In this summer’s series of flops, it seems like quite the gamble for a $80-$250 million dollar movie to not let their marketing demographic offer “some kind” of a feedback in it’s pre-production stages. What I’m suggesting, is, “hey, if you’re going to put out that $80-250 million dollar movie, maybe we can pre-assess some probabilities first, to see if $50-$150 million is more appropriate.  Maybe we can wait 4 years when the market is back up for another vampire movie.

All Summer 2013 Flops (all internally produced FYI):
Lone Ranger = Lost $141 million  (2nd highest flop in history)
R.I.P.D = Lost $129 million, other Dark Horse Projects got dropped. (4th highest flop)
White House Down = Lost $87 million  (15th highest flop)
Turbo = Lost $69 Million  (39th highest)

End result:
$426 Million in Losses (in a 3 month period), several projects dropped, less upcoming artist able to sell their (probably better) idea, less movies for you to enjoy….get where this is going?

I think with these challenges in our wake, it might be appropriate to at least exercise the thought of whether production companies should consider pitching their treatments to its audience first; just like writers have to round up at the crack of dawn for 10 hours to pitch to them. Hot or Not, but for big budget movie treatments, (not trailers, by then it’s too late). Doing this will provide an open channel, so people like you and me can help provide research that justifies the probability of that $250 million movie actually recouping it’s funds.

HOW DO WE DO THIS?
While this would be like a focus group, by no means would it be to that extreme:

-Mainly for movies with proposed budgets of $80 Million or more.
-Bigger sample size, before movie previews if possible
-Everyone (relative to age restrictions) can participate
-Only shorts, treatments, pitches, with visual aids, no features (money already spent)
-It’s only “one” question, with optional 60-character explanation(only if ranked 2 or below)

Question: Would you pay to see it? (scale 1-5)  

Instead of showing random trivia before movie previews, theaters can offer 1-minute pitches (or shorts) for production companies interested in gathering information from their audience.  Then we vote using an access code.  We vote online from either a smart phone, home computer, a kiosk located at the theater, or even on gaming consoles.  IMDB could have this feature available as well.

After the pitch, the initial survey question would start by asking, “would you pay to see this movie?”  Based on a scale of 1-5.

1 = Definitely not
2 = Not interested right now
3 = Maybe
4 = Look interesting,
5 = Absolutely would see it

If someone rates a 2 or below, they can offer a 60-character comment about why they’re not interested.

Consolidating the 60 characters would be easy.  In research studies you can do what’s called “coding” where you track keywords and phrases (for example: the phrase “tired of vampires” showed up 100,000 times.) You can even track the demographic, so you know age groups and gender. From that you can create “themes”, and decide the probability of your movie being able to recouping expenses from that target audience. It’s better than what we have now, a $150 million dollar blind-fire.

This system isn’t saying that treatments with bad ratings get canned.  This is saying, based on your audience, this is the percentage of “interest”.  Marketers know how to appropriate timing and a budgeting for stuff like that, so money is not being wasted. If a company chooses to proceed, that’s their right, but here are some marketing considerations you can used to get the best bang for your buck.

CONCLUSION:
The intention is not about changing a story to fit a mass audience. This is a marketing strategy to assess probability your audience’s interest. Almost like Kickstarter, but no money. This is about General mood of market based on your presentation. Gauging your market with respect to timing and your budget (primarily budgets over $80 million).

Would you risk spending $80 million on a vampire movie, if your treatment rating came back at 2.0 (from your respective audience), and feedback flagged “tired of seeing vampires” 150,000 times? You might consider doing it for $50 million, or wait 5 years when the market is hot again.

If it’s not book adaptations, (which can look to book sales to gauge the probability of audience participation), how can production companies know what their audience is willing to pay for? All they have are past market sales, which only gives a narrow representation of what “this story” is able to do. This could be copyright hell, but there apparently needs to be some indicators put out there.

Thoughts?

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