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Data workshop analyzing media and pop culture

Data workshop analyzing media and pop culture
Blockbuster hits and the business of movies
The seventh installment in the Star Wars film series was released in December 2015. Star Wards: The Force Awakens is the first film in what will be the third Star Wars trilogy. Yes, that means nine Star Wars movies released (or planned) so far. When the Walt Disney Co. bought Lucasfilm (the original home of Star Wars) for over $4 billion in 2012, the acquisition made big headlines in the business world. Just a few years earlier in 2009, Disney had pulled off another aggressive buyout of Marvel, the comic book and movie studio, for the same amount (Barnes 2009). Taken together, these two deals presented some of the most lucrative possibilities ever in terms of Disneys added ability for synergy, marketing, and future growth (Gabler 2012). Disney now owned some of the most recognizable and bankable brands in entertainment and was poised to translate them into greater successes and profits, a situation to which any media company would aspire.
Most people think of movies as primarily a form of entertainment. But in this Data Workshop we want you to consider them as a business. And the movie business is a big business, especially when it comes to those mega blockbuster hits. Making movies for a mass audience is expensive (and risky), but it can also be highly profitable. The major studios that make these kinds of movies must come up with strategies to help maximize the potential for profits and minimize the potential risks of financing a costly flop. How can media companies ensure that their biggest movies become their biggest hits? This is where their corporate practices and structures can benefit the bottom line.
Big media companies like Disney have an advantage when it comes to producing and distributing their products. When a parent company owns many other subsidiaries, it can market its properties across a variety of media outlets. In other words, such companies can benefit from cross-promotion. The greater diversity and reach of a companys divisions, the more opportunities there are to create synergy. The most attractive properties are those that might start as a comic book but can be turned into a movie and a video game, where the stars of the movie can be featured on TV talk shows or magazine covers and where fans will be able to follow additional story lines and interact on websites, through social media, or at fan conventions. Think of all the avenues for promotion that a media giant might own and exploit.
One common practice in filmmaking follows the adage that nothing succeeds like success. Studio execs favor movie franchises from which many hits can be spawned. Think James Bond, The Avengers, Mission Impossible, X-Men, Iron Man, Spider-Man, The Fast and the Furious, Transformers, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and such. These films were the basis for producing many other, sometimes even more successful, films in the form of prequels, sequels, and spinoffs. A related approach is to do remakes by producing an updated version of an older film or show that was successful before, for instance, Oceans Eleven, 21 Jump Street, or Godzilla.
Another strategy for increasing the odds of a hit, or at least diminishing the losses that incur from a flop, is to partner with an outside company and engage in what is referred to as co-promotion. In these relationships, the partner company invests in the film for some kind of consideration, primarily rights to promote its products in conjunction with the film. This takes several shapes. The partner can provide product placement within the film to more covertly advertise its particular brand (whether its an automobile, cell phone, or soda) to audiences. Or the partner might be involved in merchandising tie-ins with the film, like when fast-food chain offers customers a free toy or collectors cup with purchase. Many companies also create merchandise such as action figures, posters, T-shirts, or hats to further promote and profit from their films.
For this Data Workshop you will be asked to use existing sources to investigate the marketing and promotion for a recent blockbuster movie. Choose a movie that exemplifies the strategies of hit making. Its not necessary that you see the film yourself (but you may) in order for you to analyze the corporate economics behind making it. There are a variety of sources and materials you can examine online. All the major studios create official websites for their movie releases. Or you can visit IMDb.com, the Internet Movie Database site that provides detailed information on every film made. Look for company credits like who produced and distributed the film and its soundtrack. Review the box office receipts and note the films costs and profits. Check out the studios site for links to merchandise and related social media campaigns. Read some business news articles about the movies success. There are likely to be other sites where you can find out more about how your blockbuster did business.
Once you have data, consider these questions:
How many elements from the strategies described here can you find to help account for your films success?
Did the movie studio take advantage of all possible avenues to reap the greatest profits, or can you suggest other ways the studio could have improved or expanded its sales campaigns?
How does the corporate business model shape the kind of movies that get made?
What makes a blockbusters poplar with audiences, and why?

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