Marketing and the Movies

I want to do a long piece on marketing in the movies — the good, the bad and the silly — but today isn’t the day. For now I’ll note that Jason Squire has compiled an extensive review of the movie business in his book with the ‘does what it says on the tin’ title of “The Movie Business Book”.

The format of the book allows a series of high profile figures in the industry to explain what happens in their own words. (Each get a chapter). This includes a representative of everyone you might expect — directors, producers, agents, writers — as well as some interesting additions — market research, low budget production, the independent exhibitor etc… The book certainly does give a lot of detail on the industry. You even learn things like what breaks are mandated by which union agreements. (An important detail for those managing the schedule to consider).

The movie business has a lot of connections to issues in other businesses. Contributors discuss the problem of selling below cost. (It can stimulate demand in the right circumstance but it is usually a nonsense plan). They also note a problem I mention a lot: “Marketing expenses are written down immediately” (Harold Vogel, Chapter 11, Squire, 2016).

How the studios plant a flag to claim a date on the calendar for their blockbuster is fascinating. Of course you need to be “..strong enough to keep another studio from planting a flag on the same weekend.” (Kevin Feige, Chapter 13, Squire, 2016). If you are Marvel, the studio which Feige represents, that seems less of a problem than it would be for anyone else.

At the risk of turning it back to an academic analogy, movies have a major problem with crediting contribution — which is why credit lists are so long. They must ensure everyone gets a shout out. It is a tough management issue as perceptions of the value of contributions can vary. “When negotiating credits for paid advertising, lawyers and agents spend hours discussing whose name should go first and on which line, if anyone’s name should be placed on their line, or whose name is larger” (Stephen Kravit, Chapter 17, Squire, 2016). Perhaps academics should do this too.

Next time you watch a movie it is worth thinking about how they do their business or maybe it’ll be more fun to just enjoy the movie.

Read: Jason Squire (2016) The Movie Business Book, Routledge (4th Edition)