Hollywood wants to win over young super fans A fan dressed as "Loki" poses before the European premiere of "Avengers: Age of Ultron." Blogger Reid Jones appears at left (AP photo / Reuters)
Hollywood wants to win over young super fans
Lexile

Clad in his pajamas, Reid Jones often blogs about Marvel superhero movies. He has ambitions of one day becoming an entertainment journalist.

A few weeks ago, the 16-year-old woke up to that opportunity. He was invited to conduct red carpet interviews with the stars of Marvel's "Avengers: Age of Ultron" during the Los Angeles premiere.

"It really felt like it was a dream," says Jones. He traveled with his dad from Kennesaw, Ga., to the premiere of the movie.

Major Hollywood studios like Disney-owned Marvel are anxious to win over super fans. The studios believe the super fans help build excitement online among other youngsters ahead of a movie's debut. While the fan connection has long been cultivated at conventions like Comic-Con or Disney's Star Wars Celebration, young writers like Jones are increasingly being courted at events once reserved for traditional media outlets. Jones' posts have been read nearly 11 million times.

This outreach is important for marketers. They call people like Jones "influencers." That is because they reach an under-25 crowd of frequent moviegoers. The group is not as easily reached by the traditional 30-second TV ads that advertisers typically use to reach their parents.

"When you're reaching young people, you have to go to where the authorities on culture exist," says Angela Courtin. She is the chief marketing officer for Relativity Media, the studio that has co-financed the "Fast & Furious" series. It is releasing the action comedy "Masterminds," this fall. "They're no longer in bylines of The New York Times or the Los Angeles Times. They're now on YouTube and Snapchat and Instagram and Vine."

Many of these influencers write blogs for sites like Moviepilot. They draw a large following of the younger audience that marketers covet. According to Google Analytics, 37 percent of site visitors are under 25 years old. And 71 percent are under 35.

Moviepilot Inc. CEO Tobi Bauckhage says that last fall, he and his co-founders decided to change the direction of their movie fan site. Now they take posts directly from readers. Usage began to take off. In March, it had 17.3 million unique U.S. visitors. That was more than double that of a year ago, according to comScore. In a single week in April, fan posts outnumbered editor posts 1,431 to 486.

Bauckhage attributes the growing popularity to fans like Jones. For the last year, the Georgia teen has written more than a post a day for Moviepilot. Recently, Jones pored over a trailer. Then he correctly deduced the hidden nature of the new character, Vision, in "Avengers: Age of Ultron." He also figured out how two distinct weapons are actually part of one giant one. The weapon will determine the universe's fate in the two-part Avengers sequel. That will come out three years from now.

"People like Reid knew more about specifics than some of our editors did," says Bauckhage, who sold off the original website he founded in Germany. Then he launched a U.S. version in May 2013. "We realized we really have to empower these kids to become creators."

The company rewards contributors with seats at early movie screenings. They also give away swag such as action figures, dolls and mugs. The most popular contributors, like Jones, are awarded with paid contracts. His was $1,000 a month. Jones and the site said that arrangement temporarily ended as school got in the way.

Some studios pay Moviepilot for access to these influencers. In one deal, 20th Century Fox allowed Moviepilot horror genre blogger Nicole Renee onto its lot. She got a sneak peek at its trailer for "Poltergeist." A few months earlier, she had been given early access to the Lionsgate movie "Jessabelle." Afterwards, she made the comment: "The film gave me chills throughout my whole body."

Fox paid the site a significant but undisclosed sum for a guarantee that her post about "Poltergeist" would be read 100,000 times and the trailer seen 1 million times, Bauckhage says. Usage more than quintupled the target.

Bauckhage insists contributors are allowed complete editorial freedom. He says the deal was cut before Renee wrote her post. He said the site is also considering a profit-sharing model with its most popular writers.

"We're trying to empower fans to become part of the conversation and to give them the access, the platform, the tools to create great content about the stuff they really care about," Bauckhage says. "Now that seems to match pretty nicely with the interest of the studio because they're very dependent on this kind of buzz."

In Jones' case, the teenager's freelance gig with Moviepilot had expired for a short time. But the site paid for his and his father's expenses, Bauckhage says.

Jones says the arrangement is fair. He's looking forward to restarting a paid relationship with the site. His father, Bart Jones, says he's proud that his son took the initiative last year to turn his love of Marvel movies into a job.

"They've paid him for his contributions. They certainly paid him well with the trip and the experience," says Jones, 47. "I don't see any other avenues offering this type of experience to 16-year-olds. I think it's great."

The younger Jones wrote after the red carpet event that the movie was "infinitely better than the first" Avengers. But he called a scene in the credits that teased future movies "frustrating."

He said it "leaves us with so many more questions than answers."

Critical thinking challenge: Who is it that "influencers" influence?

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COMMENTS (22)
  • DarbyC-Kut
    5/11/2015 - 05:27 p.m.

    Ive heard about this for months on social media that big companies want the internet to have all these adds about these movies and I personally find this a small bit annoying. Im not saying that this is a bad thing because I understand they want to get out the movies release to the pubic so the massive amount of internet users is a good opportunity for the movie industry.

  • LillyF-Kut
    5/11/2015 - 08:18 p.m.

    I think that that is an amazing opportunity he was given and he did an awesome job for the make up. It is so incredible that a 16 year old got to be a BIG part of the movie. Especially when he got to work with other amazing make designers. When he came in with his amazing questions that all got answered he left with even more than he began with which will soon and could all be answered. I am not shocked that he got this chance to do something like this and prove to people that he can be and is good because he was awesome as everyone knows. When you look at the make up in the movie you would think it was done by someone who has a professional job to do things like this but, no... it was done by someone who is a professional and who might now have a new job like this because I mean who wouldn't want to hire him?

  • Rachelc-Pav
    5/12/2015 - 09:55 a.m.

    I think this is amazing because fans get to be doing what they love, as well as get paid. This is a win-win situation, because the people of the movie company get to have more viewers for their movie, and the fan gets to be paid doing what they love.

    • LuisRoBlack
      5/12/2015 - 01:45 p.m.

      i agree with Rachel-pav because i would love to do something i love then doing something i hate like being a teacher not all teachers like doing that sooo ya that's al i have to say

  • CoreySNavyBlue
    5/12/2015 - 12:46 p.m.

    I believe that "influencers" influence there piers. Just like in real life. One friend jumps off a bride, than another and then all jump off a bridge. It's because you want to be like somebody else. It happens all the time.

  • Alysseh171
    5/12/2015 - 02:41 p.m.

    That is cool because fans can do what they love to do. I would love to go see a movie premiere for a movie that looks cool or is funny.

  • Eriku2
    5/12/2015 - 06:50 p.m.

    This article is about Hollywood. Hollywood wants to win over the younger fans. The younger fans can also be called superfans. I think that if they do this it is a good idea because they are more dedicated.

  • wyatt.mm2014
    5/13/2015 - 09:18 a.m.

    thanks for the info next time can you make it more interesting because no one will want to read this boring article and if they do they will fall into a coma the first sentence :(

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    5/13/2015 - 08:45 p.m.

    I think that it is cool for studios to try to win over young super fans, but I think that the studio shouldn't win over young super fans which I think that they wanted the young super fans to get won over by another movie studio. Well if the movie studio wants to win over young super fans, I think that they shouldn't win over young super fans just by showing a new movie that it's going to come up soon.

  • GloryE-Kut
    5/14/2015 - 07:55 a.m.

    I know what there talking about . people are all ways trying to control kids that like movies and cant help
    them self and just fall head over heels about the new marvel movie. and I hate marvel .It has taken over my sister and that's the only thing she ever talks about>:(

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