How Movie Marketing Works

Problems Associated with Movie Marketing

Despite a publicity buzz, Oliver Stone's "Alexander" didn't fare well at the box office.
Despite a publicity buzz, Oliver Stone's "Alexander" didn't fare well at the box office.
Franco Origlia/Getty Images

The trickiest part of movie marketing is that every movie is different. Every film is its own standalone product with its own potential market segment. Just because your last kid's movie was a huge hit doesn't mean that audiences will come in droves to the next one. There's no formula for success, so marketers must be creative to grab the public's attention.

Moviemaking is an inherently risky business. Movie marketers try to alleviate some of that risk by heavily promoting expensive films. Unfortunately, in the process, they make the films even more expensive by adding on a huge marketing budget. There's always a chance that the marketing campaign will stink just as bad as the movie, and suddenly the studio has thrown away twice the amount of money. For example, Oliver Stone's epic "Alexander" cost $155 million to make and $60 million to market domestically and only took in $167 million worldwide [sources: Box Office Mojo and Waxman].

The problem is that most big-budget movies are marketed to the widest audience possible. Ads are placed on every TV network and stuck in every newspaper and magazine. There's no focus. Chances are that with every blockbuster movie marketing campaign, millions of dollars are lost on people who would never see the movie, no matter how good it is.

One solution is the idea of the nichebuster, a smaller movie marketed heavily to a highly specific audience segment, say skateboarding fans or religious groups [source: Schonfeld]. One of the proponents of this idea is 20th Century Fox, which recently launched a division called FoxFaith that will produce and market movies to a Christian, family-oriented audience. This is called demographic marketing rather than selling movies according to traditional genres like action, romantic comedy, thriller, et cetera [source: Movie Marketing Update].

A final problem is that moviegoers are more media savvy than ever. While children are highly susceptible to advertising, many adults recognize the publicity blitz for what it is: publicity. Some moviegoers are starting to complain about the sheer magnitude of hype that surrounds major studio releases.

This is another reason why the Internet is proving to be a powerful marketing tool. If studios play their cards right, they can capitalize on social networks, viral video sites and other online communities to sell their movies for them. The Net Generation moviegoer is much more likely to trust his chat buddy's opinion than some talking head on E! Entertainment Television.

For even more information on the movie marketing, the movie industry and related topics, see the links below.

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More Great Links


  • "5 Ways to Fix Warner Bros." Schonfeld, Erick. Business 2.0. March 22, 2006. ("A High-Wire Act at Warner Bros." Waxman, Sharon. The New York Times. Nov. 14, 2004.
  • "Biggest Second Weekend Drops." Box Office Mojo.
  • "Beth Goss - senior vice president of promotions, Universal Pictures Distribution, marketing strategy." Finnigan, David. Brandweek. March 26, 2001.
  • "Entertainment Industry Economics: A Guide for Financial Analysis." Vogel, harold L. Cambridge University Press, 2001.,M1
  • "Fox Launches Second Demographically-targeted Specialty Division with FoxFaith." Movie Marketing Update.
  • "Junket Bonds." Rosenbaum, Jonathan. Chicago Reader.
  • "Movie ticket sales hit record." Friedman, Josh. Los Angeles Times. March 6, 2008.
  • Schonfeld, Erick. Business 2.0. "5 Ways to Fix Warner Bros." March 22, 2006.
  • "Theatrical Market Statistics 2007." Motion Picture Association of America.
  • "The Smartest Movie Marketing Ploys." Keegan, Rebecca Winters. Time. July 11, 2007.