copyright 2006, Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media
Jump Cut, No. 48, winter 2006
DVD marketing in U.S. of
Working Title's British romantic comedies:
Framing reception and
strategies of cultural appropriation
by Pavel Skopal
London-based production company Working Title Films has been the most successful British company — measured not only by its unquestionable financial success, but also by the number of prestigious awards. This company, established in 1983, has entered since 1991, led by its two co-chairs Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, in a pragmatic alliance with powerful media conglomerates – PolyGram, the Dutch film and music company (since 1991) and Universal (since 1999). Following such low-budget, highly acclaimed films as My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) and Sid and Nancy (1986), it made them launch projects with wider commercial appeal (Eric Fellner: “Both of us wanted to make bigger films with more worldwide access and PolyGram afforded that opportunity”).
Working Title still keeps its share in “prestige,” “auteurist” productions, such as Coen's brothers films (Fargo, The Hudsucker Proxy, Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Man Who Wasn't There), in addition to which it has launched WORKING TITLE2, a subsidiary for low budget films with an “independent” appeal (Billy Elliot /2000/ got three Oscar nominations as well as four British Independent Film Awards). However, commercially the most successful field are its romantic comedies.
(“Working Title Films credits include the hugely successful romantic comedies, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones's Diary and Love Actually, all starring Hugh Grant and written by Richard Curtis. Curtis also made his directorial debut with Love Actually,” stated the Working Title official website, http://www.workingtitlefilms.com/nusite.php. This self-description also indicates what the company's “treasure” is – not only the actor-star Hugh Grant, but also the screenwriter-star Curtis, whose name features both in these films' marketing and the reviews.)
I'm going to focus on three of these commercially the most successful productions of Working Title, that also belong to the most successful films in the history of the British cinema: Four Weddings, Notting Hill, and Bridget Jones's Diary (in 2001, these ranked, respectively, the sixth, the third, and the second in the chart of all-time top 20 U.K. films at the U.K. box office, and Four Weddings was the first in the chart of all-time top 20 rental videos).
However, the films themselves with their narrative, generic, or stylistic strategies will only serve as a background for the main topic of this text. My main concern are these issues: How are these films presented on DVDs to international audiences? What kinds of extras or “paratexts” are included to “frame” the movies and to translate, interpret, and tailor them to viewers? What segments of the audience are addressed and in what ways? Crucially, these films succeed due to the fact that they appeal to both “local” (English) and “global” (U.S., international) audiences, despite, or maybe thanks to, their “mixed” production, with their cultural, textual and extra-textual Anglo-American status.(Even though these films are produced in the U.K., a line is established between the U.S. market and other countries overseas, from the marketing point of view, than between the U.K. and the rest of the world.) They are produced by an English company, backed by the financial and distributional power of a Hollywood studio (or a Dutch media mogul, in case of Four Weddings, distributed mainly by Gramercy Pictures, a joint-venture company launched by PolyGram and Universal.
The films exploit English cultural “heritage” as well as (U.S.) pop culture with a more hip, modern touch. The narratives exploit English/U.S. cultural differences. And all these films use Hollywood stars (Andie McDowell, Julia Roberts, Renée Zellweger), though not only for the roles of Americans, but also to play the peculiarly English Bridget Jones. This latter aspect of casting Briget Jones, in fact, raised passionate – and from the point of view of marketing also profitable – discussions and controversy.
Luring to theatres, selling to homes
Although DVD market already has its own favorite stars, genres and marketing rules, it still holds that a DVD's commercial success tends to be indicated by a particular film's success in theatres. In addition, DVD marketing strategies learn from the film's theatrical release. For that reason, to consider both the way a film is released in theatres and on DVD can say a lot about a film's targeted audiences and the intended appeal. The scheduling of Working Title films' theatrical releases reveals the producers' careful play on the sensitive relation between U.S. and U.K/international markets and their mutual influence. In contrast, DVD releases are more independent. They count more on timing to exploit tie-ins, theatrical promotion, or more general culturally-established schedules of consumer behaviour (Christmas time or Valentine's Day, with DVD layouts of packaging and covers that make them seem like presents).
Four Weddings and a Funeral was first released in the U.S. (19 March 1994) through “platforming.” That means it opened only in 10 screens in two markets (New York and Los Angeles) and tried to build a word-of-mouth.
“… the target audience for this film were people eighteen to forty years old, with the primary core being the twenty-one-to-forty age group, appealing slightly more to women. The marketing team expected that the eighteen-to-twenty-four-year-olds would see the film as 'a comical look at the perils of being single.' For the twenty-five-to-thirty-four-year-olds, the film would represent an English-humour romantic comedy, a high-concept expressed as Monty Python meets Sleepless in Seattle. The thirty-five-plus segment of the audience would consider it an adult date movie, ‘a non-Shakespearean Much Ado About Nothing.'”
For Notting Hill, the promotional strategy emphasized different values for its U.S. and international release, respectively.
“The biggest issue was striking a balance between the romantic and comedic elements of the film. For most countries, the trailer and TV spots will emphasise comedy to make it appealing to men, as well as women. But for the U.S., where it takes a couple of minutes for Americans to adjust to foreign accents, even English ones, we've gone for romance.”
As for the timing, Christmas time was absolutely essential for Working Title's Love Actually, e.g., because of its Christmas-related story.
The producers also strategize to avoid competing with big-budget, highly awaited movies in theatres. Thus Working Title planned for Notting Hill, starting five weeks before Star Wars: Episode I to build its audience before “Star Wars swamps the multiplexes.” For Working Title's film About a Boy, however, the producers chose a strategy of counter-programming. They released that film, relying on a female audience, just one day after Star Wars II – obviously counting on the fact that non-pre/teen audiences would be able to find very few other alternatives in the cineplexes to provide shelter from the whistling of laser swords.
DVD production and release
Obviously, the marketing campaign for a theatrical release is as diversified as possible, in order to attract different segments of viewers. The same holds true for the DVD release, even as DVD marketing campaign exploits the power of theatrical release. In this light, regarding the changing proportion between the profits from the theatrical and the DVD commercial windows, the theatrical window is described as a launching campaign for the DVD. In the case when a sequel is released theatrically, a DVD special edition of the first movie can be released at the same moment to make use of the sequel's theatrical marketing campaign, as it was the case with the Bridget Jones's Diary DVD. And even though DVDs also have to fight for shelf space, the shelves are not so overcrowded, and slightly different rules can apply to scheduling. Thus, not only is Christmas a hot time –Valentine's Day, for instance, is among the best dates for new release, re-promotion or re-pricing of romantic comedies.
However, another factor plays a key role in marketing DVDs. The extras on the disc create new intertextual relations with the film, and they also work as a marketing tool in and of themselves. This is doubly true of special editions. Released a long time after the theatrical release of a particular film, these special editions cannot employ the same kind of marketing used for the theatrical window. Instead, they are based on a “nostalgic” rather than hip mood, which helps to give the film the status of a “classic.” And for Hollywood movies on DVDs that are released by the big studios or the studios' distribution subsidiaries to be distributed overseas, the extras are usually the same or partially reduced by the distributor. The question is what strategies (if any) are used by U.S. distributors to culturally appropriate the films, backed financially by a Hollywood studio, in order to emphasize certain signs of cultural difference that are strongly part of their appeal.
To illustrate this kind of DVD international marketing strategy, I will here focus on DVDs of two Working Titles romantic comedies – the special editions of Notting Hill and Bridget Jones's diary, as they were released for the U.S. market (making as well reference to Four Weddings and a Funeral'sEnglish special edition for comparison's sake). DVD editions tend to be prepared by a different company from that which produced the film. In our case, the Notting Hill DVD was created by Miramax; the Four Weddings DVD by MGM (Sony/Columbia); and the Bridget Jones's Diary “collector's edition” DVD, the only one provided by Universal. This fact of the DVD having a different producer directly and obviously influences the content, but in varying ways. For example, the DVD of Notting Hill starts with a clip with short trailers of DVDs produced by Miramax and announcing the company's 10th anniversary.
Still, more generally, a DVD's content must be composed to address various demographic segments and to mimic the marketing strategy used for a successful theatrical release. To design different DVDs for various markets is not a DVD producer's main strategy. According to Angela Tammaro, the DVD content director of Universal's English subsidiary, working on all content material for Working Title Films:
“In general with U.K. produced titles, the bonus is not created for the U.K. audience specifically. In fact we try to make the bonus materials accessible to all international markets. Given that Working Title Films are generally U.K. based productions, the content will have an element of U.K. centric sentiment. This has more to do with the subject matter rather than the audience. Our key objective for any bonus content is to add value for the consumer and to create interesting content that is an extension to the original viewing experience of the film. We try to create content which is universal to a particular target demographic, and we don't create content specific to a market; that is, we do not create a U.K., US and European version of the same disc. We do however, ensure that all content is localised so that it can be understood in other countries.”
But regardless of her statement, I have found clear market-specific distinctions in the Working Title Films DVDs' content, though the new extras are mixed with the extras taken over from the international editions. And, significantly I have found a fuzzy line between the U.S. and "overseas market." It is also useful here to consider differences between the initial (U.S.) and international (U.K., among others) web sites of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.
Culturally-specific ways of addressing the U.S. market on DVDs
Not new products, still a new context of reception: tie-ins, covers, critical discourse
Even though, as expressed by Angela Tammaro, “we [Universal] try to create content which is universal to a particular target demographic and we don't create content specific to a market”, it is obvious that Universal has made some significant changes both in the promotional strategies and the content of Working Title Films DVDs addressing the U.S. market. Some changes are partly required by market-specific tie-ins. For example, in the special edition DVD of Bridget Jones's Diary, a flyer is enclosed, announcing the U.S. edition of “Extreme Makeover Fitness”, i.e. a fitness weight loss program. In the U.S., the collector's edition of Notting Hill includes two music videos missing in the British edition. Those are Shania Twain's You've Got a Way and Elvis Costello's She, and significantly both of these singers have contracts with PolyGram, a co-producer of the film. Other shifts result from the change of distributor. Instead of a logo of Universal or Working Title Films, a viewer of the Bridget Jones's Diary DVD will see first the Miramax logo and then a clip celebrating the company's 10th anniversary and announcing its new DVD releases. (Miramax distributed the film in U.S. thanks to a deal with Universal – on the base of that deal Captain Corelli's Mandolin was directed by John Madden and co-produced by Miramax.) Also, in the U.S. DVD market, hot DVDs are often released separately in widescreen and full-screen editions (charts show certain preferences for the widescreen version) – this is the case with Bridget Jones's Diary.
DVD covers also undergo changes with international distribution. Both U.S. editions of Four Weddings highlight the stars – MacDowell and Hugh Grant. The first of these DVD editions came out in June 1997, when Grant was far more established as a star than he was at the moment of theatrical release. That older DVD edition has quite a strong English touch, presenting the actors in a two-shot against the background of a cityview with a river and a church. The second one U.S. DVD cover has more or less the same design as both U.K./international editions, stressing, nevertheless, both stars, with the ensemble in the background (and Rowan Atkinson is missing). The U.K. edition, in contrast, presents the ensemble in a row, with a strong presence of Atkinson and the British stage actor Simon Callow.
Both the U.S. and the English editions of the Working Title romantic comedy, Love Actually, are designed in a similar way – as a “present” tied in a bow. Still there is a strong distinction in the accent. The British DVD cover shows ten small “boxes” with pictures of actors mostly well known for the British audience (Alan Rickman, Rowan Atkinson, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, etc.). In a way, this cover reminds one of Justin Wyatt's example of the low-concept poster for Robert Altman's Nashville: it had a lot of faces without any obvious story, action, or mood present. The difference is, however, that the Bridget Jones's Diary DVD in the U.K. is backed by the high-concept power of the movie and its theatrical release. The cover could remind the potential viewer of a box of chocolates (in a way not far from the tagline for Forrest Gump: “Life is like a box of chocolates...you never know what you're gonna get”); it also evokes the weaving of a multiple-strand storyline. The U.S. cover, on the other hand, has only four boxes, each of them presenting not only faces, but situations, relations, emotional bonds: between father and son, young couples, or a couple getting old. That cover clearly suggest to potential viewers who could spend a satisfying time with this DVD: a dating couple, a couple with a child “in between”, a “non-nuclear family” members, or even an older couple with grown children. These examples seem to imply that the U.S. covers rely more on stars where these are supposedly well-recognized by U.S. audiences, and on presenting emotions, situations, or mood, where they are not.
As for Bridget Jones's Diary, the covers are very similar, with a more shining presence of Renée Zellweger in the U.S. one – but they use different celebrative quotes from critics: In the English case, quotes are from The Sun (“The biggest and funniest film of the year”), and, in far bigger letters, from Ebert and Roeper (“Two thumbs up!”) and Good Morning America (“Terrific Fun!”). The use of the most blatant praise is, no doubt, the core. References to locally known authorities also play a role here, however (whether they are from one of the most popular tabloids or one of the most recognized film critics). In the case of the U.S. DVD, Bridget Jones's Diary's special edition, some of the praising U.S. reviews are included on the disc (Chicago Sun Times, Rolling Stone, San Francisco Chronicle…) – both to prove the “acclaim” for the film and to contribute to its cultural framing.
A TV spot for Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason clearly demonstrates to what extent U.S. marketing exploits U.S. media resonance, explaining “the top five reasons to see the new Bridget Jones” strictly through quotations of U.S. reviews:
The clip obviously tries to address various groups of intended viewers; it does it, however, by a detour, pretending to give up the voice of the discourse in favour of that of the (U.S.) critics.
New products, similar approach: irony and shame
I have described aspects of DVD production and distribution aside from content, such as those related to tie-ins and marketing, and changes not specifically related to the creation of extras, such as the incorporating of reviews. In addition, some of the extras produced for the U.S. edition obviously try to attract the viewer from the side of U.S. context and U.S. (pop)culture and also to adapt some of the elements of “Englishness” or cultural otherness. But what is significant is that this reference to cultural otherness comes in an ironic, self-conscious mode. The most visible case is in the U.S. Bridget DVD's “A Guide to Bridget Britishisms.“ This extra provides “mock” American-English vocabulary, “translating” and comically explaining some of Bridget's “spicy” words and phrases, British cultural oddities, or even ordinary words: barrister – an attorney; loo – the bathroom; knickers – “not pants but ladies panties”; daft – foolish or stupid; bugger off – a milder way how to say “fuck off”; tarts and vicars – “a common British party themes involving priest and prostitute costumes”. In this case, cultural/language differences are not effaced smoothly; on the contrary, they are self-consciously displayed and reflexively admitted for the dissociated pleasure of a knowing viewer.
The “language problem” has been one of Working Title's highest priorities as it has attempted to succed in the U.S. market. As Adam Dawtrey puts it,
“The British sensibility of Working Title's movies plays more mainstream in foreign territories, particularly in Europe, where the movies are dubbed into local languages, than it does in North America, where the audience can hear the quaint British accents.“
He confirms that by quoting David Livingstone, the head of Universal's marketing team in London, and Tim Bevan, respectively:
"When the Americans see British films, they describe them as upscale, because of the voice they hear. And when they say upscale, they mean, the guy in Middle America isn't going to gravitate towards this." (Livingstone)
"In America, our films are regarded as imports by the consumer, and it's about getting over that hurdle“ (Bevan).
But even when the producers consider an English accent a barrier and develop a DVD production strategy to break through it (as well as other barriers of cultural specificity and slant – see below in relation to the image of London), the difference in accent can be even used in a self-conscious, mocking, and ironic mode in the DVD extras. So, the DVDs (in both the British and the U.S. edition) often point out things like the presence of a "talented Texan actress for beloved British character“ (as one of the extras says). For example, in the case of Bridget Jones, director Sharon Maguire comments on this as both a serious production problem and a risk:
"The fact that Renée was a Texan was an immediate anxiety, of course.“
But the extras also refer to language difference with a comic distance. As Hugh Grant described Zellweger in Bridget's "behind the scenes featurette":
"She was doing her English accent off the set as well as on, and I didn't know her as a Texan until the wrap party, when she turned up with this weird voice.“
Irony is one of the most pervasive features of all these extras, together with the ethos of sincerity of professional confessions, the informational effort, and personal memories. Irony is not, of course, the exclusive feature of the U.S. extras, as it is also present in both the films (and the genre of romantic comedy) themselves and in contemporary promotional strategies in general.
In the DVDs, irony is present both in an implicit form and as an explicit approach. The Bridget Jones's Diary featurette tips off:
“When casting for a role of “Classic Cad” we'll not forget three important things: Irony, Irony, Irony.”
Less explicitly but more significantly, there's an announcement:
"The DVD featurette – Resolutions … will not: be boring; be overly self-promotional; show gratutious clips of Hugh Grant in a wet shirt. Unless absolutely essential …”
These words are then followed by a clip of Hugh Grant in a wet shirt.
The Four Weddings and a Funeral DVD includes with its extras two unused trailers. As the producer Duncan Kenworthy points out, both are based on the difference between Andie MacDowell's and Hugh Grant's star power – Grant wasn't recognized internationally as a star at the time. Both trailers show the actors inviting viewers to the movie. In the first case, Grant meekly introduces big star MacDowell, and the clip ends before he manages to say anything about the film. In the second trailer, MacDowell tries to introduce Hugh Grant to the viewers – and, embarrassingly, she cannot recall either his name nor any of his previous films.
In the plotlines of these Working Title's romantic comedies, irony goes hand in hand with a pervasive sense of shame – and self-irony is a cure for it. The “shame-producing” narrative machine is based on the relationship between a self-confident U.S. woman and a shy English man, reflexively and extra-textually doubled by the relationship between the U.S. star (Andie MacDowell) and the unknown English actor (Hugh Grant) in the case of Four Weddings. As the formula is repeated, this concept keeps shifting in the self-conscious discourse of the history of the Working Title's “romantic comedies” cycle. This cycle moves through the relation between two stars (Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant in Notting Hill) to reversing the relation around the axis of nationality (Renée Zellweger, supposedly so unknown at the time of making Bridget Jones's Diary that she could work undercover in a publishers). This reflexive doubling of the characters'/stars' relations is extended and repeated in the commentaries and featurettes on the DVDs with Four Weddings and Bridget Jones's Diary. In the case of Notting Hill, however, Hugh Grant alone takes the role of a star, owing to the absence of Julia Roberts in the disc's extras. But in the case of Four Weddings, the time distance of ten years brought extratextual commentaries to a memorial mode – the extras situate the story as commemorating the times when Grant was not yet a star.
New products, new contexts: pop-culture associations and appropriation of spaces
Because the textual/extratextual relations of characters/stars are essential for the films' affective work and lay grounds for the films' universal popularity, they are exposed and reflected on these DVDs for both markets. In addition, at least two more distinct points “frame” the movies on the U.S. editions. First are “the young and the mateless (an expert's guides to being single)“ extras. These star women quite well recognized in U.S. popular culture, who comment the "singles“ phenomenon and give "tips“ on how to date and be attractive. Some of the presenters here include Linda Wells, editor of “the beauty expert” magazine Allure; Jerry Bicks, author and producer of Sex and the City; and Karen Salmansohn, author of the book Even God Is Single. In this way, a direct connection with a tremendously popular “post-feminist” TV-series is created, as well as an indirect association with the “how to” books “industry” (significantly, in its ironic version).
Also there is a strong demand for so called chick-lit (or pink-lit) in U.S. and especially in Hollywood, and this is more of a U.S. pop-culture phenomenon than overseas. Thus, even such films as Legally Blonde succeeded in below-average fashion internationally. This particular kind of intertextual connection works better in the United States. To draw a comparison between U.S. and U.K. cultural preferences here, Legally Blond grossed $96.5 million in the U.S., $45.2 million overseas; the sequel got $90 million in the U.S., and only $34.7 million overseas. In contrast, Bridget Jones's Diary earned three times more in other countries overseas than it did in the United States. The same situation is the case with the other Working Title hits. Four Weddings earned three times more in other countries than the U.S., Notting Hill two times more. These films work overseas even better proportionally than U.S. blockbusters, such as Spider-man, Lord of the Rings, Shrek, Independence Day or Pearl Harbor do (where the rate is somewhere between 1:1.1 and 1:2). It explains the worries of the UIP executives about the "foreigness“ and the "posh“ accent of these U.K. films, even though such a worry seems to be a bit schizophrenic. As I indicated, these films are based on a cultural difference that is very pointed and exploited both in the films themselves and in the DVDs extras. In addition, Hollywood stars provided the films with a “Hollywoodish” high-concept value and are “sold” to the world as having a “Hollywood star plus British culture heritage.” As Andrew Higson points out, all these films bear marks of “English heritage films”:
“Four Weddings, with its country houses, olde-worlde inns, and upper class eccentrics, shares a great deal with heritage films like the Forster and Waugh adaptations. Notting Hill features Julia Roberts as an American film star who comes to England to appear in period costume in a Henry James adaptation. And Bridget Jones's Diary reworked parts of Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice.”
My second point about these film's international construction, which seemingly has later DVD distribution in mind, is the way that the overseas English setting of Working Title's films (London, primarily) is presented and exploited. Not to create any barrier for the reception of U.S. audiences, London comes across as an elegant, clean, sanitized city. The strategy behind such an approach in depicting settings has been tellingly expressed by Tim Bevan:
“Notting Hill, Bridget, About A Boy and Love Actually were all London-based films. We've had a bit more money, basically, (than other British filmmakers) and have been able to give the city a look on those films, which is very gratifying. It doesn't look like a grotty place. You get used to low-budget British films and we don't show our city off to the best (in those). The other interesting thing in terms of getting the film received in America is that when you begin to show the city off like that, they begin to not feel that the film is an import. They see the film as just a movie sort of thing. There's a magic hurtle that we have to go through with British films for the American audience where they're no longer feeling that the film's a nice quaint little picture from over the pond. They just accept it as a movie."
This kind of sanitized London imagery has been strongly commented on and criticized – in the British press, of course. Still, London remains "one of the stars“ of Notting Hill. The U.S. DVD edition of Notting Hill includes a "travel book map.“ The extras offer a map of Portobello Road noting second-hand shops, greengrocers and antique markets, and also the infamous blue door. The second map shows eateries in the locality with their addresses. The special edition's mode of presentation is nostalgic, highlighting the movie as an exhibit of cinema history and an exhibit of the personal histories/memories of both crew and, above all, viewers. Also this “travel book” extra tries to establish a connection with the viewer's present space. Through this “spatialization” of a part of the diegetic world, it changes the imaginary, untouchable, un-visitable diegetic or story space, elusively present in the viewer's emotional memory, to a concrete space through which you the viewer can wander and which you can enjoy physically by all of your senses that are not involved in experiencing the film. However, this work of spatialization, a "palimpsestic“ rewriting and concretization of the imaginary space, is not unique to this DVD. On different DVDs, its motivation can vary. The extras on the Notting Hill DVD do basically the same for Notting Hill what, for example, the Lilo and Stitch DVD's extras does for the Hawaian islands – it presents the place as something both intimately known and exotic at the same time. A general use of spatial, temporal and cultural distance is, however, essential for this way of presenting another location in an evocative way.
U.S. distributors take the advantage of producing the U.S. DVD editions (region 1) separately in the United States to adapt and culturally “translate” movies for domestic audiences, at least in the case of “hot” movies. There is a notable difference between cultural flows in “framing” DVDs content, and due to the system of regions, these flows are not reversible. In the case of the flow from the U.S. to overseas markets, Angela Tamarro's words holds fully true – the differentiation that works here is based on lines of age, gender, taste, social status, and generic fandom, rather than lines of nation and culture. In that regard, the difference between the U.S. and the international editions tends to be a negative one. That is, some extras seen in U.S. DVDs are missing in some editions for international distribution. As for the flow from overseas to the U.S. (i.e., the case of films backed by Universal's money and produced in England), Tamarro's words holds true only from her point of view. She is certainly right – who should know it better? – in declaring that Universal International Pictures does not prepare various extras for various markets. There are, however, other “framers.” U.S. producers of DVDs for U.S. markets partially set up DVD content considering international editions. At the same time, they want to produce a culturally- and market-specific context, to appropriate and “frame” a culturally foreign product through the paratexts circulating around the film itself. All the materials included on a DVD can be used as external institutional constraints, as a cultural filter routing the viewer to a territory that is more culturally familiar and less discouraging.
I want to thank professor Peter Kramer for invaluable advices and patient reading of the text.
1. A "photographic history" of the studio was already published by Macmillan, who announces it as "beautiful photographic history of Working Title Films, the most successful international independent British film company of the last 20 years."
verified: Jan. 20, 2004.
2. Doris Toumarkine, "Box Office Title: Kodak Award winners Bevan and Fellner Makes Movies That Work." Film Journal International, July 9, 2004.
verified: July 9, 2004
3. Erinna Meztler, Philip Wickham, The STATS. An Overview of the Film, Television, Video and DVD Industries in the U.K. 1990-2001. BFI, 2003.
4. Four Weddings — U.S. gross: $52.7 mil.; overseas: $193 mil.;
Notting Hill: $116 mil, resp. $247.8;
Bridget Jones's Diary: $71.5, resp. $208.6.
5. Gramercy distributes pictures in the $5 to $10 million range produced by Polygram or Universal and tries to stay away from the blockbuster's summer months. See Tiiu Lukk, Movie Marketing. Opening the Picture and Giving it Legs, Hampstead Enterprises, 1997.
6. Lukk, 1997: 4-5. See also Sarah Street, Transatlantic Crossing. British Feature Films in the USA, New York-London: Continuum, 2002, pp. 203-204.
7. David Kosse, Universal's head of international marketing, in: "Makers of Notting Hill film hope for quick climb to riches," Alice Rawsthorn, Financial Times, April 24, 1999.
8. "...because [with] the seasonality of the movie, come the beginning of January it won't carry the same pertinence as it will before Christmas. [As with any picture] that has a Christmas theme to it, now you feel all warm and glowing about it [but] come the 26th of December you don't want to know about it." Tim Bevan in Martin A. Grove, "'Love' looms as hit for Uni," Working Title, Oct. 15, 2003, Hollywood Reporter.
9. David Kosse in Rawsthorn, quoted.
10. Peter Adee, U's marketing chief: "It's a calculated risk. But we really feel we're not in direct competition with Star Wars. We're a whole different thing. We really believe that every movie somehow finds its place." In "Grant vs. Goliath in summer gamble," Dade Hayes, Variety, Mar. 11-17, 2002, vol. 386, pp. 16.
11. See, e.g., PRANGE, Stephanie (2004), "Relationship Between DVD and Theatrical Closer Than Ever." In Video Store Magazine, Ap. 26-May 1, 2004, p. 2.
12. "It's increasingly common for DVDs to be used as promotional tools for entertainment franchises. For instance, Miramax Home Entertainment is streeting a special edition of Bridget Jones's Diary on Nov. 9 to hype the theatrical release of sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason 10 days later." Eliza Gallo, Video Business, Sep. 13, 2004, 24:37, p. 6.
13. E.g., Buena Vista Home Entertainment repriced Bridget Jones's Diary for their Valentine's Day promotion, and MGM does the same for Four Wedding and a Funeral. Dab Bennett: "Movies That Are Sweet for Valentine's Day." Video Store Magazine, Nov. 21-27, 2004, 26:48, p. 19; "Studios roll out romance for Valentine," Anon., DSN Retailing Today, Nov 8, 2004, vol. 43, p. 26.
14. E-mail correspondence, Jan. 20, 2005. The extras are sometimes provided by another company — for Four Weddings and a Funeral special edition DVD, it was Special Treats Productions. As Tammaro says, the brief is based on a few key factors in the case: the target audience, the tone of the movie; key themes resonating through the film, and director/talent involvement.
15. See e.g. the charts on videobusiness.com.
16. For the role of reviewers as cultural "framers", see, e.g., Ulf Hedetoft, "Contemporary Cinema: Between Cultural Globalization and National Interpretation," in Mette Hjort, Scott Mackenzie eds., Cinema and Nation. London-New York: Routledge, 2000, pp. 278-297.
17. Adam Dawtrey: "Passport to big B.O." Variety, Nov. 10-16, 2003, vol. 392, p. A4.
18. A Texan as the "quintessentially British" Bridget Jones was a highly discussed topic for the reviews and the reports related to the film. It seems clear that the rumor was welcome and supported as a marketing tool. See Daily Telegraph, Aug. 26, 2000 — Christa D'Souza interview, "Over Here, Miss Zellweger!," where Zellweger's alleged undercover work in the Bridget Jones's Diary's publisher Picador is described („Working Title ... felt that this experience would best equip her for the role"). Or The Times' Alex O'Connell, "The Office Secret of Bridget Jones," May 13, 2000: "The secret of an office's unusually classy 'work experience girl' was revealed yesterday. She was a Hollywood actress working undercover to prepare for the part of the English heroine Bridget Jones." The information is also "revealed" in the "behind the scene featurette," and Zellweger describes here the effort to assimilate herself and to became "English." These descriptions, highlighting and appeasing the worries about the cultural impropriety of a Texan actress, invoked the Robert De Niro-Raging Bull actorial myth so pervasively it can be hardly missed:
"She [Zellwegger] moved to England months before the shoot, worked with a dialog coach and maintained her British speech patterns throughout her stay, was employed by a publishing firm, and — in the best tradition of De Niro's Raging Bull — was reported to have gained over twenty pounds for the role. She became Bridget."
Dan Ramer on an U.S. web site, DVDfile.com.
19. He already has had a 10-year long history in British TV in 1994 and a few mildly successful films with a good critical acclaim (Improptu, Bitter Moon) — but he was far from having the international star status.
20. I would even dare to suggest that it is shame (as the leading affect of characters, reflected by viewers) that is one of the most pervasive "attractions" of these massively popular films. Shame, as an affect pervasively present in the times of the second modernity, "…tends to come to the fore as a feature of psychic organization." (Anthony Giddens, Modernity and Self-Identity. Self and Society in the Late Modern Age, Oxford-Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991, p. 69).
21. And of a flock of other books, not mentioned in the clip, with such fascinating titles as: How to be happy, dammit: A cynic's guide to spiritual happiness, or How to make your man behave in 21 days or less using the secrets of professional dog trainers.
22. "As a genre, they are tales dominated by a plucky heroine who searches for her place in the big city — usually New York, London or Los Angeles — while holding down a job in such trendy settings as advertising, fashion or media and often juggling a bit of romance … Hollywood has been thinking pink ever since Bridget Jones's Diary — the British best seller by Helen Fielding — became a worldwide publishing sensation and later a 2001 hit film, grossing $71 million domestically…" Borys Kit, Hollywood Reporter, Aug.26-Sep.1, 2003, vol. 380, p. 1.
23. Andrew Higson, English Heritage, English Cinema: Costume Drama since 1980. Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2003, p. 36. The exploitation of Pride and Prejudice — and its TV adaptation — by Bridget Jones's Diary (both in story and casting) is minutely described, in an academic discourse by Amy Sargeant: Darcy, Mark Darcy, and the Velveteen Rabbit in Anna Antoni (ed.), Il cinema e I suoi molteplici, Udine: Forum 2003, pp. 375-382. And the same is done, significantly, in the Featurette on both DVD editions.
24. Martin A. Grove, "'Love' looms as hit for Uni," Working Title, Oct. 15, 2003, Hollywood Reporter.
25. See, e.g., "It's Notting Hill, but not as I know it," Deborah Orr, Independent Review, May 20, 1998; or the Bridget Jones's Diary review in Guardian: "Richard Curtis's London, swirling with picturesque snow, is that weird imaginary place, that ersatz London-from-another-planet we saw in Notting Hill." Peter Bradshaw, April 13, 2001.
26. "Real life" dangers and promises for the Notting Hill locality are commented on by Richard Curtis in the British press: "I'm sure our film will contribute to the demise of Notting Hill as we know and love it and I apologize for that in advance. It will put Notting Hill even more on the map than it is already…" Dzifa Benson: "Local heroes of WII." Evening Standard, 17.2.1999.