Sunday, 10 January 2010

Comparing Your British Case Study Institutions and Films with US ones

You need to research more than just your British case study institution and film - you also need be able to explain how the British film industry compares with the much larger American (Hollywood) film industry. You should do this by researching a US institution together with one of their recent films from production, distribution and exhibition. Focus on how British audiences reacted to the film and the distributor's efforts to market and distribute the film. US conglomerates can use their size and reach to create massives synergies to awaken desire in audiences to see their films. They can cross-promote their films across their media empires!

20th Century Fox's "Avatar" (2009) would be an ideal choice. By comparing the film  and media practices of the much larger US film industry with your own wholly British Case study you will be able to appreciate differences in institutional ownership and media convergence. You will also be able to understand conceptually how the massive budgets of US film can offer choices of genre not available to primarily UK production companies. The types of films and the scale of their releases, together with target audiences can also be examined and compared. Even the application of technology and the growth of 3D films and the opportunities to produce such films can be compared.

Working Title began as a UK company. It still is a British run - at least in this country. But it is two thirds owned by the the massive American conglomerate NBC-Universal. Working Title makes a "slate" of UK and US films. Its £50 million budget for "The Boat That Rocked" sets it apart from most other "British" film-makers like Vertigo and Channel Four because the budgets for their films are nowhere close to this figure. Working Title can use its links with NBC Universal to make big budget films and tap into this conglomerate for giant synergies to market them.

 Film 4's "Slumdog Millionaire" only cost $15 million dollars - it did better business than the more expensive film by Working Title. News Corporation's 20th Century Fox is in another league! Its "Avatar" cost around $250 million to make and another $170 million in distribution and promotional costs! Much of the production costs went in developing new technology (special digital cameras) and special effects. 20th Century Fox was only able to raise this cash because it was part of  a group of companies worth many Billions. (News Corp). Media Convergence worked in its favour as News Corp own just about any type of media company you may imagine. The synergies available in a company like this enable massive promotion of the film across a range of media. Click this LINK and scroll down to News Corp to get an idea of the scale of this organisation. With the control over their product that this scale of vertical ownership gives them how can Channel 4 and Film 4 even begin to compete? And yet, somehow, with "Slumdog . . .", they did! But it's a one-off!

It's stating the obvious but we could not make such an ambitious film simply because our choices of film genres is constrained by cost. Even Cameron had to leave his his plans for his big budget blockbuster until technology caught up to make his film financially possible.

20th Century Fox's "Avatar"
Opening Weekend
$77,025,481 (USA) (20 December 2009) (3,452 Screens)
£8,509,050 (UK) (
20 December 2009) (503 Screens)
£18,404,659 (UK) (27 December 2009) gross to date.

For further research:
Click here for the IMDB page. There are lots of stats for the UK box office, merchandising and other information on this 3D film to be found by clicking in the left column of this site.

"Avatar's" Official Website
Avatar's Website
The UK Website

Press reviews
A film preview by The Guardian.
Articles on the film
The articles above are important for understanding the issues around technological convergence and how it affects the ways we consume films. They also reveal the growing significance of 3D films and the newly developed cameras that help make them.

It seems only 10% of British cinemas can effectively show this films!
"In the UK alone, only around 320 out of 3,600 cinemas are digitally equipped, while in the US the ratio is even worse (2,500 out of 38,000). "So there is a big problem looming," admits Peter Buckingham, head of distribution and exhibition at the UK Film Council. "You are looking at about a minimum of £80,000 to get yourself into a 3D position. Even with the hike in ticket prices and the potential hike in audiences, that's quite a stretch for the smaller venues. The danger is that, in this digital switchover, a number of cinemas may well be left behind."

Audience Reviews - ordinary folk:
A review from IMBD
946 out of 1707 people found the following review useful.
Technically outstanding. Originality: oh well...., 11 December 2009
Author: elchocobollo from Spain
Well, I just saw Avatar this morning, one of the press premieres which are running on these days. My opinion: you've seen this story a hundred times, but never like this. Finally 3D is what it's supposed to be, an instrument at the service of the movie. You'll enjoy the visual experience, no doubt.
As for the story, some of the "inspirations" are so huge and so obvious that mentioning two or three of them would REALLY ruin the movie for you, and I'm not willing to do that. Lots of mysticism and ecology, if you like that stuff. If you're 15 or so, you'll have a great time thinking that it's the first time somebody makes something like this. If you're an experienced movie watcher, better leave your skepticism at the door, bring lots of pop corn and enjoy with the usual action-flick-with-moral-and-loads-of-clich├ęs.

I liked it, however: "the movie that re-invents movies"??? No way.

For more comments on the film by the public try Amazon UK or the many uploads on YouTube

Production and Post Production for "Avatar"
For information on "how they did it" read parts of the production notes for "Avatar".
Read Avatar's production notes here

Distribution for "Avatar"
20th Century Fox and Newscorp "hedged" much of the $500 million risk onto allied companies and outside investors. This means that a significant portion of the film's profit will be lost because of the unwillingness to shoulder the whole financial risk.
3D articles of interest - movies budget pops from the screen
Some of the numbers below and the Fox's strategy for marketing the film. (Must Read) Avatar Soars and Fat Ad Spending, Mass Marketing

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