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Frame by Frame

Frame by Frame Video: Product Placement

Click here, or on the image above, to the see the video, with subtitles.

There’s a new video in the Frame by Frame series, directed and edited by Curt Bright, which talks about product placement in films. Here’s a transcript of my brief overview of this subject:

“Hi. I’m Wheeler Winston Dixon, James Ryan professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and this is Frame By Frame, and I’d like to talk right now about product placement. Product placement is something that’s becoming more and more common in movies, as movies cost more and more to make. You have to remember that movies in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s cost maybe … a big-budget in the 1980s would cost $12 million… $13 million. Today, a movie costs $100 million to make, and that’s for a small comedy, or something like that. So how are you going to make up this kind of money? Product placement.

I was at a studio this summer, talking to some executives, and they were saying that they aggressively go after product placement to put cars, soft drinks, food items… For example, Reese’s Pieces in E.T. suddenly took off like crazy. But the forerunner in all of this, oddly enough, is a film by Howard Hawks called Red Line 7000, which was considered at the time scandalously the most-sponsored film in history.

Product placements are something which adds additional revenue not just to movies but to TV shows, and there’s varying degrees of product placements. If you have something prominently in the foreground, you pay more. If it’s something in the background, you pay less. If you see just the side of the product, you pay even less than that. And if you don’t pay at all, the product vanishes out of the scheme. Merchandising has therefore become a kind of inescapable part of the movie process, particularly in the 21st century… not so much in the 30s and 40s and 50s… But now that the movies have become more of a business than an art form, product placement has become an art form in itself.”

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About the Author

Wheeler Winston Dixon

Wheeler Winston Dixon, Ryan Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an internationally recognized scholar and writer of film history, theory and criticism. He is the author of thirty books and more than 100 articles on film, and appears regularly in national media outlets discussing film and culture trends. Frame by Frame is a collection of his thoughts on a number of those topics. All comments by Dixon on this blog are his own opinions.

In The National News

Wheeler Winston Dixon has been quoted by Fast Company, The New Yorker, The New York Times, the BBC, CNN, The Christian Science Monitor, US News and World Report, The Boston Globe, Entertainment Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, NPR, The PBS Newshour, USA Today and other national media outlets on digital cinema, film and related topics - see the UNL newsroom at for more details.

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