The (Non-) Marketing Of James Cameron's 'Avatar'

Avatar, Screen Rant’s 2nd most anticipated film of 2009, is set to release at the end of the year. It is written and directed by arguably one of the best directors out there, James Cameron, a man who has earned the trust of Sci-Fi fans everywhere and a man who helmed the biggest grossing film of all time: Titanic.

Cameron has not directed a feature film in 12 years and he’s spent a lot of that time on this project, his baby, which is said to revolutionize the way we see films in 3D. No one knows how expensive this project is - years ago an initial budget of $195 million was thrown around and sometime last year it was rumored that it was costing somewhere between $250-300 million. Could be more, could be less – the point is that he’s garnered the trust of Fox studios to invest that much into him and this project.

What I want to talk about is the risk of that investment.

Unlike Spider-Man 3, where Sony put that much money into the project with little risk, Avatar is no sequel and it has no brand recognition. This is an original piece not based on hit TV shows, comics or video games.

What does that mean? Well, it means the only way they’ll get people to see it is by truly selling itself, no reliance on other material or a built-in fanbase. So far, the only selling points we have are that it’s James Cameron and that it’s some new tech employed to make 3D and live-action appears truly as one and the same.

Another marketable trait is that it’s starring Sam Worthington as the lead, who will be super famous and recognizable by the end of this summer with his role in the upcoming Terminator Salvation – where it’s said he got the role in that thanks to Cameron’s recommendation to McG [and we’ve come full circle].

For this movie to be a financial success and to live up to the anticipation for it, it must be a world-wide box office smash. To do that, we need some incredible marketing. We saw probably the most extensive movie marketing ever with Watchmen (rivaling, if not surpassing what there was for The Dark Knight) ranging from loads of viral websites, pictures, supporting DVDs, behind the scenes feature videos, a plethora of trailers and TV spots, re-prints and hardcover releases of the graphic novel, etc (even the extensive lawsuit coverage helped market the movie). Zack Snyder and company took full advantage of the online world, something we’ve seen none of for Avatar – which I would argue may need it even more seeing how it is not coming from the most celebrated graphic novel of all time.

Why do I bring this up now? Well, last week we saw major trailer releases for Terminator Salvation, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Star Trek, Pixar's Up, Public Enemies and Harry Potter 6 (Click movie names to see the trailers). The obvious difference is that all of these movies are summer fare but it got me thinking when combined with a rumor that they have been trying to make a trailer for Avatar but are having difficulties.

MarketSaw is reporting the rumor from their “trusted source” that eight different trailers have been made for Avatar but none of them have satisfied director James Cameron. The rumor continues that Cameron is now attempting to cut his own trailer and that the problem is that they simply don’t know how to market this property.

AICN has debunked the "8 trailer" story directly from the source: James Cameron.

Thinking about the general plot of the film that we know so far, I can completely understand that. IMDB currently displays the following Synopsis for the film: [possible spoilers?]

In a distant future, humanity discovers the planet 'Alpha Centauri B-4', and for those scientists and astronauts who've traversed the gulf between neighboring suns and arrived on its alien soil know it as 'Pandora'. A world filled with an incredible diversity of beautiful and deadly ammonia-breathing lifeforms. Its also a world that harbors treasures and resources almost beyond price. But just as the original Pandora's Box wrought devastation on those who would use it for their own gain, so too this world may destroy not just the Pandorans home, but ours as well.

Avatar is the story of a wounded ex-marine, thrust unwillingly into an effort to settle and exploit an exotic planet rich in bio-diversity, who eventually crosses over to lead the indigenous race in a battle for survival.

The overall story itself isn’t mind-blowing but it sounds cool as hell to me being a sci-fi fan. How do they market that story while at the same time, showcasing the new 3D and CGI that the film will feature?

Screen Rant reported on the new tech behind Avatar last August and at that time, the movie was said to be 60% CGI, most of which was shot with the brand new motion capturing method everyone’s been talking about using special cameras that Cameron helped develop himself a few years earlier.

Back to the marketing side of things.

So, if the trailer is an issue, what can they do?

Give us other stuff! Create some official sites to give us something, anything. Just recently Fox gave us some stuff on the official site for the Wolverine movie – And it was just picture of a few characters with a one-line voice over for each - very simple and efficient.

If the movie is as beautiful as it’s being hyped up to be, give us some stills. Heck, even a new poster because this old one is useless.

Other than that poster, we’ve been given only two other things: In December, we got our first ever picture for Avatar… and it showed Cameron talking to star Sam Worthington behind the scenes… that’s it. We later finally got an interesting picture which showed Cameron on a cool looking set.

The movie will succeed by bringing in the masses. To bring in the masses, show something to bring them in – I want this movie to succeed.

What do you think about the lack of marketing for this movie and what are your expectations for the film?

I love James Cameron, and he has my trust and support.

Avatar is set to released December 18, 2009 and I’ll be there.

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