Alokananda Chakraborty & Prajjal Saha

Online movie trailers gain prominence

Today, practically every new Hindi movie has an online campaign or ‘micro site’ running parallel with television promos. Here’s why Bollywood is leveraging new media

In Bollywood, where on an average some 250 films are produced annually (which is 40 per cent more than the number produced by Hollywood), the trend of using new media to promote movies is fast gaining popularity. In fact, today, practically every new Hindi movie - particularly those produced by known banners - has an online campaign or ‘micro site' running parallel with television promos, and inventive and innovative movie micro sites are the order of the day.

"Things have changed dramatically in the last couple of years in the Indian film industry," says Rajesh Sawhney, chief operating officer, Indiatimes, which has played host to many a movie micro site. Citing reasons for the growth of micro sites, he says, "With the cost of watching movies in theaters on the rise, today's time- and value-conscious consumers want to decide in advance which movies to watch and which one to skip. And with the multiplex boom, viewers have a wider variety to choose from." It follows that micro sites address the moviegoer's need to know more about the movie.

Although a new concept in India, online movie trailers have been widely used abroad. For instance, in the US - which has the biggest film industry of the world - 68 per cent of moviegoers do not generally watch a movie unless they have seen its trailer. And 85 per cent of those who prefer watching trailers to decide which movie to watch, watch movie trailers online.

In India, the rise in online promotion of movies over the past two years is directly linked to the exponential growth of the Internet and mobile usage (put together, the Net and mobile usage throws up a number of 45 million, which is almost 50 per cent that of cable's reach). Neeraj Roy, managing director and CEO, Hungama (which has created movie websites and interactive campaigns for over 380 films in the last four years), agrees that increased Net and mobile usage have been major contributors to the trend. However, he points to another important factor - the lucrative overseas market. "With the growing importance of overseas territories, the online medium has become a wonderful platform to tap NRIs," he says. Sawhney agrees, saying, "For NRI audiences, online movie trailers or micro sites are the primary means to be in touch with Bollywood and its latest offerings. Movie producers today make an equal amount of money from NRI international markets, if not more."

But what do typical movie sites have in terms of content? Well, most have five to six aspects of content, such as the movie's plot, its cast, downloads, movie trailers, interactive applications and movie-based games (Roy, however, explains that not all movie producers invest in movie-based games, although they are very popular). In Hollywood, most major studios create at least four trailers of a movie and release it with much fanfare. For instance, the trailer of Spiderman 2 (by Columbia Pictures) was first released online, and it turned out to be a huge hit, reaching in excess of 16 million people within the first day.

The figures might not be as impressive in the Indian context, but commenting on the popularity of movie sites, Roy says, "Whether it be a micro site or a full-fledged site, moviegoers look for the site of the movie and spend upwards of 20 minutes per session. Some movie sites are even regularly updated in order to create an exciting community."

Not all movie sites have a long shelf life, especially considering in India the marketing of a movie is stepped up just a couple of months before it premiers (unlike in the west, where the marketing starts a good six to nine months in advance). However, movie sites serve their purpose irrespective of the time they are ‘live'. Roy says, "The shelf life of a micro site or a movie site is indeed short, and is directly linked to the shelf life of the movie." He points out that the movie business is strange, as it requires 12-18 months to make a movie, but its fortune is decided over one weekend or, at best, two. But Sawhney does not agree. "We do not believe that the shelf life of a movie micro site should be short," he says. "In fact, it can be as long as two to three years, if managed rightly." According to Sawhney, the shelf life of a movie sites depends on how the service provider pitches to movie producers. He says that with Indiatimes, the film production house gets a micro site that is live through the production stage, pre-launch, launch and post launch - and, in fact, stays live as an archive.

The question, of course, is whether movie micro sites are worth the money for producers. Rajat Barjatya of Rajshri Films thinks so. "The effect of these movie sites is more qualitative than quantitative," he explains. "They are a great platform to reach trade partners for distribution and telecast rights, apart from reaching overseas audiences." He adds that while television is the primary source of information for Indian audiences, in the US, it is the Internet that assumes that role. © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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