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Conventions And Exhibitions: The Launch Pad For New Movies

Skift Take

If Disney's D23 and Comic Con are anything to go by, exhibitions and conventions are becoming the defacto method for marketing and launching movies.

Conventions and exhibitions have long been associated with niche interests, obsessions, and fads. This habitat is and always will be where the geek reigns supreme. However, something is changing and the movie industry has noticed. It’s also taking action by using these events as a launch pad for its latest releases.


Events: A Launch Pad For Movies

Traditionally, launching a new movie to the public might start with a humble press release and a few interviews. The process has remained much the same in the age of the internet but with social media bolted on. Once upon a time, trailers were only seen at the beginning of other movies, either in the theater or on VHS video tape. Things could not be more different now. The movie industry and the events industry have joined forces to create a perfect storm of movie marketing and entertainment. The current trend, as illustrated perfectly by Disney’s D23 Expo, is to launch with an event. Conventions and exhibitions are a great way to launch to a captive and readily engaged audience.

Disney D23 Expo

D23 Expo is an opportunity for fans to come together and appreciate all things Disney. These days, that also includes all things Marvel, all things Pixar and all things Star Wars too. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that meant the recent D23 Expo was the ideal platform for several announcements, new trailers, appearances and even spoilers for upcoming films. In total, 13 new movies from the Disney roster were showcased, painting a clear picture of the road ahead for fans across multiple genres and franchises.

Movies Showcased at D23 2017 (with release dates)

  • Coco – animated – release November 22nd, 2017
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi – live-action – release December 15th, 2017
  • A Wrinkle In Time – live-action – release March 9th, 2018
  • Avengers: Infinity War – live-action – release April 25th, 2018
  • The Incredibles 2 – animated – June 15th, 2018
  • Wreck It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks The Internet – animated – release November 21st, 2018
  • The Speed Test – animated – release April 12th, 2019
  • Toy Story 4 – animated – release June 21st, 2019
  • An untitled Pixar film – animated – release unknown
  • Olaf’s Frozen Adventure (Frozen spin-off) – animated – release unknown
  • Aladdin – live-action – release unknown
  • The Lion King – live-action – release unknown
  • Dumbo – live-action – release unknown

San Diego Comic Con

The upcoming Comic Con event in San Diego is also expected to play host to a few new movies. Rumored announcements include a Wonder Woman sequel, the new Deadpool movie, and a Kingsmen sequel. There are also whispers on the wind that all of the Avengers will also be there in person, building on the hype created at D23.

Comic Con has been launching and showcasing movies for years, of course. Ever since Mandrake the Magician in 1939, most superhero movies have been based on comic book superheroes. That trend continues today and seems as strong as ever with the likes of Batman, Superman, and the Avengers dominating the scene. It stands to reason that a comic book convention would also play host to movies and any other medium featuring the characters and universes that the fans love. The event is now firmly established as a launch platform for movies. The 2016 event saw announcements for Suicide Squad, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Yoga Hosers, and X-Men: Apocalypse.

Movies Are Products Too

Using events and experiential activations to advertise a product is par for the course in the event industry and when it comes to the crunch, that’s what movies and movie franchises are. From a marketing point of view, a movie is a brand with a product. The product is designed for its audience and the audience is loving it. In reality, there is much more to it than that. Movies create a universe in which fans want to immerse themselves. For this reason, experiential activation is the perfect marketing match and conventions allow for experiential activation at scale.

Experiential Activation At Scale

Movie and studios are great at experiential activation. A recent example of this is the activation for the upcoming movie “A Ghost Story” which was centered around a pop-up shop with a real-life ghost experience. However, activations like this can be very expensive and don’t always have a tangible way to show ROI.

Expos and conventions could be the perfect answer to this. Simply put, these are experiential activation at scale. One advantage with an expo is that multiple activations can take place at the same time, in the same place, to an audience that is there to see just that. The audience is already engaged and in some cases, completely in love before they even get to a specific activation.

Nobody knows activation at scale better than Disney but D23 isn’t their best example. For that, you will need to think bigger. Much bigger. What is Disneyland if not a huge experiential activation?

Building Advocacy

One factor that is hard to quantify but is clearly evident from audience reaction is the ability for events to build advocacy among fans. Most eventprofs already know this but it takes a while for whole verticals like the film and TV industry to catch the bug. In the case of movie franchises like Star Wars and The Avengers, there is already a strong incumbent advocacy. The same also applies for sequels (in case you were wondering why there seems to be a lot of sequels coming out). This advocacy naturally leads to sharing on social, around the water cooler and with friends. When Comic Con goes live on July 20th, just take a look at the #SDCC2017 hashtag on Twitter and see for yourself.

In Conclusion

The trend towards using events to promote movies is good news for everyone involved. Attendees get to meet like minds and engage around a common interest. Movie studios gain exceptional levels of advocacy. Sponsors get great reach and eventprofs gain new and exciting opportunities. Event planners, are you ready? Your next convention could be the launchpad for a box office smash.