Random Factoid #303

27 05 2010

What’s in a name?  (And no, the answer is not “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” all you Shakespearean scholars.)

I was browsing the web as usual and reading some interesting articles.  One particularly grabbed me from the New York Times website, an article by Brooks Barnes called “Invasion of the Big, Scary, Long Film Titles.”  Here are some interesting excerpts:

Pity the high school students whose summer jobs involve changing movie theater marquees. Hollywood has come down with a serious case of title elongation. That is, if you can figure out the title at all.

Consider the latest “Shrek” movie, which DreamWorks Animation and Paramount Pictures released on Friday. Just what is its title, anyway?  “Shrek Forever After.” But billboards and newspaper ads seem to use another name: “Shrek: The Final Chapter.” More than a few theaters have just listed it as “Shrek 4,” perhaps running low on patience, or just colons … add in simultaneous 3-D offerings, and splice that into subcategories — “Shrek Forever After 3-D,” “Shrek Forever After: An Imax 3-D Experience” — and the listings become even more confusing.

Elaborate titles can bring danger. “The more a title describes the story, the less effective it generally is,” said Dennis Rice, a marketing consultant who has held top positions at Miramax, United Artists and Disney. “You want people to know what they’re getting. But you also want to leave them wanting to learn more.”

And in a very practical sense, wordy titles take up a lot of time in a 15-second television ad and a lot of space on a poster … none of these titles are selected without debate by studio executives and, in some cases, they are determined by focus group testing. With sequels, the strategy is generally to avoid adding a numeral, and to come up with a subtitle that makes the movie seem less of a rehash and more worthy of standing on its own … in some instances, long titles result from an eagerness of studios to piggyback on a brand that already has currency in the marketplace.

I can’t stand long titles, and if a movie has a long title, I try to find a way around saying the whole thing.  “Shrek Forever After” is “Shrek 4” in my jargon.  “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” is just plain old “Prince of Persia” to me.  And you won’t ever catch me even writing the unwieldy post-colon addition to “Precious.”