“Gravity” Takes Off At 15th Annual Golden Trailer Awards

YouTube Preview Image

In an industry that loves to award itself with never-ending accolades it should come as no surprise that there is a trophy for those who produce the trailers used to market new releases. Even more so because we’ve previously written about the Golden Trailer Awards, an annual competition that recognizes the professionals who craft movie trailers, television commercials and posters for new releases.

This year’s Golden Trailer Awards were held this past Friday at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills. The preview for Warner Bros.’ “Gravity”, produced by mOcean, won the top prize (Best In Show), as well as Best Thriller, beating out entries for other big titles such as “The Lego Movie“, ” The Hunger Games: Catching Fire“, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, “Star Trek Into Darkness” and many more. Sisters Evelyn Brady-Watters and Monica Brady founded the Golden Trailer Awards back in 1999 and report that a record number entries were submitted this year.

It’s a good thing then that there are plenty of chances for marketing professionals to take home a trophy. The Golden Trailer Awards has more categories (70+) than the Oscars (24); everything from Best In Show for the best trailer of the year to Best Film Festival Poster. There are even categories for Best Standee for a Feature Film, Best Pre-show Theatrical Advertising for a Brand and what must be a relatively new addition, Best Vine. Nor are the Golden Trailer Awards limited solely to motion pictures, as they include several trophies for marketing associated with video games.

My own personal favorite categories are Golden Fleece, which honors the best trailer produced for a bad movie, and the Don LaFontaine Award, which goes to the trailer with the best voiceover. (Don LaFontaine recorded voiceover narration for more than 5,000 trailers before his death in 2008 and is credited with coming up with the catchphrase “In a world…”). On Friday those awards went to, respectively, Dreamworks “The Fifth Estate”, produced by In Sync Advertising and 20th Century Fox’s “The Heat”, produced by Big Picture.

Read More »

“Sin City” Poster Too Graphic For MPAA’s Advertising Administration

Eva Green Sin City Poster

Every so often an incident occurs that serves to remind us just how many tasks need to be completed in the workflow leading up to the release of a motion picture. Tasks such as running your marketing material past the proper trade groups for approval.

Yesterday I took note that my never-ending Twitter feed was populated by numerous uploads of the same image. Over the course of a few hours the image popped up in tweets from industry professionals I follow on Twitter a dozen or more times. The picture featuring a scantily clad woman was hard to avoid noticing as it scrolled by in Twitter’s desktop app time and again. As it turns out, the picture was actually one of the posters (pictured here) for “Sin City: A Dame To Kill For”, which according to Deadline, had been rejected by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

In case you weren’t aware, or had forgotten, the Advertising Administration of the MPAA must review all the collateral marketing material used to spread the word (i.e. advertise) any film that has been or will be rated by the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA). Or in the MPAA’s own words, the Advertising Administration must review:

“…any material in any medium that is intended primarily to promote the exhibition, performance or sale of copies of the motion picture to the public and that is directed primarily to or for which a significant number of viewers are consumers in the United States.”

This includes a list of materials such as trailers, clips and footage, press kits, radio spots, Internet banner ads, billboards and, naturally, posters. And that’s just a fraction of a very long list. According to the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), the MPAA reviews “more than 60,000 pieces of marketing each year”.

So while most of us are zapping through commercials on our DVR and ignoring banner ads on our favorite websites, there is someone at the MPAA whose job it is to pay very close attention to movie marketing material. In regards to the material for “Sin City: A Dame To Kill For”, the MPAA nixed a risqué poster depicting actress Eva Green shown in a sheer white dress that reveals just enough, though apparently too much, of what lies beneath. According to Deadline (and several other outlets) the MPAA’s approval was withheld “for nudity — curve of under breast and dark nipple/areola circle visible through sheer gown.”

Read More »

Exhibitors Pin Their Hopes On Promotional Giveaways For Disney’s “Maleficent”

Regal Entertainment's Maleficent Giveaway

If Disney’s “Maleficent” fails to generate box office returns when it opens on May 29th it certainly won’t be due to a lack of marketing campaigns touting promotional giveaways. At least that’s the case in North America where the studio has partnered with two of the world’s largest motion picture exhibitors to run opening weekend promotions for the big budget movie which focuses on the villain from “Sleeping Beauty”.

Moviegoers buying a ticket to “Maleficent” at Regal Cinemas during opening weekend will get a free poster for the movie. It’s not clear from their promotional artwork (pictured above) or website whether the poster being given away is the official one sheet or if it’s a special poster created specifically for the Regal give away. Ironically, should the movie turn into a smash hit, it will be the latter which becomes more valuable in secondary markets such as eBay, since presumably such posters would only have been produced in limited quantities for the Regal promotion.

AMC Stubs Maleficent Pin Giveaway

That is the very approach being taken by AMC Theatres, which is using its “Maleficent” promotional giveaway as a springboard for a contest driven by social media. Anyone seeing the movie at an AMC cinema during its first few days will walk off with a collectible pin from “Maleficent” made exclusively for the exhibitor’s campaign. In an attempt to incorporate its own marketing push on top of the promotional giveaway, AMC is asking patrons to share pictures of themselves with their “Maleficent” pin on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. One winner will be selected to receive a USD $25 AMC gift card from those that submit selfless with the hashtag #shareAMC and #maleficent. This type of effort is meant to spark a network effect that builds awareness of the new release and ultimately the cinema chain.

AMC is also feeding into a tradition that has cropped up around the Disney brand over the years. Many die-hard Disney fans have taken up the hobby of collecting and trading collectible pins that feature characters, rides, attractions, etc. from the company’s movies and theme parks. Disney not only sanctions the practice, but encourages it by selling each collectible pin only for a limited time. Visit any of Disney’s theme parks and you’ll see loads of people walking around with pins that sometimes go back decades. Park cast members (as Disney refers to its employees) often have pins stuck to the lanyards holding their staff badges.

Read More »

Why Arts Alliance Media Sold Its Content Services Business

Arts Alliance Media Content Services

Last week the digital cinema market continued its predicted consolidation when Arts Alliance Media (AAM), the London based cinema integrator and software developer, sold off its content services business to Motion Picture Solutions (MPS). Founded by managing director Ian Thomas and also based in London, MPS has been building a reputation over the last eight years as one of the leading providers of content services in Europe, competing directly with AAM.

At first glance this looks to be a situation where one company surrenders to a much stronger competitor in the same space, though as the Chief Executive Officer of AAM, Howard Kiedaisch, points out (see below) it’s actually a bit more nuanced and strategic than that.

The news shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise to professionals working in the motion picture exhibition or distribution industries. Over the past few years AAM has been making its name by financing digital cinema rollouts through virtual print fees, developing digital cinema software and distributing alternative content. While AAM also offered content services such as DCP mastering, KDM generation and content distribution, MPS actually focused on such solutions more heavily and has thus become widely known as a reliable provider of digital mastering and distribution services.

You might be asking why AAM would want to exit a business that was, if not an overwhelming profit generator, at least earned revenue. The answer is quite simple; content services and delivery is a very tough and competitive business. Just ask Cinedigm. Oh that’s right, you can’t since the company which was once a market pioneer in the satellite delivery of content to cinemas sold that side of its business to Technicolor back in 2011. No worries, you can always as Arqiva, Deluxe, DSAT, Microspace or Technicolor just how difficult content services can be.

And that’s just it; these days it seems anyone with encoding software and a Mac Pro hangs up a shingle as a content services provider, the market has become over saturated with such entities. Not all of these dozens upon dozens of companies are created equal either. The renown writer and professor Tim Wu refers to this sequence of innovation and openness, fragmentation and gradual commoditization as “The Cycle” in his 2010 book “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires“. Adding to this is that most large content owners (read: Hollywood studios or major distributors) sign long-term contracts with specific providers to obtain larger discounts. If you miss landing a contract with one such content owner, it could be five years before you’ll have the opportunity to put in another bid.

Read More »

Enlight Pictures Casts A Wide Net To Promote “My Old Classmate”

My Old Classmate Poster

If you were to look at the worldwide box office for this past weekend – and given how “international” receipts account for a majority of a film’s gross, why would you look at anything else – in the number five spot you’d find a release titled “My Old Classmate” which earned USD $17 million in a single territory. At this point in the history of the movie business you probably don’t need many guesses to figure out that the sole territory was China, for despite its English title, “My Old Classmate” is a Chinese film.

The movie, directed by Frant Gwo and staring Zhou Dongyu and Lin Gengxin, is described as a “youth romance” between two school friends that takes place over 20 years. It’s hard to know how accurate that plot line is since the two official trailers for “My Old Classmate” don’t exactly present a detailed summary. In fact, Enlight Pictures, the Beijing based company distributing the film in China, released two trailers for the title which are entirely different in their tone and approach.

After watching the two-minute teaser trailer, you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking “My Old Classmate” was an action-suspense film that included a dramatic love story. It appears to be courting fans of filmmaker Zhang Yimou or the Jason Bourne franchise:

YouTube Preview Image

A shorter trailer for the movie, appropriately titled “Hormone Trailer”, presents “My Old Classmate” as a raunchy teen comedy that would appeal to those who appreciate “Superbad” or “American Pie”:

Read More »

“Shatner’s World” Takes Multi-Channel Approach To Marketing Alternative Content

Earlier today while posting a link to to Twitter promoting our piece on Nikki Rocco’s retirement from Universal Pictures, I spotted a tweet from Regal Cinemas in my timeline that provides a great example of alternative content marketing. Specifically, it provides an illustration of how event marketing activation can work by using multiple channels to build awareness.

In this particular case, the event being marketed was “Shatner’s World“; a one night cinema presentation of William Shatner‘s autobiographical one-man Broadway show.

I initially saw social media marketing directly from the retail channel where the product was to be purchased. This was a Twitter post from Regal Cinemas containing an image of the poster artwork for the event:

Read More »

Why We’ll Miss Nikki Rocco When She Retires As Universal’s Head of Distribution

Nikki Rocco

Nikki Rocco, President, of Domestic Distribution, Universal Pictures

Arriving at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas for my return flight from CinemaCon last month I was greeted at the gate by a potpourri of industry professionals, as was to be expected. There were engineers and sales reps from manufactures such as QSC and Volfoni, studio distribution executives from the likes of Twentieth Century Fox and film buyers from exhibition chains both large and small.

Among this assemblage was Nikki Rocco, the president of domestic distribution at Universal Pictures, who at the time was using an iPad to work on something I could only assume must be very important. Earlier today Universal announced Rocco will retire at the end of 2014 after spending 47 years with the company, the last 18 as the first woman ever to head up distribution at a major studio.

Just three days before I watched Rocco walk CinemaCon attendees through Universal’s summer slate during the studio’s annual presentation of its upcoming releases. As I listened to Rocco skillfully introduce titles such as the raunchy comedy, “Neighbors”, Seth MacFarlane‘s “A Million Ways to Die in the West” and the James Brown biopic “Get On Up”, I was once again reminded just how talented and special she is as a person and an executive.

If spending nearly five decades at a single company wasn’t evidence enough to demonstrate just how special Rocco is, consider for a moment that the company at which she has spent her entire professional career is a movie studio. How many studio executives in senior management roles make it past the decade mark at just one company? Not very many. Especially ones that joined their studios as paid interns in 1967.

On top of that, Rocco has been able to survive as the head of distribution during several ownership and leadership changes at Universal. Seagrams purchased the studio the year before Rocco was named the head of distribution in 1996. This was after five trying years under the ownership of Matsushita Electric. In 2000 Universal was sold to Vivendi, a french water utility, transforming into Vivendi Universal. By 2004 Universal was sold again, this time to GE, which already owned NBC, the broadcast television network, thus creating NBCUniversal. Cable operator Comcast then bought a controlling share of NBCUniversal in 2011 and acquired the company outright in 2013.

Read More »

Fathom Events New CEO John Rubey Provides Both Experience and Leadership

John Rubey

John Rubey, CEO of Fathom Events

When National CineMedia (NCM) spun off its alternative content division, NCM Fathom Events, into a completely separate business entity at the end of 2013, it did not identify a chief executive officer for the newly formed company. Kurt Hall, the chairman and CEO of NCM, stayed with the cinema advertising network, and Fathom went off to find a suitable senior executive to fill its open leadership position. Their search came to an end earlier this month when it was announced John Rubey would become the stand-alone Fathom Events first CEO.

If Rubey’s name sounds vaguely familiar there’s a good reason why. Rubey comes to Fathom after spending the last 14 years as the President of AEG Network Live, the concert promoter’s in-house multimedia production company. While with AEG he helped produce some of the earliest noteworthy events in the nascent alternative content industry by beaming concerts into cinemas from the likes of Bon Jovi, Dave Matthews Band, Garth Brooks and Phish.

This is a great hire for Fathom as Rubey brings a lot to the table. He’s got more than two decades of experience working in one form or another on content and marketing for big-ticket entertainment events. Before signing on with AEG, Rubey founded and owned Spring Communications which specialized in pay-per-view events. He has a working knowledge and practical experience in multiple forms of media production, entertainment marketing, alternative content and working with exhibitors. His relationships and ties to key players in the concert and entertainment industries run deep.

The whole purpose of AEG Networks Live is to “eventize” a concert, a tour, an arena or sports, generating marketing opportunities and actual revenue. These goals are identical or complimentary to most alternative content releases. To help him achieve these objectives during his tenure at AEG, Rubey worked with content aggregators and distributors such as Hulu, MySpace, Vevo and YouTube. Thus, he’s no stranger to digital content distribution and its many intricacies.

Read More »

Vista Continues Strategic Growth and Diversification With Stake In MACCS

Murray Holdaway, Bert Huls and Mathieu van As

(From left): Murray Holdaway, Bert Huls and Mathieu van As

One of the more important stories to come out of this year’s CinemaCon is one that didn’t even get announced until more than a week after the show ended. By then anyone who follows such news was already well aware that the cinema exhibition software firm Vista Entertainment Solutions had acquired a stake in MACCS International, the developer of market leading distribution software. We’d like to summarize why we believe this is a significant industry development.

As I noted just before this year’s CinemaCon, I have a great deal of respect for Murray Holdaway, Vista’s Chief Executive, and Derek Forbes, the company’s President of North America. Over nearly twenty years they, along with a growing team of smart executives, have taken the New Zealand based outfit from being a small player in a crowded field of cinema point-of-sale vendors to being the dominant exhibition software solutions developer in the space. In the process, Vista has left a wake of once prominent entities such as Splice and Titan Technologies.

In all fairness, Vista still faces a field of new and perennial competitors. They include, though are not at all limited to, regional and worldwide entrants such as Allure Global, Compeso, Diamond Ticketing Systems, Jack Roe, NCR, Omnico, Omniterm, Ready Theatre Systems, Retriever, TicketNew, TicketSoft and Vendini.

What has helped set Vista apart from some of these rivals is how the company has been able to think beyond its own systems and offerings to see opportunities in related or adjacent markets. They have managed to avoid pitfalls, even when enticing distractions beckoned with the promise of future riches. A great illustration of this would be Vista’s decision to not develop a theatre management system (TMS) for digital cinema installations. Such software is generally forced upon exhibitors by integrators and has become commoditized, save for a few solutions offered by Arts Alliance Media, Cinedigm and Unique Digital.

At the same time, Vista has been adept at increasing its revenue through a series of wise decisions about building or acquiring product offerings that have expanded its customer base. For instance, the company developed Veezi as a cinema management and ticketing system for small and independent cinemas; a market it didn’t serve and one that couldn’t afford Vista’s current solutions.

Read More »