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Shooting for Sizzle β€” and Sales

26 Nov, 2012 By: Ashley Ratcliff

The Dark Knight Rises

Studio marketers aim to drive consumer interest in Q4

Whether it’s innovative events, the return of beloved films to theaters or engaging second-screen applications, studios have an ever-increasing arsenal from which to choose when marketing their titles. The fourth quarter already has seen its fair share of flair with home entertainment releases.

Take, for example, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment’s promotion of Cinderella: Diamond Edition. The studio teamed with prominent French designer Christian Louboutin, who reimagined the iconic glass slipper, for a sweepstakes timed with the Oct. 2 re-release of the animated classic on Blu-ray Disc.

“That, in and of itself, is an event,” said Liz West, VP of global publicity with The Walt Disney Studios. “Events don’t drive PR coverage in the same way that they used to, so I think we look at very different ways to create events around the releases.”

Gabrielle Chamberlin, SVP of global product management with The Walt Disney Studios, said marketing events for various titles are driven by what sets that specific title apart.

“What’s authentic and integral to the title to leverage the theme? The shoe, obviously, for Cinderella,” Chamberlin said. “You’re really engaging on a theme that will resonate with consumers, as opposed to having one more launch party with a red carpet with celebrities, which are important as well. But also, you could do that for pretty much any movie.”

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has had a busy quarter with multiple events tied to its home video releases. They included a Haunted Hollywood Tour, hosted by actor David Anthony Higgins, Oct. 2 at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in support of American Horror Story: Season One; an Oct. 12 panel at New York Comic-Con for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which showcased the motion comic exclusive to the Blu-ray release; and a live Q&A Nov. 8 with stars Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan for Ruby Sparks at the Downtown Art Walk in Los Angeles.

Putting familiar faces to work to promote the titles they starred in has been a tried and true method for drawing attention to a release.

For Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s DVD bow of Charlie’s Angels: The Complete Series, “Angels” Jaclyn Smith and Cheryl Ladd from the original show did a segment on daytime talk show “The Talk” Oct. 4. Likewise, actress Geena Davis appeared on “The View” to tout Sony Pictures’ A League of Their Own: 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray (Oct. 16 street), while co-star Rosie O’Donnell also promoted the title.

“Some of these anniversary titles, where it’s the first time for Blu-ray, the talent has been really supportive because we’ve gone back, we’ve remastered, and they’re movies people are really proud of, where we’re telling the stories to a new generation,” said Lexine Wong, senior EVP of worldwide marketing for SPHE.

Jeff Baker, EVP and GM of theatrical catalog for Warner Home Video, said the studio historically has been talent-friendly.

“We’ve had good success in getting a lot of directors and actors to participate in the events that we do,” he said. “Generally, they’re proud to be associated with a film that they have good feelings about, and was, perhaps, successful for them in their career or from a box office perspective was successful.”

As far as new releases, Sony Pictures has started getting the stars on board with promoting a title from the beginning. For example, with The Amazing Spider-Man, both Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were out plugging Spider-Man to retailers when it first was released in theaters.

“We’re working closely with theatrical on all the major releases because we start engaging with those consumers shortly after the theatrical release,” Wong said. “We have quite a few pre-orders going on for our different products, and we want to make sure the consumers who see those movies and love them have a way to buy them early.”

Changing With the Times

Studio executives across the board agree that much has changed in the marketing of films and TV shows on home video throughout the years.

“Five years ago our product was basically DVD, and you could get away with just letting consumers know about availability,” said Vincent Marcais, EVP of worldwide brand marketing for 20th Century Fox. “Today our products include Digital HD and Blu-ray … so our job is to sell desire (to own) and direct consumers to any purchase option.”

Baker noted that studios have adopted a standard of offering more value to consumers by presenting titles in a number of formats, particularly with new releases. Packed releases include a Blu-ray Disc, DVD, and UltraViolet cloud-based copy access or digital copy, and in some cases 3D Blu-ray.

“Admittedly, it’s not necessarily for the same price as a single BD,” he said. “As a studio, we’re giving the consumer a lot more for a little more money.”

There are also electronic sellthrough or video-on-demand options for various titles.

“The product configurations are a bit more complicated, but we’re offering, I think, even higher-quality products for the consumers,” Wong said.

On the catalog side, a similar thing is happening, where there’s more movement toward collector’s editions available in both standard-definition and high-definition.

“Of course, as a result of high-definition becoming a significant piece of the business and a format, [Warner] and other studios have a lot of first-time titles on Blu-ray, giving consumers a reason to consider stepping up and buying a film again, or perhaps for the first time,” Baker said.

Such was the case with Warner’s Empire of the Sun: 25th Anniversary Blu-ray (Nov. 13 street); Sony Pictures’ Blu-ray debut of Les Miserables (Dec. 11 street); Fox’s Blu-ray bows of Patton and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure; Universal Studios Home Entertainment’s Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection Blu-ray set (Oct. 30 street); and Paramount Home Media Distribution’s Blu-ray debut of Sunset Blvd. (Nov. 6 street), which closes out the studio’s 100th anniversary celebration this quarter.

Warner has a heavy slate of re-releases planned for its 90th anniversary in 2013, including massive 100-film DVD and 50-film Blu-ray collections.

Fox has a catalog spanning more than 90 years, that covers every genre, price point and format (DVD, Blu-ray, digital copy). Thus, Dave Shaw, SVP of brand marketing for Fox, said the complexity in managing tens of thousands of SKUs means the studio has to work well with its cross-functional teams (sales, creative, operations) to get promotions launched.

“We take great pride in being the keepers of a 90-year legacy of film,” he said. “So we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to reinforce what is memorable about each film and not just focus on price. Our annual ‘Own the Moments’ is the best example of that — reconnecting consumers of all ages emotionally with the key moments of their favorite films.”

With the advent of new technology, such as second-screen applications, studios have begun offering consumers features that enhance the viewing experience beyond the film itself.

Sony Pictures, with its second-screen app for The Amazing Spider-Man, released new content for the app every week from early October to its Nov. 9 street date. The Blu-ray syncs with a viewer’s tablet and offers two interactive options: one focusing on the timeline of the film and another dedicated to production elements.

“There’s also a job to do to make sure that we can continually educate the consumer about the value that Blu-ray has by offering things like the second-screen app and other types of bonuses,” Chamberlin added. “That goes with the way that we’re developing as an industry.”

Social media undoubtedly has played an increasingly important role in educating and enticing consumers to purchase a product.

“Every campaign now has a layer of social and digital on it because you really can’t talk about movies these days without the social sphere,” Wong said.

Disney, for instance, has more than 375 million fans on Facebook and 3 million Twitter followers.

“That’s obviously a huge opportunity for us, and we make sure to tap into that,” Chamberlin said. “It’s almost like a cyclical situation where, the more we tap into it, the greater those social media footprints grow.”

Back to the Big Screen

With films that have a strong perceived consumer interest and are approaching a milestone or anniversary, theatrical re-releases have proven successful.

For instance, Universal Studios, in conjunction with Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies, presented a special one-night-only theatrical engagement of E.T. — The Extra-Terrestrial Oct. 3 to tout the 30th anniversary Blu-ray release of the beloved film Oct. 9. Ahead of the 50th anniversary Blu-ray set of Lawrence of Arabia Nov. 13, Sony Pictures on Oct. 4 re-released the film in more than 800 theaters nationwide, and promoted the set and Blu-ray at the screenings.

“It’s a great way to bring attention to a film that’s coming out on Blu-ray for the first time. It’s a good vehicle for all of the studios to use as a reason to talk about a movie that’s 60 or 70, 50 or 40 years old,” said Baker, pointing to the theatrical re-releases of Singin’ in the Rain (60th anniversary) and Casablanca (70th anniversary) earlier this year.

Retail Support

As the holiday gift-giving season gets under way, promotion-heavy Black Friday (Nov. 23) and Cyber Monday (Nov. 26) will give shoppers the chance to get their hands on DVDs and Blu-rays of current-release and catalog films, as well as TV series, at drastically discounted prices.

“Black Friday is the biggest promotional opportunity of the year for every studio with library product,” Baker said.

As the quarter comes to an end, Warner will give fans of the Christopher Nolan “Batman” trilogy and “The Lord of the Rings” franchise new reasons to buy.

On Dec. 4, Warner will release The Dark Knight Trilogy (listed at $52.99) as a five-disc Blu-ray pack with Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, on the same day as the disc debut of The Dark Knight Rises, which will be available as a Blu-ray/DVD/UltraViolet combo pack ($35.99) and a DVD with UltraViolet ($28.98).

Warner is also capitalizing on the Dec. 14 theatrical release of the inaugural “Hobbit” film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, by offering, for the first time, the extended editions of the three “Lord of the Rings” films as single Blu-rays. In July 2011, the studio put out the extended-edition trilogy as a Blu-ray collection.

Studios agree that a successful marketing campaign can be measured by the consumer’s response at retail.

“The consumer is at the heart of all our marketing campaigns, and engaging and maintaining their interest is key to the success of our releases, particularly within the very cluttered Q4 marketplace,” said Jennifer Chai, SVP of brand marketing for Fox. 

— Chris Tribbey contributed to this report.

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