Monday, September 21, 2009

"Inglourious Basterds" is Tarantino's Top Earner - Because of Twitter?

In what could be read as a big "nyah, told you so" press release, The Weinstein Company would like you all to know that Inglourious Basterds has not only grossed over $108M* in North America but has now out-earned Pulp Fiction, which was previously Tarantino's biggest money-maker to date.

But what's strange is that TWC is giving some of the credit to "an innovative marketing plan. The film was the first to make use of Twitter and other social networking sites in such a direct fashion, even involving Twitter in the film's LA premiere," according to the press release.

Harvey Weinstein is even quoted as saying, "It was great working with Biz Stone at Twitter on Inglourious. It took the campaign to another level."

Okay, what have I missed? How was the Inglourious campaign different from any other of the studios' use of Twitter or Facebook to promote movies through links, contests, and meet-ups? I don't even recall seeing anything on Twitter about it, other than the normal studios using Twitter to cross-pollinate coverage.

Advertising and marketing execs are still speaking of "The Twitter Effect" in hushed tones – word of mouth, which used to take at least a whole weekend to damn a movie, is now zooming across the Internet at the speed of text messaging, according to some analysts and pundits at Advertising Age and The Guardian.

But I still find it really hard to believe the claim that Inglourious the first to make use of this marketing strategy, or that it used it at all, except perhaps as Tweeters saw it and gave it a yay or nay. Smaller, more niche movies like District 9 and Moon have benefited from social networking or even good old real-life networking far more -- Moon director Duncan Jones' tireless schedule of Q&As, festivals, and interviews, between Tweeting with fans, is especially impressive.

Personally, I think Inglourious Basterds benefited far more from its ubiquitous ad campaign and the lure of Tarantino, not to mention the promise of a Nazi bloodbath led by Brad Pitt's marble-mouthed Lt. Aldo Raine. The fact that it also offered excellent performances from Christoph Waltz and Mélanie Laurent was just a bonus.

What do you think? Is this Twitter effect hooey? Does it ever give you cause to pause before spending your hard-earned bucks on an opening-weekend film?

* Box Office Mojo puts Pulp at $107.9M for a domestic total gross to date, although its numbers show that Inglourious Basterds has earned about $109.9M domestically. - Jenni Miller

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