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Can Blogs Turn a Film Into a Blockbuster?

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Joss Whedon, whose “Firefly” TV series didn’t last a season, convinced a studio to produce a feature-length motion picture based on the series when DVD sales went through the roof.

Still, the band of sci-fi fans who scooped up the DVD represent a fraction of the audience necessary to make the movie profitable. Whedon, who had a long, successful run with his series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (after the original film he scripted fared less well), isn’t content to hope word-of-mouth and a strong, traditional ad campaign will boost ticket sales. He’s turning to the blogosphere.

Or, at least, somebody associated with the film-dubbed “Serenity” (the name of the spaceship)-is turning to the blogosphere, and is using an A-list blogger to serve as a kind of online Pied Piper. According to a blog at KnoxNews, the online version of the Knoxville News Sentinel, InstaPundit’s Glenn Reynolds has 150 tickets to an advance screening of the film available for local bloggers. News Sentinel blogger Michael Silence notes, “it’s a chance to blog a review on the new movie, due out Sept. 30. It’s also sound marketing for movie studios. If you want to go, confirm in my comments.”

There are plenty of enthusiastic confirmations, like this one: “I’m delerious with the possibility of two tickets? Why? …I’ve got every episode of Buffy on video and DVD, and every episode of Firefly,’ the basis for Serenity.’ See my Camera Obscura post on my blog regarding creator Joss Whedon (Sept. 9th) and the Buffy convention in Knoxville.” Can you imagine the review this guy’s going to write? Add another 149 similarly-inclined sci-fi fanatics and Buffy fans, and you have the potential to build some genuine buzz.

A quick search of Technorati turned up one other screening-already held-in which Grace Hill Media swapped Serenity tickets in exchange for blogged reviews. (Grace Hill is a media company that helps “Hollywood reach people of faith.”) One suspects there will be a few more such outreach efforts before the film debuts. This notion of turning to the blogosphere to promote books and movies isn’t new, but we can expect to see it become more institutionalized as the payoff becomes more evident. Why give your free screening tickets to anybody passing by when you can focus on bloggers with far greater reach and influence?

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Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.

Can Blogs Turn a Film Into a Blockbuster?
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