The Hollywood Economist
Topics: Film / Pages: 34 (8454 words) / Published: Aug 16th, 2013

Edward Jay Epstein

The Hollywood Economist

TEENS AND CAR CRASHES GO TOGETHER
After Hollywood lost its audience to television in the 1950s, it had to reinvent itself. If it could no longer count on habitual moviegoers to fill theaters routinely, it would go into the business of audience-creation. The means studios found to recruit audiences for each and every movie they released was national TV advertising. The tactic that evolved by the 1990s was bombarding a target audience with very expensive thirty-second ads. For this to work, studios had to find a demographic group that was both relatively cheap to reach and who could be induced by this blitz to leave the comfort of their home to see a movie. The audience that satisfied these conditions was teenagers.
Teens have three great advantages over adults for movie studios. First, they tend to predictably cluster around the same TV programs on cable networks, such as MTV, which make them much less costly to reach than moviegoing adults who, if they watch TV at all, tend to be scattered among the most expensive programming in prime time. Second, once in multiplexes, teens tend to consume prodigious quantities of popcorn and soda, which is a powerful attraction to the theater chains that book movies for a wide opening. Third, teens buy electronic games, sports equipment, fast food, and other licensable items, which make them an appealing audience to merchandising partners with the capability of providing the multimillion dollar “tie-in” that help publicize studio movies.
By 2009, studios had become so proficient at finding, activating, and driving the teen herd into multiplexes that over 70 percent of the audience that went to their wide-release movies was under twenty-one years old. Even though the expansion of teen programming on cable and television networks allowed the studios to zero in on their target audience, they needed, as one marketing executive at Sony told me, visuals in a thirty second ad spot that

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