Making Precious A Monster Hit

Wednesday, May 19 2010
Making Precious A Monster Hit

Award-winning films can often be a double edged sword. You have the kudos of a major gong under you belt – and history has proved that can add a decent number to potential sales – but, at the same time, their success is not guaranteed.

For the thing that often helps big winners do well during the awards season acan sometimes hold them back come the DVD release. The subject matter.

Most years have at least one winner that has a difficult or challenging plot – tougher and meatier storylines usually make for strong contenders given the worthier nature of their storylines and the necessary gravitas that the talent needs to bring to the role to make it work.

Let’s face facts – frothy comedies or horror flicks rarely receive nominations, certainly not in the best film category, while science fiction (Avatar aside) only really performs in the effects and technical sectors. The last true comedy, for example to win a best picture gong at the Oscars was probably Woody Allen’s Annie Hall more than 30 years ago.

Drama dominates come awards season, and while the cachet an award can bring you adds potential, as anyone in our industry could probably tell you, drama is still a tough category to sell, even if it does come weighted down with kudos.

Icon’s Precious, due on May 24, is a case in point.

It picked up a hefty six nominations, including the coveted best picture alongside director, actress, editing and adapted screenplay nods, eventually scoring one gong, for Mo’nique in the best supporting actress category.

So far so good, but Precious is hardly fluffy fare. Its plot is among the toughest you’ll see for some time and while undeniably worthy, it does present a challenge for the marketing.

As Icon’s Chris Warrington notes: “It’s a difficult one to get right.”

But that’s what the company is determined to do. And while playing on its awards and artier credentials, it is also aiming to put the film forward as an inherently commercial proposition. “We want to shift the onus of it being an award-worthy upmarket arthouse film, and being perceived as that, to a more mainstream supermarket shopping audience,” continues Warrington. “We want to push it to women from the age of 18 years old upwards who are interested in real-life stories.”

It’s that real-life element which Icon believes is crucial to its potential.

“It’s the inspirational tale this film tells that is the real opportunity. It’s won awards, people have heard about it and there are some that feel they must see it.

“But the real conversion will happen with readers of Heat and magazines such as that – women who relate to this story of a woman fighting against the odds.”

Its marketing is all about balancing between targeting those two groups. This means a “significant part” of the spend on women’s magazines, takin in the likes of Stylist, Heat, OK, Reveal, Closer and the likes, with full page spots offering standout and “the inspirational character” of Precious featuring heavily. It helps that the film features the celeb-mag friendly Mariah Carey, which gives it more relevance to this audience. The message is simple and comes replete with glowing quotes from reviews” Everybody Loves Precious.”

It’s a similar story online, with Icon “picking off” different audiences with targeted ads and it’s also aiming to build word of mouth by allowing consumers to share their views on the film on social networking sites, such as Facebook.

One marketeer who is well versed in pushing a harrowing Oscar-winning film to the public is Ken Law. Now at Scanbox, he was at Metrodome at the time the independent put out the Charlize Theron-starrer Monster.

“On Monster we tried to bypass the harrowing 18 rated subject matter and concentrated on the performance,” he says. “It was less about Aileen Wuornos and her crimes and more about Charlize Theron and her Oscar/Golden Globe-winning performance.

“We did tie up with the John Blake Publishing who put out the book Monster – My True Story and cross promoted each other product and did joint competitions but other than that, we tried to steer it on the performance rather than the storyline. Hence the premier with her Charlize appearing. It was all about her, the glamorous Hollywood star who mentally and physically transformed herself to give the performance of a lifetime.”

Metrodome followed a similar route to one of the options favoured by Icon, placing the film as a must-own title.

Law concludes: “The consumer call to action was ‘If you like films, then you simply must own this DVD to witness a remarkable once in a lifetime acting performance’.”

That performance has helped Monster to lifetime sales of 425,000 or so – a performance that Precious is aiming to replicate.

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