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Millennials

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There are 80 million millennials in the United States between the ages of 18 and 40, which means they are all adults.  If you can market to them appropriately, they are a much larger demographic than teenagers.  It is even larger when you consider that many are parents as well, meaning they will influence their children.  So, if entertainment is geared towards millennials, you can capture the adult market and influence the emerging youth market at the same time.

The million dollar question is: how do you market to millennials?  The answer is already out there: Bernie Sanders.  Whether you agree with his political views or not, you have to agree that he motivated the most apathetic generation we have ever seen into the most fanatical generation, almost upsetting Hillary Clinton.  His secret is simple: Dream big and dream real.

He created a dream of a better America and he made it seem possible to millennials.  Millennials are the children of hippies and grew up during the Iraq War.  They were raised with idealistic dreams from the 60s, but have been faced with a bleak reality.  They know that change is not easy.  But, Bernie made it seem possible because he proved that he would not compromise: single payer, free college, etc.  This is why Hillary lost the millennials.  She was not exciting enough.

To translate this to film, you need to employ the idea of making millennial dreams come true.  Take Deadpool, a very successful R-Rated comic book movie.  The film answered the question: what if you made a comic book without the limits of a PG-13 rating?  Wouldn't it be cool if the hero could cut someone's head off or say the F-word?

Stop making compromised visions that try to appeal to a broad market.  Instead, aim to radicalize a smaller demographic like the millennials.  Give them what they thought they could never have.  They will talk, the word will spread.  If, in development, you create something like this with an eye for a broader market, you can take a smaller budget film, make millennial dreams come true and then your own.

Modern Marketing

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Legendary British actor, David Niven, said in an interview with Michael Parkinson that in the old days of Hollywood (30s), they had to resort to publicity stunts because there was no other way to stir up interest.  They didn't have TV networks and certainly no internet or social media.  So, for example, they trained 150 parrots to say the title of a film and placed them all around Los Angeles to gain publicity.

People go to the theater to feel like they are a part of something bigger.  That is ultimately what we as humans crave.  So, the marketing and development of a film should convey the grandiosity and cultural importance of the film.  You're not just going to the theater, you're going to THIS MOVIE.  When you see Star Wars VII or VIII, you're not just seeing a movie with big movie stars.  You are seeing history in the making.  You've dreamed, you've waited for a decade and you never thought it would happen... and now it has.

A film like Interstellar benefits from a theatrical release because of the visual effects, cinematography and scope of the film, but a successful film from the past like When Harry Met Sally would not necessarily benefit because ultimately it is about the story and not the image.  However, if a genre/generation defining romantic comedy came out today, it would probably have a great theatrical release because it would be a cultural statement, a moment in our culture's history.  Plus couples could go with other couples.  There is something very magical about sitting with strangers in a dark room.  Your consciousness becomes close to one and your enthusiasm builds.  That is also why a great comedy kills in theaters; hearing others laugh at the same joke is fun.

Modern marketing is going to have to go beyond posters, trailers and social media influencers.  Movies need to be events in the life of an audience.  It is not just about the story on the screen; it is also about the story around the screen.  Write a great scene in the life of Americans, in the history of humanity.

The Future of Cinema

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Board rooms of executives have been scrambling to find a feasible future for movies shown in theaters for the last decade.  With television screens getting bigger,  surround systems clearer and 4K streamable video available at the touch of a button, why pay quadruple the price to drive to a theater and watch a film with people obnoxiously talking, texting and munching on popcorn when you can just stay home and see it in the comfort of your living room with your loved ones?

Community

Ultimately, the only difference between a great home theater system and a commercial theater experience is the audience.  You can't see Star Wars VIII opening night with a crowd of lightsaber carrying Jedi at home.  When the Millennium Falcon appears, there won't be a wild crowd cheering.  So, to make a film that will succeed in the rapidly approaching future of streaming video, you  must create a community experience where having an audience present is part of and necessary to experience the film to its maximum potential.

Think of it like you might think of a concert.  Sure, you can listen to The Rolling Stones at home on your computer, but you can't hear and feel the roar of a crowd of rabid fans.  You can't feel the adrenaline rush when Mick and the gang appear on stage.  And, as such, you cannot experience the excitement of an opening night premiere from the comfort of your home.

This means that films must be conceived of, marketed and produced in such a manner that they make the community a part of the experience.  Get the public invested in the film on a personal level.  Think of a biopic about Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.  Traditional producers would get a big name to play Kobe, put him on some billboards and expect people to show up because it's Kobe.  But,  they could be doing so much more...

The movie is about basketball, so why not hold a national basketball tournament where the winners win prizes, such as tickets to opening night, free t-shirts or getting to walk the red carpet with the stars?  Then, get a major sports brand like Adidas to sponsor the event.  They pay for the tournament and get their brand all over the nation and you get thousands of participants (not to mention those watching the event) invested in the film for free.  If you competed in a basketball tournament for the new Kobe Bryant film, you'd probably be more likely to go see the film than if you just saw a trailer (and you'd probably grab a friend or two to go with).

This is the future of cinema.  And it is exciting.

Please read about my Modern Marketing techniques to expand upon this principle.