Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Is Branding Replacing Entertainment as Hollywood's Product?

George Lucas poses with "Star Wars"-inspired Disney characters  (Getty Images)
Hunter Communications recommended reading from:
Los Angeles Times

Link to article:
Perspective: It's a brand-news day in Hollywood

Now that Disney, fresh from buying the Marvel Comics stable of superheroes, has just gobbled up Lucasfilm and the Star Wars brand, has branding become the main product of Hollywood? Film and entertainment seem to be becoming a sideline to the marketing juggernaut based on tried and true brand names.

Excerpt: "Long ago Joan Didion lamented that in Hollywood the art of the deal had replaced the art of the movies, but at least she was talking about deals to make movies. What the Lucasfilm acquisition suggests is that deals are a thing unto themselves and that movie studios are no longer in the movie or even the entertainment business at all. They are in the branding business, and Lucasfilm is one of the biggest brands. It is a brand that is so large it dwarfs any movie, TV show or video game. Just slap "Star Wars" on anything and it is likely to sell.

In the studios' heyday back in the 1930s and '40s, they had one basic task: to make movies. All the other assets they acquired — writers, directors, technicians, stars — were deployed in the service of making films that, moguls hoped, audiences wanted to see. That obviously isn't to say that the movies weren't a business. It is simply to say that filmmaking was a rather unusual business — one in which every product was unique and every one a risk.

Studios could try to reduce that risk — that was basically what stars were for — but there was never a guarantee that people would go to see any particular film no matter who starred in it. And while the studios themselves were a brand of sorts — Warner Bros., MGM, Paramount, RKO and Universal made distinctive pictures — few people went to see a movie because a studio made it. The movies, not the studios, were the thing.

Some say that Walt Disney was the craven pioneer who changed all this when, early in his company's history, he developed a merchandising arm that peddled dolls, watches, train sets, games and other paraphernalia featuring the studio's cartoon stars. Thus, it is said, did studios go from making films to selling products — from being houses of art to houses of business."

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