What Would Ari Gold Think?

March 13, 2009

Is the movie industry really benefitting from the recession?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Josh Damis @ 4:26 pm
Credit: Warner Bros.

Credit: Warner Bros.

It’s pretty well known that almost every time the U.S. enters a recession the box office sees an increase in ticket sales. 2009 has proved no different. Or has it?

A recent entry on Michael Allison’s Communication Leadership blog makes me wonder if the movie industry is spinning the current recession in hopes to repeat ticket-sales booms during similar economic downturns. A tactic that counters what the government and most industries are doing.

January and February posted big numbers respectively. However, March seems to be slowing down, especially with Watchmen not meeting industry expectations. Some argue the media set the bar too high for Watchmen when comparing it to director Zack Snyder’s 300.

It seems like numbers for January and February are actually inflated if you think about it. A series of reboots, sequels and popular book adaptations really gave January and February a huge boost. Films like Friday the 13th, He’s Just Not That Into You and Madea Goes to Jail already had locked in audiences. The only real surprise hits have been Taken and Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which that film’s surprise success is even questionable when you consider Kevin James resumé, which includes The King of Queens, Hitch and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Even if attendance is up 14% this year compared to last year, that is to be expected with such highly publicized titles.

A lot of numbers have been tossed around that supposedly indicate the movie industry is benefitting from the recession, but those numbers also don’t factor the rise in ticket costs. February’s record breaking month was actually on par with February 2004 and February 1997 when you count tickets sold, according to Box Office Mojo.

It seems like DVD would benefit from a recession even more so than theaters. It costs more than $30 for two people to go to a movie theater when you factor in admission and concessions. It costs even more to go to an IMAX or 3-D showing. A DVD costs $15 to $20 to purchase and somewhere in the ballpark of $4 to rent. However, DVD revenues are down across the board, even with The Dark Knight and Iron Man breaking DVD and Blu-ray sales recently. DVD sales are so terrible right now 20th Century Fox is removing all special and bonus features from rental DVDs starting the end of March with the release of Slumdog Millionaire and Marley & Me in an ill-advised attempt to boost slumping DVD sales.

It’s going to be interesting to see how other films based on original material perform at the box office later this year. Is the movie industry benefitting from the recession? Probably not. Is the movie industry putting positive spin on the recession? Probably.

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March 12, 2009

What Would Ari Gold Think? Podcast #1

Filed under: Uncategorized — Josh Damis @ 5:34 pm
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the first What Would Ari Gold Think? podcast, I discuss how to measure social media on the three big social media sites. If you’ve been wondering what to make of your presence on YouTube, Facebook or MySpace, then give it a listen!

Listen or Download the podcast here!

February 24, 2009

How much did Facebook really own the other day?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Josh Damis @ 7:09 pm
lat-facebooklogo1h1

Credit: Observer.com

I don’t know about you, but I’ve already forgotten about that whole Facebook fiasco last week. I personally read its terms of service as Facebook saying, “We’re just trying to play it safe.” But Facebook’s “trying to play it safe” almost caused the Internet to devolve back to the dark depths of that one social networking site where you’re offered more pornography that you don’t want than any random street on the Las Vegas strip.

As you probably already know, Facebook quickly changed its terms of service policy back to its original wording, and then there was peace on the Internet again. However, I was reading a blog entry on the Bulldog Reporter today, and it got my mind wondering again (I hate when it does that): just how far could those terms of service have reached?

Now I’m going to make life way more difficult than it needs to be, maybe, but bear with me here. If Facebook is stating that it has permanent rights to users’ photos, videos, wall posts and all other content, then does that include copyrighted material too? Plenty of copyright owners load their materials onto Facebook fan pages, especially entertainment companies. Viacom has pages for its network’s shows like The Daily Show, South Park and America’s Best Dance Crew; so since Viacom opts to promote its shows on Facebook, does Facebook now have a stake in Viacom’s content?

I wonder how much thought Facebook put into its PR prior to changing its term of service? Policies like that don’t concern me much as a user, especially since I tend to keep all my scandalous photos off the Internet and on my hard drive for my eyes only. What would concern me about policies like these, however, are if I was a business owner. Facebook is still trying to figure out its business and advertising structure and should take great care in considering that when revising such policies. Not only will it hurt Facebook’s advertising revenue potential if its users up and leave, but it will hurt it if it’s creating bad public relations with companies by doing hostile takeovers of businesses’ online content.

Maybe I’m reaching here? But I really think policies such as these will affect Facebook in ways no one ever imagined.

February 17, 2009

What’s love got to do with it?: Chris Brown and Rihanna edition

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Josh Damis @ 11:12 pm
chris-brown-jv25

Credit: Star Pulse

It’s situations like these that can make or break a star’s career. This one happened to involve two stars – one who’s career will grow, and one who’s career will likely fizzle or stagnate. A recent blog on VH1’s website made me kinda think about what the future might have in store for Rihanna and Chris Brown.

Just as the blog says, I think Rihanna’s career will definitely benefit from this. Tragic moments like this tend to have that effect on people’s career. For example, there’s no question that the tragedy that happened to Jennifer Hudson’s family, as sick as it is, benefited her career. I suspect Rihanna will emerge an even bigger star from this.

The biggest mistake Chris Brown made so far is waiting so long to release such a vague apology through his publicist. But despite losing endorsement deals and radio stations refusing to play his music, Chris Brown will bounce back from this if he plays his cards right. However, his comeback also depends on what comes to surface when more is revealed to the public.

The biggest mistake Brown is making right now is laying low. He should definitely be more active in communicating to the public how he feels about the situation, and he should definitely address the situation better. A statement released from his agent isn’t cutting it. Perhaps a Soulja Boy style YouTube video letting us know what’s going on would be better?

He also needs to follow in the footsteps of R. Kelly and Usher before him and put out the best music of his career immediately after. Sure Jay-Z may no longer care for him, but Jay-Z doesn’t like R. Kelly either, so what does that tell you?

Were the child stars of Slumdog Millionaire paid sweatshop wages?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Josh Damis @ 6:16 pm
Credit: Fox Searchlight

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Last month, the UK’s Telegraph newspaper released a shocking report detailing the child stars of Slumdog Millionaire’s living conditions. The children’s parents claimed the young stars were exploited and underpaid. According to the parents, Rubina Ali was paid an estimated $710 and Azharuddin Ismail was paid an estimated $2,400 for their thirty days work on the film.

An executive at Fox Searchlight, the film’s U.S. distributor, argued that the parents’ allegations were not true and that each of the children were paid more than three times the average annual salary an adult in their neighborhood would receive. However, Fox wouldn’t disclose an exact total.

It’s pretty safe to say the children weren’t paid much. The average annual income in India is roughly $500, which means the children were probably paid somewhere in the range of $1,500 to $2,500 each. Keep in mind the film had a budget of $15 million and has earned $138.8 million and counting at the worldwide box office.

Director Danny Boyle and the film’s producers also worked to get the children enrolled in school for the first time. The child stars each receive roughly $28 a month for food and books. Boyle also claims a trust fund has been set up in each of the child star’s names and they’ll receive the funds if they complete school by the time they’re 18. However, the parents are skeptical and say they have no information or proof of any trust funds. In a recent article by the Associated Press, Boyle states it’s being kept a secret because the filmmakers fear the children will be exploited by neighbors.

As for the children’s living conditions, things are really terrible, despite each of them earning “three times” the average yearly salary. According to the Telegraph, local authorities destroyed Ismail’s family’s illegal hut and he now sleeps under a plastic tarpaulin sheet with his father, who suffers from tuberculosis. In fact, much of Ismail’s money he earned from Slumdog Millionaire has been spent aiding his father’s illness.

The filmmakers also claim they are giving each family a monthly stipend, but Ismail’s mother claims they’ve yet to receive the money the filmmaker’s promised.

According to Boyle, the reason the filmmakers haven’t done more is because they fear the children being exploited. However, it’s fair to argue the filmmakers haven’t really done much. A few thousand dollars is nothing, considering Slumdog has made more than $100 million in excess of its budget at the box office. In fact, the children have probably been paid less than it costs Fox Searchlight to run a single “For Your Consideration” advertisement in Variety or The Hollywood Reporter.

Some serious public relations action needs to be taken here, and to the filmmakers’ credit, this is a tough situation. But saying the children can’t be paid more because you fear they’ll be exploited just doesn’t cut it. Is relocating the families possible? What happens to the children’s trust funds if they don’t graduate high school? With the kind of money this film is bringing in, especially with such a low budget, there is definitely more that could be done by all parties involved. It’s been almost a month since the first article was released detailing the children’s living conditions and meager wages they earned, which probably amounts to sweatshop like wages compared with Dakota Fanning and other child stars’ earnings per film. I would normally agree that a deal is a deal, but Slumdog Millionaire is performing far beyond anyone’s expectations at the box office and there is no reason more can’t be done for these children.

February 10, 2009

CelebriTwitters

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Josh Damis @ 11:29 pm

 

rapartists.com

Credit: rapartists.com

I really don’t want this to turn into another blog about celebrities, but I was really intrigued to see how different celebrities use Twitter after reading a recent blog post by Jim Tobin. In his blog, Tobin details how MC Hammer has used social media to make himself somewhat relevant again, and Twitter is a large component of that. It really got me to thinking about how others might be able to use Twitter to brand themselves in the public’s mind, or even promote a new product or show.

So how do other celebrities compare when it comes to using Twitter? Check out my Twitter report card:

Britney Spears: Like M.C. Hammer, Britney Spears has spent a few years as the butt of the joke in the media. It seems just recently she’s started to redeem herself a little bit by cleaning up her image and getting her life in order (I actually haven’t really followed all the Britney drama, but I’ve been able to count on my mother to keep me updated). So how is she using Twitter to accomplish that?

For starters, Britney  occasionally posts on Twitter herself. However, many of the posts come from her management, so it’s far less personal than Hammer’s. It seems her management, who prefers to be called Team Britney, is using Twitter to update the public on what we really wanna know about Britney, like for instance what kind of ice cream she had last night, or where she’s been shopping. I think for Britney’s purposes this is a good strategy, but tweeting more often would help.

GRADE: B

50 Cent: Even before he “got a mill out the deal,” 50 Cent was the P.T. Barnum of Internet promotion as far as hip-hop is concerned. I recently heard an interview with 50 where he said he is more concerned with blogging to promote his music than he is with making music videos. So you can imagine how disappointed I was when I checked out his Twitter page only to find 50’s social media manager is the only one who updates it.

However, 50’s Twitter page isn’t a complete failure, even though it falsely advertises it’s the real 50 Cent. It’s frequently updated with links to viral videos that do feature the real 50 Cent. So I guess 50 does still understand the importance of Internet marketing, but since he has so much money from Vitamin Water now, he has people do it for him.

GRADE: C

Shaquille O’ Neal: Just like 50 Cent’s Twitter page claims to be the real 50 Cent, so does Shaq’s, except here the claim is legit. Shaq is an advanced celebrity tweeter. He has the customized background that shows him in his jersey. He also has Twitter on his phone, which is where the majority of his tweets come from.

Although many of his updates take some deciphering (ex. Ok i admit it i at performance enhancing frosted flakes 2 yrs ago, lol), almost every Shaq post is comedy gold, exactly what fans might expect from “his Shaqness.” He also follows some die hard fans back. But all text tweets aside, Shaq really needs to work on his spelling!

GRADE: B+

Jimmy Fallon: Jimmy Fallon doesn’t seem to be on Twitter to promote or market anything he’s doing, which might change this summer. But as of right now, I’m seriously disappointed by his use of Twitter. The first two pages are nothing but noise, which bored me so much I didn’t bother with the third.

GRADE: D-

Tina Fey: Tina Fey doesn’t update regularly, doesn’t really follow anyone back, and doesn’t even have a picture of herself on her Twitter page, but her page is still so Tina. A picture of a Big Mac in place of where Tina’s face should go is the kind of odd humor I’d expect from Tina. And even though she doesn’t Twitter often, she still might have some of the best posts in the history of Twitter (I should probably admit I’m a huge Tina Fey fan). With thought provoking questions like, “Are Eggrolls just Chinese Hot Pockets?” and hilarious personal insights like, “I don’t know why I even bother chewing corn anymore,” Tina’s Twitter presence is almost perfect, especially since she really has no use for using it to repair a tarnished public image. Tina also doesn’t seem like the type to use something like Twitter to shamelessly self promote 30 Rock, so I don’t count that against her either.

GRADE: A-

February 6, 2009

Update: Christian Bale apologizes for outburst

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Josh Damis @ 9:49 am

 

Courtesy of KROQ

Courtesy of KROQ

Christian Bale called Los Angeles radio station KROQ 106.7 this morning to apologize for his tirade against Terminator Salvation director of photography Shane Hurlbut.

The phone call, which ran more than ten minutes, was allegedly not a planned interview at all. Apparently the show’s hosts Kevin and Bean had repeatedly spoofed the incident throughout the week and sparked Bale’s decision to call into the show.

Bale did a fantastic job clearing the air about what went down on the set and sounded more than sincere in his apology.

“It’s been a miserable week for me and you guys… made me laugh in the midst of all this craziness,” said Bale in regards to the hosts’ gags.

“I have no confusion whatsoever. I was out of order beyond belief… I acted like a punk. I regret that. And there is nobody that has heard that tape that is hit harder by it than me. I made no excuses for it, it is inexcusable,” Bale continued in an apology for his outburst.

Bale also admitted that he hasn’t got a handle on being a movie star yet, and though his tirade is inexcusable, it was somewhat influenced by the emotions of the character he was playing. He also added that he thinks DP Shane Hurlbut did an excellent job on Terminator Salvation and everything is good between them.

Bale’s call into KROQ exceeded any expectations I had for him or his publicist releasing a statement. His call came off genuine, even if it was planned. I also think calling into a radio station was a nice touch instead of going straight to a larger outlet like E! or Entertainment Tonight. Hopefully the news of this spreads just like the leaked audio from earlier this week.

The interview can be heard on KROQ 106.7‘s homepage.

EDIT: Added actual phone call at 10:38 a.m. on Friday, February 6th.

February 5, 2009

Christian Bale: Welsh-American psycho? Or just a bad week?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Josh Damis @ 3:49 pm

 

Courtesy of Lions Gate Entertainment

Bale in American Psycho, Courtesy of Lions Gate Entertainment

 It’s been 72 hours since Christian Bale’s four-minute tirade leaked online, where he can be heard degrading Terminator Salvation director of photography Shane Hurlbut, and there still is no official statement from Bale or his publicist regarding the incident.

The tirade is officially a web phenomenon, spawning T-shirts and techno remixes posted to YouTube with several of Bale’s vulgar comments. A viral video advertising the cheerleading comedy Fired Up also mocks the outburst. What’s worse is the negative light this has put him in amongst fans and critics who’ve scrutinized him feverously online since the audio leak.

I wasn’t at all surprised to hear Bale lash out at the DP in that way, though he’s a bit excessive, I actually find it understandable. It seems many people in Hollywood also feel the same way, including Whoopi Goldberg, AICN’s Harry Knowles and people who worked with Bale on Terminator Salvation.

“If you are working in a very intense scene and someone takes you out of your groove…but was the most emotional scene in the movie… And for him to get stopped in the middle of it. He is very intensely involved in his character. He didn’t walk around like that all day long. It was just a moment and it passed,” said Bruce Franklin, an assistant director and associate producer on Terminator Salvation, in an interview with E!.

Courtesy of MTV

Terry Crews, Courtesy of MTV

Terminator Salvation co-star Terry Crews also spoke highly of Bale to HollyScoop.com, “I’d get mad too if I was the number one star in the world and people started to mess with me. He is a class act! He is one of the greatest actors ever. You can catch anyone on a bad day… I’m vouching for him. I know he’s a nice guy. I know he’s all about his work.”

The Wrestler director Darren Aronofsky has also stated in Bale’s defense, ““I think he was right. I don’t think he was out of line. It is a sacred time between action and cut.”

Even with Hollywood’s support, however, it isn’t enough to warrant no comment from Bale. I’m sure Bale’s publicist thought after Monday’s leak it would blow over, but it has only grown since.

It seems many are worried how this might potentially affect his future projects, like L.A. Times columnist Tom O’ Neil. This outburst, factored in with this past summer’s news of Bale verbally assaulting his mother and sister, may affect both his box office and chances of winning or being nominated for an Oscar in the future, just as it has Russell Crowe and other Hollywood bad boys.

Also check out this nauseating video of the Today Show crew’s thoughts on the incident:

Knowing this outburst occurred on July 18, the same day The Dark Knight was released, which was three days prior to Bale’s family drama, I’m  under the impression it was just a bad week for Bale. I think Bale needs to release a statement apologizing for his actions, and fast, whether they were justified or not. The longer he waits, the more people will perceive him as a bad guy. Though the news of him assaulting his family didn’t hurt The Dark Knight’s box office take, I think this could affect his career in the long run if action isn’t taken. We’ll see when Terminator Salvation hits theaters this May.

February 2, 2009

P.R. lifesaver: social media

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Josh Damis @ 8:06 pm

 

Think like an animal.

Act like an animal.

I’ve been working on a campaign recently for something that’s not a product of the entertainment industry (it’s actually not a product at all), and I keep asking myself, “what if the traditional routine doesn’t work?” Not to mention, I’m a little afraid we might not be using social media enough. I was just reading Todd Defren’s most recent blog on PR Squared about what to do when PR fails you, and it gave me the best advice I’ve received thus far for situations like this: Act like an animal.

The account I’m working on is basically asking my team and I to create a campaign using practically the same outlets that didn’t work before, but would also like us to recommend some social media outlets to dip its funds into. I’m usually all about getting as much exposure as possible, so I tend to always go with television as my first choice. Now I’m not feeling so sure that’s what’s best for the account. Traditional PR and advertising haven’t worked when trying to accomplish this goal in the past, and I’m wondering if they ever will.

I’m going to spend the next couple days really reflecting on the media choices my team and I are about to make for our current account. I think we’re going to have to be a little unpredictable this time. I’ve never put much thought into using Google as a main component of any media or PR plan, but I like it. It has also made me rethink how we’re going to keep people engaged all year round. Social media sounds like the way to go since we’re working with a limited budget.

http://www.pr-squared.com/MT_Virtual/mt-tb.cgi/1121

February 1, 2009

Bourne vs. Bond

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Josh Damis @ 1:52 pm

141008102545_bournexbond_detail

Moviegoers have been saying for quite some time now recent James Bond flicks have been borrowing a little heavily from the Bourne films. As it turns out, Jason Bourne himself, also know as Matt Damon, has his own criticisms of Bond, which he expressed to the Miami Herald this week.

”They could never make a James Bond movie like any of the Bourne films… Bond is an imperialist, misogynist sociopath who goes around bedding women and swilling martinis and killing people. He’s repulsive.

“Steve [Soderbergh] told me that years ago he was offered a Bond movie. He told them he’d do it if they gave him creative control. Absolutely not, they said. They have a formula, they stick to it, and it makes them a lot of money. They know what they’re doing, and they’re going to keep doing it.”

Yikes! I know Damon is never one to bite his tongue, but I’m almost certain far more people will take offense to him ripping on such an iconic character as James Bond than the number of people who disliked him comparing Sarah Palin’s vice presidential nomination to that of a Disney movie.

With a fourth Bourne movie headed into preproduction, perhaps he should have stayed tight lipped in this situation? It’s a little early for negative publicity isn’t it? Nothing divides fan bases more than comments like these. Remember the South Park and Family Guy cartoon wars?

Hopefully for Matt Damon, and all other parties involved, this works to Bourne’s advantage like it did South Park in a similar situation. However, it seems like James Bond fans across the Internet are pretty peeved at Damon’s comments.

Maybe Damon will make a Tom Hanks like apology next week to Bond fans? Is there anything more American than imperialism, misogyny, swilling martinis and killing people?

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