Texting at the Movies
August 20, 2003 4:19 PM   Subscribe

Texting blamed for summer movie flops -Oh No! The good old days of 'Buying Your Gross' are gone. "No, the executives are not blaming such bombs as The Hulk, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle or Gigli on poor quality, lack of originality, or general failure to entertain. There's absolutely nothing new about that. The problem, they say, is teenagers who instant message their friends with their verdict on new films - sometimes while they are still in the cinema watching..." What's an honest marketing executive gonna do? [Via Arstechnica]
posted by kodas (35 comments total)
 
Boy, I wish I owned a big movie studio so I could cry about increased communication aiding to create more of a free market, and how that is killing my business model. Maybe I could buy a congressperson and make them enact a new law to save my old business model of advertising crappy movies to the hilt to force big first weekend box office results.
posted by mathowie at 4:27 PM on August 20, 2003


What's an honest marketing executive gonna do?
Sue people.

On preview: What mathowie said.
posted by elwoodwiles at 4:31 PM on August 20, 2003


the only answer is to hire some tech savvy e-marketers to do a little covert viral-marketing on blogs and websites, just like this one.

Attention Hollywood: I'm available. Call me.
posted by crunchland at 4:38 PM on August 20, 2003


Say, have you heard about that American Splendor movie?
posted by Stan Chin at 4:39 PM on August 20, 2003


MAYBE they should start making better movies? Pay "big stars" a normal salary? The pirating "ad" in theaters cracks me up. The gig is up, travolta, schwartzenegger, pitt, ford, hanks, carrey, smith, etc$$$., time to take a pay cut. If they are concerned about bottom line, time to adjust the budget.

Times change, as well. It's simple.

I saw a bunch of kids with cell phones (I know, SUPRISE!) and started thinking about the RIAA's music industry complaints. When I was growing up, my friends who had any money spent money on the latest music CD. It seems now that kids have other things to spend their money on.

I wouldn't say that it's the ONLY reason cd sales might have dropped, but it helps. I think the same thing goes for movies. Sure, the "instant reviews" that cell phones might have something to do with box office sales, but I think its about quality and "something better to do".
posted by tomplus2 at 4:42 PM on August 20, 2003


"The problem, they say, is teenagers who instant message their friends with their verdict on new films" - which would include the opinions that the movie is, in fact poor quality, lacks originality, or generally fails to entertain.

I know! Confiscate all cell phones when entering the theater! (Yeah. That'd work.)

Guess the alternative, that they try original stuff, put out high-quality entertaining films instead of attempting a remake of classics...

"Coming soon! 'BIRDS 3D!' - based on Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 thriller, this edge of the seat thriller will have you GASPING for breath from sheer TERROR as the 3D Birds attack!!!! (Guano not included.)"

"Coming Soon! "REAR WINDOW DEFOGGER!" - based on Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 classic, you'll see just what a photographer can do with a beautiful blonde in '50's clothing, even when he's got a broken leg! That telephoto lens ain't just for show, ya know! And the neighbors! Is it his fault they won't draw the curtains? Broken legs were never so much fun!"

Yeah, that'll drag me out to the movies...

Let's see. Amazon.com, Hitchcock... ah. Might as well get the originals. Man, that Grace Kelly - wish they made stars like her still...

And what tomplus2 said, too...
posted by JB71 at 4:53 PM on August 20, 2003


omg c cur t is takn pplz fons whtevr u do dont c th
****End****

posted by eddydamascene at 4:54 PM on August 20, 2003


OMGSuXX0rZZZZ!!11!!1!!!!
posted by cinderful at 4:59 PM on August 20, 2003


"You could buy your gross for the weekend and overcome bad word of mouth, because it took time to filter out into the general audience."

But those days are over, because the technology of hand-held text-message devices has drastically cut down the time it takes for movie-goers to tell their friends that a heavily promoted summer action movie is a waste of time and money.


First heard a similar complaint last year, just replace text message with Blogs/Internet.

Ever notice good movies have little advertisements once released. Second, why is it always the teen's fault. What is next?;Too many teens are out of work and can't afford an expensive night out, we need more job markets for them besides movie theaters.

Take the blame, crappy movies please, get a clue plus you don't think the teens working at the movie theater don't tell their friends too or the movie guy on Fridays? Face it you make craps and it smells.

PS, notice most media markets are teen base these days and they admit to it too, UPN network is one. Maybe the industry should look at the Adults for guidance like themselves, sheesh get a life!
posted by thomcatspike at 5:14 PM on August 20, 2003


The gig is up, travolta, schwartzenegger, pitt, ford, hanks, carrey, smith, etc$$$., time to take a pay cut

Then what - movies will get good? Ticket prices will come down? Writers and directors will get paid more? Nup - it'll just go to the accountants that run things. That is the entire problem with mainstream films - if you put a quality film-maker in charge of the business you'll start getting some quality films.

Accountants should do accounts.
posted by meech at 5:27 PM on August 20, 2003


Next thing you know, the music industry is going to blame the internet for the drop in sales of music as well as for rendering their business model obsolete.

oops
posted by angry modem at 5:28 PM on August 20, 2003


The problem, they say, is teenagers who instant message their friends with their verdict on new films - sometimes while they are still in the cinema watching

Bad news travels faster than ever, shill boy. Deal with it.
posted by jonmc at 5:38 PM on August 20, 2003


From the article it doesn't sound like they're overly pissed or are blaming anyone for doing anything wrong as much as lamenting the end of "buying the gross." The big weekend openers that are mostly star-powered will probably become a thing of the past. Good riddance, now its not just us "snobs" telling others not to see the dreck that Hollywood is producing its the Lowest Common Denominator e-messaging itself. Actually, this kind of real-time feedback can prove much more valuable than any focus group.

The fix? It ain't gonna be e-marketers its going to be retooling the big budget extravaganvas so the LCD doesn't get too pissed. That doesn't mean good films are on the way as much as it means that films might get slightly less shitty or have new incentives to keep teens entertained such as: more nudity (Yah!), shorter films, less opening ads, more teen-stars they can "relate" too, etc.
posted by skallas at 5:39 PM on August 20, 2003


On their next ad they should get Travolta and Ford bad-mouthing cell phones, telling us how it hurts them so much (how and where unknown), then maybe it will continue to make sense why one person can get 20 million per job.
posted by mversion at 5:39 PM on August 20, 2003


Not everyone in Hollywood is dumb. David Poland explains why the box office analysis in the original LA Times article that spawned this meme is so wrong (scroll down to "DUH!!!").
posted by pmurray63 at 5:40 PM on August 20, 2003


have new incentives to keep teens entertained such as: more nudity (Yah!),

Now there's a cause all good Americans can rally behind.
posted by jonmc at 5:44 PM on August 20, 2003


Nup - it'll just go to the accountants that run things.

Riiiight, because that's who's getting rich in Hollywood today...
posted by bshort at 5:49 PM on August 20, 2003


You know, I don't envy the decisions producers have to make. Sure some people will say, "pay stars less", "keep the budget reasonble", "make more original films". You know what, if you do all that you end up with Punch Drunk Love or Adaptation, critically acclaimed films but they didn't exactly bring in a lot of money.
posted by bobo123 at 5:52 PM on August 20, 2003


Riiiight, because that's who's getting rich in Hollywood today...

I was using the term "accountant" slightly flippantly - I meant owners of studios and high-level managers that come from a business background. e.g. when the chairman of the Post Office becomes chairman of a TV company - thats not good for anyone...
posted by meech at 6:16 PM on August 20, 2003


This actually isn't new. Schumacher blaimed internet buzz for killing Batman and Robin the film that actually included the punchline "Take two and call me in the morning." Buzz and word of mouth is probably the greatest boon to a movie when it is good, and the greatest threat.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:36 PM on August 20, 2003


I'm glad the days of "buying the gross" are over. It seems pretty ludicrous that simply by dumping tons of money into a movie and an ad campaign, the studios could make money from it simply because the kids recognized the name, or all the hype meant they thought it would be good, or whatever.

Here's a hint: Action movies don't have to suck. Romantic comedies don't have to suck. Teen sex comedies don't have to suck. Make movies that are watchable and the grosses should go back up.
posted by nath at 6:53 PM on August 20, 2003


the film that actually included the punchline "Take two and call me in the morning."

And there but for the grace of God goes California's new Governor.
posted by Ufez Jones at 7:30 PM on August 20, 2003


it's interesting how it's never about a certain degree of realism and honesty (i.e., "this summer we put out a bunch of particularly bad movies and people figured out that the J. Lo/Ben Affleck vehicle fucking sucks") but it's the kid's fault, cause they refuse to shell out good money to watch that crap. they'll try to sue the kids, try to legislate some DRM in their cell phones.


Boy, I wish I owned a big movie studio so I could cry about increased communication aiding to create more of a free market


I wish I owned a big movie studio, too. But my reasons are somehow more pragmatic (like, big movie studio owners must have a, ahem, pretty interesting social life)
posted by matteo at 7:41 PM on August 20, 2003


The "blame the internet for bad buzz" meme was in full swing even just a couple of months ago. Supposedly all the bad buzz the Hulk got on AICN (starting with the Superbowl ad) was the reason the movie did so poorly. But now that's suddenly morphed into teens and their nimble fingers.

I was amused by the even more hyperbole-laden LA Times article, in which describes a teen using SMS to strike terror into the hearts of studio executives.
posted by O9scar at 8:13 PM on August 20, 2003


I don't think the studios are disagreeing that making movies that people actually want to see would be preferable; what the guy's pissed about is that the studios can't even get that first weekend in before people find out how crappy the product is...

Anecdotally, it's not just texting: I saw Matrix Reloaded the Saturday of the opening weekend and near the end some kid behind me called whomever had recommended it to him to bitch him out for wasting his time and his $9. (Normally, that would have really pissed me off; in this case it was so justified, I welcomed the distraction...)
posted by JollyWanker at 8:54 PM on August 20, 2003


What's an honest marketing executive gonna do?

Seriously, it's not the marketing executive's fault that the movies suck. Poor bastards are just doing their jobs, trying to promote films. They aren't responsible for the poor quality etc...

Yeah... I work in marketing.
posted by jonson at 9:19 PM on August 20, 2003


Blaming word of mouth for poor movie sales. So its admitting the movies aren't good enough on their own merit. I wonder how this decade will be known for. Maybe the Irony.
posted by Keyser Soze at 10:41 PM on August 20, 2003


Jonson, judging from Project Green Light, as on example, marketing folks have a great deal to do with the tone of a movie. How it is edited and in the long run what is presented to the public. Movies are tested and then tweaked to death- dramas morphed into light comedies. All driven by the needs of a marketing department that is uncomfortable with any product that isn't easily labeled & packaged for mass consumption.
posted by kodas at 11:17 PM on August 20, 2003


Kodas ...

There is a burgeoning business of pre-production marketing in Hwood which allows the marketing folk to sink their claws into a movie deeper than they have in the past. Before a single millimeter is even shot they breakdown the script; looking for catchy phrases and "moments" to emphasize (with an eye on tie-ins and product placement). They will spend an ungodly amount of money prototyping (on film) what they think the commercial should look like, what should be emphasized. In the end, it's all snake-oil to soothe the jittery nerves of the bean-counters (I subscribe to William Goldman's dictum that 'Nobody knows Nothin'' about what will or won't work) but it's curious that the movie itself is almost secondary -- and afterthought to justify the marketing.
posted by RavinDave at 3:15 AM on August 21, 2003


I can't believe nobody has mentioned "Coupon: The Movie" yet.
posted by jon_kill at 7:01 AM on August 21, 2003


So, when theaters start enforcing the "cell free zone" of the movie theater, "to make sure your movie going experience is not interrupted by a rude teenager's ringing cell phone," we'll know the real reason, right? ;)
posted by hob at 7:50 AM on August 21, 2003


SMS and phones are just a tool that can be used for (subjective) positive or negative things. Blaming a tool for destruction of a preexisting condition (aka the paradigm breaker) is the last refuge of the incompetent.

But since I'm boycotting the MPAA and RIAA (nor do I own a cellphone) it doesn't matter. I'm voting with my wallet and my money is going primarily overseas for both movies and music.
posted by infowar at 8:31 AM on August 21, 2003


it's not the marketing executive's fault that the movies suck. Poor bastards are just doing their jobs

Pretty weak excuse Jonson...

RainDave, tanx for the further epose, on just how deep marketing sink their claws into movie, er commercial making.
posted by kodas at 10:58 AM on August 21, 2003


Machine-made movies foiled by machines?!?!? Mein Gott, that's irony on a stick!
posted by solistrato at 11:45 AM on August 21, 2003


Dumb article about a bogus trend. Positive or negative word-of-mouth influenced movies' box-office success long before "texting" became popular. This is just lame "incredibly common occurrence treated as a shocking new trend because it now involves a trendy technology" journalism. A few years ago it could have been "people are telling their friends about movies they've seen -- on cellphones!" A few years before that it could have been "people are telling their friends about movies they've seen -- on email!!"

If this article's main claim about the death of the massive hype->massive opening strategy were true, we would have seen declines in big opening-weekend grosses for these movies. But actually the exact opposite has happened. Poorly-received summer movies have been making a higher percentage of their money in their opening weekends, then falling off sharply in their second or third weeks. Hulk made $62 million in its first three days, and will finish around $133 million. Matrix Reloaded made $134 million in its first four days, and will finish around $280. Bad word-of-mouth certainly hurt those movies, but there's no evidence here for the "bad word-of-mouth is now having an immediate effect and killing the opening weekend" claim. If anything, studios are becoming more reliant on big opening weekends and more successful at generating huge openings for bad movies.
posted by Daze at 12:39 PM on August 21, 2003


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