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How are movies made?. And how do they make money? What do you know about the business of Hollywood?. From the Studio to the Cineplex. Distribution, Promotion, Exhibition. Basics of Distribution.

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how are movies made

How are movies made?

And how do they make money? What do you know about the business of Hollywood?

from the studio to the cineplex

From the Studio to the Cineplex

Distribution, Promotion, Exhibition

basics of distribution
Basics of Distribution
  • Distribution = the practice and means through which certain movies are placed in theaters, in video stores, or on television and cable networks (usually released with “target audience” in mind)
  • Distributor: company that acquires the rights to a movie from the filmmakers or producers and then makes the film available to audiences by renting or selling the film to theaters or networks
  • Premier of “Feature Film” (primary attraction, 90-120 minutes)
      • Saturated Release = as many locations as possible
      • Wide Release = couple thousand theaters
      • Limited Release = few screens at first (platforms)
the trust and studio beginnings
The Trust and Studio Beginnings
  • Edison (1908) moves in to dominate, deal with Eastman to provide film only to Trust
  • The “Trust” = Motion Picture Patents Co., buys up all patents to control technology, buys distributorships
  • Vertical Integration: control all levels
    • Production: making of movies, sold by the foot
    • Distribution: deliver films
    • Exhibition: display films
  • Independent producers go to Hollywood, Mexico, Florida, Cuba to avoid patent lawsuits
zukor bypass and fox lawsuit
Zukor (bypass) and Fox (lawsuit)
  • Defeated Edison’s “Trust,” then produced their own oligopoly with other means of control
  • Invented the Studio System (1920s)
    • Assembly-line process, latest techniques = feature film every week
    • Created stars (Zukor’s Famous Players Co.., Mary Pickford = $15,000 a week)
    • Helped create directors as “auteurs,” studio heads
  • Block booking = take hundreds of movies, some marginal or new, to get Zukor’s big stars (CAA)
  • Exhibition: Zukor owns 300 theaters, “movie palaces
big five
Big Five
  • Paramount
  • Warner Brothers
  • 20th Century Fox
  • RKO
  • MGM
  • “Little Three” = Columbia, Universal, UA
  • Big Business = 1946, 90 million go to movies each week (out of 141 million pop)
after dissolution of studios

After dissolution of studios…

How do you solve the changes in the business? How can the studios make money again?

the lesson of the 70s make blockbusters
The Lesson of the 70s = Make Blockbusters
  • Jaws, Star Wars set the model for “blockbusters”
  • Distribution Timing: summer/holiday saturation release
  • Second Release: release to more or smaller theaters to build buzz or make $ (form of “platforming”)
  • Repeat Viewer: most hits make money off these ticket sales (Titanic)
  • Rise of Super-agents: return to a kind of “block booking” (packaging small films with prestige, feature productions)
film marketing and promotion
Film Marketing and Promotion
  • Marketing:identifying an audience in order to bring a product (movie) to the attention of buyers (viewers) so that they will consume (watch) the product
  • Promotion: specific ways a movie is made into an object that audiences will want to see
  • Promo Tactics: star system, tie-ins, “greater realism,” “textual novelty” (e.g. innovation)
  • Tie-Ins:ancillary products such as CD soundtracks, toys, and t-shirts that are used as marketing and promotional tools (Jurassic Park)
star system
Star System
  • Most common marketing and promotional component that advertises a film as a vehicle for one or more well-known actors
  • Famous Players: fans request for star names in earliest years
  • Blockbusters tied to star system and agent packages
  • Center of action, bring accumulated history and significance of past performances to each new film
  • Acquire status that transforms individual into mythical qualities
  • Promotion, publicity, commentary construct star images or personas
the independent road

The Independent Road

How do you market and promote without the advertising machine of Hollywood?

Cultural Promotion: validated as important or meaningful by academic or artistic accounts and authorities ?

10 tips to market promote your independent film
10 Tips to Market & Promote Your Independent Film
  • Understand Your Target Audience
  • Analyze Your Hooks
  • Create a Concise Logline
  • Utilize Free Media
  • Stage a Publicity Stunt
  • Hold a Premiere
  • Work With Sponsors
  • Enter Appropriate Film Festivals
  • Solicit Reviews
  • Use the Internet
  • Central form of promotion that uses such means as television, billboards, theatrical trailers (a brief preview of a few scenes from a film shown before a feature film or as a television commercial), and print ads to bring a film to the attention of a potential audience
  • High Concept Promotion: uses short phrase that sums up a film by highlighting its main marketable features through its stars, genre, or other identifiable connections (parodied in The Player as “psychic political thriller with a heart”)
  • Use of succinct descriptive terms to position a movie for particular expectations and responses = A picture, B movie, blockbuster, art film
  • Word of Mouth: conversational exchange about movies, buzz can be a big deal
  • Fan Magazines and promotional websites (Blair Witch)
Snakes on a Plane: Test Case…what do you know about the promotion, advertising, and distribution of this film?
snakes on a plane
Snakes on a Plane
  • Samuel L. Jackson only signed on for this film because of the title. It was later changed to "Pacific Air Flight 121", but Jackson demanded they reverse the change (imdb)
  • In March 2006 New Line Cinema, due to massive fan interest on the Internet, allowed for a 5 day reshoot to film new scenes to take the movie from PG-13 to a R-rated film (originally the film wrapped principal photography in September 2005). Among these additions is the Jackson character's line, "I want these motherfucking snakes off this motherfucking plane," a line that originated in an anticipatory internet parody of the movie. (imdb)
  • Film's title originated at an after-work happy hour among Hollywood colleagues to see who could come up with the most awful pitch for a movie. Producer David Berenson, who worked for DreamWorks at the time, gave his pitch for this movie based on a script called "Venom.”


Take a look at a couple of posters/ads…to whom do you think they are marketing the film? How are they marketing it? What ideas, feelings, concepts are they using to market the film to that audience?

exhibition and movie experiences

Exhibition and Movie Experiences

From Movie Palaces to iPods

changes in exhibition
Changes in Exhibition
  • Exhibition: the physical environment in which we view a movie, the temporal frameworks describing the duration of the movie and when we watch it, and the technological format through which we see the movie
  • Nickelodeons: store fronts, carnivals, fairs, etc.
  • Movie Palaces: 1920s on, Radio City Music Hall, etc. (70mm)
  • Suburbs and Drive-ins: Postwar, teen audiences (3-D)
  • Megaplex: the mall
  • Home viewing: VCR, DVD, cable (television = “pan and scan” for “academy” aspect ratio of 1.33:1, not widescreen 1.85:1 or 2.35:1)
  • Sociology of Exhibition Space: highlights social dimension of watching movies with like social group and group experience changes individual experience of film viewing (our attention, our excitement, etc.)