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DISTRIBUTION

Coming Soon: The Art of the Quad

When lecturing in Madrid on the do’s and don’ts of film distribution at a film school some years back, one student politely asked me which single marketing element did I see as the most effective tool when releasing a film. I confidently answered as only a person of my vast industry experience and finger-on-the-pulse confidence could: “I really haven’t got the first bloody clue to be honest.”

 

Now this might not be the kind of direct, assured answer that this particular student was expecting, but it pretty much summed up the reality. Distribution is now a huge and scrabbled mix of oh so many different elements which, hopefully, come together at just the right time. Publicity, promotion, invention, advertising and even just picking the right date can all add significantly to the eventual box office. So the idea that any one item will induce a punter to part with his or her cash simply isn’t living in the real world.

Having said that, there is no question that the key front and centre element of any film campaign is the marketing image—that’s the one which adorns the tube, the newspaper and magazine advertising pages, the one you see in the lit frame quad boxes at the local cinema or in bus shelters. But these days, it can never be seen as a sole inducement to ensnare a new customer. And yet, once upon a time it was probably singularly the most important element in a campaign. So what’s changed?

In many respects the sheer size of the new multiplex sites, with the huge expanse of foyer space and exterior walls, plus, the enormity of the cardboard standee’s that clutter up the internal space, added to the sheer amount of films being advertised, has all added up to diminish the role of the quad. Whereas in a bygone age it was the first thing that greeted you at the front of the local ABC or Odeon, it is now a fairly insignificant pimple on a proverbial pig’s ass. We now live in the huge monolithic world of the modern multiplexes. They, like their arch-rival TV, throw out a constant stream of come and get me marketing messages. Big is best, or at least that’s the perceived truth these days.

It wasn’t always that way, of course. Once, the “simple” little poster was perhaps the most telling of all the inducements to get your hard earned cash out of your pocket and into that box office. To understand how and why it played such a big part we should look at attitudes toward marketing in years gone by, while taking into account how many other forms of media marketing bombardment have also helped change the way in which we make our consumer buying decisions.

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