Monday, May 21, 2012

Filmgoing in the age of advertising-as-entertainment

It used to be that studios would parlay the success of a movie into products. The Star Wars series, which George Lucas spun into a veritable licensing orgy, would be the quintessential example of this. (It's no accident that the studios and the entertainment media now refer to a film series as a "franchise".)

Then, with the release of films like the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider® and Resident Evil® series, the reversal began, where movies were now "inspired by" products, in this case video games, rather than the other way around.

At least the above-noted products were creative works with something resembling characters and a storyline. With Battleship®, which has been a spectacular and expensive flop so far, we now have a commercial film based on a mere product. (To say that a simple guessing game has an inherent "storyline" or even a sense of drama is bit of a stretch.)

The thinking seems to be that brand recognition itself is enough to get vast numbers of people swamping their local megaplex. If this really is the case, expect to see films with titles like McDonald's®, iPad®, or Professional® 4L Wax Build-Up Remover.

So let's do the math on what is shaping up to be the current filmgoing experience: audiences are paying ever-higher ticket prices to watch movies based on products, with product placements scattered throughout. Not to mention that the cartoons/newsreels/short subjects that used to precede the feature attraction have long been replaced by commercials.

I realize I'm being a Negative Nelly, and should just lighten up. Afterall, summer is almost here, and that means Hormel® Chunk Meats: Chunk White & Dark Chicken will be hitting the big screen. Life is sweet!