This Week Elsewhere – Week of 6/29/18

Cinematic Slant

Cinematic Slant is where I write about movies, including the campaign recaps I’ve been doing since 2004 along with other news and opinions.

2018 Movie Marketing Trends: All this past week I’ve been sharing posts on some of the trends in movie marketing that have become apparent over the course of the first half of 2018. The whole series is linked to there.

Woman Walks Ahead – Marketing Recap: All that aside, it’s a solid drama that’s being sold here. Chastain is positioned as the big draw, but Greyeyes has been a focal point of the press, which is good to see. It’s likely not going to break any records, but could reward those who seek it out.

After Uncle Drew: Let’s Brainstorm More Advertising-Based Movies: With Uncle Drew hitting theaters this week, let’s think about what other commercial characters might provide the material for their own movie.

Leave No Trace – Marketing Recap: I’m happy to see that Bleecker Street gave this movie some paid support along with the engaging and interesting organic campaign that was mounted. It certainly highlights some of the strongest value propositions available, including the performances by Foster and McKenzie. The latter in particular, along with Granik, were really turned into the focus of the publicity, something that coupled with strong festival buzz should help get the attention of those looking for a smaller-scale theatrical outing.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

This Week Elsewhere – Week of 6/22/18

The Hollywood Reporter

‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ Marketing Sells Dino-Mite Rampage: Even more so than it did for the 2015 revival, Universal has leaned into the history of the Jurassic franchise to help sell this latest installment. A number of technology-based tactics, particularly the AR games and more, combined with big stunts like the Amazon/Jeep campaign, have been designed to keep audiences engaged with the brand right up to release. (You can read everything that didn’t make into that column here.)

Cinematic Slant

Cinematic Slant is where I write about movies, including the campaign recaps I’ve been doing since 2004 along with other news and opinions.

Reevaluating 2003’s Hulk: This might seem like a massive troll coming a few months after the release of Avengers: Infinity War, but it’s not. I come not to simply take a position opposite that of conventional wisdom but to earnestly and unironically praise 2003’s Hulk as directed by Ang Lee.

Hollywood Embraces the NBA Finals to Sell Its Movies: Hollywood in particular jumped up to advertise during the games. Not only did they run commercials but in most every case the studios created unique spots that featured well-known players interacting with talent from the movies in fun and attention-getting ways.

Title Branding in An Age of Franchises: Not only do the branding tactics sometimes vary from studio to studio but even within one studio’s release slate you can see different approaches being taken. Here are some key examples as to how this year’s biggest have – or haven’t adhered to that recent conventional wisdom.

The Catcher Was a Spy – Marketing Recap: It’s an interesting story being sold, but there’s no real strong hook for the audience to latch onto. It’s not new or revelatory in any way, coming off as just a seemingly solid period drama without whole lot to offer.

Boundaries – Marketing Recap: We’ve seen this movie plenty of times before, so the real value proposition is in the performances of the leads, as well as in the promise that there’s some new perspective being taken on familiar tropes. The former seems much more readily apparent in the marketing materials than the ladder, as the combination of Farmiga and Plummer is well worth checking out while “lessons learned on a road trip” is well-worn territory.

Gimme Nothin’ But Star Waaaars….: There may very well indeed be some reevaluation of plans going on within Lucasfilm. I’m sure, though, that such course corrections are made at regular intervals, just as they likely are at Marvel Studios, Fox, Paramount and other studios, particularly those that manage big franchises.

AMC Theaters Girds Its Loins: Well, it finally happened: A major movie theater chain, in this case AMC Theaters, has introduced its own subscription-like movie ticket service seeking to compete against MoviePass.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

This Week Elsewhere – Week of 6/15/18


11 Visual Artists Who Enlighten, Inspire and Bring the Impossible to Life: Freelance illustrator Dan Mumford developed his unique style from his love of comic books. Not surprisingly, superheroes, Star Wars and other pop culture items are well represented in his portfolio. (Note: This is part of Adweek’s Creative 100 series of profiles.)

The Hollywood Reporter

‘Incredibles 2’ Taps Into Nostalgia to Sell Sequel: To help sell the sequel, Disney/Pixar created a campaign that appeared to lean in to audience nostalgia for the original and the sense of wonder it created while also presenting a story that was rooted in a family dynamic. (Note: As usual you can read everything that didn’t make it into that column here.)

Cinematic Slant

It’s Possible Hollywood Makes No Sense: So what’s the hold up? How many more times can female-led movies prove successful with audiences before they become no-brainers?

Tag – Marketing Recap: It’s not that the movie doesn’t seem funny; it honestly looks like it has more than a few laughs. But when the only two talking points for the press cycle are “It’s based on a real story” and “Here’s how Jeremy Renner broke his arms,” the underlying weakness of the premise is exposed.

Superfly – Marketing Recap: There’s a really good vibe to the campaign, helped immensely by the consistent use of Future’s music in most every aspect of the push. Even beyond that, though, Jackson is a substantial presence on screen and sells a Priest that is both sure of who he is and torn between his darker and better angels, wanting to use the power he has to help people but also aware of what it takes to attain and retain that power as well as how it will always put a target on his back.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

This Week Elsewhere – 6/8/18

The Hollywood Reporter

‘Ocean’s 8’ Marketing Bets On Cast’s Star Power to Sell Heist Film: Ocean’s 8, featuring a star-studded line-up that includes Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna and Helen Bonham Carter, is storming into theaters stateside on June 8 with high hopes from the studio to relaunch the series. Warner Bros.’ challenge? Recapturing the high-rolling swagger of the series and capturing a cast having a great time under the direction of Steven Soderbergh. Here’s a closer look at how the studio has promoted the film. (Note: You can read everything not included in the THR piece here.)

Cinematic Slant

Cinematic Slant is where I write about movies, including the campaign recaps I’ve been doing since 2004 along with other news and opinions.

Solo Is Successful…From a Certain Point of View: It’s actually kind of impressive how myopic most all of the commentary around the box-office underperformance of Solo: A Star Wars Story has been. It’s undeniable that the movie has failed to live up to the impressive standard set by the earlier movies, particular with it dropping by 65% in its second weekend.

Hearts Beat Loud – Marketing Recap: There’s a lot to the movie that we’re not seeing, of course, but what’s shown here reinforces the positive buzz that accompanied its Sundance debut and provides a solid case for audiences who might need a break from big budget action movies to seek it out.

Hotel Artemis – Marketing Recap: There’s quite a bit to like about the campaign. It sometimes goes a little far in trying to sell the style over the substance, but it’s hardly the first marketing push to do so. There’s certainly a consistency to the brand here as everything is bathed in that orange brown light, like street lights filtered through window that hasn’t been cleaned in far too long.

Book Review: The Big Picture by Ben Fritz: The Big Picture isn’t some jargon-heavy industry white-paper, though. While there is plenty of Hollywood-specific vernacular on display in the conversations pulled from some of the Sony emails, Fritz writes this in an accessible style that’s surprising given his years as a reporter covering the world of movies and the players behind the scenes. It’s loose and often funny, offering a quick read that helps the reader really understand why the multiplex seems to offer nothing but IMAX 3D Dolby Digital presentations of the fifth film in a series he or she isn’t sure they’re up to date on while they don’t hear about anything else until it comes to Netflix or Amazon.

The Five Most Iconic Movie Necklaces: In Ocean’s 8, opening this week, the specialists assembled by Sandra Bullock’s Debbie Ocean are after a one-of-a-kind necklace being worn to the Met Gala by a vain actress played by Anne Hathaway. The massive piece of jewelry is worth enough that each member of the crew stands to walk away with $16.5m once the necklace is fenced. The focus on the necklace in the movie’s trailers got me wondering: What are some of the other most famous and well-known necklaces in movies?

Netflix (And Other) Capsule Recaps – 6/8/18: Short recaps on some of the movies that have come to Netflix or other releases recently that I haven’t had the time to devote more research and writing resources to.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Freelancers as the Future of the City

There’s some incredibly smart suggestions offered by April Rinne at Quartz about what cities can do to make themselves more attractive choices by a workforce that’s increasingly freelance instead of bending over backward to lure big companies like Amazon. The former represents an ever-growing percentage of the workforce, she points out. At the same time, the number of new jobs promised by big companies when moving or expanding into new cities almost never winds up reflecting reality.

The shift from full-time employment at a single company to an economy more reliant on freelance and contract work, I believe, go beyond even what Rinne suggests and offers.

The Commute is a Hassle

I’ve been in the career world for 20 years now and have commuted into the city for a little over half of that, taking the Metra into either Ogilvie Transportation Center or Union Station. The commute itself isn’t bad. In the early days I read the Tribune or a book and, as the ad slogan goes, “watched the miles go by.” More recently I do some writing or get work done. One way or the other, for work or entertainment, that time is mostly productive.

When I get off the train at Union Station it’s a different story. I walk onto a platform that’s covered in water that leaks from the ceiling even three days after it last rained, a mystery I don’t actually want solved. It’s crowded, you choke on the train exhaust half the time, the concrete is crumbling and the escalators in the station don’t work a quarter of the time. And that’s the experience that’s vastly preferable to sitting in my car on one of the expressways leading into the city, where I can’t get anything done even if I wanted to. From where I live it takes 45-60 minutes to get into the city on the train. If I were driving on I-55 during rush hour it would take upwards of two hours.

In other words, it is a poor experience. We all undertake this march to get to a communal location because that’s where the work is. In a broadly-connected world, though, that’s increasingly not the case.

City Priorities Are Misaligned

While I’ve never lived in the city itself, I’ve followed the goings-on for 40 years and have seen one mayor after another prioritize projects that would offer fast-rail service from O’Hare to the Loop and others that seem geared toward the wealthy corporate executive or tourist.

Earlier this year there was a proposal to turn the north branch of the Chicago River into a mixed-use retail/walking space and while that sounds like a great idea, it’s another case where the needs of downtown residents or tourists are being placed above both those who live in the entire rest of the city as well as those who commute in regularly.

The City of Chicago is also actively wooing Amazon, which has solicited proposals for a second headquarters located outside of Seattle. The pitch from Amazon is standard in that they promise X number of jobs will be created, the city gets a lot of prestige and will see additional travel to and from as corporate executives from both Amazon and the companies it does business with come in and out of O’Hare.

But part of the proposal Chicago and other contending cities have made includes massive tax breaks. The net number of jobs created are likely to be negligible. A warning for the city should come in the form of how Amazon is also so stridently objectivist in its pursuit of profits it won’t tolerate even a modest increase to its Seattle tax bill to help the city pay for more homeless shelters and programs. A report by job listing site also showed that the increased demand for homes that could result in whatever city Amazon chooses could price existing residents out of the market.

So, to restate that in a bulleted, conversational format:

  • Chicago to Company: Please come here.
  • Company to Chicago: OK, but we’re not paying any taxes while still depending on your electrical, water and other utilities.
  • Chicago to Company: That’s cool because you’ll create jobs, which theoretically increases our tax revenue anyway because more people will be buying stuff here.
  • City Residents to Chicago: We’d like some of those jobs.
  • Chicago to City Residents: Nah, because the infrastructure isn’t designed to get you anywhere but The Loop. We’ll just fill those jobs with out of towners. Also, your property taxes are going up because that Company isn’t paying any taxes and their presence has increased real estate prices so you owe more there, too.
  • City Residents to Chicago: …. jfc

If it’s not paying for the infrastructure it’s using and isn’t creating enough new jobs to fuel an increase in other tax revenue…what’s the benefit?

Accessibility = Success

While there are certainly a number of other factors that go into determining the economic health of an area, poor commutes demonstrably make that economy worse. If people can’t get to where the jobs are and feel trapped within their neighborhood, they are not realizing their full potential. Not only that but they’re not traveling – again largely because of a lack of transportation options – they’re not buying lunch out, picking up a Slurpee on the way home and so on. Because mass transit isn’t available or viable given its fixed location, single occupant cars are the biggest means of commuting while also being the least efficient on all counts.

The trendlines are clear in that they show commute times in the Chicago area are going up as more people move to the outer edges of what have traditionally been considered the city’s suburban region. 40 years ago that area didn’t extend far past Wheaton to the west but now practically includes DeKalb. According to 2010 US Census data the average commute time in the Chicagoland area was 34.4 minutes but that number is heavily influenced by where someone lives and subsequently how accessible mass transportation is. Similar numbers were reported in the 2016 American Community Survey as well as the “On to 2050” report (PDF) from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

A 2016 report that showed single-occupant car commuting had decreased in the Chicagoland area might seem like good news until you consider Metra ridership has been trending downward (PDF) as well, as has CTA usage (PDF). And Chicago’s overall population is dropping, all of which means tax revenue is falling due to fewer residents and fewer commuters who are coming into the city and contributing in some way to its economy.

Every few years the debate around a “commuter tax” resurfaces that would make those coming in from the suburbs more financially responsible for the city infrastructure they use. That’s an interesting shifting of the burden because the job growth in the city that is attracting the out-of-town workers is coming from companies lured there by incentives often including substantial tax breaks.

In other words, in the drive to attract businesses to move their headquarters to the city, the tax burden is being shifted to area residents, disincentivizing living in the city and, if the commuter tax is eventually passed, doing likewise to coming into the city to work.

Attracting a Changed Workforce

While I’ve spent years commuting downtown for work, the other half of my career has been spent working from home because as long as the internet works, I’m good. I can get everything I need to done, communicate easily and efficiently with other team members and everything else necessary to do the work.

I truly believe at some point city and state governments will view accessibility, transportation and other features the same way employers view the kinds of perks and benefits offered to employees, as ways to retain and attract a workforce. A Glassdoor study revealed the cities online job applicants are moving to and from as well as why they’re making those moves, specifically when they’re changing metro regions, not just moving from the suburbs to the city or within a region. While moving for a job is something people have, are and will continue to do, what would also be interesting to see is what the region as a whole, not just each individual company, is doing to attract new people and keep the ones they already have.

If big cities want to be part of the future and not abandoned relics of the past they need to

  1. Offer the kind of environments and amenities that will attract the average worker and employee, and
  2. Make getting there in the first place a pleasant and stress-free experience. People have to not only want to be in the city but not see the journey there as more trouble than it’s worth.

Millennials and other workers have shown time and time again that they want to work for and do business with companies that reflect their values, so why shouldn’t the same apply to choosing where they live? The Glassdoor study shows Seattle is a top destination because that’s where Amazon is and Chicago and other cities are hoping the same holds true if the company picks them for their HQ2.

Infrastructure Matters

Reprioritizing infrastructure to be more centered around the idea that people come in not because they have to but because they want to means travel in may be less frequent but more meaningful. So instead of trying to rebuild the Eisenhower for the 10th time in the last 40 years, pour those resources into truly upgrading the rail experience, both the El that transports people within the city and the Metra that brings them in from the suburbs. People will still need to move around for their jobs, particularly in the manufacturing and service industry, but “knowledge economy” workers will do so by choice, not a necessity.

That sort of shifted focus is a good idea for a number of reasons. It’s better able to serve a working-class population within the city (for example moving people from the west side of Chicago to the south side, something mass transit is currently ill-suited to do and which even Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel says is hurting the economy, though he’s done little to fix that issue), it’s better environmentally and it can serve more people at scale.

Some sort of new thinking is going to be necessary, not optional, soon. A recent story in the Tribune called out how the Chicago suburb of Naperville saw revenue from a gas tax drop significantly because higher gas prices meant less gas being bought and so on. That results in less money available for traditional road-centric infrastructure projects. If that were to spread, either because of high gas prices or because of a seismic shift in public sentiment, the country’s already crumbling infrastructure will only get worse and necessitate a drastic rethinking of how people can and should move from one place to the next.

While big cities like Chicago and Seattle have been used as examples above, the kind of freelancer-friendly advocated for can be adopted by any size town, village or city. Through a mix of municipal, standardized Wi-fi (something that’s being fought by various powerful parties but which is in the public’s best interest), the repurposing of the plethora of vacant office and retail space and the reconsideration of mass transit as a way to move people around within a city and not just out of it, towns of all shapes and sizes can benefit by being future-ready.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

This Week Elsewhere – 6/1/18

Cinematic Slant

Cinematic Slant is where I write about movies, including the campaign recaps I’ve been doing since 2004 along with other news and opinions.

Adrift – Marketing Recap: …there are bits and pieces of several different genres coming together here. It’s very much a romance of the Nicholas Sparks variety, about two people who just happen to find each other while in a place they wouldn’t usually be. But it’s also a story of survival against nature in the vein of The Perfect Storm or, more recently, All Is Lost. That’s not a knock against it, just an observation of what’s going on.

Bond, Transformers and More Movie News From Last Week: Just a few quick thoughts on some of the bigger movie news that hit last week.

A Few Thoughts on Spoilers: Based on my experience last week, the “spoiler free” zone has shrunk to the morning the movie opens. Not the day after, but that day. And the abuses are becoming more blatant and hard to avoid.

American Animals – Marketing Recap: I just kind of wish the publicity push had the same vigor and sizzle as the trailers, which give off a decent vibe of energy. There’s some good material that’s on display in those trailers, which sell an unconventional caper flick, though one that is as implausible as they come. That the same energy wasn’t carried over throughout the campaign and expanded into other media is disappointing.

The Future Is In Original Content: There’s a lot that could be said – and has been, by myself and others – about how the dynamics of the media industry have changed, are changing and will continue to change. Phrases like “media fragmentation” are used often as more and more options for consumers to choose from arrive on all platforms, whether it’s via a home-based or mobile connected device. Two things are clear, though.

A Kid Like Jake – Marketing Recap: IFC has certainly done what it could to position the movie as being timely and relevant as well as respectful of the people for whom this really hits home. Parsons emerged as the biggest public face in the publicity campaign, which makes a certain amount of sense. All put together it’s a good campaign that may find some success with a niche audience not necessarily because of the subject matter but just because of the release pattern.

Solo and the Future of Star Wars (After the Campaign Review): While I respect and understand the viewpoints of those who didn’t care for the movie for one reason or another, there are some commonalities to the criticism that’s been shared by many people that I feel need to be addressed.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Facebook Is Stifling Media Growth

There continue to be conversations around whether Facebook has grown too large and now commands too much of the attention economy, as well as the advertising economy. The company, along with a few others, is such a behemoth that it while it can’t actually stop anyone from launching a competitive product but it can buy them out and integrate that team to keep expanding while also eliminating other players from the field. It is, in every sense of the word, a monopoly.

Because of that power it can do whatever it wants. For years it made the pitch to media and other companies that Facebook was the place to come and connect with their audiences. It slowly but surely changed the terms of the deal so that if a brand of any kind reaches 5% of its followers with any given post it’s doing pretty damn good. But the legacy media brands had already accumulated millions of fans and so, while the numbers have certainly shifted, they have a big head start.

All of that recently lead Complex Media CEO Rich Antonelli to talk recently about how it would be next to impossible to successfully launch a media company on the platform today. The deck is too imposingly stacked against any player trying to start from scratch to make Facebook a viable option for establishing itself in any substantial way. If you have a ton of venture capital to burn through on promoted posts and production of engagement-centric videos, maybe, but if you’re an actual upstart operating on a shoestring budget, you’re out of luck.

So at the same time media consolidation and closure is rampant due to Facebook sucking the life out of the advertising industry it’s putting a restrictor plate on the organic rise of any potential challengers.

There are a number of good reasons to consider how Facebook (and other tech media companies) might need to be broken up in some manner, which seems to me to be a preferable solution over heavy – and likely ignorantly-framed – regulation, but the way it controls the fate of the media industry in several ways seems like it should be at the top of that list.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.