In December 2013, Beyonce released her self-titled fifth studio album, completely unannounced – with absolutely no advertising, or promotion, or interviews. It was kept completely secret, and just turned up on iTunes one day. And it was a smash, both critically and commercially.
So what does this have to do with Den Of Geek? Well, in terms of mass appeal, commercial success and branding, Beyonce is to music what the summer blockbuster is to movies. A new album from her is like the release of a Star Wars or Avengers movie. And she released one, completely by surprise, without the need for endless trailers, and press interviews, and billboards, and everything else.
What if a big superhero movie could be released like that? If the movie could just arrive in front of us, fully formed? We could do without all the months of speculating. Without all the vile arguments on message boards about casting. Without pre-judging a film on a trailer, which only shows us how good the trailer editor is at cutting, and picking a good song? Without having the same banal comments from the cast repeated ad nauseam at countless junkets? Instead of arguing about films that don’t exist yet, we could enjoy—and then talk about—films that actually exist? Think how wonderful that would be.
Okay, so I hear what you’re saying. That’s not feasible. Even for a heavily produced artist like Beyonce (Wikipedia lists 14 different producers for that album, let alone session musicians, guest rappers, her legal team etc), she is just one artist. You can produce an album on your own in secret. You can’t make a mega budget superhero on your own like that.
Instead of one artist, you have a director, a writer, the cast. And the hundreds—if not thousands—of extras, crew members, SFX artists, and all the other names you sit through to get a quick glimpse of Thanos after the credits. You can’t keep all that secret. You’ve got to go out in the real world and film the freeway chase, you can’t shoot that in the personal studio in Beyonce and Jay-Z’s crib.
So yeah, I get you. But what if Disney tried? If I was head of Disney, this is how I’d do it: I would issue a press release that said “Star Wars 7 is out 18 Dec 2015. You’re going to see it, right?” And nothing else.
Literally, nothing else.
No trailers, no posters, no making of videos no (urgh) ‘virals’. No video released for the Taylor Swift song on the soundtrack. No press interviews. No press screenings. Just start shooting the movie, NDA the hell out of everyone from the interns up, and then just drop the film in cinemas on that day.
Because look, we’re definitely going to see Avengers 3 or Star Wars. We don’t need to be bombarded with trailers and clips and posters and video blogs and character reveals. IMAGINE IF THERE WAS NO MARKETING OF ANY KIND. We’re going to see it anyway.
Hell, I’d argue the fever pitch would be even higher. People would be literally tearing themselves apart to see it. There’s one sure-fire way to make people want to see something, and that’s tell them that they are not allowed to see it. People would be blogging and tweeting and writing think pieces about the fact they haven’t seen anything yet.
Now, you probably would miss out on some casual cinema goers. You are the people who read Den Of Geek, so you know about these films coming out. But your granny might not know, or your brother who likes cars and football might not hear about it *—though because I think everyone would be talking about it anyway, they’d find out. Though yeah, this might affect the box office.
But I honestly think this would be easily offset by the amount they’d save on marketing. Studios spend almost as much on marketing blockbusters as they do on making them. Not just on advertising, but on all these promotions, and on PR, and on flying nine Avengers—plus Joss Whedon—around the world first class (and how well did that expensive press tour really go? Robert Downey Jr walked out an interview with Channel 4 and Jeremy Renner called Black Widow something he really shouldn’t).
Like I say, this would only work with a Beyonce level series, a sequel we all want to see any way. An Avengers or a Star Wars or maybe a Batman v Superman. It has to be that big. But it could work.
And just think how good it would be to go and see the film unspoiled? I personally hate the obsession with trailer breakdowns, with wanting to known everything about a film months before it comes out, with freaking out over casting decisions. It’s not fun. Wouldn’t it be so much more awesome if we just waited till the goddamn movie came out to make our opinions?
Actually, without all that stuff Den Of Geek probably wouldn’t get half the traffic it does… er, maybe we should rethink this….
Look, this is just a hypothetical. I think it would work, but I don’t know. I’m not in the position to risk Disney’s stock price on it. Maybe I’m overestimating how excited people are for these films. And plenty of these movies need that hype, which I why I ended up seeing the first three Transformers films in the cinema, for reasons that I still don’t really comprehend. But I still think it would be fascinating to see it happen.
*Disclaimer: It’s completely possible that your brother loves, cars, football and Star Wars. Or that your gran is really cool and mad into The Avengers.