This week saw the premiere of the second installment of the Tween franchise of choice – Twilight. As such, MySpace and UStream joined forces to stream a live broadcast of the red carpet premiere online – and the results were phenomenal: three million viewers, and two million unique visitors, a record breaking accomplishment for both sites and this was just a premiere.
It shows, not just the popularity of the Twilight franchise but how film studios are using the likes of MySpace, Facebook and Twitter to engage the customers and sell them on their latest releases.
Hollywood has had a long and complicated history with the internet – on one hand, internet advertising and buzz has led to films like The Blair Witch Project making millions at the box office.
On the other, online bloggers have been responsible for seriously damaging some films at the box office with reviews posted before the film is released. Aintitcool.com, for example, was cited as one of the reasons why Batman & Robin flopped at the box office.
Embracing the medium
However, the increasing use of social media by directors and studios has created the impression of openness and solidarity that Hollywood has never had before. Some directors even ask for fan/audience input, however this isn’t always a good thing.
Cult film Snakes on a Plane developed a massive online following resulting in t-shirts, viral videos, competitions for songs and even line suggestions for the star, Samuel L. Jackson but this didn’t translate into a successful box office with the film under-performing.
Despite this, some films and directors have embraced the medium and as such have massive followings. Jon Favreau, director of Iron Man, has a huge Twitter fan-base after he made a point of discussing the film with fans and posting regular updates.
Not just that, but he also has a MySpace page which he regularly updates with videos and photos. Currently, working on Iron Man II, Favreau has continued his Twitter updates, keeping fans up to date on the sequel’s progress.
Studios have used social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter to keep fans informed of the latest developments. 20th Century Fox organised an entire day to promote their latest sci-fi epic Avatar, holding special 3D preview screenings of footage and trailers.
The event – Avatar Day – was heavily promoted via Facebook and Twitter alike, and was a resounding success with all tickets gone in a matter of hours. As such, a huge buzz has developed around the film which is set for release next month.
However there is a downside to the prolific use of social media by Hollywood celebrity usage.
Gagging the talent
Like most industries, Hollywood is very wary about what is released to the public regarding business decisions and finances, but the increased usage of social media from actors, directors and even executives has made this more and more difficult.
Twitter has been cited on numerous occasions as “disrupting the chain of command, democratizing influence and shifting the power of publicity”.
Studios and publicists are constantly scrambling to react to ‘tweets’ or updates sent out by actors or writers that may go against official strategy or policy, especially when they’re used in industry publications, blogs and other forms of Social Media.
One insider recently said, “getting an ill-advised word out to the wider public required a TV camera or a gossip columnist; social media eliminates the middleman and enables an actor to broadcast to millions in an instant.”
Prime examples of this include Ryan Seacrest breaking the news of NBC’s former co-chairman Ben Silverman’s resignation from the company on Twitter, Paula Abdul leaving American Idol by announcing it in a ‘tweet’ and Bones exec-producer sparking a mini-crisis when he tweeted that the TV show had been shut down due to swine flu.
As such, studios are increasingly added amended sections to their contracts citing that writers and actors are not to super-cede studio press releases via social media.
One Hollywood lawyer was quoted as saying of this, “Hollywood has a long history of controlling what talent says in the media. This is just a new area of media that hasn’t been controlled yet.”
So while the relationship between and Hollywood appears to be a tempestuous one, it looks like one that is set to last.