Thursday, 2 December 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #640: Thoughts On CBS Films By A Smug Know It All

Welcome to the show folks...

CBS Films is having some troubles. Its latest release Faster, is going kind of slow at the box office, and in response to yet another under-performer the company is having a management shake-up.

I've written before about the CBS TV network's latest attempt at getting into the theatrical feature film biz. The original concept behind the company is sound. That concept is to produce and distribute moderately budgeted genre films to fill the increasingly vacant middle ground left between the mega-budget blockbusters, and the award baiting art house fare.

Now that I have that out of the way I have to be blunt, and by blunt, I mean savagely brutal. While the concept behind the company is sound, the company itself isn't sound, and it goes beyond the current night of the Sicilian vespers going on at the head office.

Let's look at the company's two biggest problems...


Now the folks at CBS, chiefly honcho Les Moonves, think that it's key that they slap the precious CBS "brand" on the company. Experts will tell you that it's an important selling point for the new business, but it's really mostly to get the CEO of the parent company a few pats on the back at the country club when the company with their "brand" does well.

However, sometimes a successful brand like the CBS TV network can harm a venture, especially a theatrical feature film venture.

Think about it, audience members see the CBS brand and they think television. They think of warm comfortable entertainment brought into their homes and enjoyed from the comfort of their couch. They do not think about theatrical feature films, and definitely
don't think of anything with the CBS Eyeball stamped on it as worth getting off that couch, driving all the way out to the multiplex and dropping some serious coin to see.

CBS would have been much better off calling this new company a completely different name. Maybe start with what the letters CBS mean... Columbia Broadcasting System. They could call it COLUMBIA PICTURES!


That name's already taken?

Dang it!

Okay, scratch that. There is still an entire universe of potential names for this new company that have a different branding than CBS. Someone, somewhere could have figured one out. Legend says that Universal Pictures got its name off a truck shipping plumbing supplies, and that Warner Brothers got its name from some guys who started the company. The point that I'm making is that this new company needed a new brand to get audiences to get off the couch.


Face it, I didn't even know that Faster
was being released into theaters until after it started having underwhelming ticket sales.

That's bad, because I try to pay attention to those sorts of things. If you're not reaching me, then you are definitely not reaching the sort who actually have the disposable income to buy a ticket.

Their movies can't directly compete with the big blockbusters when it comes to advertising. That's a given. However, they shouldn't even try. They can't spend their way out of this jam, but they can think their way out of it. I'm talking about looking for ways to promote the films that don't require mega-bucks spent in ad-buys. This can be done, other filmmakers and companies do it all the time. Study the successes and the failures, determine what they did right and did wrong, and form your own plan from what you've learned. It's a lot of work, but in the end it should be worth it.

Then they might be able to make this thing work.


  1. Take a look at CBS Films's official site and notice what's missing. Hint: it's a famous television symbol. I guess someone's listening.

  2. Hello Furious,

    Long time no chat. I actually knew Faster was being released, because they were promoting it with the movies on airplanes. So there you go. If you really want to know what is up and coming in Hollywood, you need to watch the movies on airplanes.