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A Most Excellent Theatrical-to-PVOD Pivot

On the cusp of summer blockbuster season, as major studios revved up their marketing efforts for record-breaking releases, it happened: COVID-19 broke the box office. With critical markets closed to theatrical distribution, massive losses loomed. But while an entire industry panicked, Orion Pictures and Operam focused on the task at hand: driving on-demand success for Bill & Ted Face the Music. Operam worked to reinvent the studio release marketing funnel for the streaming space, ensuring profitability across a broad audience while creating a framework for success moving forward.

THE GOAL

Beset by the pandemic and its theater closures, Orion sought a path to success for its long-awaited franchise film, Bill & Ted Face the Music. Toward that end, they needed to promote their film to the widest audience possible to maximize PVOD streams, and in turn profits, which would rely on deploying an effective marketing media mix. A relatively new concept, PVOD still had a veil of mystery around it, having really only seen a handful of successes in 2020, such as Trolls World Tour. By leveraging its performance marketing tactics, Operam and its theatrical and home entertainment background was the ideal candidate to make a profitable PVOD release a reality.

THE PROCESS

With ample experience in the theatrical and home entertainment markets, Operam was an ideal partner to piece together an effective PVOD strategy. By dint of its previous post-COVID 2020 PVOD releases, Operam had gleaned valuable insight regarding streaming strategy. Guided by these insights, Operam constructed two complimentary, parallel campaigns: an optimized PVOD push paired with an accompanying theatrical push. As a digital first agency, Operam managed a two-thirds digital, one-third television campaign, a mix that is rarely mirrored by other theatrical releases.

In order to drive initial buzz, identify key audiences, and apply sentiment analysis, both an announcement video and Superbowl spot were launched. Operam leveraged their understanding of the behavior of device and media consumption, to test various assets during tentpole events to identify key audiences 6 months out. The plan flushed out for the campaign was divided into five separate “campaign flights”, with distinct success metrics defined for each stage:

  • Pre-Announcement
  • Trailer Drop
  • A main flight, intertwining theatrical and PVOD strategies, leading up to preorder traffic
  • Available Now for PVOD and Theatrical
  • Initial Holiday Sale

Combining strategic targeted media across platforms including Social Media, Search, Programmatic Display, Connected TV, and more, Operam was able to successfully reach the core Bill and Ted Face the Music’s audience. Continual iterations and optimizations of the media mix were implemented along the way, determined by each specific flight’s KPIs. Furthermore, each platform had their own success metrics to optimize to, whether it was awareness, engagement, audience lift, conversions, or cart abandonment strategies. Finally, key partnerships with MLB, Apple, VUDU, Fandango, Comcast, and Spectrum provided the opening weekend push that was needed – all while providing conversion data for PVOD and theatrical as applicable for a feedback loop that powered real-time optimization.

THE RESULTS

The PVOD release brought in $32M in addition to a $3.5 million limited theatrical release, all in 3 weeks post release. With a $15M marketing budget and a production budget of $25M, Orion is slated to make a solid profit from PVOD alone (based off of historical benchmarks, Orion is set to make approximately $50m from PVOD alone).

According to Deadline Hollywood, once the Ticket Sales and TV deals are factored in, the film will turn a healthy profit. As the agency responsible for the PVOD success of Bill & Ted, Operam was able to find the correct audiences with the right strategies, to generate a profitable film for the studio.

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