Expanding Marvel: Maintaining Audience Interest in the Modern Marketplace

In Streaming: Movies, Media, and Instant Access, Wheeler Winston Dixon outlines some of the major changes that have occurred within the film and television industry as it has made the shift from analogue mediums to digital ones. This shift in medium does not solely affect the way in which movies are actually filmed but also the ways in which they are viewed, distributed, purchased, etc. Today, movies are not constrained to their physical format and television is not limited to its initial broadcast. Humans as a whole have seen an incredible shift in the way they interact socially and communicate with each other, these changes stemming from the rise in Internet and mobile technologies. The change in consumer behavior has forced major industries within the media marketplace to change their tactics to fit. Though Dixon draws upon both negative and positive aspects of this industry-wide transformation, he presents the changes as inevitable, the irrepressible force of technological advancement. I find that the business that have succeeded the most in the tumultuous marketplace, tend to be those that fully embrace the changing tides rather than work against them.

“All seven season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer are on Netflix?? I probably wasn’t going to sleep this week anyway.”

Since there are so many different ways to access a favorite show, not many consumers deal with the experience of eagerly anticipating the next episode in the series. A week can be so long. Streaming options allow users to sit and view many episodes in a row (termed “binge watching”) without having to deal with any wait. Granted traditional forms of weekly and bi-weekly television series still operate, but the consumer has grown restless, a bit of what could be termed “media ADD”. Consumers no longer are satiated by these traditional television series timelines. More than ever, consumers require more media to interact with in-between episodes. The Marvel franchise made a name for itself long ago, but more recently Marvel has taken the media industry by storm. One would be hard-pressed to name a summer in the last five, maybe even ten, years that was sans a Marvel blockbuster hit. Even so, this ubiquitous presence is apparently not enough. Marvel does not stop at creating successful films, but works to provide worlds of content beyond the filmic text. Obviously, the company has experience in working cross-mediums as it initially started as Marvel Comics, expanded from there, and has continued to grow ever since.

Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter and Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America in Captain America: The First Avenger

Take Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). The film was created as an introduction to Chris Evans as Captain America and the series of film inevitable to follow. It did much more than this though. The final scene of the film finds Steve Rogers in modern New York, as he is approached by Nick Fury about a special forces team. This scene, which is not especially relevant to the rest of the film’s narrative, acts primarily as a precursor to The Avengers (2012), a Marvel supergroup movie. This little teaser, was meant to pique the interest of audience members that were assumably already interested in the franchise. The Avengers film gave Marvel Studios the opportunity to work with major comic icons in an overlapping universe. So that any film including, the Hulk, Black Widow, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Nick Fury, Phil Coulson, etc. are able to cross-market the other franchises. The Iron Man 3 (2013DVD, featured a short film titled Agent Carter. The short was a continuation of the first Captain America film, yet it used an Iron Man dvd as a platform. The short follows Agent Peggy Carter, a secret agent and the former love interest of Steve Rogers, as she deals with his seeming death and sexism in the workplace. (The film does feature fictional inventor Howard Stark, father of Tony Stark, so perhaps Iron Man was fitting.) The film is only 15 minutes in length, keeping with the short attention spans of viewers. Agent Carter went on to be made into an television of the same title that aired on ABC shortly after the successful theatre run of Captain AmericaWinter Soldier (2014). The short was a part of a series done by Marvel called “One-Shots“. These direct-to-video short films are all centered within the Marvel universe and work to expand pre-existent story lines. Like, Agent Carter, they aim to maintain audience interest while simultaneously testing the waters for new material. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. also stemmed from a One-Shot short. The Marvel Cinematic universe will inevitably continue to expand on the existing content in ways that are both exciting in terms of creativity and double as useful (and to an extent, discreet) marketing tools.



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