" I like ideas, especially movie ideas, that you can hold in your hand. If a person can tell me the idea in twenty-five words or less, its going to make a pretty good movie." Steven Spielberg.' For this essay I intend to discuss how Hollywood as an industry has used the marketing strategies of blockbuster films to significant advantage in film merchandising. Along with the use of mass merchandising as a form of marketing films, with the hope of creating awareness among the public. As merchandising has become one of the most lucrative 'arenas' for Hollywood Studios to earn a profit. Many blockbuster films today come with novelizations of the films story to toy action figures. This is because the contemporary Hollywood blockbusters, in industry terms are high concept films.
These are movies that have a striking, easily reducible narrative, which offer a high degree of marketability. This marketability might be based upon stars, the match between a star and premise or a subject that is fashionable. For these movies to earn more money in other merchandising, they are normally easily reduced to a single image. Such as a man flying for Superman (1978), or the two robots, R 2 D 2 and C 3 PO from Star Wars (1978). This reducibility of narrative to a single image lends its self to the tactile representation of the film, that is, the licensed products constructed around the films characters.
These licensed products extend the 'shelf life' of the movie by replicating the film's characters, action and settings through the products. Brad Globe, who was the head of Licensing and merchandising for Ambling Entertainment had this comment to say on the phenomenon:' Licensing is not just about generating revenues. We " re really very concerned that the licensing program have a positive impact on the movie and create some consumer awareness for the film.' Although Films have been merchandised since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), merchandising has become increasingly influential within the past two decades as a form of marketing. Within the last decade have the studios initiated in-house merchandising units within their marketing departments.
Looking back through film history, there are several films from the early 1970's that advanced the influence of film merchandising as a market force. Love Story producer Robert Evans suggested to Erich Segal who had wrote the screenplay to write a book based on his own screenplay. The Book was released by Harper & Row on Valentines Day, 1970. The book turned into a huge success, and spent nine months on the New York Times bestseller list. The book created a high level of anticipation for the film, which was released the following Christmas. The horror film The Omen (1976) further demonstrated the power of novelizations.
The book sold over 3 million paperback copies of the book during the release of the film. On a much grander scale, The Great Gatsby (1974) which was produced by Robert Evans at Paramount Studios had a revolutionary merchandising campaign. Robert Evans and Paramount's then Promotions director Charles O. Glenn assembled a product tie-in scheme valued at $6 million. The purpose of this scheme was to create 'a third level of awareness' for the film. To keep with the emphasis of the film, four brands where selected to represent the style and romance of the movie.
These where Ballantine's Scotch, Glemby hairstyling studios, Robert Bruce's men's sportswear, and du Pont's 'classic white' line in cookware. Thou this merchandising campaign was revolutionary, F. Scott Fitzgerald's daughter complained that "you have turned The Great Gatsby into pots and pans," Paramount was able to establish the nostalgic, romantic image of the film, as evidenced by the strong exhibitor advances, through these extensive promotions. Two years after the release of the Great Gatsby, Paramount studios mounted an even more involved merchandising campaign for its film King Kong. A film that is very similar to the idea of a high concept film. King Kong had an already pre-sold story that was from the original movie made in 1933.
The original King Kong is recognised as a classic film of cinema, so it is already known that the story is a success. There is also the visceral presence of Kong as a character, and the simplicity (on a narrative and visceral level) of a beauty and the beast story. All these are high concept traits. The Producer of King Kong, Dino De Laurent is had approved several pieces of merchandise for the film, these ranged from Jim Beam King Kong Cocktails to King Kong sports wear. In 1978 for the release of Superman (1978), Warner Bros.' Mobilised all of Warner Communications to back the Merchandising for the film. With Superman being so familiar to the public through comic books, cartoons, and television, Warner Communications released eight tie-in Superman Books, the John Williams Soundtrack, T-shirts, and about one hundred licenses to Toy manufacturers.
The merchandising effort for this film suggests that the extremes of high concept can be incorporated completely with merchandising. A film that can be completely reduced to a single pre-sold image inevitably becomes a merchandised product. The reading of the film is refereed by the viewer's knowledge of the merchandised products, which accurately represent the films content. In terms of economic importance, film merchandising boomed in 1977 with the release of George Lucas Star Wars. On first release, Star Wars did not have the pre-sold ability of a major film title such as King Kong. Twentieth Century Fox's John Fried kin said at the time of release that "The film [Star Wars] opened May 25, and on May 24 you couldn't give it away." Another Twentieth Century Fox executive, Mark Peppers had commented "George Lucas created Star Wars with the toy by product in mind.
He was making much more than a movie." George Lucas sought to control all the merchandising rights for Star Wars, with the final contracts specifying an even revenue split between Twentieth Century Fox and George Lucas after Fox's administrative costs had been covered. As the film has been licensed off to over fifty companies, with the toy manufacture Kenner producing over seventy Star Wars products alone, sales figures are not easily available. Although within the first year of Star Wars release, merchandising from the film had generated at least $300 million for Star Wars. Part of Star Wars success as a licensing property comes from the films diverse set of characters. These Characters had been parlayed into numerous products, thus further enhancing the world created by George Lucas. The mature period of mass merchandising of films can be located as starting with the innovative marketing programs of The Great Gatsby, King Kong, Superman and especially Star Wars.
The music soundtracks for films which is another merchandised item, flourished with the rise of music as a marketing tool. In Hollywood today, All the studios have their own merchandising divisions, and licensing as a marketing practice has grown into a $56 Billion industry. From this figure, the largest forms of merchandised products include toys, games, gifts, novelties, publishing, sporting goods, apparel, and house wares. The merging of merchandising with film (in particular High concept films) has become so complete that movie projects are being conceived with the merchandising as a primary market focus. Steven Spielberg's remark that he had carefully deliberated the marketing and the merchandising possibilities of E.
T. the extra terrestrial (1982) even before filming had begun, Fits in with this notion. While all projects aim to aspire the merchandising success of Star Wars, Commercially successful films do not necessary end up with a successful merchandising campaign. Films such as Gremlins (1984), Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988), and another George Lucas film, Willow (1988) where all hits in the box office, but proved disappointing in terms of merchandising. So, Overall it can be argued that mass merchandising of film projects are set-up to create awareness of the film among the general public. Merchandising, like marketing through strong print images, music, and the use of other media such as television, are key variables of the high concept equation.
The interest and rise of these type projects can be traced back to the conglomeration of the film industry. This is where the studios where brought up by mass media conglomerates that where more interested in the financial side of film making rather than the artistic side. These conglomerates sought a more financially conservative, less risky approach to film making. With films having saturation releases, a need for high awareness of the product is needed.
The use of Television commercials, music videos and merchandising have all been developed or exploited to service this need. So in answer to the question set, whether or not the contemporary Hollywood Blockbuster is not so much a film but a device used to earn profits in other arenas, it has to be answered yes and no. As stated in this essay, merchandising for films creates a high sense of awareness among the public, but also serves as a means for the Studios to generate more money through product placement and various movie tie-ins, from the face of C 3 P 0 on the cups at Burger King to Star Wars comics and toys found in your local shops. Bibliography. Ali Mcgraw " Moving Pictures" Bantam Books, 1991 Cliff Rothman, "Disney: A Merchandising World Leader" Hollywood Reporter, June 10, 1986 Dale Pollack, Sky walking: The life and films of George Lucas, Harmony Books, 1983 Janet Was ko, "Hollywood in the Information Age " Polity Press 1994 Martin A. Grove, "Special Report: Licensing and merchandising" Hollywood Reporter, 1986 Olen J.
Earnest, " Star Wars: A case study of motion picture marketing," Current research in film: Audiences, economics, and law, vol. 1, ed. Bruce A. Austin.
Able Publishing Corporation 1983 Steve Neale, Murray Smith, "Contemporary Hollywood Cinema" Routledge 1998 web.