Arts & Life, Film & Television

Movie studios are wasting money on marketing budgets and setting up failures

Critic and audience reviews used to be the key factors in viewing how successful a film was, but now the only thing that matters are box office numbers.

Although this is not as problematic for smaller scale films such as the 2017 acclaimed hit “Get Out,” as it is for bigger blockbuster productions, this has become an issue in the mainstream.

Production budgets are steadily climbing to immense heights that are already impossible to reach, but the real obstacle for these films is the amount studios spend on marketing them.

One prime example is the second spin-off in the science-fiction franchise, “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” which gave Han Solo a standalone origin film starring Alden Ehrenreich in the lead role.

Audiences’ response to the announcement of the film was mixed, as many felt there wasn’t a need to dive into the beloved smuggler’s tale prior to the original “Star Wars.” Upon release, the film received generally positive reviews from critics, but audiences chose to be much more critical.

The production was riddled with issues from the original directors being fired to extensive reshoots ballooning the budget to a grand total of $275 million, which sounds terrifying to anyone.

However, seeing as the first installment in the sequel trilogy, “The Force Awakens,” wound up costing $306 million but was a milestone box office success, “Solo’”s budget wasn’t quite as worrisome for Disney.

The problem came, however, when the studio started handing out the money for the marketing, which finalized the budget at $500 million, according to Screen Rant, which given the mixed anticipation from audiences, presented a huge chance for failure.

Sure enough, “Solo” only grossed $392.9 million at the box office, which sounds like a great number, especially if compared to the production budget of $275 million. However, when taking in the marketing budget, it resulted in a loss between $50 and $80 million for Disney, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Some might argue that marketing is an expensive field that the studio would spend a lot of money on no matter what, but studios should consider cutting back on the marketing for a film such as “Solo.”

Given the popularity for the tentpole franchise, there was no doubt audiences would pay top dollar for a ticket, whether the reviews were positive or negative.

A lower marketing presence wouldn’t have changed how many went to see the film, and would have created a better chance for the film to succeed. If Disney had cut the spending down to about $75-100 million, the final budget could’ve been around $350 million, which would’ve at least turned a minor profit.

The first trailer for “Solo” debuted during Super Bowl LII, and according to Business Insider, airing even a 30-second advertisement during the broadcast cost $5 million, and given that the trailer was a minute long, that was already $10 million onto the marketing budget.

In addition to the big game ad, the film had extensive billboards, bus ads and TV spots on display in the months leading up to the film’s release, further increasing its budget.

Another prime example is last year’s neo-noir thriller “Blade Runner 2049” starring Ryan Gosling, the sequel that took 35 years to make it to the big screen. Given the film’s futuristic setting, the final production budget landed at about $185 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter, but the marketing budget sent it up to a grand total of $400 million.

While the film had strong star power behind it with Gosling, who had just starred in the critical and commercial hit “La La Land” the year before, leading the film and a celebrated director (Denis Villeneuve, “Arrival”) behind the camera, there were a few elements that would’ve already scared off audiences, the biggest of which was its 163-minute run time.

Once again, if the marketing had been cut down to $50-$75 million, the final budget could’ve capped around $250 million, which would’ve made its $260 million gross much more tolerable for Warner Bros, since the home media release can help garner a larger profit.

These ballooned budgets and extra spending on unnecessary marketing campaigns from studios are helping add to the lists of box office bombs, and with 2016 alone having 14 flops, it’s time for a change.

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