Commentary

Big Movie/TV Talent Key To Success? Better Have Good Idea First

An eye-opening number of big movie stars were caught in a tornado vortex this summer. Denzel Washington, Julia Roberts, Eddie Murphy, John Travolta, Russell Crowe, Tom Hanks, Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell -- all failed to produce big box-office business.

 

At the same time, the no-star movies "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," "Up" and "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," carried most of the summer box office revenue lift on their shoulders.

TV salaries have been under pressure for some time -- in part because of slipping ratings, which have forced TV producers to make tough production cost decisions, like dropping Nicolette Sheridan's Edie Britt character from "Desperate Housewives."

Up until recently the reverse was true with theatrical movies, where box office revenue continued to climb. But other metrics are hurting there. For example, back-end revenues in the form of DVD sales have dropped by a severe 25%.

At the same time, a new wave of digital word-of-mouth marketing has been dramatically influencing movie and television entertainment.  One wonders if that will put the kibosh on those big film stars' $20-million-or-more-per-movie salaries.

Big stars are perhaps less of a sure thing on television -- but still seemingly needed to market a show. This year, for example, veteran TV stars Kelsey Grammar, Patricia Heaton, Julianna Margulies and others will try their luck again in individual new series on network television.

One wonders if Twitter, Facebook, and other social media networking sites are changing the game, as well as those new digital media outlets for films and TV, keeping all big entertainment stars on a short lease. That is, the concept or story better be good. All this might turn Hollywood's talent marketing wisdom upside down: It may not be "all about you."

TV and film producers will always tell you the idea has to work -- first. Business comes after that. If a show brings in big ratings and revenue, big talent will always take a big piece of the marketing credit.

If that is now less of a sure thing, look for more entertainment content without big stars -- or, to be more exact, big salaries. If traditional marketing -- which includes marketing expensive stars in movies -- doesn't work, entertainment executives will be left to find other, perhaps more digital marketing ways,  to move the needle.

1 comment about "Big Movie/TV Talent Key To Success? Better Have Good Idea First ".
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  1. Paul Van winkle from FUNCTION, August 24, 2009 at 4:10 p.m.

    Viewers have been existing in a TV and film universe that largely continues to churn mountains of lame, cheap "content" at them with little-to-no insight, new ideas about aything, life, connection or humor. It's mostly mind-numbing junk held together with a handful of on-screen charisma, hyper fast editing and loud marketing. (Which is the description of who we've become as a culture).

    The top-heaviness of the salaries mentioned cannot continue in the current period, and won't. Is there anything interesting about hackneyed "stars" (not actors) making salaries dwarfing city budgets? Have audiences, networks and studios become so numbed and disinterested in novelty that young talents can continue to be overlooked?

    This scenario reflects our current national zeitgeist: when in doubt, repeat robotic-like until bloody and ensure gigantic wealth for a narrow membership -- despite signs the system has begun collpasing under its own weight and hubris.

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