Movie companies, in their big summer and winter selling periods, seek films with a big bang. Increasingly not-so-quiet word-of-mouth sentiment from consumer entertainment ambassadors has a major effect.
Walt Disney's "Iron Man 3" somewhat non-officially kicked off the summer season, which this year has 22 films, almost 50% more than last year’s 15.
"You will have to spend a little more on marketing to keep yourself top of mind," Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount Pictures, toldThe Wall Street Journal. "But the real downside is if your movie is not good and people have several other choices, the bad [performances] get even more exaggerated."
Blame social media -- the word-of-mouth platform of choice for frequent and key young movie customers -- for that exaggeration. It becomes a bigger issue now because more than a few analysts have expected lower traditional movie marketing revenues this year.
What does a studio do when a moviegoer leaves a Friday night opening screening and tells all his or her friends that the movie isn't worth their time or money?
Not much. Studios have seen their share of colossal big movie failures, such as Walt Disney’s "John Carter" and "Mars Needs Moms." Some would say social media was to blame. Many would say it started with the quality of the movies. Studios can quickly lose $100 million from such failed projects.
“If you have a good movie and the right people see it, you can put that message out there and accelerate the promotion process. But if those people don’t like it? That’s a very difficult message to muffle,” Michael Lynton, chief executive officer of Sony Corp. of America and Sony Entertainment, said earlier this year.
Lynton cited two recent examples of movies where social media had positive effects: "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Skyfall."
So we can only wonder about the massive whiplash effect which could come this summer. Surely, not all 22 movies will fare well. There will be disappointments, failures, and really big disasters. And, yes, some will even succeed.
Movie marketing executives surely can sense some customers warming up their thumbs and fingers in anticipation. There’s not much they can do about it.