Capote was always clearly a film meant to appeal to a more educated and selective audience, and finding that audience is not as easy as for the major releases. Traditional methods of promotion and marketing are still widely used, but television has become the centerpiece of every campaign, with the advertising blitz in the week or so before a film opens being the determining factor in the success or failure of the effort. Much marketing effort today goes into developing ancillary markets and product tie-ins of various sorts, all to help recoup expenses and, if a film is very successful, to cash in to an even greater degree. Capote also advertised on television, but not with the sort of budget that would be available for a major studio release. Marketing a film like Capote on television would have been very difficult a few years ago when the primary outlet used was to advertise on network television on Thursday night. This sort of pattern helped increase network income for high-rated shows like Seinfeld and ER because studios compet4ed to get their messages on that night for movies opening on Friday. A film like Capote could never afford to compete in that way.
However, network television has been losing audience, and while Thursday night advertising remains important, it has been complemented by other types of advertising on the Internet and on cable television. Indeed, cable television allows a film like Capote better to target its advertising to the audience believed to be most receptive. The advertising could be featured on cable stations like AMC (American Movie Classics) or the U.S.A. Network, with the ads appearing in shows that might have a similar audience. This audience is also more affected by good critical response, by certain awards, and by more literary appeals, given the nature of this movie and its main character. Print advertising also remains important for some films, and for this film, the pattern of advertising was considered unsual: "Since it opened, Capote ads have turned up in the oddest places, including The New York Review of Books and The New Yorker" (McNamara para. 6). This is a clear effort to reach the audience for the film directly, using both magazines for their more literate audience and asscoaiting with The New Yorker as the magazine where In Cold Blood excerpts were first published (and because former editor William Shawn is a character in the movie).
The targeted audience did respond when the movie was in art houses across the country in limited release, and a larger segment of the public responded once the film was in wide release and had received numerous awards.
Theatrical exhibition is still a vital part of the film business, but in many ways it has changed in terms of the importance accorded it. At one time, of course, theatrical exhibition was the only goal for producers, who reaped their profits entirely from box office revenues. This is no longer the case. In the 1950s and into the 1960s, producers discovered television and the fact that they could sell their old films to television and make money from an entirely new market. Theatrical distribution was still the primary source of revenue, with television seen as an ancillary market that could produce added revenues. Indeed, some producers found that they could use television to create their film by selling the television rights in order to raise the money to make the film in the first place. This method is still used with reference to cable outlets that may put money into theatrical production in order to have pictures for showing on cable at a later date. Cable indeed became the next major market after broadcast television beginning in the 1970s. Then came home video, which pushed ahead to become probably the primary ancillary market and, in time, the tail that wagged the dog.
This is because a lot of theatrical distribution and marketing today is geared less to making money in theaters -- though that is always a goal and a hope -- and more to making money later in home video. Over the last decade, the window between the time when a film is shown in theaters and the time when it appears on video has closed, making the lag time shorter and shorter. This has distressed exhibitors, who feel they are being used to advertise home videos while their own concerns are ignored.
A report from Ancaster Film Fest Surveys shows a high rating for Capote. There were 69 respondents in this survey who gave the film 12 ratings of 10, that being the highest rating ("Ancaster Film Fest Surveys"). Another indication of audience response today comes from DVD sales and rentals once that platform is reached. The window between time of theatrical release and time of home video release has been closing for some time, as noted, and this is the case with Capote as well, for the DVD was released in March, one month after the film went into wide release. By June, rental gross stood at $23.75 million, which constituted 82.6% of the box office for the film at that time (Box Office Mojo website). In its early release period, the DVD was one of the top-selling in the country, behind such studio product as King Kong and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The film was then eighth at Best Buy and 18th at Blockbuster ("Top DVD sellers: week ended April 2, 2006"). The film also received a high ranking for rentals during this early period.
The audience for DVDs includes many theatergoers but also many other people, and how they select what they watch differs. A large number of people simply follow what is considered hot, so they might rent or even buy Capote because it ranks high that week. This is difficult to characterize numerically. Another group seeks out films they have seen and want to see again, and these would be part of the original audience for the film. They might also buy the DVD for other people to share what they like with those people, and finding out how large this segment would be is also difficult. The overall size of the DVD market has been increasing each year and now rivals the size of the filmgoing audience so that DVD sales can be higher than normal box office. Capote is not the sort of film that sells in those kinds of numbers either in theaters or on DVD, but both sources of revenue were healthy, with ancillary markets and DVD sales ongoing far into the future. The Academy Award received by the film assures that it will be replayed on television and cable for decades and that DVD sales will be small but steady into the future as well. The size of the market can only be estimated, but certainly the film will continue to make profits for some time. A segment of the DVD audience will be attracted specifically by the subject matter, and purchasers of either Capote or In Cold Blood will certainly be made aware of the other film and may seek it out for that reason. This has already taken place with reference to the book, which was reprinted to coincide with the release of the film and which sold well because of the connection with many people who saw the movie becoming interested in reading the book Capote was writing in the film and deciding for themselves what he did with reference to the killers and their story. This sort of link is not uncommon, as paperback novelizations show, but this book and the film itself are both more literary than the norm and so suggest a better educated audience on the whole.
Capote connected with a large segment of the audience based on the quality of the film, the marketing approach that was used, the awards received, and a careful release pattern that built on reviews and word-of-mouth to bring in the public. The release pattern included the move to DVD and other markets, though to date, only home video has been providing revenue of any size, with television and cable showings to come. The film's success shows that it found its target audience and may have drawn many others along as well once the awards were announced and the quality of the film touted from the podium.
Ancaster Film Fest Surveys (Winter/Spring 2006). http://www.ancasterfilmfest.ca/Survey3.html.
Box Office Mojo (2006). November 14, 2006. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=capote.htm.
Capote." The Hollywood Reporter (12 Sept 2005). November 13, 2006. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001096151.
Capote,' Hoffman, Witherspoon cop top critic nods" The New Zealand Herald (9 Jan 2006),. November 13, 2006. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/event/story.cfm?c_id=1500860&ObjectID=10362949.