When a movie gets no promotion

David Brancaccio Apr 19, 2012

David Brancaccio: It’s one way to market a movie, but it doesn’t seem like it’s building for success. The forthcoming Miley Cyrus movie called “LOL,” according to the L.A. Times, will have no marketing budget to speak of and will be released first in just seven cities. The studio Lionsgate may have other fish to fry right now, making sure every possibility gets squeezed from the studio’s monster hit of the moment, “Hunger Games.”

Ben Mogil is a Lionsgate analyst at Stifel Nicolaus in Toronto. Good morning Mr. Mogil.

Ben Mogil: Good morning.

Brancaccio: I know you keep an eye on Lionsgate. I don’t know if you’ve heard about this “LOL” Miley Cyrus film. They’re not going out of their way to call it to the attention of the moviegoing public.

Mogil: Sure. Well right now, everything about Lionsgate tends to be wrapped up more “Hunger Games,” which obviously is dominating the box office and clearly transforming this company.

Brancaccio: I understand that some films might not warrant a full-on, large ad campaign. But to not promote it at all seems kind of drastic.

Mogil: I think the reality is that, you know, you start with the film and sometimes at the end of the day, the market’s changed against you, there’s been a lot of films that may be in that similar genre or for some reason it’s not testing well with the audiences. And then as a studio, you’ve got a choice between ration up and spending a lot of money on print and advertising, or saying this may not be the best use of our capital. I gather from the limited release that it’s doing that it probably seems more of the latter.

Brancaccio: It’s also up against some tough competition on its date of release; it’s going to be up against “The Avengers,” which is apparently a much bigger movie.

Mogil: Yeah, “The Avengers” looks to be tracking around $150 million, $170 million for opening weekend; “The Avengers” looks to be doing “Hunger Games”-type numbers and you know, Disney will promote the movie extensively.

Brancaccio: I have an alternate theory about this “LOL” film here: Maybe it’s like the Broadway play, “The Producers” — they do everything possible to make sure that nobody sees it and it’s going to be this massive hit and we’ll all be wrong.

Mogil: You know, look: with these smaller films, you do have word of mouth as probably the best of the marketing tools. So there’s the possibility that if the movie ends up getting good word of mouth, it continues to branch out and play in a bunch of these theaters going forward.

Brancaccio: Lionsgate analyst Ben Mogil is with Stifel Nicolaus in Toronto. Thank you very much.

Mogil: Thank you.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.