How Sony has sold the latest (albeit different) Spider-Man movie
Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse arrives in theaters this week with a lot of anticipation on a number of fronts.
First there’s the excitement of fans, who loved the first movie in 2018, especially for its varied and inventive animation styles, the emotional story it contained and the performances of its voice cast.
Second, there’s the anticipation of the movie industry itself, which has seen a number of big franchise films fall relatively flat at the box office in the last several months, leading to a significant amount of hand-wringing over whether the strategy that’s guided Hollywood and exhibitors for the last 15 years may be fading.
This movie picks up a year after the events of the original and finds Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) approached by Gwen Stacy/Spider Woman (Hailee Steinfeld) to help stop The Spot (Jason Schwartzman), a villain who can travel through dimensions using the portals his body is covered with. To do so they’ll also need the help of The Spider Society, a group made up of Spider People from across the multiverse, meaning just about every iteration of Spider-Man shows up at some point or another.
Brian Tyree Henry, Issa Rae, Jake Johnson, Amandla Stenberg, Oscar Isaac, Daniel Kaluuya and a host of others provide the voices for some of those and other supporting characters. Phil Lord, Christopher Miller and David Callaham wrote the screenplay and Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson directed the film, so let’s take a look at how Sony has sold it to the summer movie-going public.
announcements and casting
A Tweet from Sony in early October of 2019 served as the official announcement the movie was coming. It was much later, in April 2021, that a three-man directing team was announced.
Rae was added to the cast in June of that year.
A “first look” was released in December 2021 at Brazil Comic-Con. It shows Gwen making an unexpected cross-dimensional stop by Miles’ room, which is extremely embarrassing for him on multiple levels. After she gets him to come with her we see lots of animated craziness, including a brief appearance by Spider-Man 2099, that hints at what’s to come.
Lord and Miller were interviewed a short while later about the varying styles of animation the movie would feature, an ambitious undertaking available to them because of the multiple dimensions the story could travel to.
Unfortunately in April 2022 Sony announced that both this movie and the third installment were being pushed back by several months, moving this one from late 2022 to summer 2023.
A short while later Lord and Miller appeared at Sony’s 2022 CinemaCon presentation to offer updates on and footage from the movie, especially touting the size of the production crew and the number of characters that would show up. That presentation also came with the news this was “part one” of the second movie, with “part two coming later.
The villain spot was introduced in mid-June while the film was being promoted at the Annecy Animation Film Festival, along with the fact the character was being voiced by Jason Schwartzman. Kaluuya was announced as the voice of Spider-Punk in November.
In November of last year Lord and Miller talked about the varying animation styles being used in the movie and later teased where Miles and other characters are in their arcs as this second movie begins.
the marketing campaign
Sony kicked off the marketing of the movie in December, 2022 with the release of the first trailer (33.8m YouTube plays). It uses the framing device of a talk Miles is having with his mother and how much she wants him to be safe and loved in the world as he gets older to show us first a collection of scenes from the first movie and then a bit from this new one. Before it ends it establishes just how many Spider People we’re going to see and that Miles and Gwen will be butting heads with Spider-Man 2099 over the role of the hero.
After that trailer dropped Sony hosted a conversation with Lord, Miller and Steinfeld on YouTube premium where they dropped a few more hints about what fans could expect and how excited they were to share this new movie.
Miles is out in front of the collection of the others from the multiverse on the first poster, the primary purpose of which is to show off just how obscure the filmmakers got when selecting which versions of the characters to highlight.
That variety was again showcased in a series of symbols teased in mid-January.
More new images from the movie were revealed by Empire along with comments from both the directors and producer Amy Pascal.
In late March the studio drummed up some attention by creating Spider personas for a number of celebrities on social media such as this one for Kumail Nanjiani.
Also in March Sony announced a new short set in the world of the movies was scheduled to debut at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in June. That was accompanied by the news of a new mentorship program designed to foster young talent.
April started with another new trailer (40.2m YouTube plays). It more firmly sets up The Spot as the villain of the story, which leads to Gwen introducing Miles to the Spider Society, which leads to the philosophical conflict with 2099 and Miles’ determination to defy the odds and attempt the impossible.
Gwen, Miles and 2099 were added as emojis on Twitter after the trailer came out. There was also a number you could text to “join the Spider Society” and get updates about the movie, something that was promoted to those attending Coachella via billboards and other signage. A website also let you upload a selfie and get a custom image back of your Spider-Verse self.
Some of the cast were in attendance at CinemaCon 2023, where Sony showed off footage from the movie and executives hyped it to exhibition executives and journalists.
Miles and Gwen are both featured on the next poster, with the amount of other characters in the background slimmed down to just those that will presumably be focused on in the movie. Another came out to celebrate #NationalSuperHeroDay, this one showing the action reflected in the eyes of Miles and Gwen. A more traditional super hero design is used on yet another one-sheet released at the beginning of May.
A slimmed down version of the trailer was used as a TV spot debuting during a UFC match after tickets went on sale. Later there was an exclusive promo for ESPN’s “SportsCenter” with the hosts trying to outdo each other as the bigger Spider-Man fan.
Exclusive posters from IMAX, Dolby and 4DX all used some variation on Miles falling through the air as Gwen and the other Spider characters spin around him.
Additional TV commercials and pre-roll ads used more footage from the film showing not only the conflict at the heart of the story but also how Miles is still a bit awkward as a hero along with the relationship between him and Gwen. Some also offered more in-depth introductions to new characters like Jessica Drew and Pavitr Prabhakar.
Hyundai, which in June of 2020 signed a multi-film promotional deal with Sony and which launched a TV spot as part of a campaign more recently featuring music from the film’s soundtrack.
The first clip came out in mid-May showing Miles in the middle of a meeting between his parents and principal about his grades and attendance record. Another has Gwen explaining the concept of the Spider Society to Miles, who’s trying to show off in front of her. IMDb also shared one with Gwen, Miguel and Jessica saving a helicopter crew. More were released by other outlets or through official channels over the course of the next few weeks.
TikTok users could add a filter to their dance videos that put graphics in the movie’s style around them. Meanwhile Alexa users could get showtimes and purchase tickets by adding the Spider-Verse theme to their devices. Web-shooters and other movie themed costumes and quests were added to Fortnight as well. A Snapchat filter not only added effects but also music by Metro Boomin’ from the movie’s soundtrack while Giphy stickers allowed you to add some adorable versions of the characters to your photos and videos.
A series of individual posters offered better looks at some of the main characters, including The Spot.
Lord and Miller hosted a “friends and family” screening of the movie in L.A. toward the end of May, with the official red carpet premiere held a few days later. The producers, directors and other talent all talked about what was new, what was exciting and more.
A lyric video for Metro Boomin’s “Calling” capped off a portion of the campaign that heavily leaned on his work for the film’s soundtrack and sought to activate his fans for the movie.
Feeling hip and relevant is easy for the campaign as a whole given the people involved and the attitude they’re working to convey. And that’s the main point, to let the audience know this Spider-Man movie is loose and fun and emotional, not stuffy and over-filled with world-building details.
But mostly, it sells that the film has heart in addition to featuring incredible animation. That’s why it’s garnered such overwhelmingly positive reviews and word of mouth in addition to a projected $80 million opening weekend.