When you look at just the numbers alone for James Cameron’s “Avatar” (2009), it’s hard not to think: What has this world come to?! Not only did this film cost $300 Million to make, but it made nearly $3.6 Million from midnight screenings alone. But according to Wikipedia (now, here’s the incredible part) after 3-D, IMAX, and international release, “Avatar” grossed a worldwide total of…drumroll…$2.7 Billion, making it the highest-grossing film EVER. CHA-CHING! This is more than the 2009 Gross Domestic Product of more than 30 countries, including Sierra Leone, Belize, and Greenland! So how is it even possible that a children’s film could make in 47 days what an actual country makes in one year? The answer, plain and simple, is marketing.
Marketing analysts have acknowledged that James Cameron not only has immense skill in filmmaking, but also a sweet tooth for Public Relations. For both “Titanic” (1997) and “Avatar”, he developed a campaign that had its roots in buzz marketing, previewing trailers before they were released via Youtube and Facebook. Then, Cameron announced at the 2009 ComicCon that they would be releasing a 15 minute 3-D and IMAX preview of the film, which he believed would help establish the film as a must-see without an audience-character connection. At first, I didn’t quite understand how this would work, but after I saw one of the previews released (below), I understood the ingenuity behind them.
The previews were not meant to simply summarize a movie, but to create a believable world in which the planet Pandora was the new frontier. These well-written, highly visual, and educational videos created a conceivable idea that would appeal to science-fiction nerds, history buffs, and macho middle-schoolers alike.
To appeal to the younger audience, Mattel released “Avatar” figurines containing 3-D tags that, if scanned by a webcam, would unlock content online which included things like “biographical information, additional images, and 3-D animated models showing off the action figures engaging, evading, or defending moves” (ReadWriteWeb). To see more of what these toys can accomplish, watch the video below!
In addition to these innovative tactics, Twentieth Century Fox targeted children through a partnership with Harper Entertainment. Together, they released James Cameron’s Avatar: The Reusable Scrapbook, which had a variety of scenes from the film and reusable stickers that children could use to animate the scenes. You can see a preview of this book at Amazon.com. Cameron also partnered with Ubisoft Montreal to release James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game, which was released in early December of 2009 on PS3, Xbox360, Wii, Nintendo DS, and most other game consoles.
A few marketing blogs and analysts criticized James Cameron for not doing enough soon enough. I say, however, that the incredibly inventive tactics used were executed flawlessly and paved the way for “Avatar” being the #1 Top Grossing Film ever made.
Did you see or interact with anything that made you excited to see “Avatar”?