Sunday, September 03, 2006

Movie studios vs. bloggers

On KCRW's "The Business" today (the podcast will be up soon), panelists talked about the online tug of war going on between movie studios' marketing departments and bloggers. Movie studios had started noticing that, with all the online chatter about movies for months before they came out, lots of people who might otherwise have gone to see their films were just sick of hearing about them already and stayed home on release weekend. To combat this trend, New Line clamped down on information leaks about "Snakes on a Plane," hoping to create the bulk of the buzz during the month directly preceding the film's release. They also didn't screen it for critics, except for the premiere the night before it hit theaters. (Those who saw it then gave it overwhelmingly positive reviews, according to Tom Tapp of Hollywood Wiretap.) This, of course, didn't prevent bloggers excited by the premise from writing about the film. After a precisely timed, traditional periodicals/billboards/TV ads campaign, the first weekend numbers for "Snakes on a Plane" were disappointing. Turns out the only people who went to see the film were those bloggers and their buddies. (They'll all watch it on cable and buy the DVD, too.) Now movie studios are trying to devise better ways of controlling and utilizing bloggers and their influence on the entertainment journalists who use bloggers' tips to fill their own columns. Not only do studios want/need to control what happens to their products once they're released on an unsuspecting public, but they want to use their muscle and deep pockets to control what we say and when we say it about them, too. They already do this with the press when they embargo information till a certain date (and try to limit that information to outlets that will be favorable to them). Is it possible that, one day in a near and ominous future, bloggers will be blamed for a film's failure? Will studios try to find a way to hold individuals financially accountable? That's one way this could go: a very scary way. But in light of studios' virulent attacks on filesharing, it doesn't seem improbable to me.

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