Geeks may be overrated in Hollywood

Fri Aug 1, 2008 4:10am EDT
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By Steven Zeitchik

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Everywhere you go these days, Hollywood is heralding the hard-core fan.

Michael Bay's producing partner, Brad Fuller, told a Comic-Con audience in San Diego last weekend that filmmakers were "terrified" about how the franchise's superfans might feel about their upcoming "Friday the 13th" reboot.

Paramount was nervous enough about geek reaction to its "Star Trek" prequel that it didn't even show footage at Comic-Con out of concern that it wasn't yet ready for discerning eyes.

Reaching the most devoted segments of entertainment consumers months or even years before a film or series debuts was once a luxury; now it's a priority. The hard-core fans are so powerful, the thinking goes, that they not only should be targeted but also allowed into the process, their voices shaping marketing campaigns and even creative directions.

But what if fan reaction bears only so much on a project's ultimate performance? And even if reaching fans can significantly move the needle, what if reaching them in the right ways is so elusive and inefficient that it's not even worth trying?

"I think some studios go to something like Comic-Con mainly because they're afraid that if they don't go, and their movies don't work, someone above them will say, 'Why didn't you go to Comic-Con?"' says one producer who's had movies with large fan campaigns.

Studios also have had a tough time figuring out what the prize is even if their campaigns are clearly laid out and completely successful.

"Our marketing strategy with fall release 'Choke' is to get all the Chuck Palahniuk fans in," says Fox Searchlight publicity chief Michelle Hooper, referring to the author of the book on which the movie is based. "The problem is there's no real way to measure how big that base is."   Continued...

<p>Attendees dress as characters from Battlestar Galactica at the 39th annual Comic Con Convention in San Diego July 24, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Blake</p>