Lion’s Gate is recasting the marketing of blockbuster films on a smaller scale, reports Brooks Barnes in The New York Times (11/24/14). The studio’s "27-person marketing department … has become a model for Hollywood’s legacy studios: scrappy, thrifty, forward thinking." Its $50 million budget for the third Hunger Games film is about half that typically spent on a major film release. The model relies heavily on "low-cost media like YouTube," goes lightly on "expensive market research studies" and sometimes takes a do-it-yourself approach.
Lion’s Gate, founded in 1997 — some 75 years after Warner Bros. – can do this because it was "built differently from the ground up." Tim Palen, its chief marketing officer, is "empowered … to make instinctive snap decisions." "Typically at a studio, you sit in marketing meetings and there are 17 proposed versions of a poster and sheets of data about how various proposed materials have tested," says Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence. Tim not only can skip that step, but also "often personally photographs actors for promotional materials."
Tim and his team also created Capitol TV, their own Hunger Games YouTube channel, which is "presented as an official news source from the movie’s fictional government." The scripted videos, called District Voices, feature "a group of YouTube stars … in ‘Hunger Games’ costumes with props from the movie, blurring the line between reality and fiction." This was a "Hollywood first," according to Ben Malbon of Google, which collaborated on the series with Lion’s Gate. Ben says other studios are now talking about pursuing similar collaborations.