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The hype for Star Wars: the Force Awakens has now hit its peak with record setting advance tickets sales due to the record number of views of the trailer. The first full length trailer garnered 112 million views in one day alone, and we still have no idea what this movie is about.
I remember the excitement surrounding “The Phantom Menace” when it came out in 1999. The internet had nowhere near the influence that it does now, and the conduit to the 18-24 demographic was television, MTV in particular. Movies had more television promotion, so almost every other commercial was an advertisement for “The Phantom Menace’s” arrival in theaters. The promotion machine was non-stop, including MTV interviews with the cast and the crew from the Skywalker Ranch, constant replays of the original Star Wars trilogy and coverage of the premiere made into a television event.
Then the movie arrived in theatres, and MTV did its best to get first impressions from the audience with “on the spot” reaction interviews. From what I can recall, the reactions were mostly positive. I went back and read some of the critics’ reviews from back then and most of the praises were saved for the visuals and cinematography, not the story and performances. If “The Phantom Menace” had come out now, some anonymous audience members would have leaked word of its lackluster storyline on message boards, fan sites, and the word of mouth would have spread fast enough to possibly hurt the profits from the opening weekend. “The Phantom Menace” is for the most part a punchline on the internet now, but during its original domestic run, it grossed over $400 million dollars.
Now that we are days away before “The Force Awakens” opens, and I can honestly say that I believe the hype is nowhere near it was in 1999, for a few reasons listed below.
Most of the advertising and fan discussion that I have read has taken place solely online. In 1999, every popular television program had at least one new Star Wars ad. Everyone watched live television, because we had no Netflix, Apple TV, or DVR options. If we wanted to watch something, we had to physically wait for the time the program was set to air and turn on the TV. There was no way to avoid the ads.
When your favorite search browser pops up, all you need to do is type in Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the search bar and you will see every article, person, blog, video etc. that ever spoke or wrote the words Star Wars ever. There will be plenty of online movie reviewers doing trailer reviews and trying to guess the plot from the small amount footage that has been shown, professional looking fan made websites that contain a countdown until opening day, and even the film’s actors are creating Instagram and Twitter accounts specifically to promote the movie. Studios really do not need to pay all that money to advertise on television anymore.
A new Star Wars movie is about as close to a box office sure thing that you can get. Even if the movie does not match the humongous success of its predecessors, audiences will still flock to the theatre in droves because it is a family friendly film franchise and even if they have not seen the original Star Wars, they will still be entertained by the scenery, special effects and fight scenes. The Force Awakens is one of the few films that will come out this year that you will have to see in theatres in order to get the full experience.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens arrives in theatres December 18.