From the Producers of . . .

You see this phrase at the beginning of every big budget film. ‘From the producers that brought you [insert title of very similar film, set in a similar context, playing out a similar action . . .]’. But how similar do these two entertainment options need to be for this style of promotion to work?

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Today I opened up my email to see a message with the following subject: ‘From the producers of Les Miserablés, Cyndi Lauper’s Kinky Boots presale starts now’. I struggle to think of two blockbuster musicals that are more different than these two. Drag queens from the modern day vs. revolutionaries and convicts from the French Revolution. Pop music score peppered with hilarious jokes and written by one of the biggest pop icons vs. two and a half hour sung through operatic score. At no point did Marius break out into a power ballad after discovering a love for Cosette’s shoes . . .

Let’s take a step back. What is happening here?

Well, it all comes back to mitigating risk. Any entertainment investment is a risk. Especially one in the theatre with such a high cost of engagement. So producers are always looking for opportunities to decrease this risk, because it means that more people will engage. And this ‘From the Producers of . . .’ technique is something which movie houses use endlessly.

But they use it very strategically.

The movies will generally be of the same genre. Set in a similar period. Feature the same style of story. And appeal to the same audience that is watching this trailer now. Why? Because if you see that the producers of your favourite movie have brought out another film, then surely it will be pretty good. But this is a rather odd assumption we make as entertainment consumers because not many people actually understand the role of a producer.

The actors take dialogue off a page and perform it on stage or before a camera. The director shapes these actors’ performances into what you see in the finished product. Composers write the memorable tunes. Choreographers design all the big dance numbers. But what about producers?

The general entertainment consumer doesn’t really have a great understanding of their role in the creative process – mostly because it is so varied. Some producers are incredibly hands on and get involved in every decision. Others sit back and place their trust in the team of professionals they have brought together to deliver an amazing finished product. So why does it provide a hook if we don’t really understand their role?

Just like learning that your favourite actor is doing a new film, we look for that continuity. Something was clearly right about their last popular venture, so maybe this continuity will produce the same magic. But back to Kinky Boots and Les Miserablés . . .

Would the Les Miserablés audience really enjoy Kinky Boots? In Australia, probably. Our audiences tend to be bigger fans of the genre itself rather than the different sub-genres that can be found throughout the musical theatre catalogue. They like big budget shows. Spectacles. And catchy music. But I feel like this link is a bit limiting. While Les Miserablés has great gravitas and prestige, it is not the most accessible show for a non-musical audience – Kinky Boots is quite the opposite with a pop score, relatable storyline and hilarious script. So, in my opinion, lose the link and go after those Cyndi Lauper fans for a theatre experience they will never forget!

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