In a previous article we discussed some of the misunderstandings regarding differences between the promotional missions of posters and DVD’s and Blu-ray packaging options. Satisfied that these media address entirely different missions we can move forward. Though the same film may feature in both campaigns, we have to accept that the promotion of first run films is extremely different than the secondary market and promotion of home video sales. The winners in one may not necessarily be the winners in another. It may be startling to recognize that a story telling vehicle has become more of a product than an attempt to build a unique narrative experience. Stopping at that transformation makes it difficult to recognize what the new package design configurations may mean in the seduction and captivation of audiences. 1. Along the way I intend to address what considerations occur in trying to motivate audiences to come to theaters versus those considerations that have them bring the video into their homes on a long-term basis. 2. Review how film production departments or stations might change their goals in the process of achieving these marketing agendas. And 3. Discuss what package design configurations end products may take to overwhelm audiences regarding the original narrative experience.
Why are we going to do this? Because the phenomenon shows how different the landscape is for film production crews when producing blockbuster films or large “tent-pole” experiences for audiences. After the war at the box office the battlefield immediately switches to one on store shelves. When a film studio, producer or directors intend to create one of these experiences, audiences have to understand that the emphasis is primarily on marketing a film. This retail agenda is different from the film’s initial goal of captivating audiences or proving a narrative is worthy of a sequel. Though concerned with marketing I will avoid the music and toy sales as other expressions of these efforts.
When attempting to discuss what a blockbuster or tent-pole experience is the AMC network defined it this way:
“…rankings of both US (Domestic) and Worldwide Box-Office blockbusters have been compiled from various recent sources. The domestic rankings, divided into unadjusted and adjusted for inflation,* are based upon theatrical box office receipts (including some theatrical re-release receipts) and do not include video rentals, TV rights, international box office figures, or other revenues. A few other sites post all-time box-office information, including the Internet Movie DataBase, Boxoffice.com, Boxofficemojo.com, and The-numbers.com.” 
You may have noticed this entire discussion is all about business. When trying to recognize a discussion about studio tent-pole strategy this is how typically critical commentators like Indiewire or Thomson Hollywood discusses the phenomena:
“I’m hearing that yes, studio heads are realizing that placing too many big bets on too few potential tentpoles–which when they work, do return the most money–is a foolish strategy. The conventional wisdom was always that you spread your risk over a diverse slate of projects, from low-budget comedies and genre fare to high-cost holiday sequels and potential blockbusters. The studios are returning to that approach.” 
Though business considerations are again the emphasis of these statements you recognize we were still discussing “first run” doubt and apprehension about audience buying. Intended franchises like last summers “John Carter” and “Battleship” were created to support multiple sequels yet business wise failed to live up to expectations. Instead we’re again going to stay focused on the winners of the “first run” marketing race, and to do that we have to sustain our attention on the secondary market of home video.
As of today or this date December 17th, 2012, these are the biggest sellers in home video sales.
DVD Name: The Hunger Games
Units Sold: 6,098,342
Sales Revenue: $107,158,418
Release date: 8/18/2012
DVD Name: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1
Units Sold: 5,366,152
Sales Revenue: $97,200,158
Release date: 2/11/2012
DVD Name: The Avengers
Units Sold: 3,639,507
Sales Revenue: $65,814,327
Release date: 9/25/2012
DVD Name: The Lorax
Units Sold: 3,433,735
Sales Revenue: $61,215,769
Release date: 8/7/2012
DVD Name: Puss in Boots
Units Sold: 2,723,811
Sales Revenue: $44,894,316
Release date: 2/24/2012
DVD Name: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Units Sold: 2,720,864
Sales Revenue: $39,316,437
Release date: 6/12/2012
DVD Name: Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked
Units Sold: 2,392,232
Sales Revenue: $39,430,743
Release date: 3/27/2012
DVD Name: Hop
Units Sold: 2,297,116
Sales Revenue: $37,863,108
Release date: 3/23/2012
DVD Name: The Help
Units Sold: 3,639,507
Sales Revenue: $65,814,327
Release date: 9/25/2012
DVD Name: 21 Jump Street
Units Sold: 1,807,991
Sales Revenue: $29,806,267
Release date: 12/6/2011
Without spending too much time on this, it appears that what people want too see in theaters dramatically differs from what they want in their homes. Though there are some exceptions, did you notice how the list tends to focus on content that favors teen boys and girls? Yet DVD and Blu Ray packages are successful for a lot of reasons including;
- Word of mouth about the movie
- The Screen Play
- Excellent production design
- High performances of all production departments
- The Original Posters
- First run trailers
- Excellent First Run distribution decisions
- Fan or audience development or persuasion
But SURELY the DVD and Blu-ray packaging must account for something? As said before when the battle switches to the retail isles (actual or online) the media for coercion becomes, (whether packaged video or not), the media of graphic design or package design specifically. Past and present, here are some formats we might frequently see.
1. Thematically innovative, the “Interpretive unconventional” DVD container describes a class of package that is exceptionally unique and aims to captivate the audience as well as store or house DVDs or Blu Ray discs. Here are some examples for this class of package.
- Far more conventional the “multi-sleeve set” is a container for promotional material and or multiple disks and sets. Here are some examples for this class of package.
- Twilight/Breaking Dawn Part 1
- Kubrick Collection
- The Dark Knight Rises
- James Bond – 22 Film Collection
- Hunger Games 1
- Marvels the Avengers
- Alien Anthology
- The “Combination media” package allows a studio to sell more than one product. Here are some examples for this class of package.
And the “sleeve” enables the selling of multiple disks. Here are some examples for this class of package.
The studios seem to like to break up the narrative onto different disks in a fairly gratuitous manner. Yet without franchises and multiple sequels, these deluxe packing agenda’s aren’t meaningful story wise. Fortunately this isn’t the kind of article that’s concerned with the finer mechanics of building better narratives or trying to make the packaging play a more significant role in the overall narrative or storytelling.