Hollywood studios spend millions dollars of marketing movies.

their Looking at 'Pearl thebig-budget campaign behind Harbori Geoffrey Macnab explains why


According to figures given out by the Motion Picture Association of America (the MPAA) in its zooo US Economic Review,the averagemarketing budget for a Hollywood studio movie last year was $zz.3r million. The averagenegative cost (the cost of actually making the film) was $S+.8million, adding up to a combined cost of over $82 million. In the caseof.PearlHarbor - at a reported $r+o million, the most expensive movie ever made - the marketing spend was proportionally higher. The premiere alone cost $S million Disney hired an aircraft carrier, bombers,paratroopers and fighter planesto lend extra colour to the event. The studio also paid for journalists from all over the world to fly to Hawaii and spend a week there, intewiewing the film-makers and stars. Such a level ofinvestment is no guaranteeof success. MPAA President ]ack Valenti rarely tires of repeatingthe old mantra that "only one in ten Hollywood movies ever gets its money back

through domestic theatrical distribution, and tluee out of ten Hollywood movies NEVER get their money back'. This is a ferociouslycompetitive marketplace.Out of the 64o or so feature films producedin the US in zooo,Valenti calcuIates that 'a couple of hundred of them never saw the inside of a theatre". For those features that do make it to the cinema, marketing is crucial. Without an eye-catching campaign behind it, even the glossieststudio epic risks being still-born. As Daniel Battsek, managing director of Buena Vista Intemational (IJK), reveals, releasing a big-budgetblockbusterlike PearlHarboris a painstaking and often nerve-rackingbusiness. He and his team began the processof building up awarenessamong British audiences long before the film was even finishe4 putting a teasertrailer on screennine months in advance of the release. BuenaVista also organisedfocus groups throughout the country. "It helps to

communicate with the audience and to ask what works for them and what doesnt - albeit that they were seeing material for a film way before they would normally see it." The Buena Vista team targeted teenagersand 18-34 yearolds, "but also an older audience which was likely to be attracted to this film because its of historical connections". The eventsof 7 Decemberr94r, when Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto, commander of the

Navy,launchedhis assaulton the naval |apanese baseat PearlHarbor,have a much strongerresonance for US audiences than for most peoplein Europe.The challengefor Battsekand his team was to devise a campaign "that overcame the lack of instant recall of the subjectmatter, or to find another way of marketing the film that didn't require recall ofthe subiectmatter". "One of the drawbacksto launching the campaign so early was that nobody - not even the top BuenaVista executives- had seenthe film, and that it was impossible to tell how critics would react. We had no way of knowing whether we were in an offensive or defensive mode.What we were trying to do was to demonstrate that this was fascinating subject-matter with a great cast;that it would mark the rise to stardom of a British actress(Kate Beckinsale) and that it was absolutely spectacular- that it was a real event picture. Those were the messagesthat we were putting out through our posters,through oru pressadvertising,through our TV advertising, through our trailers and through our editorial." Early on, the emphasis was on the visual campaign - in particular, the spectacularoutdoor posters.Closer to the releasedate, Buena Vista funnelled money away from print and postersand into TV spots instead."They really gave you what the majority of the audience wanted, which is fabulous action, adventures and effects,great charactersand romance.you can only really get that across with moving images(albeit youte only got 30 or 6o seconds to do it in). You can't really do it with static art." Battsekarguesthat the three-hour length of Pearl Harbor was not a drawback. "The film justified its length in terms of the story it was trying to tell. The only problem was with programming - you can't get as many shows on screenasyou would like and thereforeit makes it that much more difficult to make money at the box-office. YouVeonly got one eveningshow whereaswe're usedto having two." Once the film had been seen by the critics, the strategy changed.Buena Vista had to cope not only with negativereviews,but also with a backlashin the pressagainstthe now notorious Hawaii junket. This was cited by many newspapers as a prime exampleof wasteful Hollywood exuavagance. "There have been many, many other similar junkets, but the media just decidedthis was the one they were going to get the knives out for," Battsekreflects.He still defendsthe logic behind the junket. The daysofstaggeredreleases, when the UK would haveto wait months for the latest blockbuster,are gone. As DVD becomesmore widespread and the possibilities for piracy increase,big Hollywood films are likely to be

launched around the world within weeks of their US premiere."In view of the fact that it was almost like a world-wide releasedate,why not have a real world premiere event,where media from all round the world come in, seethe film and report on it," Battsekasks.'Tt made much more senseto do one big event in one territory than to do 5oin 5oterritories,which would have costa lot more." Battsek believes that the Hawaii premiere colouredthe way British reviewersresponded to the movie. "When PearlHarborwastalked of as being very expensive,overlong,very American, many of those comments were referring to the Hawaii event,not the film." Despite the negative press,the film scored highly on Buena Vista's exit polls. Over 7oolo of the audience polled rated it as "good" or "excellent".BuenaVista used the more enthusiastic responses radio and TV advertising to in counter the critical reaction.Evenso,somedamagehad alreadybeen done."The reaction in the broadsheets, which was extremely,aggressively anti the film, hurt one part ofour potential audi-

ence - that slightly older audience who dont cometo the cinemavery often.We felt that pearl Harbor wottld have delivered to that audience, but unfortunately we werent able to attract them and one of the main reasonsfor that was the reviews." Pearl Harbordidrlt open asstrongly in the UK as Battsekand his colleagueshad hoped, but it had staying power. "It had longer legs than we expected, coming from a slightly lower level but than we would have liked." Despite breaking box-office records in the US and performing creditablyin the UK, it was dubbedby the media as a flop. When Disney boss Peter Schneider resignedtwo months after its opening,the film s (perceived) failure was cited asthe reason. Battsekthinks it is absurd to dub the film a failure, or to speculatethat Schneider'sdepar*What ture washastened,by PearlHarbor. constitutes successis making a profit," he declares. "Onceyou've totted up the production costsand the marketing costsaround the world, will the movie be in profit? I think it almost certainly will be - and by a substantialmargin."