You may already be familiar with the topic of this post; an internal memo written by Jeffrey Katzenberg back in1991 while he was still at Disney. In it, he analyses the movie business as it was then with particular emphasis on how it relates to Disney and their way of doing things. Have things changed much in the past 20 years? Nope, not one bit. Here are 7 key takeaways from that letter and why they are more relevant than ever.
1. The Blockbuster Mentality – The idea that you want a film to get a big bang right out of the gate. Katzenberg ins’t in favour of it, yet every studio continues to do it.
2. People will continue to go to the cinema provided they are given the right incentives to do so – This is too often lost on the owners and studios who think people go to the cinema just to see the latest releases.
3. “The Floor” – A concept that he discusses in regards to blockbuster films that are calculated to make a certain gross based on the content and whose in it. No doubt John Carter had a floor that was used to justify its expense, but as that very film proves, floors are a concept and nothing more.
4. Being big today means little if anything – Katzenberg talks a lot about the film Dick Tracey. Apparently it was big at the time and made a decent amount of money, but have you ever seen it? I haven’t, I doubt most people today remember it very well. It goes to show that a film that makes a quick buck will be just that, whereas a film that stutters out of the gate, like Alice in Wonderland (the 1950s Disney version) can last a long time and bring in almost 100% profit for decades to come.
5. Kids movies aren’t just for kids – Sadly there are still too many people, both inside and outside the industry who believe this.
6. Marketing & Testing – I’ll let the direct quote speak for itself:
There is an unfortunate tendency to think that when a film does great, it’s because it’s a great film. But when it does poorly, it’s because of poor marketing. While this logic is convenient, it can be empirically disproven.
7. Rules – Discipline is all important to maintaining your success.