Marketing to Moviegoers

This past weekend, I had the misfortune of deciding to watch Thor 2: The Dark World. While reading Robert Marich’s Marketing to Moviegoers, I was reminded of the film’s misleading promotional strategies and my own disappointment upon watching – the film was completely dissimilar to my expectations and standards (which is a shame, since I tend to dig Marvel Comic films).

image courtesy of

image courtesy of

On page 37, Marich discusses the process of title selection by saying that:

“An evocative title can be the most effective single element of creative material in a broad marketing program because the film’s name is relentlessly pushed into the marketplace with giant billboards, television ads, online promotions, and print ads.”

On page 38, he says that, “Most marketers feel titles should describe the genre of a film so fans can quickly identify a movie of potential interest,” but goes on to remind readers that, “communicating too much of the arc of the story is a negative…if moviegoers feel it’s a familiar plot that they’ve seen before” (38).  The thing about Thor 2: The Dark World is that the title is inherently misleading and repetitive — who hasn’t seen a movie about a “dark world” before? Or about traveling to somewhere dark and dangerous? The film isn’t even about a dark world so much as it is about a dark matter. But Thor has a certain fanbase that’s waiting for a sequel; both ironically and unsurprisingly, this loyal fanbase surpasses the detrimental predictability and misleading nature of the title having already read the comic books and knowing what to realistically expect.

The trailer, released on April 23, 2013 (six months before the film’s premiere in November), followed Marich’s trailer formula almost identically. There’s an introduction of low, string chords (“throbbing tones,” pg 31); unnamed, bewildered children to build mystique; Natalie Portman, Chris Hemsworth, and the voiceover from a god (Odin). There’s the glance from a beautiful, (presumably) jealous woman and the unlikely alliance of estranged brothers…yet nowhere do we see a clear storyline. Despite all of this, within 1:46 minutes, trailer producers/editors/writers have effectively tugged at heartstrings and piqued the interest of former and unfamiliar audiences. By November 17–less than two weeks after its release–Thor 2 had made $479.8 million worldwide.

Similarly, Marich refers to Inception on page 62 as a film with an unusually high running time of 148 minutes – a characteristic attributed to fewer advanced screenings due to fear of leaks, and therefore fewer cuts and edits from the final production. Unlike Thor 2Inception included a main plot description that used the strengthening of a female character, empathy for the main character/mastermind, humor (last shot with the guns), an evidently tragic romance subplot, intense and low-toned music, and constant action shots that negated laws of physics. Henry Shapiro, vice president and general manager of entertainment research company MarketCast says,

“You may find the romantic angle works better for women, and the comedy angle plays better to men in the same film. It’s an exercise in comparisons” (64).

Inception incorporated both, and the film garnered $64 million dollars in the U.S. on opening weekend alone. Though there was no precedent set like the one by Thor 2’s predecessor nor basis of preexisting literature, the film was a huge success…even though the theory was mentally draining and difficult to follow.

Finally, when reading Marich’s section on “Cyberspace Tactics for Indies,” I was reminded of last year’s Kickstarter campaign for a Veronica Mars film. Marich says that,

“Some indie filmmakers launch into online marketing to connect with a potential audience while a film merely is in development and before the first frame of the film has even been shot. The existence of an active fan base is used as a selling point to line up potential financial backers and distribution company.”

In the case of Veronica Mars, internet marketing and an active fan base were the only things that mattered when it came to releasing a film. Rob Thomas, the cult favorite’s creator, announced the Kickstarter campaign on March 13, 2013. According to the New York Timesthe effort broke two site records within its first 24 hours: “It was the fastest campaign to reach its goal ($2 million in under 12 hours) and it had the greatest number of supporters in Kickstarter history (91,585 people donated $5,702,153).” Now, only weeks away from the film’s release, Thomas is promising national access to the film inside and outside of theaters for those who participated in the cause – a positive cycle of reciprocity that illustrates the power of web advertising, crowdsourcing, and fan loyalties.


Website for Thor 2 statistics

Website for Inception statistics


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