I would have loved to be a fly on the wall back in a cozy Columbia executive boardroom circa 1987/1988. I can imagine the conversation started something a lot like this: “That Real Ghostbusters show is really doing gangbusters.” (Pause for a chuckle because of the poor play on words. I should also mention that this voice sounds something akin to a stereotypical newspaper tycoon with a snide accent.) “You know what we should do with this new Ghostbusters picture? We should gear it more toward those youngsters, then we really can’t lose.”
And you can’t blame them; take a look at the result. Ghostbusters continues to be a cultural phenomenon all these years later. However, many of the biggest trepidations toward the second Ghostbusters film amongst the fanboys involve how it opened up to a wider (read: younger) audience. The boys weren’t smoking anymore. They were watching their language. And let me tell you, did Slimer love Fuji Film. I may or may not be remembering that last one incorrectly… hindsight is 20/20.
It’s for this reason, that I’m extremely curious to see how the new Ghostbusters film is going to be directed, marketed and packaged.
Let’s set aside the five digits worth of folks that we call the Ghostheads, just for the purposes of this analysis. You know I love you all, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this. And we can assume that, barring some major disaster like learning Oscar swings from vines with monkeys, each and every registered member on GB Fans, Proton Charging, and GBN are going to be shoe-ins for a movie ticket – you can’t tell me that if you’ve made it to this fourth paragraph in my column on a Ghostbusters fansite that you’re NOT going to buy a ticket to a new Ghostbusters film and all the merch to accompany it. But much as we’d like to be the center of the universe, those numbers are only a fraction of the ticket sales and merchandising sales that need to occur for Ghostbusters III to be considered as big of a hit as its predecessors.
Which is the origin of my curiosity… the marketing and licensing folks (not to mention all of our heroes currently behind the scenes building the foundation for the upcoming movie) have a whole lot of masters to serve come Summer of 20—-datapacketlost—- when Ghostbusters III is released. They have to appease fanboys, adults, and appeal to kids that may only vaguely be familiar with what Ghostbusters is (if at all).
Want to hear my thinly thought through, nowhere near professional but common sense way of how I’d handle it? I thought you’d never ask…
You’ve gotta get the adults back that remember the first films fondly. Nostalgia will only get you so far (otherwise look at all the remake films that should have been huge hits but tanked like McHale’s Navy), so you have to remind those that grew up on or were already adults for the first two films that the movie was damn funny and entertaining and this one is going to be just as much so. Tag an original filmed in-character commercial with Peter and Ray sitting down to watch the Super Bowl that airs during said event and get a good laugh out of millions of the adult movie-going crowd right away… forget the smash-bang-CGI-filled teaser trailer or TV spot, what’s really going to get the adults into the swing is if they know that this is going to make The Hangover look like a Sunday Mass at the Ol’ St. Mary’s.
But that just gets the old folks in the door. Remember for this movie to be a smash hit you need to have ten-year old kids out on the playground using their backpacks as Proton Packs and being fuelled by the Ghostbusters themed breakfast cereal that you fed them earlier in the morning. So both the film itself and all of the advertising and merchandising needs to find a way to capture that same energy the first Ghostbusters had. It needs to teeter on that edge of the visuals and concepts being stimulating to the little guys, but the adults getting the laugh that the kids might not understand.
And mind you, I said that it needs to teeter on the edge… it should not favor either direction. If you cast a Jonas Brother in a role, you’ve pushed the border well past its limits. That’s not to say that a certain role can’t be appealing to the Teen Beat demographic, they better well make sure that the adults can stomach him or her too. I should mention at this point, to no detriment of his talents or abilities, my parents aren’t big Michael Cera fans. Sorry, Mike. Loved you in Arrested Development, if it hurts the sting a bit? My parents also were a part of the rip in the space-time continuum that made Wild Hogs a hit so…
It’s a fact that the change fearing Ghostheads will quickly have to comfort themselves about, it is still called show business and the good business sense tells every party involved that if they can get (dear God, am I really saying this) the 8 to 80 male and female crowd all buying tickets and eating Happy Meals, the Ghostbusters won’t just be saving the world in the summer, they’ll be saving the economy too.
Speaking of the economy and buying things, another interesting quandary is that you have the adult collectors and us Ghosthead Comic-Con going fanboys, which people have written entire dissertations trying to understand, that are wandering the toy isles and pushing little kids out of the way in order to be the first to buy swag. So in order to rake in the sales, you’ll need to set up a merchandise scheme that appeases both the kids and the adult collectors. I’ve really liked how Mattel has been handling Avatar, Dark Knight, and several others of their tie-in properties. You’ve got a line for the kids, but you also have a higher price point collector’s line that caters other needs. Hopefully all of the Ghostbusters merch will follow a similar suite.
Any which way you slice it or listen to me circuitously ramble about it, I’m sure that there’s already several binders filled with statistical data and analysis strategies and plans that have been mapped out for Ghostbusters III. It’s going to be an interesting ride that I can’t wait to witness.
And spend lots of money on.
Happy New Year to you all, looking forward to many more Private Sector columns to come. As always, if you have questions, comments, or just want to point out that you’ve caught onto my drivel, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.
(The Private Sector is a weekly syndicated column written by Troy Benjamin presented every Wednesday on Proton Charging, Ghostbusters.net, and GB Fans as an op-ed look at the goings on in the world of the Ghostbusters franchise. Learn more about Troy at www.troybenjamin.com)