How has theatrical film marketing changed in the past few years?
Troy Lum, Hopscotch: With limited screens and ruthless exhibitors, all your money and focus must be on the first weekend. You can only expand if the figures are good and audiences govern that now, not strategy. It’s tougher to get newspaper and magazine editorial because of their focus on celebrity. Some will not interview directors, which is hard for auteur-driven films.
Robert Slaviero, Hoyts: The online focus, especially on a film such as Twilight. We were all over MySpace, Facebook and all the spaces where kids are. It was our biggest spend of the year (an estimated $4.47m) but it also generated its own publicity. The fans were just fanatical; the repeat business was phenomenal.
How has online transformed the way a film is marketed?
TL: It’s more for films skewing younger than most of ours. It’s more about using traditional media as effectively as possible. Mongol had two quite separate campaigns with different looks and messages: one critically driven for arthouse audiences, the other positioning it as a mainstream boys’ own warrior fantasy. We grossed nearly half the US result.
Are distributors spending more or less on marketing than a few years ago?
RS: More. Television has got much more expensive but because some advertisers are pulling out you can get outrageously good deals on media, including outdoor.
Joel Pearlman, Roadshow: More. Advertising is very expensive and, with the number of significant film releases increasing, greater certainty is required to hit your targets. A lot of the smartest digital marketing doesn’t cost much but it takes time and expertise. We want that skillset in-house, so we have people in digital roles on our marketing team.
Is TV advertising still the most important element of a campaign?
TL: We use television on nearly every film but the majors would laugh at how little we spend. It was only $43,000 (a$60,000) on Mongol but it tapped into everything else we did, targeting the sci-fi pay TV channel and film aficionados on free-to-air broadcaster SBS. For us, it’s focus not reach.
What is the most important thing to know when releasing a film in Australia and New Zealand?
TL: We’re a unique market. Confining yourself to expectations according to what the film did elsewhere becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
RS: Dating is very important and hard work.
Which recent campaigns have impressed and why?
TL: Icon picked the right date for Slumdog Millionaire and let the film do the work. It’s a campaign you can’t fault but they took risks - they opened before the UK and very narrowly (30 prints grew to more than 200).
JP: What Icon did with (UK comedy) Death At A Funeral (in 2007) was a dramatic example of seizing opportunities and getting it right. They ran a bold campaign and had a wave of positive word of mouth.
How will films be marketed 10 years from now?
Lum: Access to information will be much easier, windows shorter and there will be more day-and-date releases. In Australia, where we are not protected by language, it will be harder to localise campaigns and take people by surprise.
RS: Digital and 3D is going full-speed ahead and it will be completely different. More marketing will be direct to the punter.
AUSTRALIA AND NZ: KEY INDIE DISTRIBUTORS
Hopscotch has the courage of its convictions when it comes to what works locally. When acquiring movies, Hopscotch often ignores the film’s performance in the US and the UK, and with aggressive marketing, regularly exceeds, pro rata, these results. The distributor has broad taste, although festival winners and ‘films with a difference’ are favoured. It knows how well films for older women can do and has a thing for male-oriented pictures.
Who to know: Troy Lum, managing director; Frank Cox, president; Sandie Don, director of acquisitions and marketing.
Recent acquisitions: Neil Marshall’s Centurion, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Micmacs, Radu Mihaileanu’s Le Concert.
Where to find them: AFM, Berlin, Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, Venice.
Forget selling anything to Hoyts unless it has a US release date. Buoyed by a bumper 2008 and Twilight’s success, this distributor wants high-budget multiplex fare. It may not have broad appeal but it needs a large, easy-to-reach target market. The company has a sub-distribution deal with Lionsgate, handles Icon films in New Zealand and has support from sister company Hoyts Cinemas.
Who to know: Robert Slaviero, chief executive, distribution.
Recent acquisitions: David Bowers’ Astro Boy, Jorge Blanco and Javier Abad’s Planet 51, Chris Weitz’s The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Pierre Morel’s From Paris With Love.
Where to find them: AFM, Cannes.
In the last year Icon has made an effort to grow its Australian business through buying more of the most commercial studio-style films. There is still room for films that set new trends, however, or films it falls in love with, which accounts for the diversity of the slate. The purchase of the Dendy group means Icon also owns an Australian arthouse circuit although it closed down the Dendy distribution arm. It is in the process of being acquired by Stewart Till’s UK-based Stadium group.
Who to know: Mark Gooder, president of acquisitions and productions, Icon Productions and chief executive, Icon Film Distribution Australia, based in Los Angeles.
Recent acquisitions: Kevin Tancharoen’s Fame, Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity, Lee Daniels’ Precious: Based On The Novel By Sapphire, Sam Taylor-Wood’s Nowhere Boy.
Where to find them: Berlin, Cannes, Sundance, Toronto.
Roadshow is Australia’s biggest independent distributor, handling product for Warner Bros, The Weinstein Company, Village Roadshow Pictures and Relativity Media. Highly commercial theatrical releases are its bread and butter but, if the numbers add up, it will listen to any sales pitch.
Who to know: Joel Pearlman, managing director, Brett Rosengarten, national sales manager.
Recent acquisitions: Robert Luketic’s Five Killers, Lasse Hallstrom’s Dear John.
Where to find them: AFM, Berlin, Cannes, Toronto.
Set up at the beginning of 2008 by former Dendy Film executives Andrew Mackie and Richard Payten, Transmission distributes most of its films through a joint venture with Paramount Pictures Australia. It is on the lookout for quality crossover international titles to release through Paramount, with more challenging titles going out independently of the deal.
Who to know: Andrew Mackie and Richard Payten, joint managing directors, and UK-based acquisitions executive Iain Canning.
Recent acquisitions: Lone Scherfig’s An Education, Phil Claydon’s Lesbian Vampire Killers, Steven Soderbergh’s Che, Mabrouk El Mechri’s JCVD.
Where to find them: AFM, Berlin, Cannes, Sundance (Canning only), Toronto.
The top 100 films in New Zealand for 2008 are almost exactly the same as in Australia, with the key distributors handling both territories. Where the films are positioned on the list, however, illustrates the differences between the territories. The highest-grossing film in New Zealand in 2008 was Mamma Mia! The Movie, while in Australia it was The Dark Knight. Generally New Zealand is a more populist market, plus Australian-born Heath Ledger pushed The Dark Knight to an outstanding level in his home country. UK films often perform even better in New Zealand, pro rata, than in Australia. In Bruges and St Trinian’s proved this in 2008, while comedy Death At A Funeral was the 12th biggest hit in New Zealand that year and 16th biggest in Australia in 2007. Local connections, however loose, also help: Guillermo del Toro is set to direct The Hobbit in New Zealand for producer Peter Jackson this year. Accordingly, del Toro’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army performed well in New Zealand in 2008.