Why Derek Zoolander* may save the movie industry


The movie industry traditionally looked at films as a sort of one-shot product: a film is produced and sold, so that you can start producing (and selling) another one. In case of success, here comes the sequel. Other sources of revenue were limited to home video and television, and this sources became more significant with the arrival of DVDs, pay-tvs and pay-per-view.

Despite a shift in the revenue portfolio (movie theaters, dvds, tv) the business model is still focused on producing one, single piece of entertainment, and selling it all over.

Some categories of films (sci-fi, kids…) have taken this business model farther, through licensing agreements, so that the latest Disney films gives birth to dolls, backpacks, pencils, videogames, and pretty much anything.

Apparently, this may mean that films are treated as brands.

But only to a certain degree: the original creators of the film are often responsible for the film alone, with licensee are allowed to exploit it in a number of ways. If we look at it more deeply, this is still the case of a producer creating one, single piece of entertainment, to be replicated.

What the movie industry hasn’t done yet (with a few exceptions) is looking at films as just one, major step in a longer narrative process: the film allows you to introduce the story, or to express a climax, but then the narration (the brand) goes on with many more pieces of entertainment.

And here is where Derek Zoolander starts to matter: Zoolander was created as a typical Hollywood one-shot product. A film is made, and later sold on dvd/pay-per-view/cable/… Should we be lucky, we may expect a sequel that is as good as the original.

But if we look at Zoolander as a brand, we may come up with so many more opportunities: a modeling school, of course; a make-up and hairstyle line; weekly tips on what to wear that you can download on your mobile; a website where you can upload your picture, so that Derek can give you suggestions for a makeover… Much more than the traditional licensing.

The “Derek Zoolander’s Group for really really ridiculousyly good looking people” on Facebook now accounts for more than 200.000 members. I’ld guess that most of them would love experiencing more Zoolander content, and Hollywood has no interest in leaving that to Facebook alone (or to consumer-generated films on youtube)

 Star Wars is one of the few examples of Hollywood films that are actually managed as a brand: you can experience the world of Star Wars in so many more ways than just watching the 3 great, original films (and the 3 subsquent prequels, if you really really have to).

There are videogames, roleplaying games and comic books adding original pieces of content to the Star Wars universe, so that you can even get a full sense of it without having actually watched any of the films.

Cloverfield is another interesting examples, with trailers and teasers scattered all over the world, with original footage that has no clear relation with the film itself.

In this perspective, the film is only a significant investment in the creation of a brand, thus giving a very different meaning to box office figures.


Final Burp: How many films are interesting enough that people want to be involved in the story long after they exit the movie theater?


*Disclaimer: This post was originally supposed to be based on “L’allenatore nel pallone”, an italian cult-movie on the most unlikely football coach. But then I realized that Derek Zoolander is more of a global icon than poor Oronzo Canà.


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