OK, what's up with Cloverfield's opening success? It's that damn YouTube generation. What are we supposed to do with the kids these days? Get off the comment button, I'm just kidding. I am inclined to take a look at what's happening here though. Was this a movie idea that honestly captured the imaginations of the audiences who flocked to see it or was this really about marketing? Did hand-held camera jitter make this thing look more authentic, using a cheap, (borrowed), and clichéd idea to it's best advantage, or is Cloverfield just the beneficiary of cleverly conceived and executed marketing? Has someone really leveraged the age gap of movie audiences to nail a number one? Perhaps there's something fundamental about Cloverfield's concept that made it an opening weekend must see so the "secrets" wouldn't be ruined when every high school kid who saw it went on talking about it all week in school. If there's a huge drop in percentages next weekend, that would certainly tell some of the tale, but my guess is J.J. Abrams and company owe a debt of gratitude to the marketing boys, the trailer design and the magical age of viral marketing.
On a weekend where second place went to the incredibly lame 27 Dresses, which made a distant but respectable 22.4 mil., modern marketing methods delivered an industry changing result that will influence and perhaps haunt the methods of marketers targeting young demographics for years to come, maybe forever. Cloverfield is all about the sell. Perhaps more than any film in history, this is a movie that expended more creativity, energy (and likely currency) on it's campaign to fill seats then to please those who wound up sitting in them. And once the seats were filled, the saturation of Cloverfield teases and "secrets" spread around the internet (from it's website 1-18-08.com to character MySpace pages, fake product placement and ficticious company websites) created such a bond with the audience, as to create a feeling that it was their friends who were up on the screen shooting home video of a real monster attacking Manhattan. Kind of like logging onto YouTube with a 40' x 90' screen. Cool.
Arguably more effective than any new 3D technology, J.J. Abrams has found a way to pull the movie off the screen and into the lives of his audience. In my book, all at the expense, or rather ignorance, of attempting to make a quality film. But that's entertianment. It may be very appropriate that this is the way the first big movie of 2008 debuts, with all of the hollowness and superficial promises of a political campaign that carefully crafts it's message to it's targeted audience in any meaningful way that snares more votes. The monster unleashed will be revealed when we see what's next.