a website or phone number for NRGi anywhere. In fact, there's only been one article in each of the trades. Seems like it would've been a no-brainer marketing effort to send a press release to INDIEWIRE, the number one news outlet for indie filmmakers. Perhaps they're saving the brouhaha for Park City... - NRG into niche tracking

Nielsen Entertainment market research firm NRG that will aim to focus on the indie movie sector.

Warner to Introduce Value-Priced TV on DVD Titles

Posted on Tuesday January 11, 2005
Filed under DVD Marketing

As the studios continue to exploit their "A-list," margin-fattening TV on DVD titles, Warner has decided to release a slew of lower profile titles at a discounted price point. Up until now, complete TV on DVD seasons typically retailed between $40 and $60 dollars. Warner is bowing the first seasons of Full House, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Murphy Brown and The Jamie Foxx Show at $29.95. Some buyers are skeptical of Warner's motives:

"The lower price on the first seasons should hook consumers into purchasing more of the other seasons," Video Buyers Group president Ted Engen said.

Newbury Comics buyer Larry Mansdorf quipped, "It could be the drug dealer mentality, where you put out the first one real cheap and that will hook you in [for the rest of the series]."

I fear for the person who equates Full House, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, or Murphy Brown with crack.

DVD Exclusive Online

Will HBO Clean Up with a Sanitized Version of 'The Sopranos'?

Posted on Tuesday January 11, 2005
Filed under Television Marketing

Having successfully re-purposed 'Sex and the City' for basic cable, it looks like HBO is ready to do the same with their 'Sopranos' franchise. According to the New York Times,

HBO has been in talks with six advertiser-supported networks that feature reruns of TV dramas: A&E, FX, Lifetime, Spike, TNT and USA. (There is of course no guarantee that the discussions will end with a deal; HBO may decide against selling the episodes if it does not get a price its executives like.)

The article describes how planning for the eventual shop-around began at the script stage, with the actors recording tamer, safe-for-regular-cable versions of dialogue.

So who'd buying the ad time? Why, its a fine triad of booze, cars and of course, Hollywood movies:

At a minimum, the entertainment industry, which traffics in content as challenging, if not more aggressive, than 'The Sopranos,' will be a natural advertiser," he added, listing movie studios and sellers of video games.

Is this process cheapening the HBO brand? Are we really a nation of prudes, where Carrie bashfully "makes whopee" and Tony Soprano's peppery verbiage is reined in? It will be interesting to see how far basic cable will go. After all, IFC has been running uncut, expletive laced versions of top hits (albeit in the post-10-pm "free zone").

For the indie marketers, note the anticipated re-purposing of content happening -- it's a model all media marketers should live by in this duplicitous moral environment.

The New York Times > Business > Media & Advertising > Advertising: Would a Cleaned-Up 'Sopranos' Be Too Naughty for Sponsors?

Yahoo! Pushes its Entertainment Marketing Savvy With New Campaign

Posted on Tuesday January 11, 2005
Filed under

Its nice to see the major online players directly marketing to the movie industry. This new creative push focuses on both the entertainment and packaged goods verticals, playing on their successful consumer-oriented "life engine" theme.

You can check out their new push here. Be advised, however -- you gotta pay to play with the big dogs...

Yahoo! Pushes Verticals In New Trade Ad Effort -- via Clickz

Yahoo! Pushes Verticals In New Trade Ad Effort

Breaking: Movie Gallery to Acquire Hollywood Entertainment

Posted on Monday January 10, 2005
Filed under

Just breaking on the wires:

Movie Gallery, Inc. today announced that it has entered into a definitive merger agreement with Hollywood Entertainment Corporation under which Movie Gallery will acquire all of the outstanding shares of Hollywood for $13.25 per share in cash or approximately $850 million. Under the terms of the agreement, which was unanimously approved by Movie Gallery's board of directors, Movie Gallery will also assume approximately $350 million of Hollywood's debt. The transaction has a value of $1.2 billion and is expected to be completed during the second quarter of 2005. Movie Gallery expects the transaction to be immediately accretive to its earnings per share.

The combined company will be the second largest North American video rental company with annual revenue of approximately $2.5 billion and approximately 4,500 stores located in all 50 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico.

What does this mean for Blockbuster's strategy? We'll post more on this soon...

Movie Gallery to Acquire Hollywood Entertainment for $13.25 Per Share in Cash

Nader Watchdog Group Calls For Curbs On TV, Movie Ad Tie-ins

Posted on Monday January 10, 2005
Filed under

Ralph Nader's consumer watchdog group, The Center for Science in the Public Interest, has lobbed a missile towards the marketing of unhealthy products to children in movies and on TV. According to an article on Mediapost:

In its Guidelines for Responsible Food Marketing to Children, the CSPI calls on companies not to market low-nutrition drinks like soda, sports drinks, and sweetened iced tea to kids. Food companies though, could market: drinks that contain at least 50 percent fruit juice and no added caloric sweeteners; water and seltzer without added caloric sweeteners; and low-fat and fat-free milk, including flavored milks.

After seeing consumer product companies gorging on tie-ins last year, it might be smart for them to develop their own internal checks and balances in 2005. This has the potential to become a major, hot-button issue if left unchecked.

You can get the full report here.

MediaDailyNews 01-10-05

Watchdog Calls For Curbs On TV, Movie Ad Tie-ins

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