Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Avatar Overkill

Unless you live under a rock, there is no possible way you could have avoided all the marketing for James Cameron's "Avatar". Day after day 20th Century Fox has released new footage from the 3D $500 million budget scifi fantasy epic. The film and its director, James Cameron, have been featured on CNN and CBS 60 Minutes all trying to sell us that "Avatar" is an experience not to be missed. Unfortunately what they are actually doing is spoiling the entire experience.

Promotion of any film is a tricky scenario, let alone a $500 million dollar budget one. There are a ton of factors to weigh on when approaching the right marketing strategy for a particular film. Certain promotions tend to give away too little or convey the wrong message, while others pound every bit of information they can at us. "Avatar" is of the latter.

Giving away too much of any story leaves the viewer to piece the story together themselves. Many times this can lead to a very distracting movie going experience. Simply the viewers have seen so much from promotions and/or trailers that they know when they haven't seen something yet. Leaving them to put the story together instead of allowing it to unfold on its own.

A perfect recent example of this is in "Ninja Assassin" promotional marketing, while watching the film a particular scene from the trailer had not taken place and very easily I deduced that the scene would be apart of the finale. When the scene did finally come to pass (as I predicted), the result was somewhat anticlimactic. This happens all the time and I'm sure those of you who are actually still reading this are remembering films that you've have done exactly what I just described.

The big question for the promotional onslaught to "Avatar" is the movie not that good or is 20th Century Fox afraid the $500 million dollar budget will be hard pressed to turn a profit? Could it be a bit of both? Surely the film has to be amazing it is a James Cameron film. I mean come on this guy made Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Aliens, The Abyss and Titanic. How could "Avatar" not be amazing? For me and thousands of movie goers I know that all anyone would have to say is James Cameron/Scifi film and they would already be on board, so why continue to beat us over the head with daily features telling us how good it is?

I have thought about these questions for weeks now and the only reasonable answer is that 20th Century Fox is afraid "Avatar" will not make its money back. "Avatar" expects the viewer to seek out an IMAX theater and 3D animation. While 3D animation is regularly available now days, true IMAX screens are few and far between. Make no mistake IMAX-D is not a true IMAX screen. It is a fraction of the size and not much bigger than what most normal theaters have as their regular screen.

I live in Los Angeles (and even for me) there are only a handful of choices where to see a IMAX film. I can't imagine what it is like in middle America or lesser populated States. Having fewer IMAX theaters means bigger crowds and longer lines at the theaters that do actually have IMAX. If "Avatar" is suppose to be a truly unique experience, I doubt that James Cameron wanted his customers to become frustrated just from getting into a screening.

This doesn't even begin to cover the liability of cost. To see an IMAX or 3D movie, the customers are required to pay more. Generally about $5 more. Which isn't too bad, but if you are going with a family admission to "Avatar" could be upwards of $50. 20th Century Fox knows full well that general audiences are not looking to go out of their way and pay extra for an experience they are being told is amazing. Fox is missing the point of allowing the movie goer to reach their own decision. Let them decide if "Avatar" is what their selling us it should be.

I want "Avatar" to be everything were being led to believe it is. I am hopeful that the 3D animation is as miraculous and pulls me into the movie like no other film has before. I however I am tired on being told over and over again how great it will be. I want to see for myself. Besides, as I said before, its James Cameron. It has to be good!

Below I have rounded up much of the "Avatar" promotions including the 60 Minutes and CNN piece. I will warn you however, if you have yet to see much of the footage for the latest James Cameron film, you may want to skip everything below and go into "Avatar" cold. As I have explained above, much of the stuff below is very revealing to the overall story of "Avatar".

What say you? Ready for Avatar? Strikeback...


nice writeup trev. i hear ya, there's alotta stuff out there right now as we lead up to the release of AVATAR, but you have to consider this:

you and i represent a very small fraction of the moviegoing audience that AVATAR is trying to reach. while we may be trolling the web for new stories, video, and other media and updates on the projects we care about that are coming soon, the only reason you're feeling this "onslaught" of marketing is because you are, in essence, absorbing all of it. and my point is best made here, on your very blog, where you've linked all the featurettes recently released.

you're absolutely right in saying that FOX is afraid about recouping their already-spent money, and even though i consider them the worst studio operating currently, can you blame them? a potential $500 mill bill isn't something you just throw away and hope to make back. FOX, cameron, and AVATAR itself have put themselves in a position where they HAVE to be a success, or they face being the laughing stock of the entire industry and moviegoing public. consider how many jobs and careers are on the line, regardless of how this might ultimately affect cameron and his fans. there's no one out there more worried than i am that the movie is gonna not just bomb, but stink as well.

as for the story, as we discussed on twitter, you gotta wait until you see the movie to decide whether or not they spoiled too much in the marketing. it's 2.5 hrs. in a movie comprised almost entirely of "money shots," i don't think the movie will be any less exciting despite the fact that it seems like we've seen a lot of it.

Yeah, I almost debated not even posting the videos. Just my write up, but that would be just my side, I wanted to present the information in one place and allow my readers to decide.