It’s finally happened: movie studios are declaring a national holiday to celebrate their upcoming movies. And in the case of James Cameron’s Avatar, I couldn’t be more excited.
There is a part of me, though, that realizes that this is a dangerous and slippery slope the studios are attempting to navigate. If this unique way of revealing footage to fans is successful, the whole movie-promotions game will change, and “event” trailers, footage, and promotional screenings will become the norm…and not just for the uber-geeks (hey, I’m one of them) who trek out to Comic-Con every year.
I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Here’s a quick recap of what’s got me so worked up.
Last week it was revealed at Comic-Con that James Cameron and friends, the team behind next year’s wanna-be biggest and most anticipated blockbuster Avatar, were declaring August 21 as “Avatar Day.” Not only will this be the day that Fox releases the first trailer for the film, it will also be a nationwide IMAX event with the studio screening fifteen minutes of the film in “as many IMAX theaters as possible” and “select 3D theaters” across the nation.
If you are wholly unfamiliar with James Cameron’s new movie, it’s important to remember that Cameron is a huge champion of the “new” 3D theatrical experience, and he has crafted new technology and thrown himself into 3D filmmaking with unbridled passion. For over three years, fans have been trumpeting his return to the science-fiction genre (and the first time he’s returned to narrative filmmaking since Titanic) as a must-see event. This was to be the movie that would revolutionize 3D.
The problem, then, becomes two-fold. First, how do you premiere footage for fans with wildly inflated expectations without them being disappointed? Second, if your major selling point is that the film “revolutionizes the IMAX 3D experience,” how can you convince your fanbase that this is legitimately true with a measly two-minute trailer that will be watched in low-rez quality on laptops around the world.
It seems Fox’s solution is simply to put their best foot forward, show us a LOT of footage from the film in the best possible setting (the way is was SUPPOSED to be seen), and hope that the hype machine keeps on chugging forward.
This could backfire for them horribly.
Right now they have (in the eyes of many fans) the must-see movie of 2010. If fans show up and aren’t totally blown-away by the movie, word will spread fast. Will these people still show up for the movie on opening night? Absolutely…they already have too much invested in the film. But if bad word-of-mouth spreads over the net, that second tier of fans who didn’t bother to trek out to the theaters for an extended trailer might decide to skip the film.
And even if the footage is mind-boggling awesome, isn’t there a chance that the geeks of the world will feel like they’ve already gotten the eye candy they’ve been dreaming about for years? Will it make the actual release of the movie a little anti-climactic since we’ve already seen so much of the visual work on the movie?
These are all good questions, and questions I can’t hope to answer. Either this marketing strategy (which I’m sure has a HUGE dollar amount attached to it) will work or will fail. If it fails, that’s the end of the story.
If it works, though, that’s when things might get really interesting.
Hollywood marketing is one of the trendiest industries in the universe. Whenever something works, say a poster or a trailer, it get’s homogenized and re-packaged for countless other movies. Certain sites become essential in the minds of studio executives, and high profile film festivals and events like Comic-Con become more and more important in getting word out about your film.
The marketing department is always looking for a fresh new way to grab your attention, and if this works, “Untitled Movie Day” will become a monthly occurrence.
Every movie will brand itself “revolutionary” (like they aren’t already, right?), and the new goal will be to get you to the theaters for a “special presentation” months before the movie premieres. And that will get annoying really quickly.
It’s something that makes sense for Avatar because it’s a special case of the “perfect storm” of “hype-ready” filmmaking (a legendary fan-favorite director, a massive genre-oriented story, a long and much-covered development process, and a “revolutionary” next step experience in theater-going). This movie has gained its pre-release cult status very organically. If the movie is huge, though, expect all of Hollywood to do whatever it takes to create this “uber-hype-machine” artificially. Can you envision a “Hannah Montana 2 Day?” I sure can, and it scares me.
I’m really hoping that the IMAX theater near me participates in “Avatar Day.” I am chomping at the bit to see some footage. If the studios had tried to pull this for Transformers 2 or Wolverine, though, I would have rolled my eyes and ignored the whole thing.
So let’s all just hope that both the footage and movie deliver, and let’s pray that the event-status of Avatar is an isolated incident. I’ll go with it this time. Because it’s James Cameron. And Aliens was mind-bendingly awesome.