Posts Tagged ‘Then and Now’

Then And Now: Character Posters

November 5, 2015

Yesterday TFA character posters featuring Han, Leia, Finn, Kylo Ren, and Rey were released on the internet. As an especially nice touch, their actors with social media accounts got to release their character posters on Twitter, Facebook, etc. first. The whereabouts of Luke, Chewbacca, Poe, Phasma, and BB-8 are unknown…perhaps the film will reveal Luke is all of those characters in disguise! Like at the end of Scooby Doo or Styx’s “Mr. Roboto” video (“I’m Kilroy!”).

It’s not the first time these kinds of posters or ads have been produced. A couple of sites posted these oldies from the TPM campaign based around “one,” i.e. “one love” or “one destiny” since it was “Episode I.”

For AOTC, similar posters were released:




Then And Now: Fandom Tourism

October 28, 2015

In 1999, TPM was released on staggered dates throughout the world. North America got it May 19 and much of the world got it on various dates through the summer, with France bringing up the rear in October. Simultaneous worldwide releases were relatively new then but Star Wars fans outside of the U.S. and Canada weren’t going to wait two or three months to see the movie, especially with that newfangled thing called the internet threatening to spoil the movie months before it arrived on their shores. So what was a fan to do? Book a vacation to the U.S. of A., of course! I don’t know how many people traveled to New York, Washington, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia, and other easy hop destinations from the UK and the rest of Europe but it was enough to get media attention. One of my friends actually made the trip.

It was less of an issue with the releases of AOTC and ROTS, which opened the same date worldwide (with a few exceptions like Japan). However due to differing time zones, if you lived in Australia or New Zealand, you got at least a 16-hour jump on the U.S. and Europeans who had to schlep to New York in the past were enjoying midnight showings just as their U.S. East Coast counterparts were driving home from work.

Fast forward to 2015 and I spot an ad from Air France on Twitter promoting a “Flight And Cinema” package deal: “Star Wars VII: See The Movie 2 Days Before!” That’s right, France gets TFA on December 16, two days before its opening in North America, so now it comes full circle with American fans booking flights to Paris to see the flick first.

With your plane ticket (must be booked on specific flights departing December 15 from San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York) you get a free ticket to the flick at a EuroCorp Cinema theater (designed by Luc Besson) and a free ride on a special Star Wars shuttle from the airport to theater. Sweet, non? As much as I love Paris, I would be so horribly jet lagged, I’d fall asleep within the first 20 minutes. Especially in those La-Z-Boys and lounge chairs the EuroCorp Cinema chain apparently has. But if you’ve got money to burn and want to toast TFA by the Eiffel Tower then hit Disneyland Paris afterwards, check out Air France’s offer here. And hope the movie isn’t dubbed in French!

However, I think Italy gets first dibs on TFA December 15. Ball’s in your court, Alitalia!

Then And Now: Trailer Mania

October 26, 2015

Clone Corridor posted its own take here, but I’m going to discuss more the hype and reactions to trailers during the PT era and today rather than content.

It’s hard to pin down what exactly was the first “event” trailer but I’d have to say on a smaller level, it was probably 1996’s “Independence Day.” The internet was too slow and poky for that kind of video so it was mostly a theatrical thing but the trailer quickly became a must-see in anticipation of the summer alien invasion film.

Following that was perhaps the second “event” trailer, this time for the Star Wars Special Editions. The first one was attached with some prints of “Independence Day” and it quickly became a hunt to find which theaters were showing it. A second trailer (or maybe it was the same one, who knows) was released in the fall of 1996 on a more widespread basis. Again it was mostly a theatrical experience because of internet limits of the time. I remember paying to see “First Contact,” “Space Jam,” and “Jingle All The Way” just to catch the trailer more than once.

But it was all nothing compared to the debut of the first TPM trailer in November 1998. If ID4 and the Special Editions made trailers must-sees, TPM permanently made trailers as big a deal as the movies themselves. While many fans paid to see the trailer at a movie theater, many others spent an hour or so downloading it at home. It set a record for the number of downloads at the time and if that wasn’t enough, just about every media outlet you can think of showed it at least once. It made news all over the world. When TPM’s second trailer debuted in March 1999, I watched it online first and then I saw it on t.v. several times thereafter. AOTC had a short teaser, an internet only trailer (that you had to unlock with a TPM DVD), and two other theatrical trailers, one of which debuted on t.v. during Fox’s Sunday night lineup. ROTS’s trailers were also all over the internet and the media. Its second trailer debuted during a broadcast of “The O.C..”

Trailers once had no fanfare and were made on the cheap. Now they are flashy productions with announced debut dates and social media buzz. People don’t have to buy movie tickets anymore to see trailers; now they expect not to. TFA built up on the strategies first launched with TPM. Its first teaser trailer in November 2014 debuted online the same day it was supposed to debut in theaters and it was shown on every broadcast outlet worldwide. Its second trailer in April 2015 debuted at Celebration Anaheim but was put on the internet and shown on t.v. all over the world just moments later. Its third trailer debuted a week ago during Monday Night Football and was shortly thereafter put on the internet. Lucasfilm claimed that 16 million viewers caught it on ESPN and online, it was viewed 112 million times within 24 hours of its debut. See, now they’re putting out press releases after the trailers too! But it shows that greatly improved internet capabilities, outlets like YouTube, and the availability of video on social media can allow the experience to be just as good on your device of choice as on your television. It also lets you watch it over and over and over with relative ease.

Then And Now: Box Office

October 17, 2015

Then and Now is a miniseries I’m running up until the release of TFA, maybe a little beyond that if I have anything to add. What I’m doing is looking at how different aspects of the SW experience have changed since the turn of the century/millennium when the prequels were released and today. In some ways it is the more things change the more they stay the same. In other ways, a LOT has changed in the movie landscape in just 10 years.

First up, I’m looking at box office. I am not a fancy analyst or anything but neither is hardly anyone else commenting on box office including a lot of people in the professional media.

It’s probably more apt to compare TFA’s box office potential with how TPM performed in 1999. Both begin their respective trilogies and unlike ANH, they are continuing an established series.

Based on the hype, several years’ worth of fevered anticipation of more Star Wars films, and the success of the Special Editions in 1997, expectations for TPM’s box office were extremely high. A lot of Star Wars fans felt TPM was supposed to snatch back the top box office throne from 1997’s “Titanic,” which had passed ANH in 1998 just a year after ANH finally passed “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.” It was all about winning and restoring honor to the franchise! Admittedly I was one of those people who was not happy Frozen Leo and Kate Winslet’s boobies unseated ANH but when I saw that “Titanic” had grossed $600 million domestic (North America), I knew surpassing that amount at the box office was going to be extremely difficult even for Star Wars. I was practically the only fan who thought so too. “Titanic” actually had a moderately good opening but had the legs of Usain Bolt on a year’s supply of Red Bull. It sat there at the top of the weekend box office for an insane five months. It made as much money if not more during the week as it did Friday-Sunday, even long after the holidays. Up until “Titanic,” I believe the top grossing film of the 1990s was “Jurassic Park.” JP and other big ‘90s hits like “The Lion King” or “Forrest Gump” didn’t do even close to that kind of performance. Just to let you know how hard it is to make that kind of money even today, it took 12 years until another James Cameron movie, “Avatar,” topped it at the box office and for a long time no other movie even came close. And “Avatar” did not sell quite as many tickets as “Titanic,” since the former benefitted from higher ticket prices. “Titanic” had novelty on its side while TPM, even being the most anticipated movie ever, was still a continuation of a known quantity. “Titanic” drew crazy repeat business and most importantly, drew a lot of people who ordinarily didn’t go to the movies, especially women. My grandmother and my great aunt were hardly going to the movies anymore and they still trucked out to see “Titanic.”

Plus TPM was coming out in the summer movie season where there was more competition for its kind of core audience, i.e. families and kids. “Titanic” only had competition from the James Bond flick “Tomorrow Never Dies” and after that, pretty much no competition for a long time. Also I knew there were people who will flat out not see a fantasy or sf flick because they don’t “get” those kinds of movies. I saw more of a roof on TPM than on “Titanic,” a non-genre film.

Turns out, I was right. TPM performed extremely well. If not for “Titanic,” it would’ve been the top grossing film of the decade and for its first few weeks of release, TPM was actually making money faster than “Titanic.” It just didn’t have the same enduring legs though TPM endured fairly well indeed. In spite of what you might think, I don’t think that had anything to do with any backlash or “disappointment.” It was all of the factors I named: TPM being part of an established series, summer movie competition (though TPM still far outgrossed other hits like “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” and “The Blair Witch Project”), and a limit on audiences for genre films.

In 2015, expectations for TFA’s box office are also extremely high. One key difference between 1999 and today is we as fans have to worry about not just fan expectations based on personal pride but also SHAREHOLDER expectations. All TPM had to do in 1999 was make enough money to fund AOTC and it pretty much did that within days of its release. But if I were Bob Iger or Kathleen Kennedy, I’d be biting my nails to the nibs over some of the overblown box office projections that have been kicked around the media. Why? Because shareholders reading that stuff who have no idea how box office works are thinking how high their stock’s going to go when TFA grosses $5 billion worldwide and if it doesn’t make as much as those expectations and/or it doesn’t affect stock value, they’re going to be unhappy. And if they’re unhappy, heads could roll, and plans could change even if TFA is by anyone’s definition a hit and scores a nice profit. (Hint: shareholders are also going to look at how/if TFA drives merchandise sales.) It’s kind of weird we have to take this stuff into consideration but that’s how it is with the new regime.

It’s become an article of faith that TFA will certainly outperform “Jurassic World” and has a real shot at surpassing “Avatar”’s $900 million domestic gross just as everyone but me was so sure TPM was going to outdo “Titanic.” I am extremely skeptical of TFA besting “Avatar”’s 2009-2010 run. For one thing, “Avatar” offered a big leap forward in visual effects and in theatrical presentation, both of which are now totally taken for granted. I just don’t see a ballyhooed “practical” campaign inspiring people quite the same way. “Avatar” wasn’t a sequel; it offered something new. TFA is the seventh movie in a nearly 40-year-old franchise. I think by now most people who are aware of Star Wars have more or less made up their minds about it. Oh sure there’s another generation of younglings to introduce to the GFFA but the Playground Caucus has to really show up in force (ha ha) and poke their friends and relatives into going to see it too, multiple times.

TPM was a summer movie while TFA is going to be a holiday release, one week before Christmas. There’s been some discussion in the comments about how the release time might help or hurt box office. Again, both “Avatar” and “Titanic” were released around Christmas and the holidays certainly didn’t hurt their box office, but I’ll reiterate neither film was a sequel or prequel of an established franchise. Novelty is crucial in getting the kind of ticket sales that get a film to the top grossing spot. Not a single sequel/prequel has ever taken the all-time box office crown (domestic). TESB and TPM were the only ones to ever get close.

Realistically I think TFA is more likely to perform similarly to the LOTR and Hobbit flicks, which were no slouches at the box office even at Christmas time. The window of opportunity for school kids is much shorter than for summer films so that can cut into box office after New Year’s. Also a factor: weather. A monster blizzard in the upper Midwest or the mid-Atlantic/Northeast that knocks out power and dumps 10 feet of snow (or worse yet a bad ice storm) might slow business a bit. Oh sure, hardcore Star Wars fans will slap on skis or snowshoes and head to their nearest open multiplex anyway but most filmgoers are not diehards.

Another factor to take into consideration is the faster turnaround between a film’s theatrical release and its release on DVD/Blu-Ray/on demand/streaming services. If you missed TPM in the theaters–and you had plenty of opportunity to see it in the theaters back then–you had to wait until April 2000 to see it on VHS and until October 2001 to see it on DVD. That was almost a year just to see it on videotape! Today, it was four months between the time “Jurassic World” opened in multiplexes and the time when you can watch it on Netflix or Apple movies. People used to see blockbusters multiple times because it was going to be a long time before they’d have an opportunity to rent it out at Blockbuster or watch it on HBO. It would be YEARS before they’d have any hope of seeing it on broadcast television. Even though some people still do make multiple trips to see movies they are obsessed with, I don’t think they are going 15 times anymore. Movies, even big hits, just don’t stick around more than a couple of months. Higher ticket prices have to compensate for the fewer viewings of today’s blockbusters.

My prediction is TFA will fall into the same pattern as TPM and ANH: it will likely be the highest grossing film of the sequel trilogy. Thanks to 2015 dollars, IMAX admissions, and an expanded international market, I think there’s a good chance TFA ends up being the highest grossing Star Wars film to date (right now that’s TPM with just over $1 billion worldwide). If TFA performs similarly to TPM, everyone at Disney should be beyond overjoyed. What we should be worried about is Disney and especially its shareholders expecting TFA to perform like ANH. THAT is not going to happen for reasons I’ll get to in another post.

Disney corporate politics aside, I don’t think fans ought to worry as much about winning the box office horse race. No matter how TFA does, people will forget all about its opening weekend and box office totals by the time “Batman vs. Superman” or whatever else is on slate for 2016 comes out. The focus ought to be on whether or not it’s a worthy addition to the saga.