Recommendations from friends and associates always have been a critical ingredient in building box-office momentum, just as negative word of mouth accelerates a middling movie's downfall. Yet the speed at which such assessments are transmitted has never been so fast, nor the effect — as Little Miss Sunshine is dramatizing — so profound.
Movie studios once felt confident they had at least two weekends to sell as many movie tickets as possible before toxic buzz would undermine their multimillion-dollar marketing campaigns. Hollywood executives now say that the proliferation of movie-related e-mail, Internet blogs and text messaging has reduced that window to mere hours, as the quick decline of last weekend's heavily promoted Snakes on a Plane proved.
It's a sad statement about the way things used to be, but uplifting to know that as consumers become more empowered communicators, quality movies, books, art and music have a better chance of rising to the top.
An executive from Fox Searchlight had this to say: "Instant communications technology has completely changed the role of word of mouth. Word of mouth used to be confined to cities. Now, thanks to e-mail, it crosses continents. It's revolutionized what word of mouth means."
Amen to that!