Does The ‘First Look’ Matter?

A question I’ve been asked ad nauseam over the last two years – How important is the ‘first look’ of a film? Typically, ‘first look’ today means the first theatrical promo and the associated poster design that is revealed when the film announces itself to the audiences.

My answer to the question has been generally non-committal. After all, not all audiences are exposed to the ‘first look’. So, if someone is ‘first’ exposed to your film through your second promo, that promo becomes the ‘first look’ for that person.

However, over the last few weeks, we decided to spend some time understanding this phenomenon better. We realized that for medium and low budget films, or films with a weak starcast, the ‘first look’ is a misnomer of sorts. The producers don’t have the marketing budgets to splurge on multiple campaign stages. And the reach builds up slowly, so there is no real ‘first look’ as such.

However, once we zero in on starcast films, or films which opened at Rs. 20cr+ opening weekend, we see a very interesting pattern driven by genre. We looked at the week-on-week Appeal scores of all the 20cr+ weekend films. Appeal refers to the ability of the campaign to convert audiences. For example, an Appeal of 64% means that 64 out of 100 audience said they will definitely watch the film in the theatre.

The table below shows week-on-week movement of Appeal for three popular genres – comedy, action and romance. The scores represent average of all the 20cr+ weekend films in that genre, over the last two years.

Appeal Comedy Action Romance
Wk -5 63 58 53
Wk -4 63 58 55
Wk -3 66 63 60
Wk -2 66 65 61
Wk -1 70 69 67
Wk 0 71 72 73

The findings are straightforward yet powerful. All three genres average roughly the same (71-73) in Wk 0. However, when you look at WK -5 (surrogate week for ‘first look’), you see a different picture. Comedy leads action, which in turn leads romance.

From Wk -5 to Wk 0, comedy shows only a 13% increase in Appeal, compared to 24% for action, and a staggering 43% increase for romance.

So, if you are making a (starcast-driven) comedy, you should be losing as much sleep as possible over your first look. And definitely testing it with the consumers before locking it. Because no matter what else you do thereafter, your Appeal will show only a minimal growth.

If you are making an action film, the first look is important, but life doesn’t end with it. And in case you are making a romantic/ youthful film, from the first look to the release week can be a different story altogether. So, a poor response to the first look should not deter you, just the way a great response to it should not make you complacent.

But why this difference across the three genres, you may ask. The answer lies is what we call the “drivers” of a film’s Appeal. Starcast is definitely a driver for all three genres, but that’s revealed in the first look itself. Thereafter, the drivers for the three genres are different.

For comedies, the tone & quality of the humor drives Appeal. For action, the dialogues in the action drama sequences drive Appeal. For romance, the music drives Appeal.

Humor connects instantly. So, if the quality of humor in the first look is good, its impact will be instantaneous. In contrast, if the humor doesn’t connect in the first look, it is unlikely that it will connect in subsequent promos. Hence, there is no substantial growth in Appeal for comedies.

Dialogues (action films) take about 2-3 weeks to grow and register. Hence, that genre requires one more round of promos focused on specific action scenes and dialogues to make their impact. In romance, music continues to grow till the week of release. Romantic songs (often slow) take their own time to build, and so does the film’s Appeal. It’s in the last two weeks that the real momentum of music comes, when the collective impact of television and radio airplay becomes perceptible.

So, here’s our recommendation:

1. Comedy films – Test your promo options and put the best lines in your first look.

2. Action films – Take your best 2-3 punchlines and include them in your first look and subsequent cut-downs.

3. Romance films – Test your music to decide which songs to promote and in which order.


About Shailesh Kapoor

Founder & CEO - Ormax Media. Film Lover. Media Insights Detective. Budding Author. Lifelong Student.
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2 Responses to Does The ‘First Look’ Matter?

  1. Nice blog…and being a great movie buff, I can assure you that First Look of a movie does matter.Take the example of Rowdy Rathore and Dangerous Ishq…Rowdy Rathore released its first look long back and they came up with various punch lines every now an then..and first theatrical trailer was spot on…it has got all the ingredients of a 70-80 Cr weekend….having watched the Telugu version already I could see this one breaking all previous records and Dangerous Ishq being opposite case..I did not like the first look at all..and it bombed at box office.

  2. Sunny says:

    Interesting analysis. But I disagree that music is more important for a romantic film because history shows that most ‘hits’ have had great music and that vice-versa is also generally true, funnily. More rationally, the audiences don’t step into the theater expecting to laugh for all 150 mins, or to watch a fight sequence that long. So a formula recommendation by genre may not be the right way to go – esp for Hindi movies of late, which are remakes of southern masala comprising 3 comedy scenes, 4 fight sequences and 5 songs. While post-release buzz is a big factor to draw audiences, bucketing promo content may cause potential first-week audiences to back away.

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