Hollywood, Change is Here

Hollywood Sign

Image via Wikipedia

Movies released during the past several years and the announcement of the 83rd Academy Awards® nominations, prove Hollywood has not seen–or maybe has not read–the news lately. There is little evidence Hollywood fully understands how much the world has and continues to change.  It is far more diverse.  The lack of diverse images in mostly male produced Hollywood movies resulted in primarily men of one ethnicity receiving a majority of the Oscar nominations.  Women did get nominated in the expected categories–best actress and supporting actress–and a sprinkle of other areas.   The women, too, represented primarily one ethnicity.  The most diversity appeared in the Best Foreign Language Film category.

Change is here.  The most powerful man in the world, President Obama, and the richest woman in the entertainment business, Oprah, are African-Americans.  Hispanics are the fastest growing U.S. population according to the recent census.  America’s narrative includes the stories of Native Americans, Asian Americans and heritages linked to the Caribbean, Cuba and the Pacific Islands as well as Europe. Worldwide women serve as heads of state in many countries.  According to The Nielsen Company, women control almost $12 trillion of the $18 trillion in global spending.

We live in a much more multicultural country and world then existed when the first movies were being made.    The other Hollywoods, Bollywood in India and Africa’s Nollywood, cater to their varied movie-loving public with very lucrative results.  They get it.  People still love being entertained, seduced and mesmerized by motion pictures.  They still have heightened appetites for movies.  In 2011, with exposure to so much more, movie tastes have expanded from bland to spicy and from vanilla only to multiple flavors. Portraying a variety of genres, cultures, and communities in movies will satisfy  audiences, financially gratify studios and even reap rewards on Oscar night.

By 2020, only 30 percent of the households in the United States will have kids and most of them will be multicultural according to Nielsen research. Therefore, Hollywood has less than ten years to produce more movies with people who look like and have experiences reflective of the changing American and global families. There are a wealth of untold stories from all communities still to be told, countless characters in all hues to be created and innumerable adventures to entertain us with on the big screen.  Hollywood still has an opportunity to take a risk of award-winning proportions and reinvent itself by producing and releasing more movies for our fast changing 21st century audiences.    Will change change Hollywood?

Finding Cross-Cultural Connections versus Global Elitists

Replica of original Manzanar War Relocation si...

Replica of Original Manzanar War Relocation Sign via Wikipedia

Why travel?  Often people travel for business. Most travel to discover:  adventure, unfamiliar places, history, others or themselves in others.   For many American globetrotters, overseas travel is the only true means of building cross-cultural connections.

I have friends who refer to themselves as world travelers, internationalists or global nomads.  They travel the world.  They trek the heights of the Himalayas.  They vacation in Venezuela, Vietnam or Victoria Falls in Zambia.  They live in faraway cities, countries, continents and climates from China to Chile.  They mix comfortably with diverse cultures, are fluent in multiple languages and regularly dine on exotic foods.

What I also notice is how so few of them have traveled across the street and across a few state lines in the U.S.A. to the Deep South.  I know staunch New Yorkers—avid suitcase-toting globetrotters—who have never trotted to Alabama or Mississippi.  A former colleague, who often bikes throughout the European Union to see and learn history, had never been to Mississippi until I took her there to discover the unfamiliar and learn some U.S. history, first hand.   While she had eaten exotic ethnic foods in Marrakech, Morocco, until visiting Mississippi she had never eaten that exotic southern food—grits.

We live in a transient world.  Cross-cultural communities are everywhere from Oxford, England to Oxford, Mississippi.  Exotic foods, those foods unfamiliar to our palates, can be found everywhere.   Louisiana Cajun crawfish is as exotic to some as the Chinese delicacy fried grasshoppers is to others.   To learn the histories of different people and places, global nomads visit historical sites.   How many American globetrotters have traveled the Trail of Tears, followed the trek of the Underground Railroad or visited Manzanar National Historic Site to experience the histories of First Americans, African-Americans and Japanese Americans?

My friends from Germany, Africa, Ireland and England are eager to include visits to Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia along with their stops in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. They want to hear, see and learn as much American history as possible. They understand that much can be discovered when elitist boundaries fall.

True cross-cultural travel begins by consciously traveling beyond familiar grounds even in familiar places.  Diverse communities exist across the street, across the country and across the continents.

Marketing Movies

Moviegoers still exist.  Movie marketing methods need revamping.   Most big studios have a tendency to use the same marketing methods they have used since the advent of sound; and they generally market to audiences of the same gender, ethnicity and age range.   Nothing new.  No risks taken.  No new audiences reached.  Minimal to no profits made. People stay away, watch other screens—television, computers, or mobiles—and enjoy more creative stories in new formats from webisodes to YouTube.

A world of potential moviegoers is out there waiting to be reached.   How? Engage them.  Ask them what they want to see.  Listen.  Be creative in producing culturally diverse, untold stories.  Finally, using the outlets they turn to for entertainment, insight, and information—invite them to go see the movie.

A few individual writers, producers, and studios are using new methods. They are the ones succeeding in a down market.  Tyler Perry is one.   He makes movies for women—primarily African American women.  Not a new audience, but one relatively untapped by the large studios.   He engages his audiences long before he has a movie ready.   He has “stay in touch” conversations with them through his blog.   The moviegoers, Tyler Perry, and especially Lionsgate reap the benefits.

Paranormal Activity is the low budget movie currently setting records as a winner among moviegoers.   New marketing started by running the movie trailer on YouTube, the video site embraced by the target audience.   Then potential moviegoers were asked to demand that the movie be shown in theaters and to spread the word about it.  The risk-taking marketing methods are delivering big PR results and huge profits.

Disney is doing a different movie with the upcoming release of The Princess and the Frog.  Disney needs to do different marketing.  They need to do the unthinkable by also marketing to slightly older moviegoers:   grandparents.  Grandparents have grandkids, money, friends and blogs.   Start early conversations with grandmothers and ask them to consider taking their grandkids to the movie.  While audiences are watching the movie, Disney will be watching the profits roll in from the new segment outreach.

People are busy or broke.   They no longer trust traditional movie critics.   They prefer recommendations from friends, family and followers on Twitter. But a good movie that speaks to them still gets them into a theater seat. Focus on more creative and cross-cultural marketing also helps.