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Now more than ever, a bankable Hollywood movie star needs to have a large, engaged and highly active fan base that can be activated around new movie launches. That is what has helped make Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson the most bankable star in Hollywood these days.
The social media fee is a new form of compensation
For an upcoming blockbuster film (such as the summer 2018 movie “Skyscraper”), Johnson might get a total payday of $20 million. That includes an upfront fee for acting in the movie, as well as a cut of the profits if the movie does well at the box office. But now there’s a new wrinkle to the payday equation, and that’s the “social media fee.”
That’s right, Johnson has said that he will request a 7-figure social media fee for any future movie in which he appears. Thus, for the summer of 2019, when Johnson will inevitably appear in another blockbuster smash, he’ll get a minimum of $1 million just for tweeting, sharing videos, and engaging with fans on Facebook ahead of the launch. And it won’t cost Johnson anything. Fans are perfectly happy to see Johnson working out in the gym or enjoying a nice stack of “cheat day” pancakes, which he’d do anyway, with or without the fee.
The big difference here is that Johnson will become the first-ever Hollywood movie actor to get such a sizable amount of cash for just posting social media content. Actors and actresses, of course, have always been expected to make the talk show rounds ahead of a new film, or to hang out for promotional events starring members of the cast. But getting paid to post a photo to Instagram? That’s brand-new territory.
The business case for paying actors to tweet and post videos
So why are Hollywood studios apparently ready to acquiesce, potentially opening the door to every other actor or actress in Hollywood demanding the same? A big reason has to do with declining box office receipts. Film studios need blockbusters, and if they are spending $100 million to make a movie, they want to mitigate as much of that risk as possible. When Johnson, for example, can show that he has 108 million Instagram followers, or 13 million Twitter followers, or 58 million Facebook followers, that goes a long way.
You do the math – if half of Johnson’s 108 million Instagram followers are based in the United States, and if just 10% of them are willing to buy a full-price movie ticket at the box office (rather than waiting for the movie to come out on Netflix), that’s 5.4 million people paying approximately $15 a ticket, or close to $80 million. In other words, that’s nearly enough to cover the cost of the film entirely.
Another factor has to do with the sheer amount of marketing dollars involved. On an average blockbuster film, Hollywood studio execs might be willing to blow $100 million or more. Rather than spending that enormous amount of cash on billboard ads exhorting you to go to the theater, or spending even more on TV ads (which nobody will watch anymore), why not create a paid social media channel? In the grand scheme of things, paying $1 million to The Rock to activate his fans on social media sounds a lot cheaper and more effective than spending that $1 million on a massive TV ad buy.
The link between social media marketing and box office success
Johnson himself has said that social media is the “the most critical element” in marketing a movie, and it’s likely that other Hollywood stars will soon echo that sentiment. The logic is brilliant yet simple: the more critical of a role that social media is perceived to play, the more Hollywood studios will be willing to pay. And, for a bankable star like The Rock, who appeals to just about every demographic, getting paid a social media fee is increasingly being viewed as guaranteeing a huge box office smash.