the forgiven – marketing recap

How Roadside Attractions and Vertical Entertainment are selling a story of class, privilege and justice.

The Forgiven movie poster from Roadside Attractions and Vertical Entertainment
The Forgiven movie poster from Roadside Attractions and Vertical Entertainment

The Forgiven, out this week in theaters, is based on Lawrence Osborne’s novel of the same name. Ralph Fiennes and Jessica Chastain star as David and Jo Henninger, a married couple traveling through Morocco to attend the party being thrown by their friend Richard (Matt Smith). On their way they accidentally hit and kill a young local with their car, but continue on to the party. With the help of Richard and the local police the incident is swept under the rug, but the father of the young man eventually arrives seeking the justice authorities aren’t interested in.

Written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, the movie arrives with a middling 74% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so let’s take a look at how it’s been sold to the public.

announcement and casting

Fiennes was attached to star when the movie was announced in mid-2018, but Chastain replaced the previously-cast Rebecca Hall in late 2019 at the same time Caleb Landry Jones joined. Smith and others were added in late 2020, around the same time a handful of first look stills were released.

The movie’s world premiere was held at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2021. Roadside Attractions and Vertical Entertainment partnered on a distribution deal a few months after the festival.

the marketing campaign

It wasn’t until mid-May that the first trailer (14k YouTube views) came out. Jo and David are on their way to a party when it opens, but before they get there they hit a man walking across the road. Taking him with them to avoid any police inquiries, things get dark quickly as the incident leads to a confrontation with the boy’s father, a blowing up of the relationship between David and Jo and more drama as those with power think it will protect them from the consequences of their actions.

“Everything must be faced” declares the poster released at the same time. David and Jo look out pensively from the top of the image while, below a few positive quotes from critics, the bottom shows their car pulling toward the location of the lavish party they’re attending. It doesn’t do much beyond selling the two stars in an interesting setting.

Chastain and others were in attendance at the film’s premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in mid-June.

overall

And….that’s it? No additional interviews with the cast, no cut down trailers, not even a few original photos from the premiere at Tribeca.

I never ever want to hear anyone ever again complain that Netflix is burying one of its releases with a lackluster marketing campaign, something that passed as conventional wisdom just two or three weeks ago.

It’s not that I don’t think Roadside/Vertical have faith in the movie, it’s just that they seem realistic about the film’s future and so didn’t invest a lot of additional effort.

Baz Luhrmann’s ELVIS – marketing recap

How Warner Bros. has sold a flashy non-biopic

Elvis movie poster from Warner Bros.
Elvis movie poster from Warner Bros.

If you’re familiar with the work of director Baz Luhrmann you probably know largely what can be expected from this week’s ELVIS, new in theaters. Luhrmann directs a screenplay from himself and others telling the story of rock and roll legend Elvis Presley. Austin Butler plays Presley as the action moves from his first forays into public performance through the years of super-stardom and more. Through much of that he’s managed/coached by Col. Tom Parker (Tom Hanks, under a metric ton of prosthetics and makeup).

It’s a simple enough setup, though in the hands of a unique filmmaker like Luhrmann you can be assured there will be plenty of flashy, unconventional stylistic choices being made. The movie also stars Helen Thomson, Richard Roxburgh, Olivia DeJonge and others as the people in Presley’s life, both personal and professional.

With one of the biggest names in all of popular music history as the subject matter, the marketing should be a no-brainer, so let’s take a look at some of the decisions the studio made while selling it to the public.

announcement and casting

The movie was oddly flying under the radar until March of 2020, when production in Australia was halted after Hanks tested positive for Covid-19.

In January WB announced a delay in release.

Hanks talked about the movie and his character briefly while promoting other projects last year. Harrison Jr. also briefly commented on the movie in mid-2021 while on the publicity tour for Monster.

Warner Bros. gave CineEurope attendees a look at the movie in October 2021.

Luhrmann teased a bit of footage from the film in November of that year to make sure audiences knew he was still working on it and was trying to do the subject matter justice.

the marketing campaign phase one: a rock star is born

The first trailer (17.2m YouTube views) was released in February of this year following a tease by Luhrmann. Narrated by The Colonel, it opens with a young Elvis sneaking into a tent revival where he’s overtaken by the sound of the music and the feeling it creates. Fast forward several years and Elvis is on stage, making girls go crazy with the sound of his voice and the shake of his hips. From there on out it’s a montage of clips from throughout Elvis’ career, including his ups and downs and even a few acknowledgements of where he stood in the middle of racial upheaval in that time. But it’s mostly about the flashing camera lights, the music and other spectacle.

At the same time the first poster came out, similarly setting the visual tone for the campaign with what looks like a rhinestone belt buckle as the title treatment.

In early April Warner Bros. confirmed the movie would premiere at Cannes in May. Later that month exhibitors and others got a look at the movie when it was part of the studio’s presentation at CinemaCon.

Luhrmann posted a video in mid-April talking about the music of the movie and offering a brief preview of “Vegas” by Doja Cat, with plans for the single to be released in full in early May. It was also revealed Kacy Musgraves was covering “Can’t Help Falling In Love.”

Butler, Luhrmann and others from the cast and crew were joined by Priscilla Presley at the Met Gala, everyone in their highest of fashion as the event offered a perfect venue for a movie with visuals like this. Musgraves also performed “Can’t Help…” here.

Priscilla Presley debuted an exclusive clip showing Elvis getting all the women in the audience worked up with his wiggle in early May.

A profile of Luhrmann had the director explaining why he felt moved to make this project and why it is not, and was never intended to be, a traditional biopic in structure. Butler was given a similar profile a short while later that centered on this being a star-making moment for the actor.

the marketing campaign phase two: family approval

Another positive endorsement for the movie came from Riley Keough, Elvis’ granddaughter, who not only praised the filmmaking and the story but said that watching it with her mother and grandmother had them all crying at seeing their family’s story on screen. She also said she hadn’t been interested in being part of the film since it was a little too close for her comfort.

Three new posters came out in mid-May, all of them featuring Elvis in different phases of his career, from the rockabilly sideburns to the black leather jacket to the white suit.

The second trailer (9.2m YouTube views) came out at the end of May. It opens with Elvis defying police orders to not be suggestive in his movements during a concert, of course leading to a confrontation with those officers but beginning the mythologizing of his persona. The focus here is on Elvis’ rebellious nature, which is presented as coming from a place of believing (and being told by others) that his gift is one that comes from God and that he’d be wrong to deny or hide it. Aside from that it sells the usual Luhrmann glitz and spectacle, which is the real point here.

A screening at the Cannes Film Festival cemented the positive word of mouth that had already been circulating, helped by a reported 12-minute standing ovation as the film ended. Another profile of Butler published in that period had him talking about how his body started shutting down after filming finished and how a call to Luhrmann from Denzel Washington helped him secure the role. The director also spoke about the racial elements not only of the film’s story but Elvis’ life, which he tried to put in context.

Costar Alton Mason, who plays Little Richard, was profiled about how he got into character and what it was like to work with Luhrmann.

Warner Bros. and British GQ hosted a special screening of the film in London where the cast and crew participated in a Q&A.

the marketing campaign phase three: the music

Warner Bros. released a tease of Musgraves singing “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” as the attention turned back to the music, including a performance by Diplo and Swae Lee of “Tupelo Shuffle” at the MTV Movie & TV Awards.

Butler and Luhrmann both talk about the challenges of taking on such lofty subject matter in a featurette that focused on the research and prep work they both did.

A red carpet premiere event was held in Australia in early June, a natural given Luhrmann and much of the cast hails from there. That was followed by a special screening of the film held at Graceland in mid-June with the director, stars and Presley family in attendance, another sign of the family’s endorsement of the film.

An exclusive poster from Dolby Cinemas came out at this time.

In an interview, Luhrmann revealed Harry Styles campaigned extensively for the title role but that the director was too worried Styles’ existing persona would overwhelm the character.

To help sell how Butler did his own singing in the movie Luhrmann released a video of pre-production test footage showing the actor singing and performing along with a small band.

Butler and Hanks both appeared on “GMA” to talk about the movie and Hanks received his own profile about working with Luhrmann and how things are going in his career and life in general. Butler later stopped by “The Tonight Show”.

Another special screening was held in New York City and once again was sponsored by Vogue.

That was followed by a featurette on the fashions and costume design of the film. Another had Luhrmann talking with a member of the group BLACKPINK about how she was inspired by Elvis and more.

Additional media appearances by the cast included Hanks on “The Late Show,” Olivia DeJonge (with Priscilla Presley) on “GMA,” Butler (again with Priscilla) on “20/20” and lots more.

Luhrmann and others appeared in an exclusive AMC Theaters interview video.

The Canadian premiere of the film was held last week in Toronto with DeJonge, Butler and Luhrmann in attendance.

The Presley family joined the cast and Luhrmann at the TCL Chinese Theater for a “Handprint and Footprint” ceremony.

One final trailer was released just today exclusively by Fandango MovieClips. It features a bit of new footage and a slightly different take on some story elements but fits largely with what has been seen so far. It also includes some of the praise from members of the Presley family to let audiences know this has been officially endorsed by them.

overall

As of now the movie is projected to bring in around $35 million in its first weekend, which isn’t at the same level some other recent high profile releases have grossed. Maybe that’s because this isn’t a super hero sequel, even though it’s about an artist dubbed The King for much of his career and who’s been recognized as the best-selling solo musical artist of all time.

So maybe the campaign just can’t make up the difference in generating audience interest despite Warner Bros. hanging the marketing on a few key elements:

  • Making a star out of Butler: He’s been positioned as a breakout here, someone who lost himself in becoming Presley for the camera. There have been countless profiles and other accolades for Butler, who is the lynchpin of the effort here.
  • Translating the music for a new generation: Instead of trying to sell people the Elvis originals of his recordings, the focus here has been on the more current artists that are reinterpreting and livening up those classics in a way that’s apparently meant to be palatable for younger listeners. Many of those artists have also been in attendance at various premieres and other events to help hammer home how integral they are to the finished film.
  • The Presley Family seal of approval: The studio and filmmakers want everyone to know this isn’t a hit job or critical look at the star (thought it might be less kind to Parker) and so the praise from three generations of Presley women has been used extensively in the last half of the campaign.

On top of all that I have a few questions/issues:

First: What’s the connection with Vogue that seems to be laced throughout the campaign? The publication hosted multiple events and published multiple profiles of Butler and others in the cast. It’s so constant and pervasive there has to be some kind of deal in place, but it’s never called out or acknowledged.

Second: Look at most all of the posters, trailers and other material and you’ll see “TCB” emblazoned on them, a reference to the name given to Elvis’ backing band in the 1970s. But that band is almost entirely absent from the trailers and isn’t called out in any way in other promotions. Not only that, there’s nothing about the campaign that uses “Taking care of business” as a slogan or tagline, so it’s a weird stylistic choice here.

It’s an intriguing campaign that sells Luhrmann’s vision very well and repeatedly hits a few key points but has a hard time otherwise resonating.

good luck to you, leo grande – marketing recap

How Searchlight has sold a story of discovering yourself

Good Luck To You Leo Grande movie poster from Searchlight Pictures
Good Luck To You Leo Grande movie poster from Searchlight Pictures

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, written by Katy Brand and directed by Sophie Hyde, stars Emma Thompon as Nancy Stokes, a recently widowed woman who is seeking to explore life after what turned out to be a lifeless, boring marriage. To that end, she acquires the services of a sex worker named Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) to do all the things she heard about but was never able to experience with her husband.

The movie is in theaters this weekend from Searchlight Pictures and has an impressive 95% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so let’s take a look at how it’s been sold.

announcements and casting

News of Thompson’s involvement with the project came in late 2020, with McCormick cast in the title role in early 2021, just before filming began.

First look stills came out in late May 2021.

It then was among the movies that screened at the 2022 Sundance International Film Festival.

Thompson, McCormack and Hyde were among those interviewed during Sundance about how they got involved with the project or what it was like to sign on such well-respected actors. Hyde also spoke more about handling post-production during the pandemic lockdowns.

Searchlight Pictures picked up the movie following that Sundance premiere. It then screened at Berlin where Thompson was again interviewed about the physical nature of her role and more.

the marketing campaign

Things finally got underway in mid-May with the release of the trailer (2.8m YouTube views). As it begins Nancy is greeting Leo and explaining to him all the things she’d like him to do with/to her in their time together. While there is some sex shown, what is clear is that the story has much more to do with Nancy letting go of a lifetime of inhibitions and negative thoughts with Leo’s help. It’s much more about intimacy and comfort than it is about orgasms.

At the same time the movie’s poster came out showing Nancy and Leo sitting on the floor at the end of a hotel bed, both in a state of mild undress. The slightly befuddled looks on their faces make it look like a slightly more broad comedy than the trailer, but that’s a small quibble. A couple positive quotes from festival reviews are at the top while the film’s release date is at the bottom.

The first clip that came out in early June offers an expanded look at Nancy going down her list of things to take care of with Leo.

TV commercials like this started running around the same time, with messages about how the movie is body- and sex-positive, featuring wonderful performances from both leads.

The cast and crew reassembled for a screening and Q&A at Sundance London a week or so before the movie was set to come out.

McCormick was interviewed about the process of auditioning for and getting the role as well as how he and Thompson worked to become comfortable with each other over the course of production. An interview with Thompson had her talking about getting naked in front of the camera and her experience with being offered “sexy” roles over the years.

overall

Acknowledging that everyone’s mileage will vary, I’m on board for anything Emma Thompson has done since Dead Again, so the campaign doesn’t need to work that hard to get my attention. And that’s not because of the sexual nature of the story, it’s just because Thompson is an acting marvel.

Emma Thompson Dancing GIF by Searchlight Pictures - Find & Share on GIPHY

But the campaign is still pretty good, emphasizing its sex-positive nature without feeling like it’s making a big deal about putting a 60+ year old woman in the lead, just letting Thompson own the screen as she is wont to do. And McCormick gets plenty of attention in a performance that’s garnered positive buzz and could take his career to a new level.

spiderhead – marketing recap

How Netflix has sold a drama of consent, punishment and ethics

Spiderhead movie poster from Netflix
Spiderhead movie poster from Netflix

Chris Hemsworth, Jurnee Smollett and Miles Teller star in this week’s Spiderhead, debuting on Netflix and in select theaters. Based on a short story by author George Saunders, the movie derives its title from a facility where convicts are sent to reduce their prison sentences by agreeing to participate in medical experiments. Hemsworth plays Steve Abnesti, who runs the facility and administers the experiments, which test new drugs. Smollett and Teller then play Lizzy and Jeff, two inmates who form a bond and, after discovering Spiderhead’s secrets, work together to outwit the experiments and experimenters to escape.

The movie is directed by Joseph Kosinski, who already has a hit movie in theaters in the form of Top Gun: Maverick. But that movie was shot in 2019, so this film – produced in late 2020, technically serves as Kosinski’s follow-up to the Tom Cruise-starring sequel.

announcements and casting

The cast and story outline were announced by Netflix in September, 2020, just as production was beginning in Australia.

The first footage came in January 2021, part of Netflix’s announcement of its ambitious feature film slate for the coming year but the release date was eventually pushed back to mid-2022.

the marketing campaign

It wasn’t until April 2022 that the campaign kicked off with the release of a first-look still from the film.

The trailer (5.7m YouTube views) was then released in mid-May. We get the context, that Spiderhead is a prison of sorts where Abnesti uses the inmates as subjects for drug testing and that Jeff is one of those being held there. Abnesti has a very lackadaisical attitude toward what’s going on, convinced it’s helping more people than it’s harming, but the kinds of reactions shown are often extreme in various ways. There’s not a whole lot more to the story that’s conveyed here, it’s more about setting the attitude and vibe of the film.

The movie’s one poster also came out at this time. The cast and location are both shown, along with copy asking “How far would you go to fix human nature”, which hints at the ethical lines the story will ask the audience to consider. Notably, the poster also calls out the movie as coming “From the director of Top Gun: Maverick and Tron: Legacy” so an attempt is being made to draft off the goodwill and popularity of those films.

Smollett talked briefly about this film in a profile that included her career to date and an overview of the many projects she has currently in the works.

An extended clip was released last week during Netflix’s Geeked Week showing Jeff and Heather, another inmate, being introduced to one another during one of the experiments. As the drug being tested takes effect their attraction grows to the point where they begin making out right there in the booth.

Abnesti narrates what seems like a promotional video for the Spiderhead facility, his calming voice talking about how residents are free to move around and enjoy various pastimes, but some of the footage is far less serene

overall

Netflix has come under some criticism for not promoting what should otherwise be a big deal of a movie, especially given how Kosinski not only has a good directorial track record but also one of the biggest films of the year in theaters now.

But the campaign the streamer has put together is about right for what it usually does to market its original films. And while there may not be a lot of muscle behind the effort, consider that

  • Both Kosinski and Teller have just been on the press circuit promoting Top Gun: Maverick, which given its massive profile surely took precedence when agents were negotiating which movies the talent was going to be available for.
  • Similarly, Hemsworth is about to embark on a publicity cycle for Thor: Love and Thunder.

There are some other small quibbles with the marketing effort here – Smollett isn’t featured very much, the stakes of the story are pushed aside for more about the unusual experiments at the facility – but the size of the campaign and the number of attention-grabbing moments likely have more to do with the fact that talent is being diverted than neglect on Netflix’s part.

lightyear – marketing recap

You…are…a…prequel? Sequel? Something different?

Lightyear poster from Disney and Pixar
Lightyear poster from Disney and Pixar

DisneyPixar get extraordinarily meta with this week’s new film Lightyear, coming exclusively to theaters. The movie stars Chris Evans as Buzz Lightyear, who…well, this is where it gets a little tricky.

This Buzz is the real life astronaut who inspired the action figure audiences first met in 195’s Toy Story. The story takes place about 10 years before the events of that film and follows Buzz as he and other astronauts seek to escape the alien planet they’ve been marooned on and find their way back to Earth. That crew includes Uzo Aduba as Alisha Hawthorne and later, after a bit of wibbly-wobbly space-time craziness, Keke Palmer as Alisha’s grandaughter Izzy. Taika Waititi voices Mo Morrison and Dale Soules voices Darby Steel, both fellow recruits working with Buzz. James Brolin voices the real Emperor Zurg.

Put another way, this is the live action movie released within the Toy Story universe that told Buzz’s story, a movie that then was turned into a line of toys etc.

The movie is directed by Angus MacLure, who cowrote the script with Jason Headley. With all that established, let’s take a look at how the campaign was run.

announcements and casting

The movie was one of several announced by Disney during its December 2020 investors presentation, but had been in the works for a few years already after MacLure expressed interest in telling a more definitive story of Buzz’s origins than had been shared in a 2000 direct-to-video movie.

That announcement included news of Evans being cast as the voice of Buzz. Waititi joined a year later, with Brolin, Efren Ramirez and Isiah Whitlock Jr. reported to also be cast in early 2022.

the marketing campaign phase one: to infinity…

Things started off in October, 2021, with the release of a teaser poster that doesn’t show much beyond the familiar space suit of the titular astronaut.

The first teaser trailer (14m YouTube views) was also released at that time. It doesn’t explain a whole lot but does tease a great deal, showing Lightyear taking off on a mission, flying his ship through various locations and ultimately seeing what would become his well-known suit at the very end.

It wasn’t until February that the full trailer (18.8m YouTube views) came out. This one explains how Buzz is taking off on a mission after he and others have spent a long time marooned on a distant planet. From there on we see the kinds of dangers he’ll encounter as he comes across an army of killer robots and other threats, all while accompanied by Socks, his robotic cat companion.

Another poster came out at the same time, this one showing Buzz striding purposefully across a tarmac where we see all manner of ships parked, presumably ready for action.

In March the movie came to the center of a controversy that was rocking Disney at the time, namely the issue of LGBTQ+ representation and related matters. As Pixar employees were planning a walkout over the company’s failure to denounce (and even support) Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, the studio took a small step in the right direction by restoring a same-sex kiss between Hawthorne and her partner that had previously been cut.

The movie was among those touted by Disney during their CinemaCon presentation in April of this year, with attendees getting a look at 30 minutes of footage that included the queer sub-plot that had caused so much controversy.

Another trailer (17.1m YouTube views) came out around that same time. It starts with Buzz testing a rocket launch after he and his team have been marooned on a planet for a year. But when he returns after what feels like a short flight he finds he’s been gone for 62 years. New threats have emerged on the planet and it’s up to him to lead an inexperienced team to defeat the bad guys and finally make it back to Earth.

The poster this time around has Buzz staring out into space.

Disney released a video right after that of Evans, Palmer and Waititi reacting to the trailer.

At the beginning of May a “special look” came out that seemed like another trailer but at the very least added some more context to the story that had been shared to date.

Another new poster added Zurg and some of those helping Buzz, including Sox, to the mix, the base the heroes operate from shown in the foreground. That same team is shown on a second one-sheet from mid-May, this time running into action.

Blue Apron introduced movie-themed meal kits at this point to attract parents of kids who may be interested in the film and want to have a meal inspired by it.

the marketing campaign phase two: go sox

TV spots began running in early June with commercials that focused on the heroic space adventures, the fuzzy cuteness of Sox and more.

Of course the first clip from the film was one showing Buzz unboxing Sox for the first time. Another, this one exclusively given to Fandango, has Buzz and his ad hoc team being briefed on their mission.

All this (and more) was part of a shift in focus by the campaign away from the core story and onto the characters, especially Sox. That was seen in some of the clips and other assets that made sure audiences knew that not only was Sox unbelievably adorable but that there was a diverse and interesting team supporting the title character on his adventures.

The main three stars then were featured unboxing some of the toys people can buy.

While the movie was being released theatrically, Disney+ got a documentary on the history of the character and how he was developed for the first Toy Story movies. There was also a featurette with MacLure, Evans and others talking about the origins of the story, including looks at the voice recording and introductions to the rest of Buzz’s team.

An exclusive poster from RealD 3D shows Buzz taking on Zurg.

Evans appeared on “Kimmel” to talk about the film and what it was like to add his own take to a well-known character, something he also spoke about a few days earlier at the movie’s premiere. He also weighed in on the same-sex kiss conversation while attending the Annecy Film Festival where the premiere was happening.

The next featurette shows the cast praising Evans’ performance as Buzz, something that was well-timed since this was about when various parties started calling out Disney for not casting Tim Allen in the film, the presumption being that his more conservative politics were no longer welcome at Woke Disney. Another offers a better introduction to the supporting characters by the actors who voice them.

overall

There are two stories being sold here:

First is the story of the movie itself, which given no other information is communicated to the audience as the story of the real Buzz Lightyear and how he gained a reputation as a legendary Space Ranger beloved by the masses.

Second is the backstory/context that’s been explained by MacLure and others to make sure nerds understand where this story fits in with the adventures of Toy Buzz after Andy unwraps him as a birthday present.

That second one isn’t found in the campaign proper but has been covered extensively in various interviews with the director and others, but it seems to be completely unnecessary to understand and enjoy the film itself, so only go as deep into those waters as you feel comfortable.

What’s on display here is good enough and will likely be more attractive to those with young kids who are looking for something to do with those kids now that summer vacation is fully underway. The mixed reviews that have given the movie an 82% on Rotten Tomatoes probably won’t dissuade them, especially if they themselves have fond memories of seeing Toy Story in theaters, contributing to what’s expected to be an opening weekend box-office take of $100 million, give or take.

returning to theaters en masse

It’s the new pesto…

At the end of last week Sony announced it planned to bring Spider-Man: No Way Home back to theaters September 2nd for the Labor Day weekend. Not only that, but this is a new “fan cut” titled “The More Fun Stuff Version.”

This edition reportedly contains new scenes as well as extensions of existing scenes. Considering the original release was two-and-a-half hours long, it will be interesting to see the running time on this new version.

The news comes just a couple weeks after Sony tried something similar, bringing Morbius back to theaters in early June after its initial April release, though the return added less than $100,000 to its existing domestic total, keeping it in the $73m range.

Listen Jared Leto GIF by MorbiusMovie - Find & Share on GIPHY

By contrast, No Way Home grossed $804m before going on to strong numbers on home video/digital.

Morbius’s rerelease was explained as a way to hopefully capitalize on the memeification of the movie, though that obviously didn’t turn out well. Bringing back No Way Home, on the other hand, seems more like being out of ideas.

sony’s currently glowing

Back in April Sony was the belle of the ball, credited for saving the box office thanks to hits like Spider-Man, Sonic The Hedgehog 2 and Uncharted. The studio topped that off with a “victory lap” at CinemaCon where it touted its success and reaffirmed its commitment to theatrical releases, a commitment that surely has little to do with it being the only major player without its own streaming platform. That’s why it has a deal with Netflix allowing the streamer to snatch up some titles.

The remainder of 2022 looks a little less optimistic, with July’s Bullet Train, September’s The Woman King and October’s Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Part 1 looking like the surest box-office bets. And since April theaters have been packed with audiences turning out for Doctor Strange 2 (Marvel/Disney), Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount) and now Jurassic World: Dominion (Universal).

twice as nice

Bringing popular (however you want to define that term) movies back to theaters seems like the logical extension of a business that has been in massive flux for the last two decades as studios evolved in response to changing consumer trends and preferences. It also appears to be a reaction to how the whole industry was thrown for a loop during the pandemic.

Theatrical attendance essentially zeroed out for a year and a half following March, 2020. In that time Warner Bros. went all-in on HBO Max, Universal, Disney and Paramount all experimented with streaming exclusives or hybrid releases and so on. And each time the studios genuflected in the direction of theater chains and promised they were still the prettiest in the room.

As people started coming back to theaters it became clear that franchises, sequels and other existing IP were cementing their dominance in the world of ticket sales. Yet at CinemaCon there seemed to be agreement that tentpoles alone couldn’t keep theaters afloat and that a broad-range of mid-level features were needed.

they’re back…again

If rereleasing major titles becomes a trend adopted by other studios, the idea that there’s any serious commitment to anything less than blockbusters becomes even more difficult to swallow. Such rereleases used to be exceedingly rare, saved only for titles like Avengers: Endgame that were major events. If this tactic is more widely adopted then it becomes less “satisfying public demand” and more “we just want to supplement home video revenue and fill a hole in our release schedule.”

The test, to my mind, will be if titles like Top Gun: Maverick and Jurassic World: Dominion are back on the big screen in two or three months. Right now, as stated earlier, Sony seems to be the only studio actively doing this, but if another joins in we will officially have a trend.

And then all best are effectively off, as box-office totals become less a moment in time and more a moving target studios can impact at will.

hustle – marketing recap

How Netflix has sold another dramatic Adam Sandler turn.

Hustle movie poster from Netflix
Hustle movie poster from Netflix

Adam Sandler plays Stanley Sugerman, a talent scout for the Philadelphia 76ers, in Hustle, new on Netflix now. While on a recruiting trip in Spain, Sugerman comes across an unknown talent named Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangómez). When the 76ers aren’t interested in Cruz, Sugerman leaves the team to get the player ready for the draft. Helping him out are his wife Teresa (Queen Latifah) and others.

Robert Duvall, Ben Foster, María Botto and others also star while a handful of real life NBA players make appearances as themselves to add authenticity to the story.

This is just the latest film Sandler has produced and starred in for Netflix, a batch that includes dramas such as Uncut Gems along with lots of the comedies Sandler is well known for. So let’s take a look at how it’s been presented to audiences.

announcement and casting

The project got off the ground in mid-2020 when Sandler signed on. Netflix had acquired the project with Jeremiah Zagar directing a script from Taylor Materne and Will Fetters.

Latifah, Foster, Duval, Bottol and others joined the cast over the last half of 2020.

Netflix released some stills of the cast in October of last year, revealing some of the story points at that time.

In an interview from August of last year, Sandler revealed that Netflix – famous among filmmakers for staying out of production and not sending overly-prescriptive notes – requested part of the script be changed from China to somewhere in Europe because the company doesn’t operate in the former country.

the marketing campaign

Things got started in February with the release of the teaser trailer (2.4m YouTube views). The framing of the trailer is a pep talk Sugerman is giving Cruz about needing to love the game and be obsessed with being the best in order to succeed. While that’s happening we see lots of footage of Cruz on the court and training, sending the message that there will be lots of inspirational montages and other footage as we’re shown how hard he’s willing to work.

We get more of that in the full trailer (4.4m YouTube views), released in May. As it opens, Sugerman is a bit frustrated at being stuck as a scout when his dream is to coach a professional team. His enthusiasm upon finding Cruz is squashed when the team owner says Cruz doesn’t have a shot. So he takes it on himself to train him and after some rough patches things seem to be falling into place, meaning both men may be able to achieve their goals.

The movie’s one poster, which just shows Sugerman sitting on the bench as the blurry bodies of players run past him, also came out at the same time.

Sandler, Latifah and others all spoke at the movie’s recent Hollywood premiere about how they got involved in the project, what it was like to film all those basketball sequences and more.

An interview with Zagler had him talking about preparing for production, including how to best shoot all that basketball action, and what kind of movies he used as sources of inspiration.

That same speech used in the teaser trailer of Sugerman explaining how much he loves the game and how hard Cruz is going to have to work was released on its own as a clip.

Latifah stopped by “Kimmel” to promote the film while Sandler made the rounds of “Kimmel”, “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night” to do likewise while also engaging in some of his usual pranks and such.

There are plenty of pull quotes praising the film – and especially Sandler’s performance – in an extended spot released just the other day. It plays like the second trailer, just arranged a bit differently for a different kind of dramatic impact.

overall

Despite the fact that he’s now established a decent track record of dramatic roles, anytime Sandler steps out of his comedic comfort zone it becomes the centerpiece of that movie’s campaign and this is no exception. That’s powered to a large degree by the reviews that can’t help comparing his performance here to those from his lackadaisical efforts with Kevin James, David Spade and others.

But the marketing itself is pretty solid here, establishing a tone for the movie that’s consistent throughout the campaign. So it works, especially if the goal is to attract the same crowd that gravitated toward Uncut Gems and other similar titles.

jurassic world dominion – marketing recap

How Universal has sold the end of another dinosaur trilogy.

Jurassic World Dominion movie poster from Universal Pictures
Jurassic World Dominion movie poster from Universal Pictures

Jurassic World Dominion has an ambitious goal: Not only does it set out to conclude the trilogy of films begun in 2015 when director Colin Trevorrow brought us back to a world of genetically-resurrected dinosaurs but also put a cap on the sextology begun by director Steven Spielberg all the way back in 1993.

Picking up four years after the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, this one takes place in a world where colons no longer exist dinosaurs have proliferated across the planet, upsetting the balance of nature.

Details of the story are relatively inconsequential, as the movie’s cast provides its major selling point. Not only do Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return from the first two World films, but the core trio from the first films – Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum – all come back for the first time since the 1993 original. Oh, and of cours BD Wong once more reprises his role as Dr. Henry Wu, the scientist behind the mistakes made by so many other people.

Joining the cast are DeWanda Wise, Mamoudou Athie, Campbell Scott and others. But unfortunately Lauren Lapkus, Wayne Knight and Jake Johnson are nowhere to be found.

So, with all of that established, let’s take a look at the marketing campaign.

announcement and casting

While the movie was still a ways off from production, in September 2019 Universal released “Battle at Big Rock,” a short video directed by Trevorrow that showed what life in a dinosaur-filled country was like. The story was meant to fill in at least some gaps between Fallen Kingdom and the third film.

A short while later it was revealed this new movie would not only bring back Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm but also have Sam Neill and Laura Dern return to the franchise for the first time since Jurassic Park III.

In February of 2020, Trevorrow marked the first day of filming with a photo that also revealed the movie’s subtitle.

Pratt spent some of his time on the Onward press tour building anticipation for this film.

The movie was one of many to have its production put on hiatus because of the Covid-19 outbreak. A big deal was made when shooting restarted in July with safety precautions in place but the Malta-based production had to scale back in August due to another outbreak in that country. In October Universal moved the movie’s release date out an entire year because of continued production delays as well as the uncertainty still plaguing the U.S. theatrical market.

Neill made his return official with a post at the beginning of August.

In an interview in May, 2020, producer Frank Marshall clearly stated this was just the beginning for even more stories and not the end of a trilogy as some had suspected.

Reports came out in June that a fan-favorite character from the first Jurassic Park would be returning in this story.

Goldblum talked about not only making another appearance in the franchise but also reuniting with Neill and Dern when he was on “Late Night” in August. A bit later there were additional interviews with Goldblum on his own and with Neill.

In an interview with EW, Trevorrow talked about why he felt motivated to return for the series’ final installment and what he thought fans could look forward to.

Neill talked more about shooting the movie, including the Covid accommodations that had to be made, here.

The final day of filming was announced once again by Trevorrow, with details coming out later that over 40,000 Covid tests were used during production along with a raft of other safety protocols and challenges.

the marketing campaign phase one: we spared no expense

Universal announced in June 2021 that a special sneak preview of the movie would screen in from of IMAX showings of F9, giving it what was expected to be a massive platform. Trevorrow was interviewed about that footage, promising this movie would be the culmination of everything that had come in the five previous installments.

A commercial promoting that footage’s IMAX-only availability was released as F9 was hitting theaters.

Around the same time there were promotions of the new “VelociCoaster” ride at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure theme park, including revelations there would be easter eggs from the new movie sprinkled around the ride that would hint at what fans could expect.

Universal gave CinemaCon attendees in August of last year a look at footage from this and other upcoming movies.

the marketing campaign phase two: it’s a unix system

Things got started again in November, 2021 when Universal released the five minute “prologue” footage that had earlier been shown in front of F9’s IMAX screenings. Trevorrow made it clear at that time that the footage had originally been intended to be this movie’s opening sequence but had been cut during the editing process.

There was also a poster to promote this video.

The director was interviewed about uniting the casts of the new and old trilogy while introducing some of the new dinosaurs in Total Film along with a couple of new photos. He also commented on the kind of story audiences could expect alongside another exclusive new photo.

In January U.S. ski racer Mikaela Shiffrin shared a Universal Pictures/Winter Olympics cross-promotional commercial showing her trying to outrun a velociraptor. Completing the corporate synergy trifecta, Shiffrin then talked about the commercial when she appeared on “Today.”

Another commercial featured Shaun White.

Marshall confirmed that, of course, this was not the end and that the franchise would continue after this trilogy finale.

the marketing campaign phase three: hold onto your butts

The campaign finally for real kicked off in February with the release of the first trailer (53.6m YouTube views). It starts off by showing how dinosaurs are now something people face in their everyday lives, though that has had disastrous consequences for them and the environment. After we see the reunion of Drs. Sattler and Grant we’re off to the races, with lots of running and escaping from various dinos until the end, when all the principles from the entire franchise are assembled in front of a T-rex.

The poster that came out at the same time puts the familiar franchise logo in a circle of amber while promising this is “The epic conclusion of the Jurassic era.”

Because the Super Bowl was broadcast on NBC it provided Universal with another chance at cross-promotion, so Pratt narrated a video introduction to the game that used the movie’s music, text style and more. Goldblum also appeared in a bit at Universal Studios.

An exhibit that mixed movie promotion with a little actual science opened at the National Western Center in Denver. It featured animatronic dinosaurs, a recreation of the lab from the first movie and more Instagrammable moments.

Both Pratt and Howard participated in the launch of a competition encouraging young artists to design a new ratings card for the British Board of Film Classification.

A pair of Empire covers featured both casts for an issue that contained a handful of new images, comments from the cast and director and more.

A featurette released in mid-April explores the legacy of the six-part series, with the cast talking about how things have progressed to this point and how this is them throwing everything against the wall to finish the story off.

the marketing campaign phase three: must go faster

In late April the next trailer (29.1m YouTube views) came out. This one starts off with Owen meeting Blue’s baby raptor, a baby that’s soon grabbed by hunters. From there the chaos starts as the heroes have to evade a series of bigger, more feathery and more dangerous dinosaurs because somehow riding a motorcycle will somehow save the world from disaster.

The same tagline is used on the next poster, but this time all seven of the primary cast members are shown, the new cast at the top and the older trio at the bottom.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar starred in a commercial that aired on ESPN.

In the first of many such pieces, Neill, Dern and Goldberg were jointly interviewed about reuniting and how easy it was for them to fall back into step after so many years, largely because they’ve remained friends.

Traditional TV advertising began around this time, with spots that hit all the main selling points seen in previous trailers and other material.

Barbasol announced it would release movie-branded cans of shaving cream in the payoff to a joke that’s almost 30 years old.

Additional promotional partners included:

  • Dr. Pepper, which offered movie tickets, a t-shirt and more to Rewards members who earned sufficient points.
  • General Mills, which put dinosaurs and other movie branding on packages of cereal, snacks and more.
  • Kinder, which did likewise.
  • Ferrara, which partnered with Fandango to offer movie cash and a chance to win other prizes in a sweepstakes requiring purchase of certain candy products.
  • Progressive, which used footage from the “Prologue” in a commercial assuring those having their cars destroyed that all the damage was covered.
  • China Glaze, which launched a line of movie-inspired cosmetics.
  • Carl’s Jr./Hardees, which offered a selection of items in movie-branded packaging for just $.93 to celebrate the 1993 release of the original film.

A T-rex is seen in the darkness on the IMAX poster released at the end of April. IMAX later announced a special live Q&A with “special guests” that was scheduled for just before the movie opened.

Howard and Goldblum appeared together at CinemaCon 2022 as part of Univeral’s presentation to exhibitors and other executives/press.

Pratt appeared on “Today” and “The Tonight Show” to start promoting the film around the time tickets went on sale. That “Today” spot included the unveiling of a giant LEGO T-rex statue.

He then introduced a featurette that explains the film’s premise, with Trevorrow and others weighing in as well.

The Dolby Cinemas poster features an image from the trailer of Owen motorcycling away from a pack of raptors.

A short behind-the-scenes video shows Pratt and Howard meeting and interacting with Neill and Dern for the first time on set.

the marketing campaign phase four: woman inherits the earth

Dern, Howard and Wise were interviewed about the importance of female characters to the franchise, a theme that would come up a number of times in the last bits of the campaign. Those three, along with Isabella Sermon, then appeared in a featurette all talking about the same thing and paying tribute to Dern’s original turn as Ellie Satler.

Trevorrow and some of the cast were in attendance at a premiere event in Mexico City. Howard, Dern and others later took part in a similar event in Germany.

Around this time there was an interview with Dern and Neill that highlighted something that didn’t register with a lot of people back in the day, which is that she’s 20 years younger than Neill but that despite that the two were established as a romantic couple in the first film.

In late May the movie was featured on the cover of Total Film, with exclusive interviews and photos in the issue.

The two casts squared off in a trivia quiz testing their knowledge of the series.

NowThis debuted exclusive footage that showed more of the real world implications of having dinosaurs roaming around.

Jeep once again signed on as a promotional partner, sharing a TV commercial showing how versatile a Jeep can be in a world overrun by dinosaurs.

A TikTok filter let people put themselves in a situation where they’re being chased by virtual dinos.

The cast appeared in an exclusive interview for AMC Theaters. Trevorrow talked about bringing the franchise to a close in an exclusive interview with Dolby.

Pratt, Goldblum and Neill were all interviewed about the importance of father figures to the story and how that’s reflected in their own families.

Finally everyone was out for the world premiere in Los Angeles earlier this week.

overall

Tracking has the movie opening with about $50 million this weekend, which might be enough to finally dethrone Top Gun: Maverick from its impressive showing.

But the paltry 42% Rotten Tomatoes rating hints that this one may not have the legs of that other sequel and may fall quickly to both the highly mixed reviews to date and what might not be great word of mouth from opening weekend audiences.

Despite all that, the campaign has been some fun, especially in seeing the easy rapport of Dern, Goldblum and Neill. The problem is that it stands in marked contrast to the forced chemistry of the other stars.

So you have a campaign that leans heavily on nostalgia but doesn’t do much to alleviate the concerns of those who thought the second World movie was a mess. But it did give us this moment, and that’s not nothing.

Lauradern GIF by Jurassic World - Find & Share on GIPHY

crimes of the future – marketing recap

How NEON sold a unique film from a unique filmmaker

[editor’s note: Yeah, this came out last week. I know…]

Crimes of the Future movie poster from NEON
Crimes of the Future movie poster from NEON

Crimes of the Future is the latest film from writer/director David Cronenberg. The movie, in theaters now, stars Viggo Mortensen as Saul Tenser, a man who in the near future has developed the ability to grow vestigial organs inside his body. He and his partner Caprice (Léa Seydoux) remove those organs as part of their performance art while also working with the anti-evolution government. That brings them in contact with an investigator named Timlin (Kristen Stewart).

The story crafted by Cronenberg is one of government surveillance, environmental catastrophe and more. Tanaya Beatty, Scott Speedman and others also star, so let’s take a look at how NEON sold the film.

announcement and casting

Cronenberg has been working on the project for roughly a decade, though nothing ever came of it.

It wasn’t until early 2021 that things seemed to be picking up, with Mortensen saying he was reuniting with the director he’d worked with on three previous films. With it officially underway, Stewart and Seydoux were cast.

Stewart spoke briefly about the movie and its futuristic setting while doing press for Spencer toward the end of 2021.

the marketing campaign

The campaign kicked off with the release of the first trailer (586,000 YouTube views) in mid-April. It’s full of disturbing images of a young boy eating a plastic garbage can, various things being inserted or removed from people’s bodies and so on, all of coming off as extremely off-putting but intriguing.

The poster released at the same time offers little additional context, just showing Tenser in his special bed and just making it clear that this movie comes “From the mind of David Cronenberg”, a statement that should immediately either attract or repel audiences.

It was then that the Cannes Film Festival revealed the movie would make its premiere in competition at the event.

Cronenberg made his first-ever appearance at CinemaCon in 2022 to tout the film and show distributors and others the first trailer.

A week or so later NEON announced an early June release date.

That announcement was accompanied by a new red-band trailer (1.6m YouTube views) that’s even more weird and disturbing than the first. We get a bit more background about how the changes happening in Tenser’s body are a danger to the government, all while seeing the kind of surgeries that take place to unlock these new organs he and others are developing. Then there’s the line that got everyone’s attention, Timlin whispering “Surgery is the new sex.”

The poster that dropped at the same time upped the creepiness factor with an image of a human torso with multiple incisions or other entry points cut into it.

A profile of Seydoux allowed the actor to talk about her experiences at previous Cannes festivals, her career to date and how all of that led her to work with Cronenberg on this film.

How the project took so long to develop, the changes that came about because of shooting during the pandemic and more were covered in an interview with Cronenberg just ahead of Cannes.

A third poster has all three leads shown in three giant slashes that trail down to the bed Tenser uses to manage his pain.

TIFF announced its Bell Lightbox event at the end of May would host the movie’s North American premiere.

A series of clips showing a moment between Tenser and Timlin, a tense conversation between Tensor and Caprice and the much-noted “surgery is the new sex” scene came out in the middle of May. Another shows the bed-aided surgery performance Tenser undergoes.

Those were followed by character posters of Tenser, Caprice and Timlin.

Short promo clips/TV spots/streaming ads came out at that time that offer cutdown versions of the trailers, but without some of the more disconcerting elements.

At this point the cast and crew all assembled in Cannes for the red carpet event, with the subsequent screening generating rapturous applause and a standing ovation from the audience. There were also much-reported walkouts from those apparently disgusted by what they were seeing.

Additional interviews with Cronenberg and Stewart had both of them talking about the themes of the story, working with each other and more.

More commercials kept coming out that chopped up the same handful of clips in various ways.

The TIFF screening included a Q&A with the cast and crew about making the movie and exploring disfigurement and other body-related topics.

Three additional screenings in Los Angeles were scheduled for the week leading up to the movie’s opening to get people buzzing about the film.

Mortensen and Cronenberg talked about the film’s production in a joint interview while the director explained that sometimes the cast didn’t even fully understand what was going on during filming.

There were occasional graphics like this that featured additional imagery accompanied by a positive comment from a critic or fellow high-profile filmmaker.

overall

As stated before, much of the campaign will almost immediately either make people immediately put it on their list of movies they must watch or make sure they avoid anything and everything related to it. The repeated use of “Earman” in much of the campaign in the last few weeks likely only reinforced that.

But it’s the talent that forms the crux of the marketing’s appeal. Seydoux, Stewart and Mortensen are all major assets here, bringing their own reputations with them. And the marketing shows off their performances to increase whatever attraction the audience might already have.

top gun: maverick – marketing recap

How Paramount has sold an unexpected but long-awaited sequel

Top Gun: Maverick movie poster from Paramount Pictures
Top Gun: Maverick movie poster from Paramount Pictures

The original Top Gun was released 36 years ago, launching Tom Cruise into the realm of super-stardom and inspiring a generation to fantasize about taking F-14s as high as they can go, debate Meg Ryan versus Kelly McGillis (there’s no wrong answer) and seek out the best pair of aviator sunglasses around.

A sequel should have been an instant no-brainer, but we had to wait nearly four decades before the stars aligned, with Top Gun: Maverick hitting theaters this weekend.

Cruise returns as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, still a hotshot who’s spent years avoiding promotions so he can keep flying as a test pilot. When former rival Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer), now an admiral, needs someone to train a group of pilots for a specialized mission he calls on Maverick to give them the edge they’ll need. One of those pilots happens to be Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick’s former radar officer and best friend Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, who died in the first film.

Additional pilots are played by Glen Powell, Monica Barbaro, Danny Ramirez and others, with Jon Hamm playing Vice Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson, who’s skeptical of Maverick’s abilities and presence on the base. Jennifer Connelly also joins the cast as Penny Benjamin, a character only referenced in the first film as the admiral’s daughter Maverick had a fling with.

With Joseph Kosinski directing, let’s take a look at how it’s been sold.

announcement and casting

Rumors and reports had circulated for a while but a Tweet from Cruise in May 2018 seemed to confirm that the movie was actually happening and might even be in production. That was followed shortly by news that Kilmer would return in his role.

Late 2018 saw Cruise post a video from the movie’s set featuring him talking about motion-smoothing on modern TVs and how it distorts the viewing experience. It wasn’t specifically about the movie, then, but because he was wearing a flight suit in the video it certainly helped remind people it was in production.

In a surprise move, Paramount included about two minutes of footage in its CineEurope presentation to exhibitors in 2018.

Part of the story was confirmed by the much-hyped search for an actor to play Goose’s son, a role eventually nabbed by Teller. Cruise also spoke about the movie early on while promoting other projects, including a stop on “Kimmel” during the Mission: Impossible – Fallout publicity cycle, also in 2018.

Teller spoke about the challenges of working with Cruise – namely keeping up with the older actor – while promoting “ Too Old To Die Young” in 2019.

the marketing campaign phase one: I’m going to need a beer to put these flames out.

The first poster (by marketing agency Concept Arts) debuted in July 2019. Surprisingly, it doesn’t feature Cruise’s face but instead shows the back of Maverick’s jacket, decorated in service patches, as he looks out of a hanger while a jet cuts through the sky in the background.

Familiar music plays as the first trailer (37.6m YouTube views), released in July at San Diego Comic-Con, begins. In addition to lots of footage of fighter jets performing incredible maneuvers, the focus is on how Maverick is still undeniably Maverick, unable to conform to the system to the extent he’s been passed over for promotion many times in the last 30 years. This despite the medals and accomplishments he’s racked up in that time. There are shots that invoke scenes from the original, including Maverick racing a jet on his bike and a scene of sweaty, shirtless men playing football, all meant to amp up the nostalgia factor in the audience.

One notable change from the first movie is the footage shot via cockpit cam showing Cruise behind the stick of the fighter. That’s a continuation of the approach taken for other movies with the star – especially recent Mission: Impossible entries – where the focus has been on how Cruise really does many of his own stunts and learns new skills so he can do more of what his character would. We’re meant to believe, then, that the actor was really flying the jet, part of the brand he’s built up, one that sells the audience on a more visceral experience instead of a collection of special effects that can overload the senses.

That SDCC presence included the first ever appearance there by Cruise, who showed up on a panel with some of his castmates to talk about the film. While he was in San Diego, Cruise stopped by “Conan” to talk more about returning to the movie after 30+ years.

A few months later, in December of that year, the next poster was released showing Maverick leaning against his car and looking on as two F-18s fly by overhead.

The first full trailer (21.2m YouTube views) came out at the same time, immediately establishing Maverick as being back at the Top Gun training base, now as an instructor to younger pilots. While there’s plenty of focus on the next generation – including two pilots that may have a connection to characters from the first movie – we also see Maverick still has the same cocky attitude as well as a few tricks left to show the kids. Fast planes, beach football and more are all on display here, helping to establish familiarity with the audience while still selling a sequel.

December’s full trailer was accompanied by the release of Snapchat’s first-ever reaction filter, allowing users to see a split screen with the trailer on top and their own face inserted into the cockpit on the bottom. Giphy stickers also came out around then with key moments from the trailer available to add to your own messages/posts.

A featurette released just after the full trailer hit exactly the expected notes, focusing not only on the real flying done for the film but how much Cruise himself did. Additionally, it’s mentioned how he inspired and pushed the younger members of the cast to do their own flying in order to keep up, all of which was captured through state of the art cameras and other equipment.

The commercial that aired during the 2020 Super Bowl emphasizes both the incredible visuals of high-speed flying and the drama that will come from Maverick having to face the actions of his past and deal with the legacy he’s leaving behind.

A handful of photos came out in late January along with more details on the relationships between the characters.

When everyone went into quarantine in March, video meetings became popular among those working from home. Paramount released backgrounds that could be uploaded to Zoom profiles to add some Top Gun flair to those meetings.

the marketing campaign phase two: where’d *who* go?

It was among the last of the major summer releases to do so, but eventually the movie’s original June 2020 release date was pushed to December because of the pandemic-related theater closings. In July Paramount pushed it even further out to July, 2021 and then to November, the latter a move reportedly driven by Cruise’s desire to engage in a worldwide press and publicity tour, betting that Covid-related lockdowns would be lifted later in the year and allow for that.

The early 2020 release of an autobiography from Val Kilmer allowed him a number of opportunities to reminisce on the making of the original Top Gun as well as how he lobbied hard for a role in this film.

Barbaro was profiled in a piece that seemed to be half about the movie and half about the high-end watches she was now partial to. A bit later Kosinski was interviewed about working with Cruise again and bringing the new actors into the world of Top Gun.

Hasbro previewed a crossover with their Transformers toy series in July, 2020.

An interview with Hamm had him talking about working with Cruise, his first experiences with the original Top Gun and more. Similar ground, including how he was spending pandemic quarantine and the frustration of the movie’s repeated delays, was covered in an interview with Teller.

the marketing campaign phase three: he was inverted

Things then got very quiet for over a year, with only sporadic activity on the social media front – mostly amplifying people’s posts for Halloween, Top Gun Day and other events – until late 2021.

An interview with producer Jerry Bruckheimer from September of that year had him talking about Cruise’ insistence on having Kilmer be part of the sequel. There was also a group profile of many of the young actors, including Powell, Barbaro, Jay Ellis, Lewis Pullman and Danny Ramirez, who are jumping in the pilot’s seat for the sequel.

Before things could get on track for the November 2021 release date, Paramount pushed it even further back to May 2022.

In August 2021 Paramount gave CinemaCon attendees a first look at 13 minutes of footage from this and other upcoming movies. This marked three years since footage was shown to CineEurope.

Out of relatively nowhere a couple cross-promotional items popped up beginning in late 2021.

Hasbro was back again, this time revealing a look at a new Barbie figure inspired by Barbaro’s “Trace”.

The year ended with Ellis appearing on “Kimmel” to talk about the movie, including the repeated delays in release.

After the Ohio State University Marching Band performed a tribute to the first movie in November, Cruise seized the opportunity and invited all its members to a special screening of the sequel.

the marketing campaign phase four: talk to me, goose

Football was also the theme of 2022’s first marketing efforts, with Cruise appearing in a spot that mixed promotions for the AFC championship game with footage from this movie.

The actor then appeared on “Today” to promote the film in a more straightforward manner.

A co-branded Porsche commercial was released in February that contained footage from the movie

In an interview about his new album, Johnny Marr revealed he had recorded a new version of Hans Zimmer’s iconic theme for the sequel.

Ellis hosted the inaugural Anthem Awards at the end of February.

Reports emerged in mid-March that Paramount planned to screen the movie at the Cannes Film Festival, with those reports later confirmed with the addition that it would include a retrospective/celebration of Cruise’s entire career.

The next trailer (24.6m YouTube views) came out later that month. Some young hot shot pilots are assembling as we see Maverick has been called back to action by Iceman, now an admiral, over the objections of those in charge. What starts as teaching quickly turns into combat as we also see Rooster confront Maverick over the death of his father, some beach football and lots more in an exciting spot that focuses on the in-cockpit POV the audience will get for many of the flight sequences.

The poster that accompanied the trailer shows Maverick walking away from his fighter.

That was followed by a 30-second commercial version of the trailer that boiled the footage down to the essential thrill-inducing elements.

Elaborate theater standees in the shape of a fighter pilot helmet but with a massive screen playing the trailer were placed around the country at the beginning of April to help audiences arriving for other movies get a taste of this one.

Kosinski shared how about 800 hours of footage was shot in total, a massive amount resulting from so much time being needed to teach the actors how to use their equipment and other technical details.

The Dolby Cinemas-exclusive poster released in mid-April shows Maverick racing his motorcycle alongside an F-18, a scene from the new movie that recreates one from the first film. The ScreenX poster uses the cockpit cameras that were a focus of the campaign to show a phalanx of jets trailing Maverick’s fighter. D-Box’s one-sheet has Maverick looking pensive on an aircraft carrier while a pair of fighters fly by. Maverick is inverted on the 4DX poster and is looking out as he flies by the carrier on the IMAX one-sheet.

That process of teaching the actors about in-flight cinematography, the makeshift flight school Cruise put everyone through and more were covered in a featurette released in mid-April. A piece detailing the military training process the actors took part in came around the same time and added to the idea that this wasn’t just a role for anyone but a fully immersive experience.

At CinemaCon in late April 2022 exhibitors were offered an extended look at the film, with critics in attendance immediately giving it massive praise as an emotional visceral old-school blockbuster. A panel with Kosinski, Bruckheimer and others featured them all talking about the multiple release delays, why this was the right time for a sequel and more.

As that was going on Lady Gaga also teased an original song she wrote for the movie.

While he was technically promoting his Paramount+ series “The Offer,” Teller also talked about this movie when he appeared on “Kimmel ” around that time.

In an interview, McQuarrie shared how he approached writing the story, including a conscious effort to not simply ape or recreate iconic moments from the original but instead create something that would stand on its own.

Cruise joined the rest of the cast and crew at the red carpet premiere in early March. Held on an aircraft carrier in San Diego, it included Cruise arriving via helicopter, comments from him and others about how it came about and how they worked in Kilmer’s return.

After that San Diego event the cast and crew engaged on a publicity tour hitting stops in Mexico, Japan and the U.K. in addition to Cannes.

The full video for “Hold My Hand” from Gaga came out a few days later, mixing shots of her performing the song with footage – some of which is new here – from the movie. With the windswept nature of the video, the shifting back and forth from black-and-white to color and more it gives off major 80s vibes, making it a perfect fit here.

Another short featurette was devoted to explaining the rationale behind aviator callsigns.

Powell talked about the process of shooting the movie when he appeared on “Kimmel.”

Select AMC Theaters and Cineplex locations held screenings of the first Top Gun that included an extended preview of the sequel in early May.

XBox offered an exclusive movie-themed version of the popular Flight Simulator video game.

Kosinski explained the controversial decision to not invite either Meg Ryan or Kelly McGillis back for the sequel, saying he wasn’t interested in looking backward. Not sure that is satisfactory, but it’s a choice.

AMC Theaters shared a few exclusive cast and crew interviews.

What it was like to join the sequel and what she had to learn for the role was covered in an interview with Connelly.

OneRepublic leaned into the beach football sequence for their video for “I Ain’t Worried” from the movie’s soundtrack.

The Cannes Film Festival event was indeed a spectacle, with fighter jets doing a flyover before an enthusiastic response from the audience to the screening of the film. While in France Cruise was interviewed about his insistence the movie play in theaters and not on streaming, the surreal nature of watching a retrospective of his career and more. Connelly also spoke about working with Cruise. How he and the other filmmakers wanted to do something original was covered in an interview with Kosinski.

Short videos like this one for Rooster introduced each of the major characters with the actor playing them offering some background information.

An assemblage of elite athletes appear in a TV spot that focused on how those who refuse to settle for anything less than excellence are the true mavericks in the world.

You could get a free ticket to the movie if you spent $25 at Applebee’s.

Another featurette focuses on the respect the actors gained for the prowess and intensity of the actual naval aviators they worked with during filming as well as the fact that everything seen on screen is something the actors are actually doing. Similar ground, along with more about this being a big-screen experience was covered in a Dolby-exclusive featurette.

Cinemark also had an exclusive making-of featurette.

Cruise filmed a Fandango-exclusive greeting to audiences, welcoming them back for the summer movie season.

Connelly appeared on “The Late Show” and “GMA” to promote the film while Cruise stopped by “The Late Late Show” and other programs.

overall

First off, an admission: I never thought this movie would happen. It seemed like one of those that was just not fated to move from pipe dream to reality. No one seemed very interested in doing it and the more time passed the less likely it seemed a viable story could be developed.

I’m happy to be proven wrong. Based on the campaign and with the addition of the positive reviews that have given the movie a staggering 97% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes this looks incredible, a worthy addition to the Top Gun mythos.

On both of those fronts, you have to credit Cruise, who seems to have willed the movie into existence (and into theaters) by sheer force of will alone. Ricky Bobby may be right and Tom Cruise may actually have some form of magic, as he not only single-handedly made the film happen but did so while teaching other actors how to fly jets and more.

Tracking estimates of a $100 million four-day opening weekend may prove conservative based on the word of mouth around the movie, all of which has been supported by a slick, well-messaged marketing push that reinforces Cruise’s status ais one of the biggest stars around while also reminding us how emotional the first movie, which wasn’t really an action picture, really was.