Determine Playability vs. Marketability

First, if you think about it -- a film has to in the first instance sell itself as an idea. Meaning -- we all go see a movie because the idea of that movie is attractive to us. That's "marketability" -- the ability of a film to attract an audience into the theater. The most common aspect of marketability is cast -- if you have a Brad Pitt movie, it's marketable by definition because it has Brad Pitt in it. There are several dozen, perhaps as many as fifty, directors whose names attached to a movie automatically make it marketable. Most movies derive their marketability from some combination of stars, director, underlying literary property (famous book, comic book, etc). At the indie level, festival acclaim comes into play, and reviews count, a MySpace buzz matters. But in analyzing the film from this aspect -- the entire point is to answer the question, "Can the film attract moviegoers into the theater?"

"Playability" is the analysis of what happens to that audience once they are in the theater. Never mind what got them there -- what their experience is once they sit down and watch the movie.

Film Biz 101: Marketability vs. Playability June 14, 2007 in The Biz by Michael D. Sellers


You have an idea or you're given a pitch and you have to decide if it has “marketability'…Yet every film distributed in the U.S. had someone who decided that it was "marketable" – and 77% of those films failed to clear a profit.

How could the audience 'smell' that the film contained something to avoid? Those films were marketed consistently well before opening weekend, but when they came to the theater, nobody showed up. Why? There was a problem that the studio hadn't counted on. And this problem was seen by the audience weeks and months ahead of the opening. The problem is the lack of 'playability'. The film was remiss in playability. And an audience can sense problems in “playability' the minute they see the marketing … long before the feature's opening.

It was observed by film-going audiences through prerelease talk shows, TV interviews, and previews of coming attractions, commercials, and advertising graphics, and key art, trailers on the Internet and in entertainment reviews.

Audiences stay home because of the lack of playability that was visually and vocally “articulated' before the film's opening weekend.

Today's sophisticated audiences have an innate psychological ability to discern a film's playability from watching the actor's faces and their telegraphed feelings in trailers. They judge the storyline playability from what they see was actually produced…not what they imagined would be created when they were surveyed beforehand.

Because the studio researched the mass audience before production (by asking them what kind of story points they imagined they would like to see) and then they produced what they thought the audience had indicated, the studio blames the marketing guys claiming they must have sold the product incorrectly.

But in reality, the film itself contained the playability errors that couldn't have been sold to an audience no matter what kind of marketing they conjured up.

A marketable film with negative issues in playability can't succeed at the U.S. box-office – no matter how marketable the studio or distributor thinks the film is. Even if the marketing guys had tried to hide the lack of playability in marketing, the audience still detects playability issues from the projection of the talent's articulation – so positive word-of-mouth is lost and the film tanks. It doesn't matter how good your story-points are if you have problems in the way you formulated the presentation.

If you ignore playability it doesn't matter how well you market. But if a film has playability formulated correctly, audiences will seek that playability out and tell their friends to go see it as well – even if pre-production surveys said they wouldn't see it. Once they see the faces and hear the voices articulated in pre-release marketing, they are yours.

It's all about the audience and what they think about what they're seeing... or smelling.

Excerpt from: CFI - Cinematic Forecasts and Investor Assurance LLC™ Motion Picture Marketing & Development

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