Given the post title, you well might think I’ve stooped to “link-baiting”. But I’m not. There’s a serious point to be made here.
To begin with, I’ve always believed that nine year olds make the best movie marketers. Part of this belief comes from having met several successful people who market films. And part results from experiencing the wonderful imaginations of actual nine year olds.
Spark your average child of nine and they can go for days.
“Hey Kid, what do you think the new “Star Wars” movie will be like?”
That’s all it takes and within hours you’re inundated in pitches, fridge pictures and video repurposed from every previous “Star Wars” movie.
And this is what movie marketers do as well. From the moment a film is green-lit, they begin the process of igniting the dormant nine year old in all of us. For any film to succeed it needs to become an essential can’t miss moment in our lives.
And while I understand that logic from a business perspective, part of me still treasures the nine year old me, who walked into movie theatres not knowing what to expect beyond the images from the poster and lobby cards –- and was repeatedly completely blown away by the unexpected story that unfolded onscreen.
I get to relive that experience almost weekly thanks to Netflix, whose libraries are full of movies that escaped my radar for one reason or another. I see a story idea, a star I like or an image that catches my attention and am taken into a world where I have no preconceptions or expectations.
There’s a reason movie theatres were once called “Dream Palaces”. Yes, they were places where you went to experience things that didn’t exist in your real life. But, like sleep, when those lights went down, you really didn’t know what dreams awaited.
These days there’s little chance of avoiding what your average tent-pole blockbuster holds in store. Studios leak stories from the first script read through to the red carpet premiere and film nerd websites plaster every cell phone picture or video that they can get their hands on. Even if they are only costumes or props.
This week, one famous director posted about being brought to tears by a visit to the set of “Star Wars VII” implying that the geek magic was that overwhelming –- and maybe suggesting that nobody had jumped to get him a Cappuccino and he suddenly realized he really wasn’t all that and a bag of chips.
Not too long ago, I stepped out a studio door, colliding with a videographer recording a breathless update from a director fresh from a gruelling 14 hour day on set. It was for the daily “private web feed” that had been promised to fans of the multi-sequel franchise he was helming.
I remember wondering what surprises would be left for those subscribing to the feed after getting these daily descriptions of what had transpired onset.
Yeah, it was another revenue stream for the studio and kept the marketing pot bubbling. But sometimes that soup gets overcooked.
My own theory on the current downturn in box office numbers is that we’re being oversold. When movie posters work hard to remind us of previous films in the genre and the trailers repeat the same beats and CGI explosions, deep down we start feeling the dream we’re told we must experience is a recurring one.
So instead of following the marketers, I think we should all go back to following the imaginations of those real excited nine year olds who make up their own leaked set footage.
And then what you get in the theatre will still be a surprise.
Enjoy Your Sunday.