Who makes the final decision on a movie's title?

Brian Perry

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I was thinking about this the other day during a discussion about the movie Random Hearts. To me, it's one of the worst/cheesiest names for a movie and probably turned off many people from seeing it.
Was it the producer, studio, director, or writer who chose the title, or a collaboration? What is typical?
I know in some cases the title is changed after marketing tests reveal problems. For example, the Bond film Licence to Kill was originally called Licence Revoked, which corresponded to 007 losing his authorization to kill. The problem was that research found that something like 50% of the public didn't know what the word "revoked" means, so it was changed to the universally known "kill." (At least they kept the British spelling of Licence.)
[Edited last by Brian Perry on August 21, 2001 at 10:51 AM]
 

Artur Meinild

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Don't know really, but worst movie titles must go to:
"Mystic Pizza" or "Headless Body in Topless Bar"...
Say CHEESE!

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Tim Raffey

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Most of the time, it's likely the screenwriter. Sometimes, it's probably the producer (maybe in Bruckheimer's case, where there really is no "screenwriter", just a bunch of collagists, or when test audiences show that the current title is confusing), and sometimes it's probably the director.
 

Mark Pfeiffer

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Mitty

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I always assumed these decisions were made by timid executives.
If an interesting title doesn't have a major best selling novel to brand itself to, the title seems fair game for meddling. Of course, there seem to be exceptions, such as with directors with an unusual amounts of power, who can exert control over such things.
How else to explain the interesting, but offbeat title Dancing About Architecture being transmogrified into the boring and saccharine excuse-for-a-title Playing By Heart?
 

Sam Hatch

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It's actually done by rebels deep in the studio system. All the titles are actually in a secret code. Once you attain your secret decoder ring, you can decipher what the title really means. Here...let's try!
"Vertical Limit"
*plays with ring* It translates into "Don't Waste Your Eight Dollars!"
Actually, I haven't seen it - but I remember seeing the poster in the theaters and commenting to my girlfriend that they may have well titled it "Awful Movie".
And there's the upcoming addition to the 'worst names' Hall of Shame -- "Jeepers Creepers".
And I still say Lucas should name the next Star Wars film "Jedi Joe and the Forcy Bunch"...
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DanR

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My total guees would be that the Legal Department gives the final OK.
Regards,
Dan
 

EugeneR

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My total guees would be that the Legal Department gives the final OK.
You're almost right. The legal dept "clears" for use a list of possible titles given to them. However, they don't make a decision on what the title will actually be, they just indicate what titles would/would not be OK from a legal standpoint.
 

Chad R

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It's the marketing department. Usually they will consult the director (the screenwriter rarely gets a say) and producers, but mainly it's marketing.
 

AdrianJ

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And there's the upcoming addition to the 'worst names' Hall of Shame -- "Jeepers Creepers".
I actually think this is a cool title for a horror movie. It was quiet a common term not so long ago and maybe shows that they will go back to some straight on horror without the comedy.
My question is how did a vampire film come to be titled "Wisdom of Crocodiles"? It did get changed to "Immortality" for video release which is kind of banal and non-descriptive.
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Titles do get altered after market research, sometimes because a title which will work well in one country won't work in another. 'Licence Revoked' was a case in point (incidentally, it was US audiences who didn't know what 'revoked' meant - Brits were quite happy with it). A more recent case is the first Harry Potter book and movie, which are known as 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' in the UK, but 'philosopher' had to be changed to 'sorceror' for the US market, because 'philosopher' was supposed to be offputting. Incidentally, there will be two versions of the movie - for the Brit market scenes will be shot with the characters saying 'philosopher's stone' and for the rest of the world, the same scenes will be reshot with the characters saying 'sorceror's stone'.
In other cases, titles get changed by chance. Supposedly, 'Tomorrow never Dies' was originally called 'Tomorrow Never Lies', but a typing error on a copy of the script led executives to think that 'Dies' was a better title.
[Edited last by andrew markworthy on August 25, 2001 at 05:11 AM]
 

Scott H

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As this thread, taken as a whole, should indicate, there is no exact answer. It is not necessarily the director or producer, nor the screenplay author. It is most certainly not the marketing dept, with any regularity. It may or may not be the book author, if based upon such. Etc. There is not a formal rule. It depends greatly on the provenance, and countless other influences and incidents along the way. It may very well be determined by the director and producer sitting in a bar, a long time before a script is even written...
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