The Marketing Genius Behind <i>Star Wars</i>

Ashley Boone worked his way up the ladder at United Artists to become the head of overseas promotion. He was hired away by various studios until he found himself at Fox in the 1970s, working to promote movies that others had trouble believing in. Boone was innovative: it was his idea to resurrect the failed feature film The Rocky Horror Picture Show by staging midnight showings, and he was the first to open a film at many theaters nationwide on the same weekend. Then came Star Wars.

The film had to sell $32 million ($135 million today) worth of tickets for Fox to recoup its investment, though it secured only $1.5 million in guarantees from theaters. But Boone started thinking outside the box. The summer movie season had always begun in late June, after schools let out. Lucas and Boone argued for opening Star Wars a month earlier, around Memorial Day, on just a couple of screens in big cities, betting that it could attract young people who would spread word-of-mouth while they were still in school. John Krier, then president of Exhibitor Relations, would recall: “Ashley was an astute judge of pictures. He said Star Wars would do over $200 million before anyone had seen the picture.”

On May 1, about three weeks before its release, a test audience was assembled in San Francisco, and Ladd, Boone and other Fox execs sat in the back row to monitor reactions. Boone Isaacs — who was working on another 1977 sci-fi film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind — also was there as Boone’s guest and, 43 years later, recalls the crowd’s reaction: “By the time that Millennium Falcon got across the screen, everybody was standing and screaming. I remember the guys — Laddie, Ashley and all of them — were kind of huddled together and hugging.”

Star Wars debuted May 25 in 32 theaters nationwide. According to Pollock, “Boone gambled by opening it on a Wednesday rather than the weekend and began shows at 10 a.m. in New York and Los Angeles. By 8 a.m., when the theater doors opened, there were long lines in both cities.”

Star Wars was only a part of Boone’s legacy, as many other films owe their success to his marketing ideas. Yet today few people know his name. Read the story of Ashley Boone at The Hollywood Reporter. -via Digg

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Source: neatorama

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