HOLLYWOOD FILMS


Returning from the lavatory, you discover that your date is bursting at the opportunity to discuss Hollywood film sites. You stretch out your arms, tell the waitress to fire up a pot of coffee -- caffienated -- sit down and listen.

Your date tells you that a Hollywood film site's design is a little different than an independent film, because of the extremely large advertising budgets (some major studio films' advertising budget is double the entire budget of an independent film) (Klady 52). Major studio/Hollywood films flood various media with theatrical trailers, magazine/newspaper ads, radio and TV ads, not to mention the World Wide Web. But the goal for every distributor is still the same: to increase the awareness of the film. Also, your date reminds you that the Web address you noticed on "The Saint's" poster has become commonplace on film ads. And it's the posters, trailers and print ads that increase the awareness of a film's Web address.

There are many advantages to movie Web addresses besides interactivity. Studio chiefs love the demographics of computer users -- remember "disposable income" -- and most of all, they love the relatively low cost of maintaining a Web page. "Interactive marketing still accounts for less than 1 percent of a film's overall marketing budget." (Ryan HM21) That is why independent films can utilize the Web and major studio films can afford Web sites with complex graphic and audio software.

Hollywood films still suffer the same problems independent films have with Web pages: correlating the Web sites' impact with ticket sales. But according to Ryan's New York Times article, distributors, whether independent or major studios, like the Web as a marketing tool. "Major movie Web sites can get over 100,000 visitors a week [and] ... can be very cost effective." (Ryan HM21). Plus, a film's Web site is posted long after a movie's theatrical run is over. In fact, there are still Web sites from 1995 films. With video, pay-per-view, cable and satellite service, a movie will be available in a matter of months prior to its theatrical release. So if viewers are interested in a movie they missed on the big screen, they can download the movie's Web site, instead of searching through magazine backlogs.

A current big studio Web site your date points out is the movie the two of you just saw, "The Saint." That site has a crisp design and is easy to navigate. The home page shows nothing but the movie's logo and gives the option of a shocked or nonshocked version. After selecting one of those options, the site directs the user to the menu board, where the seven options: production notes, cast, filmmakers, visuals, soundtrack, goodies, and home page, are omnipresent on the left-hand column throughout the site, providing users with a friendly-navigable site. The options themselves are nothing fancy. Five of the options speak for themselves (production notes, cast, filmmakers, visuals, and home page), the soundtrack page plays sound bytes from the soundtrack and the goodies page offers a free download of "The Saint" screen saver, but it's the navigability that makes it a good example of a Web site.

You politefully yawn as your date discusses "Volcano," the next Hollywood Web site. Not surprisingly, "Volcano" is also shockwave enhanced. If a computer user doesn't have the shockwave software, the home page image will be broken. The home page even state, "make sure you have the latest versions of this software to fully enjoy the 'Volcano' experience" (www.volcano.com). But like all other shockwave enhanced sites, the "Volcano" site offers the user to download shockwave. After entering the next page of the site, the layout mirrors a tacky checkout line tabloid. It's a clever layout that outlines the main characters with images above melodramatic headlines and shows images of the special effects, Even though this site shows much more creativity than "The Saint" site, there are some annoyances about the site. For one, The "Volcano" banner and the four categories: The Coast is Toast game, behind the scenes, it could happen here, and equipment and supplies is present on every page, like "The Saint's" site. However, unlike "The Saint," were it's omnipresent menu isn't obtrusive to the information, "Volcano's" menu image dominates the screen and becomes a nuisance when trying to read about behind the scenes or equipment and supplies (which is screen savers, e-mail postcards and shockwave which can be downloaded). Even more annoying is the film opens in a matter of days, yet the Coast is Toast game and the screen saver is not available yet, so the site is incomplete. For all the promise this site has, there are enough annoyances to have users pointing and clicking elsewhere.

You perform a double take, when you look at your watch and realize the sun will be up in a few hours, but the direction your date has steered the discussion continues to hold your interest. Now, your date is discussing one drawback that many Hollywood studios have relating to their Web sites--timeliness. With the highly-competitive summer season looming on the horizon, many studios do not advertise or have Web sites for their precious summer products. Or if a film does have a Web site, the only information it conveys is that the Web site is under construction or coming soon. Yet again, Ryan's article finds its way into your dates discussion. His article states, "because of the last minute nature of Web marketing--sites are usually under development until the day of their introduction" (Ryan HM21). It seems the studios take the safe road, by not providing too much information months before a movie is released because release dates can change. That was the case for Twentieth Century Fox's "Volcano." The film was originally slated for the middle of March 1997, but due to Universal's decision to release their volcano movie, "Dante's Peak," a week earlier, Fox pushed back the release date to April 25. Thus causing their Web site to be down for almost a month. It wasn't until the first week of April that the "Volcano" Web site was operational again, although, being operational three weeks before the release date is way ahead of schedule. Waiting until the last minute isn't horrible, but it can annoy people who see the theatrical trailer or read see the poster with the Web address at the theater, and try to visit the site only to find it's under construction or simply not available yet. Due to the unstructed release pattern of many independent films, they don't run into the same problem.

You're now anxious to do some online investigating, but even more anxious for a bed, so you ask for the chcck and inform your date that it's getting late. You almost roll your eyes when your date responds with "I didn't notice the time," but you enjoyed the conversation and held it in.

Conclude the evening.
Rekindle the independent film discussion.
Relive the introduction of the date.
Go straight home.