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Return of the Blockbuster

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Andrew Musco

on 26 April 2010

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Transcript of Return of the Blockbuster

Double click anywhere & add an idea Avatar’s marketing campaign is a great example of what most major blockbusters do for this current era in movies. There are some elements of the past that are still used but with new technology that has been established over the past few decades there are new sources for movies to be advertized from. One of the ways that Avatar can relate to “Star Wars” and “Gone With the Wind” in its marketing campaign is that there is a large emphasis on the theatrical trailer. Like “Star Wars” the major push for Avatar was showing the audience the new realms of graphic perfection that it was able to reach. Unlike the two noted blockbusters, though, “Avatar” had the advantage of the creation and popularity of the internet. The website for “Avatar” alone was revolutionary. For example, on the website users could The website offers 14 side-scrolling square boxes that showcase many of the digital initiatives that make this movie stand out. Fans have access to the story, character bios, the music, and wallpaper downloads; but they also have opportunities to contribute content and showcase their interest in the film (Mendoza)
“Avatar” also did something that was majorly important for the film’s marketing, and that was having its own “Avatar Day” on the August 21 before it hit theaters. Cameron came up with the idea that the best way to build up hype and advertize the movie was to make a day full of events where people could access previews of the movie through different means. “In an unprecedented demonstration of studio confidence, Fox and director James Cameron would reveal 16 minutes of footage, accessible to all, for free, at selected cinemas around the world. Punters travelled from far and wide, turning out en masse to gorge themselves on a full quarter-hour of glorious 3-D sci-fi. Meanwhile online, 120 seconds of sizzling sequences had been shot out into the void. The first teaser dropped onto servers across the internet, all but imploding Apple's website when more than four million people surged to witness the big unveiling. As they watched, tantalising images flashed across their computer screens: hulking grey gunships, grizzled shock troops, exotic beasts, luminescent flora and, of course, the Na'vi Avatar's blue-skinned protagonists. Pandora's box lay open and the response from the online community was, understandably, deafening” (Dyer) What is most notable about the marketing world and when Star Wars came out was the connection that it made with its merchandising department. When “Star Wars A New Hope” came out in 1977 everything changed as far as marketing and merchandise went. The two combined forces and made Lucas films millions. With “Gone With the Wind” a lot of it was about general advertising, such as theatrical trailers, fan magazines, posters, the original book, and general word of mouth. With “Star Wars” came “Star Wars” memorabilia that played a major part in pushing the marketing campaign along at the time. Products became the new marketing scheme and that had been brought along to today’s times where the toys of Avatar are marketing the movie just as much as the trailers and posters are. The theatrical trailer also played an important role in this era but in a different way than it did for “Gone With the Wind”. The trailer was a way to impress people with the graphics, which were new at the time and may get people to come see the movie.

“The incredible success of Star Wars--seven Oscars, $461 million in U.S. ticket sales and a gross of close to $800 million worldwide--began with an extensive, coordinated marketing push by Lucas and his studio, 20th Century Fox, months before the movie's release date. "It wasn’t like a movie opening," actress Carrie Fisher, who played rebel leader Princess Leia, later told Time magazine. "It was like an earthquake." Beginning with--in Fisher’s words--"a new order of geeks, enthusiastic young people with sleeping bags," the anticipation of a revolutionary movie-watching experience spread like wildfire, causing long lines in front of movie theaters across the country and around the world.” (history.com)
“Gone With the Wind” had the benefit of being made just 3 years after the wildly successful book was published. The book had such a large reaction with the general public that any move that was made in the movie in regards to production was like a marketing campaign in itself. From the start all eyes were on any major move that the movie made, especially when it came to who was going to be cast as the characters of the movies. With the successful release of the book and new that a movie was on its way from producer David O’Selznick it seemed that marketing for the movie was all in the publicity that it was receiving from the excitement of people around the world in anticipation of the movie being released.

“It was going to be either the toughest or the easiest movie promotion ever undertaken: tough if the long publicity hammering had numbed the public into such complete indifference that people would stay away from movie theaters, easy if the picture had caught them just in the moment of peak expectation.” (Flamini 322)

“Massive publicity was heaped on “Gone With the Wind” both before and during filming... not only in America but throughout the world because the novel had attained great success world-wide” (Bridges xxi).

Besides the book and stars rumored/attached to the movie covering the advertisement for the film, there was also the theatrical trailer. In today it is very likely that a movie as large as “Gone With the Wind” was back then would be heavily advertized on television through commercials. Back in 1937, though, television commercials were nonexistent so “Gone With the Wind” had to use a much different approach to the way that it. Theatrical trailers were the main way for a movie to advertise itself. It had to get the story across to the readers who had never read the book before all the while informing those who had read it why they would want to see it. Having the actors that they did played a huge role in why the movie was successful. Having a big name like Clark Gable, who many had envisioned as Rhett long before he was cast, connected to the film was better advertising than anything else.
Each movie was made in very different eras of time. Each poster that the movies used at the time to advertise for their movies shows just how different the movies are, but how different the target audience at the time the movies came out were. For the three movie posters shown we are seeing a classic example of a movie poster from the 1930s and 40s, the 1970s, and what movie posters are like today. With “Gone With the Wind” there are key elements of the poster that stand out. The focus of the poster is on the two main characters of the movie, Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler. Obviously they are the selling points of the movie because they are the largest on the poster. What is interesting to note is that below them are important scenes from the movie that were drawn out. Then at the bottom was the name of the main stars, the stars that have been so focused on throughout the making of the film, and then other stars that may be well known as well. Under the stars is the information of who directed it produced it and such. There is a statement at the top of the movie letting people know that it is “The most magnificent picture ever!” and then it is followed by who directed it and what book it was inspired by. That is a lot of information for one movie poster. It is a lot for the audience to take in all at once. Then there is the Star Wars movie poster. Like the “Gone With the Wind” poster there is a lot going on, but maybe not as much. It has the infamous first line of the movie at the top “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…” followed by the mayhem that is the movie. It has the evil figures of the Death Star and Darth Vader looming in the background surrounded by stars, and aircraft. Then right up front are the leading man and lady in their action poses, with Luke’s abs and his light saber hoisted heroically above his head, and Princess Leia’s leg flashing with the gun in her hand. All of this combined is letting the audience know that there is going to be action and sexual tension at the very least. Behind Luke and Leia are buildings and R2-D2 and C-3PO letting people know that the setting is. Then below all of that is similar to “Gone With the Wind” with the information of who is acting, directing, producing and other things. The present day era of movie posters is a lot different than any other blockbuster movie poster before. For “Avatar” a huge blockbuster of 2009, the poster simply shows the blue alien type thing as the main focus of the poster. All you see is the head, but it is also important to note that a lot is left for the viewer to figure out and interpret for themselves. In the “Gone With the Wind” and “Star Wars” posters there was a lot of images for the viewer to decipher through, but it was all very simple for the person to figure out what the premise of the movie was going to be about. It left little for them to guess. With “Avatar” though the viewer has just one image to go on, but it is an important image, none the less. Right away the audience can depict the similarities and differences between what the creature is like and what humans are like. They can judge its beauty and start to sympathies with is as well. They can start to form their opinions on rather or not they want to see the movie with a lot less information to go on from the poster. Another thing that is different is that at the top it simply says “From the director of Titanic”. They did not just put “James Cameron” they wanted people to know that he has had very successful blockbusters in the past as well, and really his name doesn’t really matter. The only other information that the poster gives, besides the title of the movie, is the web address that the viewer can go to, avatarmovie.com, if they want to find out more. What is Merchandising?
"Translating a movie's title, icon or brand to other products on an exclusive basis; merchadndising also refers to raising awareness at the retail level, such as creating outposts in a store to promote these products and attract customers" (Squire) Today, licensing for film merchandise needs to be announced years before the film is released and studios need to be selective about how many licenses they distribute. Merchandising today may be better known in simpler terms at "consumer products" and "The Profits from licensing, spinoffs, TV sales, sequels, and merchandising from a smash. . . can easily top $1 billion" (Lubers 55) Gone With The Wind was the highest grossing movie of all time (when adjusted for inflation) and its release was followed by a variety of merchandising strategies. Items included dolls, plates, apparel, clocks, and more. Products for the film were not meant to serve as pure entertainment. Most things were collector’s items and not toys. Today, action figures are more common but this was not the case in 1939 Even today, new merchandise for Gone With The Wind is being invented. In 1993, Ted Turner was able to sell Rhett and Scarlett neckties for $28 apiece in retail stores across the United States Summer brings out the most money in merchandising. Star Wars proved this when it was released in the summer of 1977 and its merchandise profits skyrocketed. Action figures, toys, apparel, and an endless assortment of other accessories relating to the film were sold and continue to be sold. Often, if a film is introduced as a series, franchises are set up. In order for a franchise to be successful the film has to have the potential for long-term interest and the products had to appeal to all ages. Star Wars perfectly met all these requirements. Revenue from Star Wars merchandise was HUGE. Kenner Products alone sold $100 million worth of merchandise. Then, in 1999, with the news of Episodes one, two, and three, PepsiCo struck a deal with LucasFilm for $1.25 billion. This deal became the largest promotion deal ever.
After Star Wars, merchandising became a regular practice for anticipated blockbuster hits. The more expensive the film is to make, the greater the need for merchandising becomes. Avatar was released during the major holiday season, which is another prime time for film merchandising. The products for Avatar were also mass manufactured and catered to a wide variety of audiences. Action figures in McDonald's Happy Meals catered primarily to children but there were also more sophisticated memorabilia which was manufactured for adult fans of the film
In general, merchandise today seems to be more geared towards kids. Fast food restaurants are most closely tied to merchandising and product placement for major motion pictures. Essentially, merchandising is a branch of advertising; the two practices are closely linked. The true purpose of merchandising is ultimately to advertise and create awareness for the film before it is officially released into theatres. MGM hired major star Clark Gable to be the male lead in their much anticipated film "Gone With The Wind," but had trouble finding a female lead. Many major female stars lobbied for the role, including Bette Davis, Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, and Katharine Hepburn. David O'Selznick was opposed to these actresses, some because of their personal lives, and, in the case of Hepburn, he said he couldn't see Clark Gable chasing her for 10 years. Hepburn shot back "I may not appeal to you, David, but there are men with different tastes!"
The role of the iconic role of Scarlett O'Hara went to British newcomer Vivien Leigh, who Selznick felt audiences would find both attractive and relatable. (Edwards) Since "Gone With the Wind," hiring relative unknowns to star in major blockbusters has become commonplace. In fact, being famous can actually hurt your chances of being cast in some cases, as it happened with Orson Welles. George Lucas originall envisioned Orson Welles as the voice of Darth Vader, but later decided that his voice would be too recognizable, and went with James Earl Jones. Blockbusters can be star vehicles. There is hardly a better example than with Harrison Ford in "Star Wars." While Ford had previously starred in George Lucas' "American Graffiti," he had yet to become a major star. After playing Han Solo, his career soared, and went on to star in other major blockbusters, including the Indiana Jones series. Unfortunately, co-stars Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher did not see the same big screen success following the "Star Wars" franchise. James Cameron's latest blockbuster, "Avatar," was an instant success, and following tradition, did not have a major actor in the lead. Sam Worthington, who was perhaps most recognized for his role in the fourth "Terminator" movie the summer before. The studio wanted a major actor in the lead, and had Matt Damon and Jake Gyllenhaal in mind, but Cameron was insisted on going with Worthington. (Hewitt) The film did manage to cast several recognizable faces, however, including Zoe Saldana, who starred in the "Star Trek" blockbuster the same summer as "Terminator Salvation" and Michelle Rodriguez, perhaps best known for her role on the "Lost" television series.
Like Harrison Ford had starred in Lucas' film before "Star Wars," screen veteran Sigourney Weaver had previously starred in James Cameron's "Aliens." "Gone With the Wind" was instantly a major success, setting a box office gross record that would stand for 25 years, without adjusting for inflation. It also set the mark for the most Oscars awarded to one film at 9. The Oscar win for supporting actress was the first given to an African American. The film immediately impacted society, revitalizing nostalgia for the "Old South," while distracting its audience from the modern problems of economic depression and a growing world conflict, which eventually led to WWII. Several largely successful re-releases of "Gone With the Wind" has secured its place among the few timeless classics in American Cinema, still garnering huge audiences over 50 years after its original release. "Star Wars" set the template for current major summer blockbusters a few ways. One of them was bringing a large youth audience, with many teens revisiting the film multiple times upon its release. Another was aiming blockbuster film's style towards massive special effects productions backing up an epic story, such as seen in Lord of the Rings, Jurassic Park, or Pirates of the Caribbean. Further, Lucas's empire reached beyond film and into massive merchandising, for which he was given all rights by Fox for a smaller cut of the film's gross. A shortsighted error by Fox that has cost them literally billions in revenue. "Star Wars" also pioneered the practice, and success, of the trilogy. Sequels had been tried before, but never with the commercial success of Star Wars, which raked in over $200 million in box office sales with each release. When adjusted for inflation that puts each film from the "Originial Trilogy" in the top 15 grossing movies all-time. This practice was quickly imitated with films such as "Indiana Jones", "Back to the Future", and "Spider-Man." Even though all three of those trilogies were successful, they all struggled to maintain a consistent level of quality for all three films. A task "Star Wars" accomplished easily "Star Wars" impacts on the film industry will obviously forever be felt. To some this was a step in the wrong direction such as when Peter Biskind claimed, "When all was said and done, Lucas and Spielberg returned the 1970's audience, grown sophisticated on a diet of European and New Hollywood films, to the simplicities of the pre-1960s Golden Age of movie... They marched bachward through the looking-glass." "Avatar" impacted society not only with its beauty, but its environmental awareness. The native people from Pandora live in harmony with nature, while the white Americans from afar are determined to exploit their natural habitat for its natural resources. This has helped bring the issue of global warming more to the forefront of the national consciousness, as weather patterns grow more unpredictable. When Joe Letteri was awarded the Oscar for achievement in visual effects he addressed the impact "Avatar" had on the social and environmental consciousness during his acceptance speech saying, "What we did with Avatar, if you really look at it, we took things that are out there in the world every day, we just made them bigger shinier... But all our inspiration comes from the real world. So if you really look, you can see all those things around you, and I would just encourage people to get out and look for it." "Avatar's" lasting impact is already obvious. There has been a massive surge in 3D films following its release, to an absurd point. For example Sam Worthington, the star of "Avatar," plays the lead role in the upcoming "Clash of the Titans." This movie was shot with regular digital cameras, but following the incredible success of "Avatar," the studio went back and digitally crafted the movie into a 3D experience. This must be attributed to "Avatar's" massive impact as well as the new practice of tacking on at least $3-$4 per ticket when screened in 3D. Works Cited:
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