EDITORIALS

Editorial: Why Do Studios Hide Original Sci-Fi Until the Last Minute?

by
October 8, 2012

Elysium Comic-Con Ship

This is a question that has been on my mind quite a bit recently. It's something I indirectly addressed once before in response to the numerous, revealing RoboCop remake set photos (titled: How Sony/MGM Just Let RoboCop Become a Flop Through Inaction). Why so much inaction, I wonder? Can they ignore everyone and everything until a few months before and pull out a campaign last minute? I suppose. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But it's still an unanswered question that even if I were to discuss with a studio exec, I still wouldn't have a real reason for why they think they can get away so easily with last minute marketing.

There are examples on both sides: of a movie flopping because it didn't have enough of an extended build up (e.g. recently The Thing remake, Dredd 3D, Skyline, Paul, The Darkest Hour) as well as those that launched most of their major marketing a mere five months early and still made tons of money (e.g. Avatar, 21 Jump Street, The Hangover). I understand that every movie is unique, some need more time, some don't, but it has started to get to me regarding two upcoming original sci-fi projects: Neill Blomkamp's Elysium and Joe Kosinski's Oblivion. They both hit theaters next March/April (respectively) which also means, yes, we have to make it to 2013 first, and it may be better to save most of the marketing until the New Year anyway.

But this needs to change. Especially for original science fiction projects like these two that have the potential to become huge hits and push the genre in major ways. No matter what, Blomkamp will be doing exactly that with his second film, but hopefully the studio gives him enough support (meaning confidence in marketing) to match District 9's success (and perhaps even surpass it). But what they seem to forget is that D9 was advertised years in advance (at Comic-Con '08 before August '09 release) through an effective and engaging viral. Elysium's viral, so far, is as lackluster as almost every viral Sony has run these last few years.

What I believe drives this "hiding" is a powerful, inherent fear in the minds of the marketers and publicists working at studios. The fear of, what is known as, "peaking too early" or building buzz that reaches its prime well in advance of the release that can only go down from that point. But, completely honestly, that's an unfounded fear driven more by the pressure for the film to perform and their bosses demands than any actual reality. That's the truth. By bosses, I mean studio executives, producers, even the actors/filmmakers themselves, trying to control every little aspect. Those directly involved don't want it to fail, so they never take bold risks anymore; it's always minor, cautious steps that have somehow proven successful in the past.

The two movies I'm most concerned about are two highly anticipated sci-fi movies - Elysium and Oblivion. Based on titles alone (what does it mean?) they are direct competitors and one will outperform the other at the box office, there's no question. They're both original sci-fi films, they're both sophomore films from two of the most talented up-and-coming sci-fi filmmakers, they're both out in theaters Spring 2013 within a month of each other. But we haven't seen much for either yet. Well, Elysium is the big exception, because they did pull off a big reveal at Comic-Con with 10 minutes of raw footage in Hall H, a futuristic vehicle on display (no one knew what it was?), one first look photo, and buzz from interviews (like with Blomkamp).

Elysium at Comic-Con

Besides that though, we haven't seen any trailers (the most important reveal) and they haven't otherwise started mass marketing either one yet. I may be jumping the gun a bit because the five month mark is the sweet spot for most movie studios and that's generally when the first trailer and poster will arrive (we're approaching that point in November with Elysium). Marvel's Iron Man 3 gets its first public trailer in a few weeks, so maybe we should expect to see the same coming soon for these two. But again, why so late for a March movie? This all seems a bit too last minute for two sci-fi movies that shouldn't really be last minute.

There are hundreds of reasons anyone in the industry will immediately give for these kind of marketing delays: visual effects aren't done (and no one wants to show unfinished effects in trailers), editing isn't done, they haven't had enough time to see the final cut and get a good idea of what the film is really about or how to market it. But these responses always make me roll my eyes. They're minor concerns that should have easy (and intelligent) workarounds when it comes to the bigger picture of building interest in the movie, the story, the universe, even with a quick photo or a beneficial, intriguing viral campaign. Isn't this Hollywood?

Look at The Hobbit. Yes, it's a very established franchise and has its supporters already, but they've been marketing it for years. Peter Jackson and his team in New Zealand understand the importance of building anticipatory buzz years out. If crafted and executed well (like his brilliant behind-the-scenes production video blogs) they're able to build hype that starts big and only gets bigger with time. It never peaks because we all know the release date(s) and they know there's plenty to show us that will keep us all excited until December. The release is the peak, and as long as they don't blow it, we will keep climbing up to that point.

The science fiction genre, specifically original stories within the genre, can benefit from this extended build up the most. We need to be introduced to the world, get an understanding of why it's the way it is or what happened over hundreds of years. And this doesn't mean revealing everything up front in footage or with synopses or set photos. Ridley Scott's Prometheus (regardless of how the movie turned out) used smart online viral marketing to build the world it was set in - sometimes one stunning (extremely high resolution) image at time. Or through videos like that brilliant Peter Weyland TED Talk (now a marketing case study).

Elysium and Oblivion, specifically, need this kind of buzz-making marketing build up, especially with six months left. We know nothing about their worlds, the characters, or stories, beyond unapproved set photo glimpses and vague synopses (and that Comic-Con footage). I'm sure the studio will release one photo at a time on Facebook or in Entertainment Weekly, trying to capitalize on rampant celebritism to drive buzz. But that doesn't work anymore. Sci-fi films (with the potential to blow up) need an earlier introduction to a mass audience if they're to truly succeed. They can't always be kept hidden completely until the last minute.

Of course, there are some big exceptions. J.J. Abrams' Star Trek series is definitely one. Keep it mostly hidden and secretive until a surprise screening at the Alamo Drafthouse where everyone thought they were about to watch Wrath of Khan. Perfect. It worked wonders. Cloverfield as well. This can be a smart tactic if organized effectively from the very start (e.g. years out). But Cloverfield and Super 8 also support my concerns about timing. Both of those, which went on to be very successful, were first teased more than a year out. They introduced us to the monster, without exactly showing him, more than a year in advance. That's the kind of early introduction and buzz building I'm referring to seeing—or rather, not seeing—here.

District 9 at Comic-Con

About a month ago while I was grabbing some lunch near the Universal Studios lot in Los Angeles I ran into Oblivion director Joseph Kosinski. I asked him as he was heading back when we would see something, anything, from his new film. "Soon!" was all he said. I had hoped that meant within a few weeks, as if it were right around the corner, but time has passed and nothing has appeared as of yet. Not a single photo, no teaser poster or teaser trailer, no viral or even any hint that by next April we could be sitting in theaters watching an awesome, Tom Cruise sci-fi visual spectacular. So... should we be doubting that potential, now?

So why do studios hide movies? Is it just because they're driven by a strong fear of failure? A fear of peaking too early? Or do so many of them think they can easily pull off an Abrams/Avatar-like last minute month marketing surprise and get away with it? As I said at the start, sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. It all depends on how they build up and craft their campaigns, who is involved in the movie, what the footage/photos look like, and/or whether it's all designed well enough to actually create a blitzkrieg of passionate interest right before it hits theaters. But why not get the ball rolling early. What harm is there?

I guess I just want to be excited for Oblivion (and Elysium). But without anything to show for it (save for some very early, very raw footage shown to an industry crowd at CinemaCon in April, which subsequently drove fans to angrily proclaim CinemaCon should be open to the public—cause they want to see this stuff, too!) it's very hard to do that. We need a photo or poster or viral or clip or teaser or SOMETHING that will make us register that name, and its early 2013 release date, in our minds now. Months, even years, early. Before it's too late. Before we start to question whether this delay is a bad thing... whether it's in trouble.

Checking in on a couple of other big 2013 sci-fi films - J.J. Abrams just started teasing (ever so briefly) Star Trek Into Darkness, and that comes out next May, after Oblivion and Elysium. Fox Searchlight ran the first trailer for Park Chan-wook's English-language feature debut - Stoker. It comes out the same weekend as Elysium in March, and because it's a hard sell with a twisty plot, they knew they needed to start building an interest as early as possible. The same goes for good original sci-fi (though with Blomkamp, one could claim it might be an easy sell last minute because of D9) but we still haven't seen much for either film yet.

I'm posing this question because I want to encourage studios to realize: there is a lot of potential out there waiting to be taken advantage of, especially in sci-fi. I want to encourage marketers to take more risks. To believe in original sci-fi stories with talented visual filmmakers behind them. To realize that "peaking too early" is a unrealistic concern fueled by an obnoxious fear of failure. But to prevent failure, they must show something. Give us exciting reasons, or content, or materials, or visuals, or marketing that actually makes us excited—even anxious—for that distant release date to finally arrive. Because the future isn't that far away.

Note: One very obvious answer to this question I've posed - CG visual effects. I expected Sony to release an Elysium trailer during Comic-Con after the Hall H footage, but they never did. Likely because most of the effects weren't even close to being ready and one concern that has been proven time and time again is that fans will scrutinize effects work, even in trailers. Wait until it looks perfect, looks the way it should, first. But if that's not until a few weeks before release, then it's too long of a wait. It's time to re-organize the post-production process to get some shots finished and ready well in advance of its release, if possible.

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  • http://twitter.com/shackett Sean Hackett
    Really solid editorial FS team. I feel like Original Sci Fi has SO MUCH world building within it , that it's really best to experience the "new world" within the screening experience of the film. The same is done w/ original comedy, where Apatow doesn't re-use jokes in the trailer for the final cut of the film. With "adapted" works... like JJ Abram's reboot of Star Trek... we sort of want to see more of "what is their addition to a universe we're familiar with" ahead of time so we know that we aren't getting a bland or re-hashed vision of it.
    • http://www.facebook.com/norbert.korzus Norbert Korzus
      The thing is outside of going with an expensive campaign like prometheus it's hard to create huge buildup. Not to mention prometheus kinda proves that buildup doesn't give you much. The film geek community is small, even if you expand it to the people who watch it because the materials for prometheus were really good it's still a boost of +10-20% at best. It's a lot of money but it won't save the movie from flopping
  • axalon
    Good article Alex. I've read the scripts for both Oblivion and Elysium and really outside of releasing the scripts for people to read, how else can you build hype for a new property without showing completed footage? What if the studios started releasing concept art?
    • http://www.facebook.com/norbert.korzus Norbert Korzus
      99% of the people are not interested in early news. Even fans. For most people it's trailers and extra material only if it is extremely good and has a chance of going viral. Also people won't read a 110 script from a movie they know nothing about (and 99% of people still know nothing on both Elysium and Oblivion)
      • jsmith0552
        While I'd like to disagree with you, I have to give your comment some pause. I have read scripts, but as you say they were after I'd seen the film, and I was comparing. Besides as a wanna' be screenwriter, I'm really interested in reading screenplays of what turned out to be really good films. Early news can kill a film, especially if it's misguided, like the early released footage of Green Lantern without the SFX complete. I think early pic's and behind the scenes can help, but it depends on the property. Either way, it seems that Hollywood does have a problem when it comes to marketing the SF genre in particular (unless it's coming from a major director). They could do much better.
        • http://www.facebook.com/norbert.korzus Norbert Korzus
          I think they just have problems with genre movies in general but with the influx of ne sci-fi movies on the horizon it will change. It seems hollywood has seen money in them and some of the projects are very interesting. I'd be really interested in seeing some hard sci-fi and maybe a space opera with a big budget. Hasn't been done for 30 years if not more.
        • bfg666
          Green Lantern killed itself because it sucked, not because of early released footage.
  • Timothy
    Just want to say that I really appreciate this kind of state of the industry "review / commentary / investigation". I read the article you wrote regarding the Robocop remake the day you posted that one. I felt the same then as now. It's good to be the fanboy for films. It's good to report on the latest news that fanboys want to read about. It's equally good, if not better and healthy to shine particular lights on issues, processes and practices that are worth a question or two. Whether I agree with you or not on this particular point is immaterial to a larger issue, I think. That being that there are some critiques - I repeat some, not all - that ring more true and carry more weight when they are delivered from an invested fan base. It is not my intent to sound as if I am complaining as I say this... Quite honestly, I wish sites such as this, /Film, and others would offer a little more analysis / investigation / state of the industry / etc., in addition to "here is the latest super hero film news. Though don't skimp on my Supes News. To do so would be to provide a more well-rounded delivery on your operating philosophy - "Connecting Hollywood With Its Audience". But that's my opinion. You may feel otherwise. Thanks!
  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.peloquin.14 Matt Peloquin
    I think your Hobbit example doesn't hold up too well because with original sci fi you run the risk of spoiling the film by showing too much. Personally, I love viral marketing, but I am weary of it more and more lately. I love the Peter Jackson video blogs because I know the story already, but I watch the Skyfall ones with caution because I do not want to see too much of it beforehand. Not to mention that one of the greatest feelings in the world is sitting in a half full theater watching a film that you knew nothing about going in, but ends up blowing you away and completely taking you by surprise in the end. It happened to me recently with Cabin in the Woods and that film was a marketing nightmare. I liked the model that the original Paranormal Activity followed as well where they gained buzz via the festival circuit and surprise midnight showings while not really showing much of the film to the public via trailers and posters. I think film maker/actor interviews, in depth first looks at props and vehicles, production vlogs, festival buzz, and scores/musical teases sell an unknown sci fi film better these days than extensive trailers, excessive posters, and showing too much footage.
    • http://firstshowing.net/ Alex Billington
      Yea, like I said, it depends on every individual film (hence Hobbit and Paranormal are unique). But also, I never tried to say they should spoil/show everything, I don't want that either. But I want some intriguing teases, some good hints at what we can see. Prometheus did it perfectly. Some claimed the whole "he's an android" aspect was a spoiler, but that became part of the marketing. Same should happen here. Figure out what from the world is worth sharing. For example, with Elysium - that vehicle they showed at Comic-Con. Why not focus on that, the manufacturing process, how it fits into the world, without spoiling any of the story or characters from it. That's what I'm looking for. I don't want the spoilers to be revealed, I'm just saying hiding the entire thing and not doing ANYTHING and showing absolutely NOTHING is bad in the long run.
      • http://www.facebook.com/matt.peloquin.14 Matt Peloquin
        I definitely agree, expanding the universe to the audience early on is a great idea, and I'm also shocked that we haven't seen anything from either Elysium or Oblivion yet. I'm also wondering where the marketing is for Cuaron's Gravity too, but I may be off on my release dates with that one. I really enjoyed this article and love to see you becoming the James Cameron of Firstshowing in that you don't write much anymore, but when you do it's pure gold ;o)
        • http://firstshowing.net/ Alex Billington
          HA! Now THAT is a compliment. :) Thank you, just doing my best, trying to keep good content coming after 6 years straight of running this site.
      • http://www.facebook.com/norbert.korzus Norbert Korzus
        Alex there is a difference between you wanting something and not showing something causing a movie becoming a flop. You mistake blog writers for the general public. That's a HUGE difference and probably as far away target groups as it is possible.
        • http://firstshowing.net/ Alex Billington
          Are you referring to RoboCop or these two films mentioned in this article? I don't think either of these films will flop. I'm just inquiring about when we'll see something from them. RoboCop, on the other hand, is an entirely different discussion, and I think it will flop for many reasons, the least of which that there's no marketing at all to keep fans attention diverted from the plethora of set photos.
          • http://www.facebook.com/norbert.korzus Norbert Korzus
            So why use it in an article suggesting that hiding original sci-fi is bad for business and causes flops?
          • http://firstshowing.net/ Alex Billington
            I didn't. I barely mentioned/linked another 4000 word editorial I wrote on RoboCop separately. Beyond that mention (in the second sentence of the entire piece) I never mention RoboCop again. At all.
          • http://www.facebook.com/norbert.korzus Norbert Korzus
            I'd still like you to respond to my lower post.
  • guest
    How is the new Robocop a flop? It's not even out yet? Billington, you really are a clueless fanboy.
    • http://firstshowing.net/ Alex Billington
      I'm betting a lot on it flopping. You will see come August 2013. I know it's not out yet... but it's an early, informed prediction.
      • http://www.facebook.com/norbert.korzus Norbert Korzus
        For now I also bet on a flop or at least on a mediocre results just in the green but it's not because of no buildup but more because of the final product quality.
      • David Banner
        I have a question: how much is your "prediction it will flop" going to ruin the movies chances at the box office? And your relation with movie makers in the future? Sure, the week before it was said that the director was struggling and maybe another rumor of turmoil; but your comments on it being a flop all ready does not help. And it's all based on a picture. A flop is when it can't make it's money back within a year or so (box office, dvd sales, rentals, TV-Rights), not before anyone has even seen it.
        • axalon
          I'm with David on this one, how can you call Robocop a flop when we still have almost a year until release? Yeah, Sony should have probably released some official images, but I honestly already forgot about those paparazzi photos. Sites like this one, /Film and Collider are the ones that keep either bringing up or posting the photos. Let's hold off our judgement until we actually see some of the footage.
  • Big Boss
    First off, you were definitely on point with this one, Alex. Well, I'd like to think that the state of the industry has sort of reached a creative "bottleneck", to the point to where their reservations, concerns, and even fears of original content become irrelevant and they HAVE no choice to get behind it more --as you can see, their "formulaic behavior" has really put them into a tight corner. How are we going to move forward in the 21st century if we keep rehashing EVERYTHING?! From the 70s to the late 90s, original content ran the landscape, because that's what people look forward to: new stories. New heroes, villains, plot twists and story arcs that will influence the next generation and so on and so forth..it's time to carry on tradition.
  • BK
    Just as the previous article bashing Universal was completely fanboy and unrealistic in nature, this article is too. (Cancellation of del Toro's MOTM) The only thing I can see here is a fanboy annoyed that studios don't want to get him excited with viral marketing this early without even taking into consideration anything else. Maybe you don't know, but you, and us, do not represent the moviegoing audience. People see less than 5 films a year and that statistic is not going to change anytime soon. "Peaking too soon" is a valid concern. Look at GI Joe 2. All the marketing they spent on before pushing it to March is irrelevant. Yes, it's in the back of people's minds, but they didn't need to spend that $40m+ dollars since now they have to spend it again. Sure, you may say that the film was delayed, so it's different, but it's really not. A last ditch swamping is much more potent than a long term haul because people are getting less and less patient. It's that simple. Viral marketing is almost completely ineffective for the majority of movies because no one actually cares either than people like yourself. You laud Prometheus, but that showed practically everything by the time it released, and it was a piece of shit in the end which affected its legs. Being GOOD is the only thing the movie should aim for because that entails it to continue bringing in the cash for its run, home video releases and etc.
    • http://firstshowing.net/ Alex Billington
      Um, GI Joe 2? You do realize that movie was ABOUT to come out this summer. I still have shirts that say "June 29th" on them. That's not peaking too early. That's making a last-minute idiotic release date decision to pull it from the summer. That has nothing to do with peaking. Sure, the buzz "peaked" because it was supposed to come out, and they had a year-long marketing campaign leading everything towards June. Now they've got to extend it and rebuild it for next year. But that has absolutely nothing to do with anything in this article, that's a whole topic for another day. Being GOOD is what ALL movies should aim for. But at the same time, good movies deserve good marketing, to point the audiences who only go to 5 movies a year towards what they should be interested in. I want to be excited for both of these but don't have much to go on. Aren't both of these movies likely to turn out GOOD? Before seeing Prometheus, didn't you think it would be GOOD, too? And I'm sorry, but "viral marketing is almost completely ineffective for the majority of movies because no one actually cares either than people like yourself" is one of the most ignorant statements I have ever read. You are so wrong. And I'm sorry statistics don't seem to prove it, but that's because good viral marketing enhances the experience and augments the buzz, which translates into bigger measurable numbers. Hollywood completely misunderstands virals and what they do for buzz, only a few third-party companies in town really get them (like 42 Entertainment - they ran The Dark Knight, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and others).
      • Richie G
        I don't always agree with everything you say, but these articles are great for spirited debate. Keep 'em coming. As you mentioned in your note at the end, I'd say the advertising campaign for elisium hasn't begun because they haven't finished the post production visuals. Personnally, I'd be up for adds like the david viral, for prometheus, being used on television instead of showing footage, or at least keeping the footage to a minimum. Elisium and Robocop have great potential for this. Give us hype without compromising the mystery
    • marco
      completely agree. i preferred movies pre-internet. fanboys want to read scripts, see the sets, slag off the trailer...
    • Underseer
      "Why Do Studios Hide Original Sci-Fi Until the Last Minute?" Because the Internet is full of obsessive over-anlaysis and pre-emptive criticism.
  • http://www.facebook.com/TheSweetieMan Chris Bob
    There's actually a simple explanation for 'Elysium.' Blomkamp stated at Comic Con that he wanted to wait almost until the last minute to finally premiere a trailer for the film, as he wants audiences to feel that same sense of discovery that he felt as a kid when going in to see a movie. He doesn't want to go the Fox/Prometheus route, where they basically reveal the entire film in multiple trailers, excessive featurettes and endless TV spots. See, the thing is, Sony can afford to do this with 'Elysium' since the budget is only $90 million. Now, $90 isn't cheap--but it's also not inflated to the point that this film requires marketing to take place five months before its release. It can afford to be marketed in a similar fashion to 'District 9', which was financially successful, and that film didn't receive its first trailer til' three months before its release. Anyway, I doubt we'll have to wait much longer for a trailer. I'm thinking it's a sure bet that 'Elysium' will have at least a teaser attached in front of 'Skyfall.'
  • Seasons of Wry
    Irregardless is not a word. Regardless and irrespective are.
    • http://firstshowing.net/ Alex Billington
      From Merriam-Webster: "The most frequently repeated remark about it is that 'there is no such word.' There is such a word, however. It is still used primarily in speech, although it can be found from time to time in edited prose." http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/irregardless http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/irregardless
      • Jericho
        for proving a word exists?
        • http://www.facebook.com/norbert.korzus Norbert Korzus
          It's a well known fact that illiterates get laid all the time
          • kure
            my thoughts on oblivion are-it barely finished filming 2 months ago and its a giganic movie.and knowing a thing or two about it and a thing or two about cruise-NOTHING will come out untill its absolutely perfect.also oblivion is a movie full of twists and turns so it should be secretive. MAIN thing is-oblivion is a movie that will be promoted with huge films like skyfall,hobbit,les mis, and im guessing jack reacher if the buzz around cruise is high enough AND IT WILL BE. ultimately if oblivion ends up as groundreaking movie on big screen as it was on the paige i think it will be up for some huge money(600-800 mill)especially for a 2D movie.also oblivion has no competition in april,it has 2-3 full weeks before iron man 3 opens. as for elysium i have no doubt that it will be a fantastic movie but it wont earn much money.big competition in march,r rating,poor results from damon in last 4-5 years... maybe 300 mill for elysium-TOPS
          • http://www.facebook.com/norbert.korzus Norbert Korzus
            I think you respond to my other post but I understand where you are comming from. Elysium may be bigger in foreign markets, especially Europe where R rated movies doo much better. Still I agree with you and it seems you did your research and maybe even had a chance to read the script. As for Oblivion it is obvious. It's still very early so I see no reason for them to market the crap out of it. Yes it may please some bloggers but it is to be a big movie. 600-800 mil for an original sci-fi seems optimistic but I know nothing about the movie so I can't really comment. Though I'm speaking from a point of view of a country where Cruise doesn't have as big of a drawing power (Poland, it's still good, just not as big in the US)
  • http://www.facebook.com/norbert.korzus Norbert Korzus
    Sorry but your buildup theory has been proven wrong. First look up the analysis linked on slashfilm that suggests that going with the biggest punch the latest (2 weeks is best) gives you the best results. Also buildup? Scott Pilgrim had a ton. How did that end? The internet movie fan community can generate 10-20 mil and that's only for the exciting movies. We are very vocal but not that numerous.
    • http://firstshowing.net/ Alex Billington
      You name one film that failed - that doesn't prove anything. Scott Pilgrim flopped because of Universal and their marketing issues, not the quantity or visibility of its marketing. My theory hasn't been proven wrong. It has been proven successful and accurate for many, many films. Hollywood just tries to follow a pattern from years previous and rarely ever tries something new. It's a delicate art, but they're not trying enough.
      • http://www.facebook.com/norbert.korzus Norbert Korzus
        No. I named one film that failed that had HUGE buzz and a very large marketing presence. So what marketing issues Scott Pilgrim had? Also why did it also flop in the foreign markets? What films have proven you right? he Thing remake, Dredd 3D, Skyline, Paul, The Darkest Hour ? 1. Darkest hour has a 4.9 imdb rating and the alien idea was just not very marketable. Were they to hide it and count for a good opening weekend and a 70% drop afterward? It would still flop. 2. The Thing - the original opened at 8th in 1982 so it wasn't a hugely marketable idea. It was also a copy of the original. A decent movie but please explain how do you make it more marketable? By set photos? 3. Dredd 3D - As good as Dredd is looking at the materials and trailers it just looks cheap so people who don't follow reviews won't hold it in high regard. Showing more from it would be even worse 4. Skyline - the same problem as Dredd but it is worse (4.4 imdb) and it was released not much before battle LA 5. Paul - did moderately good. 40$ for a movie with 2 brits in main roles, a niche target audience is VERY GOOD. It's not a flop. Especially with 100m$ World Wide. It's also the highest grossing Frost/Penn movie. Last but not least - please give me an example where a movie with a long and early campaing performed above expectation.
        • William
          Skyline will become a huge post marketing hit.
          • Dude
            Hello from December, and no it hasn't. It's a schlock film that ripped off its ship designs from Half-Life 2 and shows why computer FX people shouldn't be writing movies. It doesn't take long to tell how this movie was filmed in the writers'/directors' condo and that they couldn't afford to actually do many physical effects. Not to mention the nonexistent story, but I guess that's what all the blue glowy stuff was supposed to cover up.
  • bubbatwo420@hotmail.com
    I actually saw the Oblivion trailer almost a month ago in the lobby of a theater where these promoters were showing you upcoming titles and getting your info/feedback. Surprised it hasn't made the rounds yet but i'm betting their waiting for around the holidays for the big push. Sony should be releasing the Elysium trailer at the beginning of November well but as with all big VFX movies they need those money shots to seel the whole thing and want them to be complete i'm guessing. Obvlivion looks solid but for some reason i can't stand olga kurylenko.
  • HyperJ
    I think this editorial is wrong. Think of it from a film production perspective, not as a journalist/blogger. There is very little benefit and LOTS of risk in building up hype months in advance for a film with a modest budget. You may want lots of hype so there is lots to write about - but the marketing muscle for these kinds of films is very limited and must be spent wisely. It is better to come out of nowhere (relatively) and be a positive surprise - instead of building up a long internet hype that will inevitably disappoint a large portion of prospective viewers.
    • http://firstshowing.net/ Alex Billington
      Why is the marketing muscle limited? They have a tremendous wealth of resources to draw from. Money, materials, everything. Why can't they use that marketing muscle wisely? Not reveal or show everything. But tease, hint, give us something to grasp onto rather than nothing. While you make a good point about building up expectations, I also think Oblivion has absolutely no expectations. They're trying to go from 0 to 100 last minute, and it's not going to work. Elysium has a much better chance of coming out on top in the end.
  • ictimer
    I really don't see how studios should be concerned about building hype around movies for people that already know about these movies and are going to see them regardless. A 30 second teaser trailer would be cool for all the bloggers and the people that regularly surf these sorts of sites, but for i don't know, like, 90 percent of the movie watching public, its about getting the trailer attached to big movies and getting the tv spots in the best advertising slots. For most of the public, seeing a 30 second teaser 6 months ahead of a movie premiering just makes them go "what the hell was that? it was only 30 seconds" then they forget about it until they see a proper trailer or hear word of mouth or see good reviews after the movie has been out.
  • http://www.marketsaw.com/ jimdorey
    I totally agree Alex. Today's marketing tools are so robust and broad - it's not just about posters and trailers anymore. There are so many things they could expound upon without opening their kimono too early. Look at Peter Jackson's production videos. Brilliant! Not only has he given die-hard Tolkien fans exactly what they want, but he has taken away the need for all those internal spies that normally vent their frustrations in their work not being properly marketed by distributing sneak peaks and rumors. Properly executed websites like PROMETHEUS' was also brilliant, sparking thousands on quests to solve puzzles that reveal nothing but images. The list goes on and on. The studios need to study the new generation of audiences and act on it. They're the future.
  • jack2211
    The fans at Trekmovie.com are, er, revolting because the script hasn't leaked and no footage (other than three frames) has been released, 7+ months before release. They're predicting a massive failure. The Prometheus online stuff (the David commecial, the Ted talk) were fun, but I wonder if they were seen much by non film/sci-fi fans. Sure, it was packed with fans at opening (I went to a midnight screening where everybody was grumbling after - they'd expected 2001 from the marketing/hype... they got a pretty standard sci-fi thriller). Heck, Super 8 did better in North America. Or, look at Looper. It has done pretty well. But there was pretty minimal advance hype. Sure, it (arguably) has star power. It was packed opening weekend at my local suburban multiplex, and I'd wager that very few of those people knew about it six months, or even six weeks before. Sure, fans seek out all this advance stuff, but chances are they're going to see it anyway. But is there any marketing research that shows an average moviegoer not wanting to see a movie (a box office hit that's getting good reviews) because he hadn't heard of it months before?
  • James
    The Thing wasn't a remake it was a prequel.
  • Patrick
    Sometimes I think that a lot of hype ruins a movie. Sometimes you end up expecting too much, or sometimes you walk into a cinema knowing exactly what you're about to see. I prefer it when I watch a film when I haven't see any trailers or heard anything about them, for tha matter, and it just shocks me. More often than not, just a nice little blurb is enough to take my interest.
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Lyle-Jordan/100001250873003 Steven Lyle Jordan
    I'd guess a major reason is, simply, a desire not to overshadow the films that are coming out RIGHT NOW. Simply: Do you push the film that's releasing in 5-6 months, or the one that's hitting the theatres this Friday? I'm sure the producers of this Friday's movie would appreciate not being overshadowed by commercials for a movie coming out next friggin' year. American audiences (at least) are renowned for their short attention spans, and I'm sure producers and promoters are concerned about promoting something now that the audience will have to wait so long for, they'll actually forget about it when the time comes. So, why waste promotion money now? Spend it when the movie is imminent, and no one will forget. Right?
    • aceb
      Um, point of correction: not all americans (and proud of it) have short attention spans, that is a media steriotype.
      • Steven Lyle Jordan
        A "stereotype" that seems to be vindicated by every election year, news cycle, TV season and holiday sales push. Maybe "not all" Americans have this problem, but the overriding majority of them clearly do.
  • Samuel Pérez García
    Early hype can help a movie with an already established brand name (Batman, Star Wars, etc), but complete unknowns won't benefit much from an extended marketing. Plus, the studios have to spend more money, and with unknowns there is a much greater risk factor involved.
  • TG
    This whole article and not one mention of Ender's Game? Maybe take your own advice?
  • Jude
    You might be too young to remember this, Alex, but when Star Wars hit the cinemas in 1977, I saw it with only a few weeks' PR to whet my appetite - and that was enough to get me sufficiently excited to pick up the novelisation and the comic so that I knew the plot before I saw the film. Today's style of marketing movies - tell everyone everything before the movie is even greenlit - is something I remember noticing in the mid-1990s (y'know - yesterday) and going "Huh?" about. I got into the habit of avoiding all the information circulating about a movie because it was spoiling the excitement of discovery during the watching of the film. You talk about studios hiding movies. From where I sit, they're just going back to how it used to be done, before the internet.
  • http://www.facebook.com/tony.boies Tony Boies
    The genius of the SHIELD TV show idea is that it is a perfect platform for teasing the upcoming Marvel movies, and it doesn't have to have a huge budget or the movie stars to do it.
  • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.ellis.779 Jeremy Ellis
    1. Sci-Fi fans = Nerds 2. Nerds = People capable of stealing copyrighted material, and bootlegging it all over the web without getting caught. 3. Sci-Fi fans = People capable of stealing copyrighted material, and bootlegging it all over the web without getting caught.
    • aceb
      What are u, still in high school? Firstly, in case u missed the social revolution,'nerds' are now considered cool. And fyi, 'nerd' is a knee jerk term used to describe ppl who are smarter than average, which by accident became overused, thereby becoming a cliche. Secondly, all who could fit the description, are not automaticly theives and bootleggers. Dont apply erronious labels to something u dont understand. Third, scifi fans are automaticaly theives? Steriotype much?
  • ArnoQ
    The reason, I believe, is simply because of the rights of engineering tech in sci-fi; the technology they usually develop for big sci-fi flicks is also resold/leased to other projects. They could fear releasing film like that to early creates copy-cats that might copy that tech. Every company wants to be first to be market leader of course, hence the dominant silence although unofficially rumors fly all over the place.
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lars-Mårten-Rikard-Nilsson/100003854003712 Lars Mårten Rikard Nilsson
    The reason can be summed up in one word: Money. If they can get you to watch a remake of the same old thing at overprice 10 times before they use a new idea that's what they'll do.
  • Major Anatomy
    You like what you like, and that's okay. Too much hype, though, is too much. Some people can't take it. Look at that freakshow that shot up the people in the theatre that wanted to see the first Batman showing. Without the hype, those needless deaths would never have happened. Your business is to drum up web traffic so that Zuckerman can afford his next ivory-handled backscratcher. You signed up for that willingly. My business has become cutting through the daily layers of crap the Internet keeps sending me thanks to Zuck's compubots. You're not making my business any easier.
    • bfg666
      You're thinking backwards. The Batman shooting didn't happen because of the hype, but because the guy was a psycho. With that sort of reasoning, you can easily become the worst dictator ever, as you can put the blame on pretty much everything the homo sapiens has ever invented. Destroy all wheels because cars kill people! Ban religion because a handful of terrorists are perverting it! Blame Alex Billington because you receive too much junk mail! Jeez dude, unsubscribe or hire a secretary if you have trouble sorting it all out.
  • bfg666
    Interesting article but I think you got a few things wrong: - The Thing prequel and Dredd flopped because they were crappy movies (Dredd even managed to be worse than the Stallone turd, and that's saying something!), not because they lacked build-up. - "two of the most talented up-and-coming sci-fi filmmakers," really? While I agree about Blomkamp (District 9 was an unexpected little gem), Kosinski still has to show some talent as Tron Legacy was a huge letdown: all it had for itself were its good looks (even if the design had nothing to do with the original), a great score and the mandatory bombshell. The movie was pretty dumb and poorly directed, and its story was basically a low-rent ripoff of the original with a good chunk of The Matrix thrown in the mix (for example, Castor/Zuse is a cheap, ridiculously hysterical version of the Merovingian). Also, the young Jeff Bridges' digital double was nothing but a failure that looked unrealistic and couldn't pass for more than what it was: a 3D model. That said, I'll still go see Oblivion despite Tom Cruise and Tron Legacy, because it's apparently shaping to be good.
    • Brian
      WTF how was Tron: Legacy a letdown from the director's chair? Kosinski has nothing to prove, his vision of sci-fi is OK but with Oblivion it just seems...cliche. Noting some of your other points, especially on Dredd, I'm questioning why I wasted time replying to as big a goof as you.
      • bfg666
        Granted, my opinion on Dredd is purely subjective, but I challenge you to honestly counter one of my criticisms about Tron Legacy with reasoned arguments. Until then, you won't appear much relevant by insulting people.
        • Nick Bradley
          I agree with you about Tron and Dredd. Both were crap. I also agree about the marketing. Some movies fail because they suck and word of mouth gets around. With the internet, it is really easy to jump online and read reviews. I have several trusted sources that rarely let me down.
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Fullname-J-Warrington/562827147 Fullname J Warrington
    Oddly enough, I've often been of the belief that they market films too soon. The number of times I've seen a trailer at the cinema that ends with 'coming soon' (to which I think "I'd like to go see that when it comes out"), only to find out 6 months later that it has JUST finished screening at the cinema.. it's just frustrating.
    • Jon Cleghorn
      In the case of Iron Man 3 they gave too much of the story away in trailers. Since it was released overseas first you could watch overseas trailers that layed out a lot of the movie. There was even a B roll released before the movie came out in the US. And yes some are talked about way too early. GI Joe had a lot of early talk and then was postponed for a later release. Months after those initial trailers I kept asking myself if I had missed the movie being released. It had already became OLD to me resulting in me losing interest for it.
  • Brian
    I'm quite surprised at how much word of mouth has to do with things these days. I hate to say anything positive about social media but when a hundred people log onto Facebook, say 10% of them aren't interested in a movie but see someone shout that it's amazing it peaks their interest. Personally, I'm not one of those hounds and form my own opinions on movies. Nonetheless it is surprising how much effect that has. The 2nd most important point I would say is that sci-fi fans are internet junkies and thus cynical, very opinionated, stubborn, and relentlessly douchey. After a geek gets a first look at something sci-fi they rarely change their opinion on it. Most of them know everything about the movie there is to know before they see anything. Sometimes they will see set photos that look nothing like the final product on film, and form negative opinions based on that. Sometimes they will see the first look at the finished product, a teaser or something and then hate it after that. First impressions are everything for sci-fi nerds. Myself, I'm a bit more lenient on things and don't judge until there's a lot out there, enough to form a real opinion. But more often than not you'll get sci-fi geeks smashing on their keyboards telling everyone how bad this movie is going to be and why. Nevermind the fact that it's their uninformed opinion...they make it out like it's concrete fact and nothing else can be said about it. The wonders of the internet age. So that creates negative word of mouth and if it's out there long enough before release, it has an effect as well. It really does become a delicate situation in this modern world. You could have a great product and market it great but that's no guarantee of anything because it all depends on what people's first impressions are. How likely are you to keep up with a movie's news and future trailers when you hate the first one?
  • Jon Cleghorn
    I don't think they are hiding it as they likely have little to show early on. Quite often people are showing up to shoot a movie with little written on the page. And the money shots we all have come to covet don't actually get made until the last minute by very handsomely paid special effects and prop shops. Prior to those money shots its just a lot of talk and scribbles on pages.
    • Jon Cleghorn
      And we all know the director's editing can drastically change the points of the story.
  • Nick Bradley
    If I am honest, and I try to be, I hope RoboCop is an epic failure. It's a cheap trick, exploiting brand recognition and 80's nostalgia in my opinion and frankly, I'm sick of seeing it. Every major Hollywood studio has a remake, reboot, spin off or sequel/prequel in the "planning phase" right now. Many (e.g., Police Academy, Short Circuit) have been delayed for no apparent reason. It's quite possible that many of these studios want to see how things go with RoboCop. If it's a success we can expect to see many more cheap 80's nostalgia rip offs. With that, I hope it fails. I'd rather see something original.

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