house of gucci – marketing recap

How MGM has sold a high-fashion drama

house of Gucci movie poster
House of Gucci poster

The House of Gucci, out in theaters this week, has a lot of talent behind it as well as a story made for late primetime in the early 1980s.

Directed by Ridley Scott (his second film in just a few months after The Last Duel), the movie stars Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani, an ambitious woman who sets out to marry Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), heir to the fashion empire that bears his family’s name. She wants control though he doesn’t, setting up a power struggle between the couple and others in the family as well as between Patrizia and Maruizio themselves.

Jared Leto, Salma Hayek, Jeremy Irons, Al Pacino and others also star as members of the Gucci family or those in their orbit and influence.

MGM’s campaign has been heavy on the drama, positioning it as a feature length episode of “Dallas” or “Knots Landing” with all the intrigue and drama you’d expect from that.

announcement and casting

Though there had been ups and downs in Scott’s development of the the project since 2006 it wasn’t until November 2019 that things officially began moving forward, helped by Gaga’s casting in the lead role.

The film, developed by Scott, was reportedly picked up by MGM after that studio outbid Netflix in early 2020. Cast members were announced over the course of the year, including Pacino, Driver and others.

In March Lady Gaga posted a first look photo of herself and Driver as the married couple of the title.

Costume designer Janty Yates was interviewed about creating the period-appropriate looks for the characters and what it was like to dress fictionalized real people.

In a Variety cover story in May Hayek talked about this being the first role she took post-Covid and how the low stress shoot helped her get back in the groove given her lack of energy. Hayek also praised Lady Gaga’s work ethic on set.

the marketing campaign

Promotional artwork featuring Gaga, Irons and Pacino came out at the end of July showing them looking dapper and stylish against a stylish blue background.

The first trailer (13m YouTube views) was released at that time as well. As it opens, Patrizia is discussing the allure of the Gucci name and is clearly targeting Maurizio as a way to gain access to the power the family holds. We meet that family and see some of their dynamics before Patrizia reveals she wants to move the old guard out so she they can seize control by whatever means necessary.

MGM gave CinemaCon attendees in August a first look at the movie.

It wasn’t until late September that the first poster came out using the same blue background as the earlier images but this time with all five of the main characters arranged in the photo. The deadly plot is communicated through the copy “A legacy worth killing for.”

Exclusive footage was provided to Vogue as part of another interview with costume designer Yates.

In late October the second trailer (7m YouTube views) was released. This time we meet the Gucci family via Maurizio introducing Patrizia to them all. The majority of this trailer’s running time is devoted to the intrigue around Patrizia’s plans to inject herself into the decision-making part of the business through manipulation, law enforcement and ultimately murder.

Another set of three posters came out shortly after that, this round using different color backgrounds for each of the characters. Another one with Hayek was added a short while later.

Leto was interviewed about how the role of Paulo Gucci fits into his career habit of completely transforming his physical appearance for each character he plays. How Gaga went full method after doing extensive research into her character was covered in an interview with her.

Tanqueray introduced a gin that was labeled as “inspired by” the movie.

Again, the next poster shows all five main characters but this time they’re shown against a gold background.

Spots like this began running in early November, running not only as TV commercials but also as pre-roll ads, social media promos and even as audio ads.

Leto and Hayek appeared at the LACMA ART+FILM GALA, an event presented by Gucci in Los Angeles.

A red carpet premiere was held in London with the cast and crew in attendance.

Regal Cinemas shared an exclusive video interview with the cast.

Gaga, Driver, Leto and others were all part of a featurette that not only offered a brief preview of the story but extolled the benefit of seeing it in theaters.

The first official clip has Maurizio and Patrizia inspecting a pile of knock-offs, with her taking it a *lot* more seriously than he is.

Gaga talked more about her character research and other aspects of the film during a Q&A following a screening in Hollywood earlier this month. She and Scott were also interviewed together about the story, working with Gucci and more.

Gaga later walked the red carpet at the movie’s Milan premiere.

The next clip shows Patrizia beginning to plant the seeds of a coup in Maurizio’s mind. Another has her buttering up Paulo.

Gaga introduces Patrizia and explains who she is in the story of the movie in another featurette. A similar video featuring Driver and others talking about Maurizio came out a bit later.

When he appeared on “the Tonight Show” Leto talked more about his physical transformation. Driver later talked about the movie on “The Late Show” and the whole cast did likewise on “GMA.”

New York City was the next stop for a red carpet premiere, with the cast and crew once again there. That was followed by a Los Angeles event a few days later.

Cinemark offered an exclusive behind-the-scenes featurette.

MGM announced an experiential event in New York and L.A. that included exclusive photos as well as costumes, props and more from the film’s production.

An extensive personal profile of Gaga had her sharing how she tapped into painful moments from her past to capture some of the key character moments. How she and Driver staged some of the more intimate scenes was covered in a joint interview with the pair.

Another featurette focuses more on the family behind the fashion brand and how it’s populated by some very interesting characters. The family’s history and legacy was covered in a featurette just days later.

Patrizia asks for insights into her future in the next clip while another features the moment seen in many trailers and commercials with Patrizia talking about not being ethical but being fair.

overall

At the outset I said the movie seemed to be big-screen drama that seemed to channel the aesthetics and style of an early-80s prime time soap opera and I stand by that. Perhaps it’s helped by the era the story is set in, but everything about the entire campaign makes me think we should be watching this on TV in the hour before the local news comes on.

Lady Gaga Reaction GIF by House of Gucci - Find & Share on GIPHY

Reviews have been mixed, with some critics calling it glorious and others saying it’s an inconceivable mess. That’s why it has a middling 67% on Rotten Tomatoes. But there’s a lot to like in the marketing, including it’s strong sense of brand identity, helped by the official involvement of Gucci itself in production.

But there are still two questions that don’t seem to have answers:

  • Why is Adam Driver not featured in any of the sets of character posters? He’s a major star but only appears on the group one-sheets. It’s incredibly odd.
  • Who made the decision that Lady Gaga should be the central focus of the publicity and press campaign? I get that she’s the star at the center of the action, but it still appears there were only three messages she had to share in each interview, so it’s thin soil to plant in.

These are the things that will continue to haunt me.

king richard – marketing recap

How Warner Bros. has sold a biopic about the man behind two legends

Most biopics are about the people who have made the headlines, not the people who pushed them along the way or otherwise supported them. Sure, those folks may appear as supporting characters, but the movie itself is about the lead singer, the star athlete, the groundbreaking comedian.

King Richard, out this week in theaters and on HBO Max, takes a different tack. The movie is focused on Richard Williams (Will Smith), the father of tennis superstars Venus and Serena. Set when those two were still up-and-coming childhood prodigies, the story is about how their father not only pushed them to be their best on and off the court but pushed, cajoled and bargained for them to get every opportunity to excel.

As several people have said on Twitter and elsewhere, it takes a special sort of mindset to take two of the greatest tennis players to ever compete and decide that it’s actually their father who deserves to be the focus of a motion picture.

announcement and casting

Shortly after the film was announced in 2019 it was slammed with a lawsuit by those who claim their work was being stolen by the producers and filmmakers. That lawsuit was eventually settled so that production could continue.

Smith was attached to star from the outset, with others added to the cast over the first half of 2020. Those additions included Demi Singleton and Saniyya Sidney as Serena and Venus, respectively, as well as Joe Bernthal, Liev Schrieber and others as the people the Williams family encounters along the way from potential to success.

One of the first, albeit very brief, looks at the movie came via an HBO Max promo touting the same day theatrical/streaming availability of WB’s 2021 lineup. Another promo showed off a bit more footage.

the marketing campaign

Richard pushing the girls in a shopping cart filled with tennis balls is the central image on the first poster from July. Copy at the bottom makes it clear the story is about “Venus, Serena and a plan for greatness.”

The first trailer (14.1m YouTube views) came out in late July and opens with Richard coming home with Venus and Serena to find a child services investigator in the house. He contends he’s hard on those two and the other kids but that they are all becoming better people as a result. His ambition is evident throughout the trailer as he pushes the girls to perform at the top of the game, constantly putting them in positions to show off what they can do.

The movie was among those shown off by Warner Bros. at CinemaCon in late August.

How Smith has changed his perspective about his career and how that plays into the choice to take on this project were covered in an extensive profile of the actor from September.

After that it screened at AFI Fest, where it was the closing feature, and at the London BFI Film Festival and Telluride Film Festival. It was also the centerpiece screening at Miami Film Festival GEMS in November.

Empire debuted the second poster in October, this one showing the three main characters huddled together as the copy tells us this is a true story we’ll have to see to believe.

Another trailer, (4m YouTube views) this one featuring “Be Alive” by Beyonce, came out in mid-October. It’s less about the domestic troubles of the Williams household and more about the push-back Richard gets every time he wants to give his girls a chance to perform. But he also is obstinate in constantly going against the grain of what people advise him to do with their careers, which causes as many problems as it solves.

Promos like this began running after that as TV spots, social promotions, pre-roll ads and more.

At the beginning of November the movie was the opening feature at the American Black Film Festival. Just before that it had been the closing night feature of the Chicago Film Festival where it won the Best Feature Audience Choice Award.

Smith, Sidney and Singleton were the subjects of an Entertainment Weekly cover story that had them talking about researching their roles, the process of actually making the movie and lots more.

Earlier there had been a number of early screenings at colleges, culminating with a coordinated push to historically black colleges and universities to try and reach those audiences ahead of time and begin building even more buzz outside the usual critics and media circles.

A video was released showing the real life Venus and Serena visiting the set and meeting, apparently for the first time, the girls who are playing them as children and the other actors playing family members and others.

Reports emerged around that time that Smith himself wrote checks to many of his costars and others in an effort to compensate them for the revenue they stood to lose because of the changed release plan, which could impact their bottom line. Whatever the case, the stories were intended to help burnish Smith’s image as a nice guy and a leader on set.

Aunjanue Ellis, who plays the Willams sisters’ mother, was profiled about her experience on this movie and how it fits into a career spent mostly as a secondary player. Director Reinaldo Marcus Green was interviewed about how he first heard about the project and how he ultimately scored the job after making a connection with Smith and convincing him he could do the story justice.

MovieClips released an exclusive featurette covering the dynamics and drive of the Williams family.

Smith has made the talk show rounds of “The Tonight Show,” “The Daily Show” and more, including an appearance on Oprah’s show. Even the real Serena stopped by “Kimmel” to promote the movie. Sidney and Singleton made multiple stops together, including on “Drew Barrymore” and “Tamron Hall” talk shows.

The three major stars showed up at a Chicago tennis event to talk about the movie and encourage those folks to go see it.

What it felt like to play a sports icon so early in her career was covered in a profile of Sidney.

Regal Cinemas and AMC Theaters both featured exclusive video interviews with the cast and crew.

Both Smith and Ellis received the Outstanding Performers of the Year Award from the 37th annual Santa Barbara Film Festival. The two were also jointly interviewed about the movie specifically but also what it has to say about black families and other topics.

There were additional profiles of Ellis and Bernthal, the former focusing again on how this is her long-worked for overnight success and the latter how it’s an opportunity for the actor to not play a stereotypical tough guy character.

The Williams sisters stopped by the movie’s red carpet premiere at AFI Fest where the cast talked about portraying people who are still alive and more.

That was followed by a cast and crew appearance at an event at Wimbledon in London that also served as the movie’s UK premiere.

Ellis appeared on “Kimmel” just days before release.

overall

Reviews have been very good – the movie is 91% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes – but tracking estimates an opening weekend of just about $10 million, which would be pretty low.

That could be for a number of reasons: A lack of interest in largely conventional biopics, the split distribution pattern, other plans over the weekend before Thanksgiving or something entirely different.

But the campaign hasn’t really taken a wrong step, so it doesn’t seem that the marketing is playing a role in those lowered expectations. Of course that may be part of the problem, that following the variation on a theme shown in Spencer and other recent true stories, something that’s more conventionally heartfelt, inspiring and standard just isn’t resonating

ghostbusters: afterlife – marketing recap

How Sony has sold its latest attempt to revive an iconic franchise

Ghostbusters Afterlife poster
Ghostbusters Afterlife poster

Whenever I’m talking about the nostalgia industrial complex that’s built up over the last couple decades, Ghostbusters is usually the example I pull out. Sony/Columbia and its various partners have worked hard to sell 1/8th reproductions of Ecto-1, proton pack-shaped USB chargers and other consumer products and high-end collectibles to a largely male audience who still hold the 1984 comedy as the single most important cultural moment of their lives.

As such it wasn’t wholly surprising when that same crowd came out in force to push back on Paul Fieg’s 2016 reboot of the franchise considering he was letting girls in what was *clearly* a boys-only clubhouse.

And it’s not wholly surprising that, five years later, Sony Pictures has taken a 180-degree turn from that previous effort.

That new take, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, comes out this week. The movie stars Carrie Coon as Callie Spengler, daughter of Egon, played in the originals by the late Harold Ramis. Carrie has moved herself and her two kids – Phoebe (McKenna Grace) and Trevor (Fill Wolfhard) – to Oklahoma and a house her father left her years ago. When strange, supernatural things start happening in town it’s up to the remaining members of the Spengler family, along with their new friends and science teacher Chad Grooberson (Paul Rudd) to save the town and the world.

While the 2016 movie had most of the original cast appearing in small cameos as other characters, this time around they are reprising those original roles. So we get Bill Murray as Peter Venkman, Sigourney Weaver as Dana Barret, Ernie Hudson as Winston Zeddemore, Annie Potts as Janine Melnitz and Dan Ackroyd as Raymond Stantz.

Having all of them return is indicative of a campaign that is steeped in nostalgia, not for what it can tell us about our present or future but for the comforting blanket of familiarity it offers.

announcement and casting

The news that Reitman would be creating his own Ghostbusters film came out of more or less nowhere in mid-January 2019. At that time a brief teaser was released that didn’t offer any footage from the film but set the tone and made sure everyone knew it was in the works.

The early 2019 announcement included the clarification this film would follow the original movie’s timeline, not that of the 2016 Paul Feig movie, a fact the cast of that film wasn’t thrilled with and many questioned, seeing a missed opportunity to expand that story.

Further complicating matters, Reitman commented in February 2019 that he was planning on “giving the movie back to the fans,” talking about the lengths he was going to in order to cater to those who still hold the original to be a sacred pop culture text. Those comments were interpreted as him validating the criticisms of the 2016 film and telling the men who complained about women being allowed near their beloved franchise that he shared their perspective. He clarified things a short while later, expressing his love of Feig’s film and the actors in it, but the message still hung out there.

An interview with Ackroyd allowed him to talk about how the main reason this film was greenlit over a sequel to the 2016 movie was cost, with this one reportedly sporting a much lower budget than that would have necessitated. Around the same time Murray was in Cannes for another film but said during his press appearances there that he’d be open to another Ghostbusters film if the offer came in.

The focus continued to be on the status of the original cast, as mid-2019 kept bringing various comments and updates from Reitman and others that various members had read the script and were interested or had already committed. Paul Rudd revealed in late June that he had taken on a supporting role in the film, with Ackroyd and Hudson confirming they’d be appearing a couple months later. He spoke briefly about it while promoting other things last year.

Rudd’s casting was announced in June, 2019 via a video of him filming outside the New York firehouse that was the team’s original headquarters.

Wolfhard spoke about the audition process during CinemaCon 2019.

marketing phase one

Vanity Fair got things officially started in December 2019, sharing a batch of first look photos along with comments from Reitman and others.

A supernatural storm brews in the distant sky on the first poster, released shortly after those stills came out. Showing the Ecto-1 speeding through a wheat field toward that storm establishes the connections to the past as well as the setting of the current story.

The first trailer (21.1m YouTube views), released at the same time, starts by establishing the setting of the film. Trevor and his family are relocating to a farmhouse in a small town because they’re broke and it’s the only thing still in their name, left to them by their unnamed grandfather. As strange and spooky things begin happening around them, Phoebe uncovers a secret stash of ghostbusting equipment no one but her teacher Mr. Gooberson recognizes it for what it is. It isn’t long before the kids are using that old equipment as more and more supernatural creatures begin appearing.

Wolfhard commented on the movie while he was promoting other things earlier this year.

While speculation had surrounded his involvement, Murray finally revealed he would return as Dr. Peter Venkman in January. That was part of an extended profile that had him talking about the legacy of the franchise and much more.

Several of the movie’s stars joined the original cast and filmmakers in one of Josh Gad’s conference Zoom calls in mid-June.

An interview with Ackroyd allowed him to make it clear that while Ramis wasn’t in the film his spirit would be well-represented.

Coon appeared on “Kimmel” to promote other projects in January but spoke briefly about this film as well.

Later on Murray spoke about his initial reluctance to come on board for the film and how Reitman won him over.

At the end of March last year, Sony announced it was shifting the movie’s release date by several months as theaters remained closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It got pushed a few more months in October, and then again in January to November.

marketing phase two

With that new November 2021 release date set, the campaign started up once again a few months ago.

A mysterious teaser was released in early April, showing Mr. Gooberson doing some shopping only to come across mini versions of an old foe.

Things really started off in early June on #GhostbustersDay, so-called because 6/8 was the day the original movie was released all the way back in 1984.

Related events included:

  • The cast and crew of the movie taking fan questions via Twitter Spaces
  • Merchandise promotions from both Reitmans and others
  • Lots of new consumer products announcements
  • The elder Reitman and Murray discussing whether or not Ghostbusters Day is an official holiday

Reitman Jr. and Sr. were both part of a featurette released in early June that had the two talking about their life long experiences with the franchise as well as how the idea of passing things down from generation to generation is reflected in the story.

The next trailer (2.7m YouTube views) didn’t come out until July 2021. It hits many of the same beats as the first one, showing how Trevor is kind of a loner in a small town where his family has moved into the house his grandfather left them. From there on it’s all building mythology, with Jeanine helping them get settled and hinting that Egon wanted them to come here for a reason. That reason may have something to do with the mysterious happenings in town, which just escalate over time. It ends with Ray picking up the phone in his occult books shop, hinting at his involvement in the story as well.

Videos came out shortly after that showing Grace, O’Connor and others from the cast reacting to that trailer.

Adam Savage of “Mythbusters” fame announced in August that he had been on the set of the film and would be offering behind-the-scenes looks at production.

Sony screened the movie in full at CinemaCon in August, giving attendees much more than the usual selection of trailers and clips. Both Reitmans were in attendance to praise the studio and get people excited for the film.

Reitman and the visual effects crew were interviewed about bringing the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man back.

Those Mini-Pufts continued to be at the center of the campaign with a video showing how to make s’mores out of them. A bit later a similar video was released for National Marshmallow Day.

Short teasers like this started coming out at the end of August offering little snippets from the movie.

A second poster was finally released in September that shows Trevor, Phoebe and their friends exiting the Ecto-1 to get a look at a mysterious beam either coming from or reaching up to the gathering clouds.

Wolfhard appeared on “The Tonight Show” around that time as well. He and Grace also talked about the movie on “Today.”

Both Reitmans and others from the cast appeared at New York Comic-Con in October for a panel about the movie. That panel wound up also including a surprise screening of the movie for those in attendance.

While the sizzle reel released after that panel had fans praising the film (the word “amazing” is frequently invoked), overall reviews were far less positive, with many critics panning it as the worst example of empty nostalgia, with objects from previous films shown for no real reason other than to evoke a SQUEE reaction from people who remember it from the original.

VFX producer Kerry Joseph was interviewed about the process of bringing miniature versions of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man to life.

Cinemark released an exclusive poster that simply shows the Ecto-1 speeding down the streets of Summerville.

Reitman was slightly more complimentary toward Feig’s 2016 movie in another interview, saying it opened the doors to additional stories set in the universe of the first films.

The cast and Reitman appeared in a video supporting LGBTQ+ youth on Spirit Day in October. Lots of ghosts and movie branding were part of the Halloween episode of “The Kelly Clarkson Show” with Grace and Hudson stopping by as well.

MovieClips got an exclusive clip at the beginning of November showing Mr. Gooberson helping the kids revive one of the old ghost traps Egon left behind.

Reitman was interviewed by the PlayStation Blog team about taking on the franchise and what he hoped audiences would get out of it. PlayStation also debuted a new clip of Mr. Gooberson encountering a Terror Dog – the big supernatural bear that chased Louis Tully out of his apartment – and more.

An exclusive IMAX poster shows someone sitting in the gunner chair of the Ecto-1 as they blast a spook or specter in the sky.

Regal Cinemas offered a free bag of popcorn to people buying IMAX tickets. Regal also had an exclusive video interview with the cast of the film.

The final trailer (3.2m YouTube views), released just last week, only runs a minute but includes a lot of elements from throughout the campaign, including Phoebe trying to revive her grandfather’s legacy, plenty of antics from the Mini-Pufts and, at the end, the biggest tease to date that the original Ghostbusters are back in action.

Rudd made the talk show rounds to not only promote the movie but also accept his status as the newest Sexiest Man Alive according to People Magazine.

A poster for ScreenX shows the Ecto-1 making crop circles in someone’s field. D-Box put out a commercial promoting the more visceral experience audiences will have seeing it in that format. The Dolby Cinemas poster shows the Ecto-1 racing toward trouble.

Inglewood, CA residents could stop by Randy’s Donuts recently to get movie-themed donuts from the Ecto-1. Also on the food front, Hi-C revived its Ecto Cooler drink as a tie-in promotion.

A premiere red carpet event was held just days ago in New York City with the cast and crew all in attendance.

Murray, Hudson and Ackroyd appeared together on “The Tonight Show” to talk about reuniting for the sequel after so many years.

Costar Logan Kimchi hosted a featurette introducing audiences to the rest of the movie’s cast.

An interview with Coon had her talking about the way the movie depicts science, the family-centric nature of the story and more.

overall

With a Rotten Tomatoes score of just 66% and projections estimating an opening weekend take of $30 million or less (the 2016 movie – considered to have flopped hard – brought in $46 million) it seems that demand for a direct sequel isn’t as high as those who hold the rights might be hoping.

If that comes to pass it could indicate that pure, single-malt nostalgia is powerful enough to sell high end replicas of 30 year old toys but not enough to actually generate interest in *anything* new for that property.

Such a statement would be a powerful rebuke to those who jumped on the narrative, even free from any misogyny, that the 2016 movie failed because it deviated too far from the norm.

Sony GIF by Ghostbusters - Find & Share on GIPHY

About the marketing campaign for this movie specifically there are a few themes that are apparent:

Mini-Pufts as Minions: Let’s remember that the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in the first movie isn’t a comedic element in and of itself. It’s a harbinger of death, with the Ghostbusters reacting comedically to its appearance. But here, they are treated like any sort of recent cute, animated creation. As such they form one of the centerpieces of the campaign.

Paul Rudd GIF by Ghostbusters - Find & Share on GIPHY

The Ecto-1 as Ark of the Covenant: The central element on all the posters is the converted ambulance that has been pulled out of the garage and fixed up for a new generation. That makes sense, but it also betrays a lack of faith in the new characters, whose faces aren’t even seen on those posters because so much real estate is devoted to a car.

Paul Rudd GIF by Ghostbusters - Find & Share on GIPHY

Recreating the Past: More than anything, the campaign is about including as many easter eggs referencing the original as possible. Just scan the movie’s Twitter feed and you’ll see multiple retweets of others who have pointed out similarities – sometimes shot for shot – between the first movie and what’s seen in the new one’s trailers.

All of that isn’t to say that the campaign isn’t good. It is. But it also relies almost exclusively on creating a sense of nostalgia in an audience that may only be interested in watching the original instead of exploring any new territory lest it tarnish their long-held opinions.

tick, tick…BOOM! – marketing recap

How Netflix has sold an anticipated musical biopic.

tick tick boom movie poster
tick tick boom poster

Tick, Tick… Boom! marks the feature film directorial debut of the already-accomplished and lauded Lin-Manuel Miranda. The movie tells the story of playwright Jonathan Larson, creator of the stage sensation Rent, and is based on Larson’s autobiographical stage play of the same name.

In the film Andrew Garfield plays Larson in the years leading up to his breakthrough as he’s still a struggling artist who feels time is running out for him to accomplish all the goals he’s set for himself. The story then follows him and those around him, both family and friends, as he attempts to make the most of the time he has, especially after finding out he’s HIV-positive, which in the early ‘90s was a very different diagnosis than it is today.

The movie costars Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesús, Bradley Whitford, Judith Light, Vanessa Hudgins and others – including many who have connections to either Miranda or Larson – as the people around the late playwright.

announcement and casting

In 2018 news came that the project was being developed with Miranda attached as director and Steven Levenson writing the script.

Netflix announced it acquired the movie in June 2019 after winning a bidding war among other studios. Garfield, Light and other members of the cast were announced at that time, with others joining in late January 2020.

the marketing campaign

The first footage came in January, part of Netflix’s announcement of its ambitious 2021 feature film slate.

The trailer (1.6m YouTube views), released in early June, is magnificent. It’s all about Larsen’s rush to create something unique and special before the ticking clock he hears in his head reaches its end. The story is made clear here and the trailer definitely conveys a sense of impending doom that has to be outrun for as long as possible.

The poster that came out at the same time shows Larson standing by himself on a stage looking at a piano sitting there as well. Copy hints at how the story is dictated by a ticking internal clock of Larsons while credits at the top make the pedigree of the movie clear.

Garfield talked about the movie when he appeared on “The Late Show” in June.

Netflix finally announced a release date in August.

At that festival Whitford was interviewed about working with Miranda, who he loosely knew from a college acting class as well as about the pressure of portraying the real life Sondheim.

In late September TV spots (also preroll video ads online) like this began running, offering a condensed version of the story.

Garfield made an appearance as a presenter at the Tony Awards around that time.

As October began the second poster was released, this one showing Larson at his piano, his hand-written lyrics and music displayed as a background behind him.

The second trailer (3.7m YouTube views) came out at the same time, introducing us to Larson and the artistically unfulfilled life he’s leading at the time. The second half is all about him being encouraged to take his shot, writing about what’s happening around him and using that to channel his frustration that he needs to accomplish something quickly, before it all comes to an end.

Miranda commented on how Garfield was cast and what was involved in making him comfortable enough to take on his role in a profile of the actor. Another substantial interview with Garfield had him talking about the pressure he felt and how he went about preparing to portray Larson.

Production Designer Alex DiGerlando was interviewed about creating the sets and other locations for the movie, including how he used Larson’s own photos and videos to recreate rooms and even specific items.

The cast and crew appeared at AFI Fest, where the movie screened.

How Garfield, who wasn’t a singer prior to being cast, learned more about Larson’s life and more was covered in a profile of the actor here. Garfield’s commitment to the role and doing right by both Larson and Miranda was praised by all involved in another feature.

Shipp, who plays Larson’s girlfriend Susan, was interviewed about how it was to work with Miranda and Garfield as well as how excited she was to finally be able to sing on film.

Three more posters came out just last week, one of which mimics the key art for the original stage production.

Netflix released a clip of the song “30/90” that really gives a sense of what Garfield’s vocal performance is.

A featurette with Miranda, Larson and others talking about the legacy and life of Jonathan Larson also came out recently that makes it clear the movie is less about his death and more about celebrating his life.

overall

Reviews for the movie have been mostly positive – it’s 89% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes – especially calling out Garfield’s fearless performance and Miranda’s assured direction.

Both of those aspects are clearly communicated in the campaign. But while the focus is mostly on Garfield and how he came to be cast and then learn to sing for the role, everything is almost always in service of putting the spotlight back on Larson and what he was going through at the time the story is set. Miranda, Garfield and everyone else take pains to always make sure it’s Larson at the center of the story, something that seems very personal for many of those involved.

belfast – marketing recap

How Focus has sold a deeply personal story from a top director.

Belfast movie poster
Belfast poster

Franchise entries aside, Kenneth Branagh is most well-known for his multiple Shakespeare films, some of which are the best of the genre. The director takes a more personal turn with this week’s Belfast, a semi-autobiographical story of his childhood in the Belfast of the 1960s, when the city was at the heart of the political unrest known as “The Troubles.”

The movie stars Jude Hill as Buddy, the child at the center of the story. Caitríona Balfe and Jamie Dornan are Ma and Pa, Buddy’s parents and Dame Jude Dench and Ciarán Hinds play his grandparents. It arrives in theaters this week after a campaign that’s been steeped in nostalgia and the yearning for childhood innocence.

announcement and casting

Branagh announced he would make the movie in mid-2020, noting at the time he’d taken time during the pandemic to explore more personal territory. Dench, Balfe, Dorna and Hinds were cast a few months later.

Focus Features acquired the project in December, 2020. A release date was announced a few months later in March.

the marketing campaign

Universal gave CinemaCon attendees in August a look at footage from this and other upcoming movies, with the trailer released to the public a month later.

That trailer (4m YouTube views) starts out by introducing us to Buddy and showing us how, like most kids, he’s figuring out who he is while also having fun with his friends. But that exploration and self-discovery is marred by the unrest gripping the city at the time, something Buddy’s parents are doing their best to protect him from.

Buddy runs down the street on the poster that came out at the same time, the photo showing the look and feel of the film. Even more so than in the trailer, the fact that Buddy is carrying make-believe versions of weapons at a time the adults were carrying the real thing creates a strong sense of tension that highlights the innocence of Buddy’s childhood.

The movie’s world premiere was held at the Telluride Film Festival in September, a screening that garnered mostly positive reviews and word of mouth for the very personal story Branagh had crafted.

While at Telluride the director talked about how long he’d been working on the project, telling such a personal story instead of bouncing between franchises and Shakespeare and more. Similar topics were covered by him during the Q & A following that screening and then again when the movie screened at the Toronto Film Festival. It went on to win the People’s Choice honor at Toronto. It also screened at the BFI London Film Festival.

An interview with Balfe during TIFF had her talking about a story that mixes the importance of family with the political fighting that made childhood in that area difficult to say the least.

The second poster once again shows Buddy with his makeshift sword and shield, this time leaping over the heads of his family to emphasize their role in his story.

Another screening was held in Washington, D.C. in mid-October and then at the Chicago Film Festival that same month followed by the SCAD Savannah Film Festival at the end of October.

TV spots like this began running in late October that emphasize the movie’s story of family being a bulwark against outside troubles instead of how the trailer positioned it more directly through Buddy’s perspective.

In November it was part of Miami Film Festival GEMS.

Branagh was the subject of a Variety cover story that focused on the positive festival reception that had turned the movie into a contender for Oscars and other awards. In another interview, Branagh talked about the emotional impact of seeing such a personal story on screen, especially watching it with critics and others in the crowd and taking their reactions into account.

The cast and crew reunited at the Belfast Film Festival for a screening and Q&A there.

Cole was interviewed about how he worked to become a young version of Branagh and more. Dornan later shared how having been born in Belfast he was eager to take on the role and explore the city’s history.

Clips began coming out a week or so ago showing more of the family relationships of the story as well as the broader world the story is set against.

The movie’s L.A. premiere was held earlier this week, with Branagh and the cast in attendance and appearing on the red carpet. At that event Dornan serenaded attendees with “Everlasting Love,” which he sings in the film. The stars and Branagh talked while there about the movie’s awards potential as well as helping the director tell a very personal story.

Dornan talked about singing on screen and at the premiere and more when he appeared on “Kimmel”. Balfe promoted the movie on “Today.”

A featurette had everyone involved talking about making the movie and recreating The Troubles of Belfast in the late 60s. More was explored in an installment of Focus Features’ “60 Second Film School” series.

overall

Comparisons to Roma from director Alfonso Cuarón have been consistent, especially since both movies are presented on black-and-white, but the idea of a fictionalized version of a filmmakers’ childhood has a long history.

Putting that aside, the campaign is so endearing and joyous while also communicating the problems that will come up in the story that it works on a handful of levels all at once. Certainly Branagh is at the forefront of the push since it’s his story being told, but there’s still room for Dornan, Balfe and others involved, though they frequently bring the focus back to the director.

More than anything the movie looks like an escape, anchored by performances from some of the finest actors working. If you’re a Branagh fan (as I am) then you’ll likely be hooked, with the festival buzz acting as assurance it will be time well spent.

red notice – marketing recap

How Netflix has sold a star-studded action comedy.

red notice poster Netflix
Red Notice poster

Red Notice, out this week on Netflix after a brief theatrical run, features the kind of cast that is any producer’s dream. Dwayne Johnson stars as FBI profiler John Hartley, who is on the trail of two high-profile thieves: Sarah Black (Gal Gadot) and Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds). When Hartley is wrongfully accused of being a criminal himself he has to team up with Booth to bring in Black and prove his innocence.

Written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, the movie has been sold as a big extravaganza with major star power. Let’s take a look.

announcement and casting

Universal Pictures won a bidding war for the project in early 2018, beating out several other studios for a movie that was seen as a sure thing with Johnson attached. Gadot was added later that year.

The first bit of news about the movie was kind of unusual in that it was a revelation that Johnson had asked for $1 million to promote the film to his social media followers in the lead up to release. That’s…not that big a deal? You could argue this kind of promotion would be in the talent’s own self-interest anyway, but if someone’s willing to pay you to do it as well, go for it.

In July 2019 it was revealed Universal had let the project go, with Netflix picking it up while at the same time dismissing Universal’s previously-announced release date and adding Reynolds to the cast. Right after that it was reported the movie’s budget was somewhere around $200 million, a substantial figure for an original property.

The movie was one of many to have its production put on hiatus because of the Covid-19 outbreak. Even so, Reynolds mentioned it briefly when virtually appearing on “The Tonight Show” earlier this year.

the marketing campaign

The first footage came in January, part of Netflix’s announcement of its ambitious 2021 feature film slate.

A release date was finally announced by Netflix – via the social media profiles of the cast – in July.

The first trailer (4.1m YouTube views) was released in September. It sells the basic story of Hartley having to team up with Booth to take down Black but like the rest of the campaign it’s primary goal is to convey the chemistry between the three leads and the action-packed humor of the story.

Later that month the movie was part of Netflix’s TUDUM virtual fan event, where an extended clip of the fight between the three main characters in a museum display room was released.

A substantial profile of Johnson touched on all the usual topics, from his early days in wrestling to his political ambitions to his daily training routine and so on.

Posters started coming out in mid- to late-October. Those included a theatrical one-sheet showing all three leads who are labeled “Pros and Cons” as well as character posters for Hartley, Black and Booth. Those character posters came out to count down the last three weeks before the movie’s release.

The second trailer came out at that time also, opening with the scene of Hartley recruiting Booth to try and find Black. That plan is complicated when Black frames Hartley for a crime he didn’t commit, meaning he and Booth now need to work together to both bring her in and clear his name. That’s all in service of what’s really being sold here, which is Reynolds and Johnson quipping at each other while Gadot looks lovely and dangerous and outsmarts both of them time and again.

Netflix put out one of their “watch this before…” videos that explains the story and characters while also offering some other recommendations on what to watch with the three stars.

The movie’s red carpet premiere, held earlier this month, was livestreamed, with the stars and others in attendance. At that event they boasted of the size of the premiere while also talking about how much fun they had making the movie, how they hope the audience enjoys it and more.

Of course because they both star in their own DC super hero franchises, a joint interview with Gadot and Johnson included asking them how those characters would have acted in the events of this film. Those two also appeared together on “Kimmel”.

An interview with Thurber had him talking about both the process of working with the cast and the technical aspects of production, including how he and others kept many of the effects practical instead of adding them later.

Just before the movie came to Netflix Johnson announced a new promotion where he would choose Tweets people shared about someone who’s done you wrong and put them on the Times Square digital billboard promoting the film. Netflix boosted that message with a paid promoted trend on Twitter.

overall

If you’re a fan of the three leads, you’ll likely be on board with this campaign.

If you’re a fan of big, silly action comedies, you’ll likely be on board with this campaign.

If you’re a fan of movies that are going to be completely enjoyable even if you only three-quarters watch them while doing other things, you’ll likely be on board with this campaign.

Basically there’s a lot of good stuff here but none of it should be mistaken for fine art. This is a popcorn flick meant to be enjoyed for what it is, not what it could be or what other movies have been.

one byproduct of endless remakes: originals being sidelined

Things happened before 1990, people…

At the risk of sending off strong “old man yells at cloud” vibes, I had to roll my eyes when I saw this as the lede to a story on a major entertainment news site:

Filmmaker Anthony Hemingway has signed on to direct a present-day remake of the 1996 film “The Preacher’s Wife” from Bassett Vance Productions and Anthony Hemingway Productions.

That lede raises the question of what counts as original source material.

1996’s The Preacher’s Wife, starring Denzel Washington, Whitney Houston and Courtney B. Vance, was itself a remake of the 1947 movie The Bishop’s Wife with Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven, itself an adaptation of a 1928 novel.

The slight name change was due to the idea of a bishop seeming a bit outdated and…well…white in 1996 if I remember correctly, though the story remained largely the same. But it’s still marked as a remake of the original. At the very least it’s another adaptation of the novel. Either way the foundation of the material goes back to the first half of the 20th century.

It would be like referring to a new version of Miracle on 34th Street as a remake of the 1994 movie instead of the 1947 original. Or someone’s recording “I Will Always Love You” as a cover of Whitney Houston’s song instead of it being Dolly Parton’s.

Then again even the BBC’s YouTube channel has Taylor Swift singing “Can’t Stop Loving You” designated as a Phil Collins cover instead of a White Horse/William Nicholls cover. So I’m not sure why I’m surprised.

It’s somewhat understandable that artists and fans may not always make this kind of distinction. Someone who grew up solely with the 1996 The Preacher’s Wife may simply not have the context to frame a new version appropriately. Just the other day I was thinking about how I grew up with the Kenny Rogers/Sheena Easton version of “We’ve Got Tonight” and went the better part of 10 years before learning Bob Seger wrote and recorded the song five years before it showed up on a record from Rogers.

But we live in the age of the internet and a simple Wikipedia search would provide the necessary background. And the expectations should be higher for anyone calling themselves a reporter. A decent editor should have caught it before the story was published.

To a great extent this tendency to reference the most recent iteration instead of diving all the way back to the source material is a product of the entertainment industry’s fascination with endlessly remaking the same properties over and over again.

That’s not new, either. The Philadelphia Story began life as a play before being made into a theatrical feature twice and adapted thrice for TV productions. But it’s only going to get worse as originals (or initial adaptations) from the early- or mid-20th century are superseded in the public consciousness by new versions from the 90s or 00s which have become for many people the de facto originals.

While I’m certainly not going to insist that everyone see the *actual* originals in order to appreciate the remake – just like I’m not going to insist everyone watch Rashomon in order to fully appreciate the genius of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, though they really should – we can at least ask the people who are bringing us the news of remakes, reboots and reimaginings to frame that news accurately and appropriately.

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random thoughts after rewatching the x-men movie series

[extreme stefon voice] This series has everything… [/extreme stefon voice]

Looking for something pleasant and familiar to watch in the background recently I decided to dive back in to the X-Men film franchise, beginning with the 2000 original and running through 2019’s Dark Phoenix but not including the Deadpool, Wolverine or New Mutants off-shoots.

Some of the movies like X-Men and X2: X-Men United I’d watched a number of times. Others, including The Last Stand and Dark Phoenix, I’d only seen once before. But watching all seven of the core franchise films was a fascinating experience, especially given how the primary narrative around many series these days is how planned and connected everything is.

the movies themselves

First let’s talk about the movies themselves and how they hold up.

X-Men: It’s a little surprising how creaky this movie feels over 20 years after it came out. There’s some good stuff in here, of course, but all the flaws that were apparent in 2000 (Halle Berry being given nothing to do, wooden performances from Paquin and others) are even more so today. Of course the Stewart/McKellan scenes are still great, and Joss Whedon’s script-doctoring saves more than a few scenes.

X-Men Wolverine GIF by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment - Find & Share on GIPHY

X2: X-Men United: Still a slick, impressive sequel that improves on almost every aspect of the original. Janssen is a standout for how much more assured her character is, and the addition of Nightcrawler and a couple other characters, especially Brian Cox as William Stryker, helps spread the action a bit and adds some depth to the universe. It also has an all-time great ending that’s completely undermined by the lackluster…

Ian Mckellan Magneto GIF by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment - Find & Share on GIPHY

X-Men: The Last Stand: It’s the worst of the original trilogy but, upon further review, not the worst of the overall series. That being said, it is simply bad in just about every respect, from Brett Ratner’s directing to Hugh Jackman being openly bored to how it abjectly fumbles the Phoenix storyline. Ratner is borderline amateurish and isn’t helped by a script that is a perfect example of how to jump from plot point to plot point without earning or validating each step. I mean…if you cut Kelsey Grammer reciting the St. Crispin’s Day speech while wearing blue fur and makeup, what kind of filmmaker even are you?

X-Men: First Class: The tightest of the seven movies by a fair margin, thanks in part to director Matthew Vaughn’s knack for pacing while also sprinkling in solid character moments. Yes, there’s a bit of fluff here and there and I still can’t tell you what the names of half the characters are because they’re so incidental, but it all keeps moving and it doesn’t matter. Where the previous movies had Stewart and McKellan the easy professionalism, this one has McAvoy and Fassbender offering more kinetic performances as Xavier and Magneto, setting the tone for the whole film.

First Class Students GIF by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment - Find & Share on GIPHY

X-Men: Days of Future Past: What even is the point of this movie? Upon rewatch I have to say it’s the worst of the series because of how convoluted and messy it is. Nothing makes any sense, none of the performances are coherent or mean anything. This all despite it introducing Evan Peters’ Quicksilver in one of the best sequences of the entire series. It’s particularly marked by Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence both already looking like they regret the contracts they signed.

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X-Men: Apocalypse: For whatever reason this entry held up slightly better than it has in the past, but it’s still all over the place and, for as long as it is, doesn’t amount to much. Aside from the fact it’s hard to take Apocalypse seriously when you see his leather pants wrinkle and stretch, the worst thing you can say about it is that it’s forgettable. Also, the very cool reveal of the X team in something akin to their classic uniforms at the end goes absolutely nowhere because the story then jumps another 10 years and they’re in their New X-Men costumes by the time you get to…

Olivia Munn Apocalypse GIF by X-Men Movies - Find & Share on GIPHY

X-Men: Dark Phoenix: Better on second viewing than it was initially but still there’s so much going on that defies belief or explanation:

  • It’s remarkable that, given the opportunity to not make the same mistake twice, writer Simon Kinberg does just that. I’m talking specifically about having the story involve Xavier intentionally putting a mental block in Jean Grey’s mind to keep her from accessing her full power. It was more than a little problematic in 2005’s Last Stand and it’s even more so in 2019.
  • Because of that, the storyline plays very much like “men are afraid of powerful women because as soon as they’re no longer under men’s control they will destroy the world.” Which was not the point of the original Dark Phoenix story. Even the animated series did a better job.
  • Jennifer Lawrence is so checked out it looks like she’s wearing a Party City Mystique costume. And that’s before she dies in the first act.

Dark Phoenix Ok GIF by Regal - Find & Share on GIPHY

other random observations

It’s honestly remarkable that they made seven X-Men movies, three Wolverine movies, two Deadpool movies and one New Mutants movie and never once actually addressed the issue of civil rights, prejudice, racism or any of the other themes that were the whole damn point of the comic books.

The series really offers the full range of potential performance types, including but not limited to:

  • Casual Elegant (Stewart, McKellan)
  • Trying So Hard (Rose Byrne)
  • Bored Bored Bored (Hugh Jackman in Last Stand)
  • Totally Not Paying Attention (Evan Peters)
  • Scenery Chewing (Brian Cox in X2)
  • Mugging For the Camera Because You Die Offscreen (James Marsden, Last Stand)
  • Actively Plotting Your Agent’s Demise (Fassbender in Apocalypse)
  • Owning It (Kevin Bacon, First Class)

It’s even more the polar opposite of the MCU in so many ways than the DC films. In the MCU the characters are almost always in motion. By comparison in the X-Men movies characters spend large chunks of each movie standing stock still and engaging in mid-tempo dialogue.

Also, the MCU movies are almost all examples of characters over story. The plots are largely the same (especially for the solo origin stories) but that doesn’t matter because the characters are out in front. The X-Men movies are all story and the characters fall to the wayside, given little to do but endlessly explain to each other what the story is.

You do have to respect, though, how so much of the action and stunt work in the movies is done practically instead of through elaborate CGI, as is the cast in almost every other super hero film since 2002.

Frequently reminded of how there was an X-Men Origins: Magneto in development at one point.

How do you not get Emma Frost right? How?

I don’t know who to feel more sorry for, the actress who played Kitty Pryde in the first two movies and then got pushed out for Elliot Page, or Elliot Page who’s given nothing to do in Apocalypse but grunt in Hugh Jackman’s face?

Poor Olivia Munn.

Poor…well…every actor playing a female character because clearly no one involved was interested in the female characters.

By my count, the U.S. government goes back and forth from fear to acceptance to fear of the X-Men like five times and that’s just in the four First Class-era movies.

No, seriously, like 45% of each of the movies is the characters just standing in a line together.

Like everyone else, I’ve tried my best to make the timeline of all seven movies work but it can’t be done. It just can’t.

spencer – marketing recap

How NEON has sold a fantasy character drama set in the world of royalty

Spencer movie poster
Spencer poster

There’s been no shortage of recent projects about not only the British Royal Family as a whole but the late Diana Spencer specifically. The most recent season of “The Crown” on Netflix covered the period including Diana’s tumultuous and abusive courtship by and marriage to Prince Charles, ending with them becoming estranged. Also on Netflix is Diana: The Musical, which covers the same basic time frame but also her untimely demise in 1997.

Into that mix comes Spencer from director Pablo Larraín and writer Steven Knight. Kristen Stewart stars as Diana in a story that, while largely imagined, is based on actual events and set during a 1991 holiday retreat by the Royal Family at a time when the marriage between Diana and Charles was largely a fiction being maintained for the sake of appearances.

Let’s take a look at how it’s been sold.

announcements and casting

The project was announced with Stewart in the starring role in mid-June of 2020. NEON acquired distribution rights shortly after that announcement.

In an interview that was part of her promotion of Happiest Season, Stewart admitted that watching the latest season of Netflix’s “The Crown” made up part of her research into Diana.

A first look at Stewart in character, accompanied by a few comments from the producers and others, came out in January.

In January of this year news came that Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood had signed on to score the film.

the royal marketing campaign

The campaign really kicked off in August with the release of the first trailer (2.4m YouTube views). It’s short but sets the tone by mixing scenes of Royal settings and routines with shots that hint at Diana not quite fitting into that environment.

At the same the first poster was released, taking the bold step of not showing the face of the star. Instead all we see is Diana from the back as she is doubled over, seemingly crying into her massive and expensive-looking white gown. That image is very much designed to indicate what the movie will be like even more than the trailer did.

An interview with Larraín has the director explaining just how much he played around with the real story of what happened, changing them to give Diana more agency and ultimately to give her a better ending on her own terms. Similar ground was covered by screenwriter Steven Knight, who also addressed this not being the only Diana-related project to be released recently.

The movie screened during festival season at the Venice Film Festival, which hosted the world premiere, as well as Telluride and Toronto festivals, each time earning positive reviews as a whole and especially for Stewart’s performance.

While on the festival circuit there were multiple interviews with Stewart where she talked about the physicality of the role, how she empathized with Diana’s emotional openness and earnest nature, what it was like to play (another) real life figure and lots more.

An EW cover story came out around this time with Stewart and Larraín both talking about working together and the responsibility of telling the story of such a beloved figure. Stewart also praised Emma Corrin’s performance in “The Crown” and revealed she used the same dialect coach Corrin did.

Late September brought the release of the final trailer (12m YouTube views). It’s a very unhappy Diana being shown here, one that is desperate for some sort of happiness that’s always denied by the family she’s married into, including the unloving husband who just wants her to perform her duties. It engages in a little of the inevitable foreshadowing of her death, but mostly it’s focused on how Diana manages to get from one moment to the next in life and what toll that struggle takes on her wellbeing.

A series of character posters showing Diana, Charles and others were released at this time.

Stewart and others from the cast attended a screening of the film at the London Film Festival in early October. The movie was then added to the lineup of the Austin Film Festival and Miami Film Festival GEMS.

Short spots and promos started coming out at this point, most of them showing Diana in some sort of conflict with Charles or another member of the Royal Family who doesn’t approve of her.

Costume designer Jacqueline Durran was interviewed about capturing the right look for the period, including sourcing vintage materials and the other tricks she pulled off to recreate royal designs.

The movie was then scheduled to open this year’s Contender’s Film Series at New York’s MoMA.

The red carpet premiere was held in late October with Stewart talking about making the movie in general as well as the similarities she sees between herself and Diana, particularly around how many cameras are constantly following her around and more about how “The Crown” helped prime the pump for this movie.

An interview with Larraín had the director talking about the story, Stewart’s performance and more.

The theatrical poster came out at the end of October showing Diana, clad in a black veil, looking longingly out a window. It’s meant to convey the kind of desperate daydreaming of another life that forms the crux of the drama in the story and does that effectively.

Stewart talked about the movie and her reaction to being asked to star in it when she appeared on “The Tonight Show” recently.

Fandango MovieClips debuted an exclusive clip of Diana getting some unwelcome advice from Charles about how to behave in public.

Stewart was awarded the Spotlight Award for her performance in this film by the Palm Springs International Film Awards.

overall

It’s very interesting that, given the glut of Diana-related projects vying for public attention recently, the decision was made at some point not to try and compete against them but to position this movie as additive to what’s already come out. That seems to be the reason why Stewart and others have been so open about watching “The Crown” and even using similar resources to help get the character of Diana right.

Aside from that, the focus from the outset has been on Stewart and her performance in the title role. That performance has been hailed and praised by just about every critic who’s seen the film and NEON has been sure to amplify that praise at every opportunity. As such, it forms the backbone of the campaign.

finch – marketing recap

How Apple has sold a drama of cataclysm and friendship.

Finch poster

It’s easy to draw comparisons between Cast Away and Finch, the latter debuting on Apple TV+ this week, which is why so many people have done just that. After all, both movies star Tom Hanks and have him acting opposite a non-human object in a largely solo performance.

This time it’s not an uninhabited island he’s seeking to escape but the desolated Midwest. Hanks plays Finch, an inventor who has survived the devastation caused by a massive solar flare that destroyed crops and killed nearly everyone on Earth. Along with his dog Seamus he tries to stay alive while building a robot companion (Caleb Landry Jones in a motion capture performance) he names Jeff. With a dangerous storm approaching where he lives, Finch decides the time is right, with Jeff’s help, to make a treacherous journey to where he hopes he’ll find safety and maybe other survivors.

announcement and casting

News of the movie, then called BIOS, first came in late 2017. Both Hanks and Sapochnik were already attached at that time and the project was reported to be the subject of a decent bidding war between various studios. Amblin Entertainment acquired it shortly after that and set distribution through Universal Pictures.

Jones was cast in early 2019 to provide the motion capture performance for Jeff, with others added later in the year.

With production completed in 2019, Universal originally set a release date in October 2020. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting theater closures and other delays various further release dates in 2021 came and went.

Finally news came in January of this year that Universal had sold the movie to Apple TV+, which gave it a new title and, in August, a new (and ultimately final) release date.

the marketing campaign

The first trailer (4.8m YouTube views) came out in September, effectively kicking ffo the actual marketing push. As it starts Finch is explaining how a sudden powerful solar flare destroyed crops and killed much of the population. He survived in part because he found a canine companion he took in. Now he’s working on a robot to help the two of them escape their shelter and find somewhere safer to live but time is running out and other threats are waiting for them on the road.

A poster showing Finch, Jeff and Seamus (the dog) looking out over the apocalyptic wasteland that surrounds and awaits them. It’s not a marvel of design by any stretch but effectively that Hanks is in a movie with a dog and a robot and that’s really the core message anyway.

Sapochnik was interviewed in October about working with Hanks, pandemic-related production shutdowns, the shift from Universal to Apple and more.

A “First Look” came out at the end of October that features Hanks explaining the movie’s story, setting and characters as well as the drama and relationships between the characters.

Hanks then appeared on “Kimmel” to talk about the movie and more, including the recent passing of friend and frequent collaborator Peter Scolari. He made a number of other media rounds as well.

A premiere event was held in Los Angeles with Hanks, Jones and others in attendance.

The first (and only) clip was released via PlayStation.

overall

With a 70% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes it’s not doing too badly in the reviews department, with many critics specifically noting they were surprised at how heartwarming and emotional the movie was.

In part that’s because the campaign hasn’t done a great job of communicating that emotional element. A lot of time is spent on the technical aspects of Finch making Jeff and planning their escape ahead of the encroaching storm but even though Hanks can be seen emoting throughout the trailer it’s not clear what those emotions are based on or what they mean.

Still, it’s Tom Hanks, and that’s never really a bad thing.