Friday, April 20, 2007

Buzz Kill

I think I’ve mentioned before that becoming a published author has made me much more aware of how things are marketed and promoted, specifically how products, whether they be books, music, or movies, generate that almighty buzz that results in loads of sales. I’ve noticed that buzz is very hard to come by, and once achieved, is hard to sustain. Case in point, Halle Berry’s new movie Perfect Stranger. I’m a great lover of suspense/thrillers in both book and movie formats. So when I heard about Ms. Berry’s new movie, I couldn’t wait to see it. In the weeks leading up to last weekend’s release of Perfect Stranger, I’ve seen Halle gracing the covers of everything from InStyle magazine to Esquire magazine, and read interviews about her failed marriages, homelessness, suicide attempt, new man, and her desire to have a child. I saw her on Entertainment Tonight, and Letterman, heard how she’ll be going bald for her next movie role, and how she received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I actually first started hearing about Perfect Stranger last year. So, after all of the heavy promo for Perfect Stranger, how did it do at the box office? Did it debut at number one? No. It opened at number four. Ouch!

The move that landed the number one slot was another thriller called Disturbia starring teen star Shia LaBeouf. I don’t recall having seen a single commercial for this movie. I hadn’t even heard about Disturbia until about a week before it was released and it wasn’t from any media outlet. My twelve year old niece told me about it during Easter dinner. So why did a lesser hyped movie win the box office over an over hyped one? Were people tired of hearing the same old stories about Halle? Did she reveal too much about her personal business? Who knows?

One thing that didn’t do Perfect Stranger any favors were the less than stellar reviews. I didn’t see one single review, and I read several, that had anything good say about the movie, or Halle Berry’s performance. I’ve yet to see the movie, so I can’t comment on whether I agree with the reviews or not. But one thing that probably boosted ticket sales for Disturbia, which got mixed but more positive reviews, was the well timed announcement last week that Shia LaBeouf would be joining the cast of the much anticipated new Indiana Jones movie, ending months of speculation and rumors. Already having a built in teen following from his days on the Disney series Even Stevens, LaBeouf must have also attracted Indiana Jones fans who came out to see what this kid was all about.

So, there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to how buzz is achieved. The ways in which buzz is generated doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with how much money is spent, or how much exposure someone gets. Just ask Kevin Federline. Once generated, buzz doesn’t always have the desired results. In the end, you still have to have a quality product. And even then, it’s a long shot.

And speaking of someone who deserves more buzz, check out this interview with fellow Crime Sistah, Pamela Samuels-Young.

Have a great weekend!



Dee Savoy said...

Hey Angela,

Sad to hear about Halle debuting at fourth, especially since it looks like a good pic. But whether or not you saw ads for Disturbia must depend on what you watch. I look at the tube with two teenagers and Shia was everywhere. Also, take into account that Disturbia is a thinly veiled take on the Hitchcock classic Rear Window and you have intergenerational appeal. I'm not surprised it's doing well.

All the best,

Angela Henry said...


Hi. I finally have started seeing the commercials for Disturbia. I'm not surprised it's doing well. I'd like to see it myself. But it always fascinates me how and why the money and the hype put into promoting products doesn't always generate sales. Maybe Halle's movie failed because unlike Disturbia, it doesn't have intergenerational appeal.


Dee Savoy said...


Personally, I think part of the problem is that I'm not sure what kind of movie it is. Is it woman in jeopardy--Halle in danger after she finds out too much. Is it some kind of puzzle to be solved. And most importantly, who's the villain? It appears to be Bruce Willis, but still seems a bit ambiguous to me. Nothing anywhere near as close as David Morse's brooding, threatening countenance from Disturbia promos. Made me look a little more closely at my neighbors. LOL

All the best,

patricia sargeant said...

Hi, Angela and Dee.

I think one of the reasons Disturbia did better at the box office last week is that the promo is edited with much more tension than Perfect Stranger's commercial. Halle's movie looks really flat.

Dee, you have a great point about the ambiquity. But I had the impression that ambiquity is deliberate; the marketing department's idea of red herrings. I think we're supposed to wonder whether the bad guy is Bruce Willis or the younger guy in one of the clips.

But, man oh man, I find the Perfect Stranger commercial almost painfully boring. It's as though they're emphasizing Halle Berry's beauty more than they're playing off on the plot. And, as Angela pointed out, Halle's all over the place. I don't have to pay $10 for a ticket. I can see her for free.

Angela, thank you for sharing Pamela Samuels-Young's interview. I really enjoyed it.

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