Trailer mak­ers mul­ti­ply as stu­dios spend big on mar­ket­ing and Web views of movie pre­views soar

Los Angeles Times - - BUSI­NESS - By Ryan Faugh­n­der

Movie trail­ers have be­come their own kind of block­busters.

Hol­ly­wood stu­dios col­lec­tively spent $ 3.16 bil­lion last year on U. S. mar­ket­ing ef­forts to draw peo­ple to the the­aters in the face of com­pe­ti­tion from new en­ter­tain­ment op­tions, ac­cord­ing to Nielsen.

The strug­gle to reach the mass au­di­ence has given rise to a di­verse in­dus­try of pro­duc­ers that cuts fea­ture films into bite- sized ap­pe­tiz­ers. About 15 years ago, there were only a dozen or so com­pa­nies dis­till­ing mo­tion pic­tures down to 21⁄ 2- min­utepre­views. Nowthere are more than100.

Fu­el­ing this growth has been an ex­plo­sion in view­ing on­line, where pre­views can gen­er­ate as much buzz as the films them­selves. Peo­ple have watched more than 35 mil­lion hours of movie trail­ers on YouTube so far in 2015, up 90% from the same pe­riod last year.

“For us, it’s a hey­day of trailer mak­ing,” said David Stern, whose 10year- old com­pany, Cre­ate Ad­ver­tis­ing Group, has worked on cam­paigns for “Fan­tas­tic Four,” “Min­ions” and “Avengers: Age of Ul­tron.”

The rise of trailer com­pa­nies is largely due to tech­nol­ogy. Newdig­i­tal ad­vances for film­mak­ers have made it eas­ier and cheaper for as­pir­ing trailer cut­ters to get started on their own, and the reach of YouTube means a big­ger au­di­ence than ever.

Es­tab­lished play­ers such as Trailer Park, Mark Woollen & As­so­ciates and Cre­ate Ad­ver­tis­ing have had their eyes on the broader mar­ket for years. But some start- ups have gained a foothold by ap­peal­ing to spe­cific de­mo­graphic groups.

Soda Cre­ative, based in down­town L. A., is one of the com­pa­nies that have sprouted up to take ad­van--

tage of stu­dios’ ap­petite for tar­geted mar­ket­ing. Owner Jaime Gam­boa has made a spe­cialty of the bur­geon­ing Latino mar­ket that has be­come in­creas­ingly im­por­tant to Hol­ly­wood and driven the suc­cess of huge films such as “Fu­ri­ous 7.”

He and busi­ness part­ner Jae­hoon Oh, who started Soda Cre­ative in 2013, try to am­plify parts of the movie that will ap­peal to Lati­nos with­out pi­geon­hol­ing them. Their “Guardians of the Galaxy” com­mer­cial for Univi­sion, for ex­am­ple, high­lighted the Dis­ney su­per­hero movie’s ac­tion and swag­ger, not its off­beat hu­mor and 1970s pop mu­sic.

Dis­ney also re­cruited Soda for its feel- good movie “McFar­land USA,” about a white PE coach who leads a team of Latino cross- coun­try run­ners. Dis­ney de­sired a more “cul­tur­ally rich” feel for the drama’s sec­ond trailer, Gam­boa said.

It wanted a dif­fer­ent song to play over the footage, re­plac­ing the U2 track used in the first trailer. Gam­boa’s team and Dis­ney ul­ti­mately landed on a song from Colom­bian rocker Juanes.

“The way other ma­jor agen­cies were ap­proach­ing the His­panic mar­ket was, to be frank, very ar­chaic,” said Gam­boa, 41, who is Mex­i­can Amer­i­can. “We’re not com­ing at it fromthe per­spec­tive of ‘ I’m His­panic, so I know all about His­pan­ics.’ We’ve been in­volved in the re­search.”

The fo­cus on Lati­nos ap­pears to be­work­ing.

Gam­boa’s staff has more than dou­bled to 12 full- time em­ploy­ees in the last year, and he says his rev­enue is grow­ing at an an­nual rate of 40% to 44%. The com­pany this month moved to a 4,000square- foot space from a cramped tem­po­rary of­fice.

The au­di­ence for trail­ers is not just di­verse, it’s hun­gry, ex­perts say. The ex­plo­sion of on­line video has helped make trailer re­lease dates into events that get their own pro­mo­tional push. Stu­dios in­creas­ingly hype teaser trail­ers that come­out ahead of the full ver­sions, and an­nounce when they’ll un­veil each new video to keep the au­di­ence in­ter­ested for months lead­ing up to open­ing­week­end.

Web­sites such as YouTube have be­come the go- to place to view movie ads, es­pe­cially for young peo­ple who aren’t trekking to the mul­ti­plex as of­ten as their par­ents did. The sec­ond of­fi­cial teaser for “Star Wars: The Force Awak­ens” racked up 88 mil­lion on­line views on its first day alone, Dis­ney said in April.

“The mar­ket­ing of the mar­ket­ing has be­come a prime se­cret weapon,” said Craig Mur­ray, whose Los An­ge­les firm MOcean has helped with cam­paigns for Marvel’s “Ant- Man” and Warner Bros.’ “Amer­i­can Sniper.”

There are risks to flood­ing the In­ter­net with movie ads. Trail­ers can bomb, just like the­movies they sell.

Fans have long com­plained about pre- rolls that go on too long, give away too much of the plot or mis­lead the au­di­ence. One film­goer in 2011 sued the dis­trib­u­tor of the Ryan Gosling movie “Drive,” con­tend­ing that the mar­ket­ing sug­gested it would be sim­i­lar to the “Fast & Fu­ri­ous” films. She lost her case.

Trail­ers have been mocked for their fa­mil­iar for­mu­las and cliches — think “In a world …” voiceovers and end­less “fromthe mak­ers of …” roll calls. A com­mon com­plaint: Why see the movie, when all the best jokes are in the pre­view?

In to­day’s cul­ture of so­cial me­dia and fan­boy web­sites, trail­ers are parsed and crit­i­cized with­out mercy. The “Bat­man v. Su­per­man: Dawn of Jus­tice” trailer, re­leased in April shortly af­tera low- qual­ity ver­sion leaked, met with de­cid­edly mixed re­views.

“You can have back­lash, for sure,” said Fan­dango Chief Con­tent Of­fi­cer San­dro Cor­saro, who over­sees trail­ers for the on­line ticket seller. “The ante has def­i­nitely been upped.” But some­times it­works. Dis­ney sparked a frenzy over its 88- sec­ond pre­view for the next “Star Wars” movie last year by an­nounc­ing it would run in just 30 North Amer­i­can the­aters on Black Fri­day. The Burbank stu­dio un­veiled the pre­view on­line the same day to tens of mil­lions of views over the hol­i­day week­end, spark­ing wide ex­cite­ment about the fran­chise re­boot that de­buts in De­cem­ber.

And the of­fi­cial trail­ers from the stu­dios are only a part of the boom. Fans up­load “re­ac­tion” videos by the thou­sands, giv­ing their first takes on the pre­views.

For the sum­mer hit “Juras­sic World,” fan up­loads earned more than twice as many views as the videos Univer­sal Pic­tures put up, ac­cord­ing to the video tech­nol­ogy firm Zefr, which helps en­ter­tain­ment com­pa­nies track and an­a­lyze clips on YouTube.

“It’s all been for the ben­e­fit of the mar­keters, be­cause they can har­ness the power of the fans,” said Zefr co­founder Rich Rad­don.

Warner Bros. this month tried to keep a lid on the Comic Con trailer for the su­per- vil­lain­movie “Sui­cide Squad.” But in the face of leaks, the Burbank movie gi­ant be­grudg­ingly re­lented and re­leased the footage on the In­ter­net.

Stu­dios are will­ing to spend $ 50,000 to $ 500,000 to get a trailer right.

Mar­ket­ing pushes for the big­gest block­busters can start more than a year be­fore the film’s re­lease. Stu­dios tap firms like MOcean and Cre­ate Ad­ver­tis­ing to gen­er­ate ideas even be­fore the pic­ture be­gins shoot­ing, bas­ing teaser con­cepts on scripts and sto­ry­boards.

The firms some­times get com­plete movies to work with. But with big­ger, ef­fects­driven films, the com­pa­nies tend to get piece­meal ac­cess to scenes as they’re com­pleted. A sin­gle teaser trailer con­cept can take two to six months to cometo fruition, as it goes through the painstak­ing ef­forts of writ­ers, ed­i­tors, voice- over ac­tors and mu­sic su­per­vi­sors.

Not ev­ery­one wants more mar­ket­ing. Trailer length has been a bone of con­tention be­tween the­ater own­ers and stu­dios, as well as a source of an­noy­ance for au­di­ences. Last year the Na­tional Assn. of Theatre Own­ers put out newguide­lines to clamp down on the du­ra­tion of trail­ers and how far in ad­vance they are shown be­fore a film’s re­lease.

On the other hand, trail­ers have proved pop­u­lar enough to spawn their own awards shows. The an­nual Golden Trailer Awards — con­sid­ered the Os­cars for short at­ten­tion spans— has re­cently given top hon­ors to spots for “Fu­ri­ous 7,” “Grav­ity” and “Iron Man 3.” It be­stows an es­pe­cially du­bi­ous ti­tle, the Golden Fleece, for the best ad­ver­tise­ment of a bad movie.

The last cer­e­mony, held in May, played to a sell- out crowd at the Sa­ban Theatre in Bev­erly Hills. The event, hosted by “Sil­i­con Val­ley” ac­tor T. J. Miller, doled out tro­phies for “Fu­ri­ous 7,” “Big Hero 6” and “Ted 2.” The Golden Fleece went to “The Giver,” and “In­her­ent Vice” won the Don LaFon­taine Award— for best voice- over.

“Peo­ple’s at­ten­tion spans are shrink­ing,” said Eve­lyn Brady- Wat­ters, who launched the Golden Trailer Awards in 1999 with her sis­ter Mon­ica Brady. “You can’t waste a sec­ond of the time you have in front of peo­ple.”

Allen J. Sch­aben Los An­ge­les Times

SODA CRE­ATIVE is one of sev­eral com­pa­nies that have sprouted up to take ad­van­tage of­movie stu­dios’ ap­petite for tar­geted mar­ket­ing. Above, owner Jaime Gam­boa, left, and busi­ness part­ner Jae­hoon Oh.

Ron Phillips Dis­ney

DIS­NEY sought a “cul­tur­ally rich” feel for a “McFar­land USA” trailer, Gam­boa says.

Tom­maso Boddi Getty Im­ages

MOVIE TRAIL­ERS have proved pop­u­lar enough to spawn their own awards shows. Above, ac­tress Missi Pyle on­stage at the an­nual Golden Trailer Awards — con­sid­ered the Os­cars for short at­ten­tion spans — in­May.

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