Black Panther

Whole-heartedly agree with Owen Gleiberman at Variety when he says Black Panther’s massive success (especially combined with Girls Trip, Get Out and more) should be a clear sign to middle-aged white male Hollywood executives that they’re no longer the sole audience out there. Check out how the demographics of opening weekend moviegoers were quite a bit different than is common for blockbusters like this, something I think directly contributed to how Fandango accounted for over 30% of ticket sales. And it’s what is making initiatives like this to tie voter registration into movie screenings so powerful.

Very interesting deep-dive into Lexus’ partnership with Marvel Studios to promote its LS model in conjunction with the movie. While there are lots of great details on the execution and how it fits into Lexus’ overall marketing, it’s notable that the opportunity came in through the carmaker’s “minority markets” agency. The original comic created for Lexus is now available as a motion-comic.

Unsurprising given the prominent role music had in the marketing, but the Kendrick Lamar-curated soundtrack debuted at the top of the charts. That success may have wide-ranging implications for the future of the music industry.

Kenyan photographer Osborne Macharia was commissioned by Marvel to create exclusive artwork for exclusive artwork that’s stunning to behold.

Nice interview here with Don McGregor, who created the character of Killmonger in Black Panther comics in 1973.

Jeff Beer at Fast Company has a good take on how the movie itself, more than any particular tactic, was the single best marketing movie Disney/Marvel Studios made.

Disney reportedly spent $37 million on TV ads for the movie.

Half Magic

Finally, the kind of story I was waiting for about this movie and its relation to the current cultural atmosphere comes from Kate Erbland at IndieWire, with her talking with director/writer/star Heather Graham about the struggles in getting the film made, the story she wanted to tell and why it coming out now feels so important.

Mute

Paul Rudd made an appearance on a special abridged version of “The Tonight Show” where he kinda sorta was able to promote the movie.

Director Duncan Jones talks here about the effect his father’s “Berlin” period had on his writing and development of the story, which is set in that city.

Annihilation

Her comments about working with Roman Polanski have gotten the most press, but Natalie Portman talks about her current film quite a bit in this Buzzfeed interview as well.

Two new interviews with director Alex Garland where he talks about the movie and its story, one at The Verge and one at Entertainment Weekly.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

cured posterThe new movie The Cured takes place in a world that’s been ravaged by an outbreak of a disease that turned people into murderous zombies. That may sound like a familiar premise, but the twist is that it’s set after that disease has been ostensibly cured (hence the name), the surviving victims beginning to reintegrate into a society that still doesn’t fully trust them.

Ellen Page stars as Abbie, whose husband was killed during the outbreak. She takes in Senan (Sam Keeley), her brother-in-law who has been cured after being infected himself. Not everyone in the area is thrilled with having Senan back, nor are they happy with Abbie’s decision. Those fears may be well-founded as the tension between the cured and those in “normal” society seems to be growing toward a showdown.

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game night poster 3Game night in the suburbs, particularly amongst adults, is usually a pretty boring affair unless someone has a bit too much wine. In the new movie Game Night that’s usually the case as a group of friends regularly gets together to have a bit of fun. One night Brooks (Kyle Chandler) says he’s put together a whole mystery for people to solve that will seem super-real. So when he’s actually abducted, is it part of the game or something more sinister?

That’s what the rest of the crew has to figure out. Annie (Rachel McAdams) and her husband Max (Jason Bateman) along with Kevin (Lamorne Morris), Michelle (Kylie Bunbury) and others find themselves pulled increasingly out of their depth as they wind up having to navigate the criminal underworld to get their friend back and avoid getting into trouble themselves.

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It may seem like a rough patch, but it’s really the on-ramp to a new, inclusive reality

This past weekend Black Panther broke all sorts of records, becoming 1) only the fifth film with a $200m+ opening frame, 2) the best February opening weekend of all time, 3) the best non-summer opening weekend of all time, 4) the highest-grossing film both from a black director and with a largely black cast and 5) the rare example of a tentpole blockbuster whose audience isn’t predominantly Caucasian.

The movie received a substantial campaign that focused on director Ryan Coogler and how he worked to tell a story of the African and black experience. That was supported by a continued focus on not just star Chadwick Boseman but also Danai Gurira and Lupita Nyong’o who play members of King T’Challa’s protective guard, frequent Coogler collaborator Michael B. Jordan and breakout star Letitia Wright, who plays the genius inventor of the technology of the fictional country of Wakanda.

Those were all important. Allowing Coogler to step into the spotlight continued Marvel Studios’ trend of allowing directors to act as more of the public face of the movie that began, really, last year with Thor: Ragnarok. And highlighting the members of the Dora Milaje took full advantage of the cultural moment we’re in right now, where women are reclaiming their agency.

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annihilation posterAfter making quite a splash in the science-fiction world with Ex Machina, writer/director Alex Garland is back with Annihilation. Based on the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer (the first in a trilogy of books), the story follows Lena (Natalie Portman), a biologist married to Kane (Oscar Isaac). He’s sent on a mission to investigate “The Shimmer,” a massive mysterious zone that’s claiming more and more territory and from which nothing returns.

Or almost nothing. When Kane comes back as the only survivor from his team, Lena is sent in to find out what happened within The Shimmer. Joining her are Josie (Tessa Thompson), Anya (Gina Rodriguez), Cass (Tuva Novotny) and Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Once inside the perimeter, they’re quickly surrounded by a world where the standard laws of nature no longer apply and which is filled with unexpected dangers.

 

The Posters

That there was just one poster created for the movie doesn’t do much to counter the arguments of those who felt Paramount didn’t put its full weight into marketing the release. Natalie Portman’s name appears at the top and she’s the primary figure in the image, more visible through the distortion of The Shimmer than the rest of her team, who are obscured in the background. Copy above the title tells us to “Fear what’s inside” while below the audience is reminded this is coming from the director of Ex Machina.

The Trailers

The first trailer appeared right after an early still was released. We see The Biologist and her team walking across a strange-looking landscape and entering an equally strange forest of some sort. Cut to later on when she’s being debriefed as to what they saw while they were in there. We get some hints that her husband went into the same forest and never came back out, driving her to investigate.

Well that looks awesome. Incredible visuals, great performances. Yeah, it’s a solid first pitch to the audience, with a tone that seems similar to the one used to sell Arrival last year.

As the second trailer opens The Biologist is being questioned by hazmat-suited officials who hope she can describe what she encountered before we flashback to see her saying goodbye to her husband, who’s leaving on some kind of mission. Later on he’s been found but is in bad shape after entering “The Shimmer.” The Biologist decides to lead another team into the phenomenon to find out what’s inside its ever-expanding borders, a mission that’s needed because no drones or other probes are returning any data and The Biologist’s Husband is the only human to return. The encounter all sorts of strange and dangerous creatures and while some see The Shimmer as destruction, others see it as a new form of creation.

There’s a lot more of the story and the character motivations on display here in a trailer that’s just as effective as the first. It retains much of the mystery and doesn’t give too much away, only showing events that cause more questions both for the team in the movie and the audience. Clearly there’s a philosophical lesson being shared here, but it’s wrapped in a mind-bending sci-fi story.

Online and Social

Unfortunately the movie only received the lackluster tickets-centric treatment for an official website. There’s the second “Trailer” and a “Synopsis” where you can get an overview of the story. Neither are linked to from the site but there’s also a Facebook and Twitter account.

On that Twitter account the studio left a series of cryptic clues that, when put together, unlocked a bit of exclusive new footage on ForThoseThatFollow. After viewing that it gave you the option to create your own message that could be shared and decoded by others.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A short TV commercial introduces us to The Shimmer and the danger it poses. This one’s less about exploration and discovery than it is about danger and thrills, which is understandable. A longer spot lets the story breathe a bit more and hits more of the same mysterious beats as the trailers by focusing on the mutations and creations happening within The Shimmer while also clearly showing that danger lurks around most every corner.

The second trailer was used for paid posts on Twitter after it was released. And in the immediate lead up to release pre-roll and sidebar ads were run on YouTube.

Media and Publicity

Isaac spoke briefly about the movie and how weird he assumed it was going to be during a break in his stage performance schedule. A bit later the first still from the movie showing Portman was released. Portman was later announced as a host for “Saturday Night Live” right around the time of the film’s release, an episode that saw her do a bunch of skits based on the films she’s done over the years.

In early December the movie got a bit of a bloody nose with a story on how a clash between two of its producers stemming from a poor test screening lead to the unusual situation where Paramount is releasing the film in the U.S., Canada and China while Netflix gets it for the rest of the world about two weeks later. The disagreement centers around whether the movie is too “intellectual” to score with mainstream audiences looking for a little more action and zest in their sci-fi. The unique distribution deal, which included Netflix covering a percentage of the production budget, is a hedge by the new regime at Paramount against a flop

A much-discussed featurette offered a bit more information on “The Shimmer” that is so integral to the plot, which is what got people talking. If you look again, though, you’ll also notice that it’s focused solely on the female characters and talks only with the ladies of the cast. So there’s an attempt being made to pivot the publicity for the film to meet the cultural conversation about gender and racial diversity, with much of the cast also being pleasantly inclusive on the latter front.

Just a week before release a mini-scandal emerged when someone called out how both Portman and Leigh are white actors while their characters are both of mixed-ethnicities. Responses from both of them made it clear they weren’t aware of that disconnect and even Garland made comments along those lines, explaining that the race of those characters isn’t addressed in the first book on which the movie is based and that he didn’t know mixed-race descriptions are offered in the second book, which no one has apparently read.

Both Portman and Isaac made the media rounds in the last week prior to release to engage in late-night hijinks, share stories of sexual harassment in Hollywood, offer amusing personal anecdotes and more. There was also a feature interview with three of the main leads – Portman, Thompson and Rodriguez – where they talked about sci-fi that’s female-centric and the bond they formed while filming.

As the clock ran down there were also profiles of Isaac and Rodriguez about how they got involved in the movie and prepared for it, including that Isaac was filming this and the latest Star Wars at the same time, sometimes on the same day. There also an interview with VanderMeer where he talked about the long strange trip his book has taken to the screen.

Overall

Yeah, I kind of see the point people were making that there’s a less than full-throated effort being made by Paramount here. There’s nothing specifically that can be identified as necessarily lacking, but it all seems to add up to less than the sum of its parts. You can see the lack of effort in a website that’s not exactly robust and offers little in the way of entry points into the story as well as the surprisingly low number of trailers and just one poster that doesn’t take the same ensemble approach as much of the rest of the campaign.

If there’s one positive thing to call out it is that the studio made no effort to hide the fact that this is a female-driven story and that the character’s gender isn’t a big focus, like it’s something they have to overcome. Instead it just…is. That’s going to rankle some ignorant sci-fi fans who still believe the genre should be a boys-only club, but that’s reality, idiots. I just wish that had been extended even further into other elements of the campaign.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

mute posterWriter/director Duncan Jones made a big splash back in 2009 with Moon, his debut film starring Sam Rockwell as a solitary astronaut manning a moon base. Source Code was well received but not super-successful but Warcraft, his foray into big-budget fantasy, flopped in the U.S. while still being a massive success overseas.

Now he’s back with, Mute, a movie set in the same universe as Moon but otherwise (seemingly) unconnected from that story. Set 40 years in the future, Alexander Skarsgård plays Leo, a mute bartender working at a Berlin establishment who has a reputation as both a good man and someone not to be trifled with. When his girlfriend goes missing the main purpose of his life is removed and he sets out to find her. That brings him into contact with the city’s underworld elements, including Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd), Duck (Justin Theroux) and others.

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the kitchen 1News broke last week that “The Kitchen” is being adapted for the big screen by writer Andrea Berloff, who will also direct the movie. Tiffany Haddish and Melissa McCarthy are attached to star.

The Kitchen” was a 2015 eight-issue series from DC Entertainment’s Vertigo imprint from writer Ollie Masters and artist Ming Doyle about three women in the Hell’s Kitchen of 1970 who, with their husbands in prison, find the only way to survive is to take over the criminal enterprises those men previously ran.

The book was part of Vertigo’s substantial “Defy” campaign that kicked off in 2014 (it was announced in 2013) with a wave of new books and a paid ad campaign that sought to push the imprint in bold new directions. It was also very much meant to show there was life in the banner after editor-in-chief Karen Berger, who had essentially launched it back 20 years prior, left.

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half magic posterHeather Graham makes her feature directorial debut with this week’s Half Magic, which she also wrote and is starring in. Graham plays Honey, a frustrated mid-level executive at an entertainment company who has aspirations of writing her own story one day. Those dreams are thwarted by her boss (Chris D’Elia), who she’s also sleeping with. One day she attends a workshop to give women their power back and meets Candy (Stephanie Beatriz) and another woman (Angela Kinsey, whose character isn’t named anywhere I can find).

The three of them realize they’ve been wasting their time on useless men for too long and so decide to change their situations, offering each other support along the way. For all of them that means giving up some toxic relationships and approaching conflict with a new mindset, one that tells them they’re worth more than they’ve accepted before and are capable of anything.

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A Futile and Stupid Gesture

While he was also promoting his upcoming Netflix show, Joel McHale also talked with Colbert about how he first worked with Chevy Chase on “Community” and then played Chase in the movie.

The Cloverfield Paradox

Netflix finally created and released a more traditional trailer for the movie that still doesn’t offer a whole lot of plot or story points but does add to the dread and mystery, positioning it as a space-based terror film while seeming to forego the explicit connections to the rest of the Cloverfield series. One exception to that statement is the use of the seemingly innocuous music that’s used, which harkens back to the first trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Winchester

Two new posters have come out recently, both of which continue to use the house as the central selling point. On the one, Mirren’s face is split open to reveal the outside of the house and all its random additions. On the other, her black veil blows in the wind, flowing into the exterior of the house. Both use the same copy about “…the most haunted house in history” that was seen on the first couple one-sheets.

Early Man

Katie Deighton at The Drum has a look at some of the movie’s U.K. promotional partners.

When We First Met

The trailer has been used as a paid ad on YouTube to drive people to Netflix where they can stream it immediately.

Black Panther

Rolling Stone has a profile of Danai Gurira that covers her career to date. There have also been new interviews or profiles of Ryan Coogler, Daniel Kaluuya, Winston Duke, Letitia Wright and cinematographer Rachel Morrison.

I may have spoken too soon with my praise for Kevin Feige’s newfound ability to get out of the way and let director Ryan Coogler have the publicity spotlight as Feige is the focus of this story where he brags about spending a little more than is usual for a hero’s solo debut film.

With the style of the movie getting so much attention it makes total sense that Marvel Studios would host a New York Fashion Week event to show off costumes as well as custom creations from big-name designers. 10 points from Hufflepuff, though, for the use of “bespoke” in that story.

John McCarthy at The Drum has a good recap of how the grassroots components of the campaign helped bolster official marketing efforts and create a real groundswell in an underserved audience for the film.

Turns out, based on the story in Adweek by Kristina Monllos, that Michael B. Jordan himself produced and directed that Brisk iced tea spot, which is just one element of a larger initiative from the company that ties into the movie.

Call Me By Your Name

Breakout star Timothée Chalamet has been getting a lot of attention during awards season and that includes this much-shared GQ profile on the young actor.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

golden exits poster 2Emily Browning plays Naomi in Golden Exits, the new drama from writer/director Alex Ross Perry. Naomi has arrived in New York from Australia to work as a research assistant to Nick (Adam Horovitz). Her presence causes tension in the lives and relationship Nick and his wife Alysssa (Chloë Sevigny). Those issues are fomented by Gwen (Mary-Louise Parker), Alyssa’s sister, who doesn’t trust Nick in the least.

Also impacted by Naomi’s arrival is the marriage of Buddy (Jason Schwartzman) and Jess (Analeigh Tipton). Buddy is pressured to spend time with Naomi as a favor to his family but the two begin forming a very different kind of connection. So she upends two families, who may have been teetering on the brink of collapse anyway, without much intention of sticking around to deal with the fallout.

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