Over the summer, a TV commercial for Harry Potter 6 boasted that the movie had the “biggest worldwide opening ever!” I found this interesting, as this is not the kind of claim that would have been made 10 years ago. However these days, the business of the entertainment business is more transparent. Add this to the fact that the landscape of movies has gotten more crowded and competitive, and this means that Hollywood is now trying to hype their movies by any means necessary—which is why you might hear that the latest blockbuster has just had the biggest opening for a movie on a non-holiday weekend in a month that begins with a vowel. But does the average moviegoer even care?
Harry Potter is one of the biggest franchises in the world. Six movies in, I think that people have largely made up their minds if they’re going to see it or not. So I’m not sure what the tactic was with this ad. Is somebody who is on the fence about the franchise at this point going to be swayed by learning it had the biggest worldwide opening? I can’t help but feel like the bragging in these ads is really for Hollywood insiders, who are patting each other on the back, than for Mr. and Mrs. Multiplex.
Building buzz has become a big thing in movies. Studios spend $35 to $50 million to publicize their movies—more if it's a huge blockbuster. They are working harder than ever to connect with potential audiences and lure them away from their HD TVs, the internet and video games.
One of the biggest examples of the ever-growing importance of marketing is Hollywood's hijacking of the annual San Diego Comic Con. In the last few years, movies have pushed aside the actual comic books for a weekend packed to the rafters with preview screenings and panels—all designed to whip fanboys up into enough of a frenzy so that they will take to their laptops and extol the virtues of the next big blockbuster.
Fox recently tried a different approach. For the highly anticipated James Cameron 3-D movie, Avatar, they held free countrywide screenings of 16 minutes of footage. Those few who have seen it are raving. But again I ask, is this enough to get butts in the seats when the movie opens in 4 months?
How about you? What drives you to want to see a particular movie? Is it the trailer? The poster? Do you care if a movie is number one at the box office? Or has the biggest holiday opening? Or if people in Japan consider it great? Are they doing a good job of wooing audiences? Because Hollywood is working really hard to impress you.