2013 was a massive year for the UK cinema box office and excitingly, 2014 has set itself up to be just as a big.
The cinema-going market has progressively developed into a franchise business with 16 sequels, 5 re-makes and 4 animated releases in 2014. This makes economic sense as these films have existing equity and audience bases and they continue to make more money outside of the theatrical window.
As is now the norm, the big budget releases are no longer released only around the summer period and 2014’s blockbuster season has started off with a bang with Wolf of Wall Street, grossing over £10m since its launch just 10 days ago. The major film launches will continue through to the summer with titles such as Robocop, The Amazing Spider-Man 2; Captain America; Godzilla and X-Men: Days Of The Future
As always, the summer is a very busy time for cinema but the World Cup from 12th June to 13th July, means that early summer is a challenging time for the box office and there is only one major franchise title brave enough to be released during this period, Paramount’s Transformers: Age of Extinction. This will be followed by a number of major releases such as Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Fast & Furious 7; Guardians of the Galaxy – just to name a few. Phew! What a whopping and very competitive summer, yet again…
The release of major films continues throughout the year with several sequels being released in the run up to Christmas – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1; The Hobbit: There & Back Again and How To Train Your Dragon 2.
Such an amazing line-up is fantastic for the cinema-going audience and cinemas, of course, but this creates a major challenge for the studios. Success has been vital on the opening weekend for years but now, it is clear on opening day whether a movie will be successful or not. Due to this, the studios are adapting their marketing strategies to:
Create major buzz and standout around a trailer launch and to ensure as much of their target audience views this IN FULL, engages with it and shares it with other fans pre-release. Some specific areas marketers should to be mindful of are:
- Social Spreading: I expect the studios to put even more emphasis on consumers as a channel of distributing content by finding even more creative ways to get fans to watch trailers in full and spread them across their social networks.
- Auto play: Movie studios will utilise advances in technology to showcase full movie trailers in new ways. Take for example the technology Coca-Cola used at a bus stop in Sweden. This could be adapted to auto play a trailer when someone was waiting for a bus, in fact the possibilities are endless across all sorts of media.
- Incentivise with added value: What we have found is Xbox is the perfect environment to deliver full trailer views if the studios incentivise the audience to watch the trailer through till the end by offering them a reward, such as a free Avatar or download.
- Native Advertising: This is a new buzz word where advertisers, media agencies and media owners need to think outside the box to create fresh, new ad format for specific environments. A brilliant example of this is our recent The Hobbit Campaign which was a bespoke creative solution for the Windows 8 environment.
Another major strategy is to include a clear call to action message to pre-book tickets, so the business has better visibility on the box office pre-release. Here I expect to see a massive uptake in how apps are created and used across the various mobile devices now available. With the ever increasing use of apps for booking tickets the studios will be looking at how to make the most out of these.
As important as it is to deliver a successful marketing campaign though, the selected day of release is equally key. Some of the studios are now holding back on announcing release dates to allow them flexibility against their competitors in the release calendar.
Interestingly, although there is a higher proportion of female cinema-goers, there have only been two successful female franchises in recent years - Twilight and The Hunger Games. It is my belief that this teen fantasy movies market is a dying one after the lack of success of other titles within this genre in 2013, e.g., Beautiful Creatures and The Mortal Instruments.
A huge amount of us love a good horror! Horror titles continue to maintain their place in the cinema release schedule in 2014 with titles such as the Paranormal Activity sequels 4 and 5; The Quiet Ones and Deliver Us From Evil. They are hugely profitable, requiring small production budgets and minimal marketing support and where Lionsgate, in particular, as an established player in this market, continue to invest with the other studios following into this market.
Although 2014 continues to up the pace with sequels, franchises and re-makes, there are also a few interesting new projects to look out for, such as Christopher Nolan’s under-wraps, Interstellar and Mila Kunis’ first starring role in a blockbuster, Jupiter Ascending.
Still, most of the money will be made from the more reliable franchises and as is clear for this year’s calendar, the competition is fierce. I will bet that out of the top 10 films of 2014, only one will breakthrough that is not a franchise, Interstellar, with The Hunger Games and The Hobbit re-claiming their 2013 top 5 spots this year. I’m excited….!
Kristina Bolger, Head of Entertainment & Media Partnerships, Microsoft Advertising UK.