The role of the distributor is to think about who the audience is and why they would want to watch the film. They need to do research into the audience to understand their likes and dislikes, pleasures and fears. They are responsible for buying the rights to a film and distributing it accordingly to various cinemas. They produce a release strategy and marketing strategy to try and make the film sell.
Acquiring the Film, Budget, Target Audience
In the case of Avatar, the film was produced by James Cameron and his company, Lightstorm, however 20th Century Fox have integrated Lightstorm into their company, so to provide funding for production as well as distribution and marketing. This is an excellent example of horizontal and vertical integration, as can be seen by this diagram.
Similarly, The Boat That Rocked was produced by Working Title Films, and so everything during production was horizontally integrated, but they are owned by Universal, so everything else, marketing and distribution etc. were taken care of, so they were vertically integrated.
Because Fox already owned the rights to the film, they didn’t need to actually spend money acquiring it, so they simply spent $350 million marketing the film. The unique selling point of the film was that it was an immersive 3D experience unlike the anything that had come before. The film targeted a very wide audience from the typical family of four to the niche film enthusiast to the avid action lover.
The Boat That Rocked, as we said, was also vertically integrated, and this allowed for a budget of over $47 million which was able to include an ensemble cast which appealed to both the
Avatar had a very interesting release strategy. The film first premiered in
This set the ball rolling, so that there was so much buzz around the Wednesday 16th premiere, as there had been 6 days build up. After the premiere, there was the Thursday and Friday for the hype to build even more, for the Friday the 18th general release which then smashed the box office.
The Boat That Rocked was first shown in the
Avatar was a much more successful film, partly due to its impressive release strategy which fox spent $350 million on. In comparison, TBTR had a budget of only $30 million, so didn’t reach as wide an audience and didn’t do nearly as well in the box office.
Audience Research and Marketing Budget
Although the method in which Working Title did its audience research in the UK was illusive other films Working Title had worked on seemed to have a similar target market for a majority of the comedy films the enterprise had produced. We can therefore deduce that Working title may have used its passed experience with these films to aid it in audience research so that a marketing budget could be created. Films such as 'Ali G' and 'Bean' were likely to have a proportion of the audience that would find 'The Boat That Rocked' to thier taste. Also followers of the Simon Pegg and Nick Frost films such as 'Hot Fuzz' and 'Shaun Of The Dead' which were very successful, may also have been targeted due to Nick Frost's character in 'The Boat That Rocked' playing quite a major role. Screenings of the film in order to get feedback and check with target audience would have been inevitable as well as questionnaires and general feedback. It is possible that Working Title may have rested on it's laurels in terms of audience research and this may be why the film wasn't as successful as they would have wished.
Market Research for Avatar on the other hand would have been on a very large scale due to it being a more global film with audience research needing to be conducted for marketing the film in every country in which it was released, which is many. A marketing strategy would have had to be make for each individual country so that the film was to succeed as well as it did. Screenings would have been done nationally along with questionnaires and other research methods in order to get as accurate results as possible so that they could make as much money as possible through marketing and exhibiting the film. As a major focus of the American Film Industry is marketing thier products, it is very likely that the producers where obtaining feedback from stage one. With the initial target audience being such a large group of 8-80 it would have been important to create an image for the film that would satisfy everybody which would have been decided on by intensive audience research.