Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2012: The Year Film Marketing Gets Wise

Last weekend, the film industry was all abuzz over The Devil Inside, the first major film release of 2012. Made for pennies, the horror thriller ultimately grossed over $30 million in its first weekend, which immediately resulted in new production deals for its writer/director and talks of a sequel. Despite the poor critical response and even worse word of mouth from audience members, the film is a bonafide hit.

Being the intrepid film lover that I am, I simply had to see what all the fuss was about, so I attended a screening of the movie. I can now confirm what most people have already stated online: the film’s success is due more to its smart marketing campaign and fantastic timing than to any unique vision or narrative invention. In fact, the most intriguing part of my experience that night was not the film itself but the trailers that played before, many of which seem to suggest that The Devil Inside will not be the only box office success created by intelligent marketing this year. Take, for example, Project X, 2012’s official drunken high school blowout film. It may be nothing more than another in a series of Superbad wannabes, but I can’t help but be intrigued by the sheer excess of this trailer, which suggests a Hangover for the younger crowd:

I can’t help but notice that the trailer doesn’t offer a URL for an official movie website but instead directs you straight to the film’s Facebook page before offering the film’s Twitter hashtag. Immediately following this, we were treated to a preview of Chronicle with a delightfully unique structure:

Again, who’s to say if Chronicle will be a great film or a forgettable one. What I do know is that film marketing seems to be trying harder than ever before. In the past, studios would just throw hundreds of millions of dollars around to get their film on every network, billboard, and party napkin they could find. But those dollars don’t exist anymore, forcing the marketing department to get savvy, target specific audiences, and make smaller budgets go a long way. That’s how Paramount turned $1 million into $34 million with The Devil Inside, and that’s how other studios will find success this year. As moviegoers, we can only hope a few of these films will actually be good.

- Stephen Jannise, Film Program Director

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