DIGITAL AMERICA

Category: Essay

Final Project: Digitisation and the Film Industry

// Posted by on 11/14/2014 (2:02 PM)

Now that my final project idea has been approved, I must somehow try to narrow my area of interest (the changing nature of film and television in the digital age). I think that the best way to do this… Read more

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Now that my final project idea has been approved, I must somehow try to narrow my area of interest (the changing nature of film and television in the digital age). I think that the best way to do this is to focus on just the film or television industry. I’m leaning towards the film industry but I am still conflicted…there have just been so many radical changes to the nature of television within the past several years!

Also, it was suggested that I chose a few key case studies examples to analyse in relation to my topic. Perhaps I could look at some cases involving huge Hollywood blockbusters, some that were successful and others that weren’t and see why this was the case? Or if I was to focus on Television then I could choose a few key shows that demonstrate how social media helped to generate a huge following or how the very nature of how they are made and released is a result of digitalisation.

Hopefully as I continue to research this area my ideas and approach will become clearer!

Below are a few articles discussing box office that have proved useful in providing an idea with the current state of the industry.

  • http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/30/movies/movies-have-worst-summer-since-1997.html
  • http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/executive-roundtable-6-studio-heads-748102?facebook_20141114

And a slightly different perspective from acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert:

  • http://www.rogerebert.com/rogers-journal/ill-tell-you-why-movie-revenue-is-dropping
19th November 2014
As I’ve been thinking more about the role of social media in reshaping the nature of the film industry, I’ve started researching not only what that impact is, but also how it is being used by the industry itself. Thus, I came across the following article, ‘How Social Media is Revolutionising the Flailing Movie Tracking Industry’, which essentially identifies how social media sites such as Twitter are now being employed to track and, consequently, predict the success of a film.

It was interesting to note in the article that, “Silicon Valley is eager to prove it can help. Google, for example, released a study last June that found that searches for movies — and especially trailers — can help predict box-office performance with 94 percent accuracy.”

  • http://www.thewrap.com/movies/article/can-social-media-revolutionize-flailing-tracking-industry-107646/
Another article I found attributed the lack of success of Interstellar to bad word of mouth, reaffirming my own position regarding the crucial role that social media plays in determining the financial success of a film. While Chris Lee notes how some argue that Interstellar’s long running time can be attributed to its lack of ticket sales at the box office, Rentrak’s senior media analyst Paul Dergarbedian argues that “…there are many other factors affecting the box office and this [length of a film] is just one piece of the puzzle. And there have been a host of long running time films that have done well.” Rather, “Word of mouth really hurt Interstellar,” says one veteran box-office tracker. “There was a backlash against it. A lot of people liked it. But the people who didn’t like it were very vocal about it. And that word of mouth spread like wildfire.” While Lee does not explicitly point to social media in the negative word of mouth, it isn’t unlikely that where people were “very vocal about it” was primarily on social media sites such as Twitter. Again, this reinforces my thesis that the in the digital age, digitisation of word of mouth via social media sites has had a significant impact in determining the success of a film.
  • http://insidemovies.ew.com/2014/11/11/big-hero-6-interstellar-box-office/

 

23rd of November 2014

Below are a few more articles I have found pertaining to the impact of social media on the entertainment industry. At the moment, I am trying to narrow my focus, but it is easier said than done!

  • https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/community/blogs/025bf606-020a-48e9-89bf-99adda13e9b1/entry/by_the_numbers_social_media_impacts_the_entertainment_industry?lang=en
“How Social Media and Viral Marketing are Saving the Film Industry”
  • http://mashable.com/2012/12/19/social-media-viral-marketing-film-industry/
Although a short piece, author Anita Lee does highlight some key points regarding how the film industry is utilising social media to increase box office revenue. As Lee notes, “…the silver screen has managed to stay afloat because of the very thing that undermined it in the first place: the Internet.”

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The following article by Britt Michaelian looks at Independent cinema in particular. I’m not sure if I will look into this realm in my investigation as it may be too much to get through with a limited amount of time. Nevertheless, it is an interesting facet of the whole shift in the film industry.
  •  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/britt-michaelian/social-media-is-a-major-g_b_4284162.html
Some quotes from the article:
->“For indendepents who tend to have limited financial resources, social media is the key to connecting with engaged audiences.”

->“Independent filmmakers who are looking to produce low budget films can utilize social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram not just to promote films, but also to cast, staff and fund projects.”

->“In the Video on Demand forum, emphasis was placed on utilizing social media in every stage of the filmmaking process – pre-production, during filming and in post production as a means for independent films to stand out from the studio films that dominate 80% of views on VOD platforms like Netflix and Hulu.”

-> “…with a savvy social media strategy, it isn’t just the studios who can build a massive following for films.”

Possible case studies…
Dr. Rosatelli suggested that I might like to look at particular cases that reveal the significance of word of mouth through social media in determining the success of a film. While I am still undecided which ones to focus on in particular, I have come across a few examples that could prove effective in supporting my argument.
Sharknado (2013)
Released as a made for TV movie, Sharknado (a film about a tornado of sharks that destroys a Los Angeles community…) proved wildly successful. It’s success has been largely attributed to the use of social media.
  • http://www.forbes.com/sites/dinagachman/2014/07/29/how-sharknado-transcended-its-genre-and-became-a-pop-culture-phenomenon/
  • http://mashable.com/2013/07/12/twitter-sharknado/
  • http://www.popmatters.com/column/178634-what-does-the-success-of-sharknado-reveal-about-social-media/
“On 11 July 2013, the night on which Syfy’s made-for-television movie Sharknado premiered, the hashtag “#Sharknado” was a worldwide trending topic on Twitter. Within two hours of its initial airing, the program was the source of 5,000 tweets per minute, making it television’s most social program of the evening, and Syfy’s most social telecast ever.”
“According to Craig Engler, Senior Vice President at @Syfy digital, the network used Twitter to build buzz for the Sharknado premiere. As Engler said in an interview, “Hours before the movie even aired we were retweeting the fans talking about how much they were looking forward to watching it and also tweeting out Sharknado ‘warnings.’”
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TV and social media
Although I don’t think I will focus on Television, I have come across several articles, such as the one below, that do emphasise my argument.
  • http://www.indiewire.com/article/how-scandal-and-hannibal-are-winning-the-social-media-game-20141023
-> “Nielsen studies have proven that the more a show is tweeted about, the higher its ratings go. This comes as an addition to the increasing web socialization of television viewing shaped with the help of “second screens” – that is, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Whether through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Tumblr, the idea of sharing one’s viewing experience live and through hashtags is a trend that’s quickly defining what this “golden age” of television excels at: amplifying the fan experience.”
-> ”Twitter lends itself more to the real-time conversation of live-viewing where as Tumblr is more about the extended conversation — beyond the time that a show is airing”
->“People love to talk about television and that’s why TV drives so much conversation on Facebook and Twitter,” Goldsmith said. “It’s a way for viewers to extend the couch and have more people to talk with, share with and make comments. I think as new platforms emerge, you’re going to see even more unique ways to do that.”
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In order to bolster my argument I need not only facts and quotes, but also concrete statistics and figures that illustrate the shifting nature of the film industry in the digital age. Thus, I have started to source articles that include such information.

‘By the Numbers: Social Media’s Impact on the Entertainment Industry’

  • https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/community/blogs/025bf606-020a-48e9-89bf-99adda13e9b1/entry/by_the_numbers_social_media_impacts_the_entertainment_industry?lang=en
From the article:
“The poll found that a majority of Millenials (those aged 18-to-34-year-old) believe using social media while watching a movie in a theater would add to their experience, and nearly half would be interested in going to theaters that allowed texting and web surfing. Users were asked what they do on their mobile device, if they use it in a theater. About 55% text, 27% visit Facebook, and 19% make a phone call.  And YET 75% of people (all ages) on social networks in this poll say that being able to use their phone in a theater would make the experience less satisfying and more distracting.”
  • http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/gallery/facebook-twitter-social-media-study-302273#9-social-media-made-critic
Taken from the study:
 
December 3rd 2014: Final post

The influx of big, blockbuster films and sequels is by no means coincidental. Hollywood studios are deliberately placing greater time and effort into producing these types of films. In fact, not only are these films now a mainstay, but there is also a growing scarcity of original stories coming from Hollywood. I’m sure we’ve all seen a preview and asked ourselves, “Another sequel?” “Another superhero movie?” And yet it’s still staggering to take a step back and see just how dire the situation has become.

In order to assess why these changes have taken place, I’ve posed the following question:

Q. What is the role of digitization in determining the types of studio films being made?

In response, I will argue that:

A. Digitization plays a crucial role as the advent of social media has made word of mouth much more of a decisive factor than it ever was before.

In order to support my argument, I’ve decided to focus on two fairly recent case studies. The Lone Ranger reveals the impact of negative social media buzz in determining box office success. The film failed to generate buzz and given the now immediate judgement of a film, it lost an incredible amount of money. Conversely, I will look at another Blockbuster (and a superhero film) The Guardians of the Galaxy to highlight that if used effectively, social media plays a crucial role in determining a film’s box office success. Even a less familiar idea like that of Guardians, if it gets the right buzz and anticipation (and generates a big initial weekend), can be a huge success. Moreover, I will assess the manner in which studios are now attempting to hedge against the threat posed by social media. Namely, the marketing strategies they employ. This will include the role of the actor, who has become paramount in generating buzz for a film. In order to keep my paper focussed, I will use Vin Diesel as an example given that he was extremely active in promoting The Guardians of the Galaxy.

Feedback

After my presentation/pitch I was provided with some useful feedback. For instance, Dr. Rosatelli suggested looking into consumer theories to support my argument, which I intend to do. Several of my classmates also inquired into areas of this topic that I had begun to consider. For instance, the impact that online streaming is having on the film industry was one issue raised. While I did consider discussing this shift in my paper, I’m not sure whether I will have enough time to do so. I may just briefly mention it as a factor, but I will primarily focus on social media as playing a greater role. Moreover, the resulting impact that digitization is having in terms of the actors and their salaries was also mentioned. There are articles being written at the moment discussing the future of the enormous star salary (i.e. paying an actor $50 million for a film) and whether is needed in the digital age with the advent of social media. While this is an interesting question, I do not think it is imperative to the line of argument I am making. Rather, I will focus more time on the current role of the actor in assisting with generating buzz for their film.

Everyone loves a survey!

I decided that the best (and simplest) way for my peers to assist me was by taking a survey. I created the survey in order to find out what draws the target demographic of Hollywood (18-29) to see a film. Is it reviews online, such as those in the New York Times? Do you go and see a movie based on the trailer and marketing? Is it the result of word of mouth? And if so, is that in person, or digitized via social media? By doing so, I hoped that role of social media would become more clear. While many did not adhere to the norms that were reported in a recent poll conducted by The Hollywood Reporter, their responses were nevertheless interesting. Only one affirmed my thesis, stating that the online reviews/buzz via social media are the most decisive factor in why they going and see a film in the cinema. The same individual also was prone to using their phone while watching a film, namely to look up a films imdb page while watching.

Perhaps most telling were the responses I received to the following questions:

  1. What type of film you most likely to see in the cinema and why?

Interesting (but not surprisingly), of those surveyed it was the men that preferred to see the larger budget, blockbuster films. For instance, Joe (20) noted, “… if I am going to spend my money on a movie ticket when I could easily see it free online in a few weeks, I want a real movie experience that is can only be experienced at the cinema. Brendan (20) echoed these sentiments, “Mostly high budget films that make use of sound, and grand visuals the most. I watch most films outside the cinema, so when I go to see a film, the cinematic setting should have contribute substantially to the experience of viewing said film.” These responses further support my claim and the growing trend that given Hollywood’s desire to target this core demographic and thus reap financial gains, they are producing more of the same. In other words, blockbuster films, sequels of those films and so forth.

What’s next?

Aside from now bringing my argument together, I still think that I could strengthen my theoretical framework. Whether that means extracting more information from social media theorists such as Danah Boyd or finding other sources (such as consumer theories) I will have to see. I will also continue to draw some conclusions from the surveys I received to assess whether any of the responses will be of use or shed new light on my paper topic.

 


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