Group issues warning on day-and-date releases
In a few short years, global launches have gone from being a far-fetched notion to a favorite studio strategy, but it’s a shift that should carry a warning label for international distribs, said panelists at the inaugural sesh of Variety’s Cannes Conference series.
Friday’s panel included veteran producer Aurelio De Laurentiis; David Kosse, Universal international marketing and distrib prez; consultant and former U exec Nadia Bronson; UIP prez and chief operating officer Andrew Cripps; and Jean-Francois Camilleri, BVI’s director of distribution France; moderated by Variety deputy managing editor Jonathan Bing.
The honchos agreed that piracy is the most important underlying reason for the exploding trend of same-date openings. However, “It’s a balancing act marketing-wise and every single film has a different strategy and has to be dealt with accordingly,” cautioned Bronson. “It’s good to have that big initial box office, but it’s better ultimately to think of the bottom line.”
Cripps agreed, citing current U.S. box office hit “Mean Girls” as an example of a film that would have flopped with a day-and-date strategy, but now its surprise success can be used positively as it spreads into foreign territories.
Citing his current worldwide day-and-date, “Van Helsing,” Kosse said he thinks the film, which preemed simultaneously in 41 territories — U’s widest launch ever — has greatly benefited from the blanket global strategy.
“We had enormous anticipation for it. We could create a worldwide event. We had media from Barcelona to Bangkok and we became the No. 1 summer movie out of the gate everywhere,” he said. He added that on this film and so many others like it that piracy is a real concern and he’s glad the studio didn’t wait to release it piecemeal.
DeLaurentiis feels day-and-date is definitely the future for tentpole and wannabe-tentpole product, particularly as an anti-piracy measure. But he cautioned that certain territories make a global release difficult.
Even though many European countries have embraced a summer movie season, thanks to air-conditioned plexes, summer pics still have a hard time in Italy. A few tentpoles have found summer success in Italy, but even local fare avoids the season.
“I like (day-and-date) for mainstream movies of which there are two kinds. One is an event movie and the other seems to be an event like ‘Van Helsing’ but who knows? When in doubt like that, it’s best to open day-and-date,” he said to much laughter.
At least one member of the panel cautioned that there can sometimes be an upside to letting the Internet pirates do their thing.
“We opened ‘Finding Nemo’ in November, five months after its initial release,” Camilleri said. “Despite that it became the second biggest film ever in the country behind ‘Titanic.’ When the movie is good like ‘Nemo’ Net piracy is like a trailer. When they like it, they can’t wait to see it in a theater no matter when it comes out,” adding that’s not always the case.
Cripps said his animated October release, “Shark Tale” will go day-and-date (excluding in Japan) mainly in a bid to steer clear of Disney/Pixar’s Thanksgiving offering, “The Incredibles.” “Shark Tale,” a largely unknown property, is using Cannes to launch awareness including a splashy press/photo op with stars Will Smith, Jack Black and Angelina Jolie.