a good person – marketing recap

How MGM has sold a drama of grief and moving on

A Good Person movie poster from MGM featuring Florence Pugh and Morgan Freeman
A Good Person movie poster from MGM

A Good Person, out this week from MGM, sees Zack Braff returning to his dual roles of writer and director.

The story focuses on the relationship between Daniel (Morgan Freeman) and Allison (Florence Pugh). Allison’s engagement to Daniel’s son Nathan (Chinaza Uche) ended when his sister Molly (Nichelle Hines) was killed in an accident while Allison was driving. After strong emotions drive everyone apart, Daniel and Allison reconnect, leading to a friendship that helps both of them move on with their lives.

The movie costars Celeste O’Connner as Ryan, Daniel’s granddaughter who he’s now responsible for raising, Molly Shannon as Allison’s mother and Zoe Lister-Jones as Simone, the woman who runs the AA meeting where Daniel and Allison come back into contact.

Let’s take a look at the campaign that’s been run.

announcement and casting

MGM was reported to be interested in acquiring the film in March, 2021, a month or so after it was announced.

Freeman and Pugh were among the first cast members announced, with Shannon joining them in September of that year. Lister-Jones and Uche were added in October.

the marketing campaign

The story is recapped nicely in the trailer (921,000 YouTube plays), released toward the end of December. We see the “before” times, when Allison was about to join Daniel’s family, including how she was friends with Molly while engaged to Nathan. After the accident Allison spirals into addiction until she finds herself at the same AA meeting as Daniel. The two begin a tentative friendship as they help each other deal with lives that are very different than how they once thought they’d have.

“Sometimes we find hope where we least expect it” reads the copy on the poster that came out at the same time. That’s a fairly straightforward line but the photos that accompany it are a bit odd as we see Daniel staring off into the middle distance alongside Allison riding her bicycle. It certainly shows the two stars, but the copy does most of the lifting in terms of communicating anything about the story.

A profile of Pugh focused a lot on her personal life and personality but also included some talk about this movie, with Braff weighing in on how he wrote the part of Allison especially for her after they had been in a romantic relationship.

There was also an interview with Braff where he talked about the personal nature of the story, why he wanted to work with Pugh and Freeman and more.

Things went quiet until early March when a featurette was released that has Braff and the main cast talking about the story, the characters and more.

Braff and Pugh appeared at the London premiere a couple weeks ago and both talked about working together, the appreciation they have of each other’s talents and how emotionally-draining filming the story could sometimes be.

The first clip features Allison playing piano at a party before the tragedy that impacts the rest of the story.

Later clips show Allison cutting her own hair at the depths of her despair

Pugh promoted the film and talked about working with Braff and Shannon on “The Tonight Show”. Braff covered the same ground as earlier conversations in an “Entertainment Tonight” segment.


A couple initial thoughts:

  • I know people run hot or cold on Braff, but it’s hard to deny he seems to work hard on the stories he feels motivated to tell. Whatever issues people have – and some are absolutely legitimate – Braff has carved out a nice little niche for himself as a writer/director that seems more notable than his acting gigs.
  • It’s too bad that we have to talk so much about Pugh’s backstory, especially all the turmoil involved with Don’t Worry Darling. Even if it isn’t addressed directly, so much of the framing of profiles of the actor wink at it, which detracts from everything else going on.

With those out of the way, the campaign is a little uneven (especially that poster) but overall very nice in a warm and slightly funny way, which is on-brand for Braff as a filmmaker. It surely won’t make much of a dent in John Wick: Chapter 4’s expected box-office domination, but should effectively reach the kind of people who enjoy this type of movie.

john wick: chapter 4 – marketing recap

How Lionsgate has sold the latest action revenge drama

John Wick Chapter 4 movie poster from Lionsgate showing Keanu Reeves standing in front the Eiffel Tower.
John Wick Chapter 4 movie poster from Lionsgate

Keanu Reeves returns as the baddest assassin around in this week’s John Wick: Chapter 4. Continuing the story where it left off at the end of 2019’s Chapter 3, John is still on the run from the High Table, the oversight board of professional killers that John has defied since returning to the trade after his wife and dog were killed. Wanting to end his exile, John sets out to kill the members of the High Table, a quest that takes him to Osaka, Berlin and other locations where he’s helped by old friends, hunted by fellow assassins and generally still in all sorts of trouble.

Ian McShane and the late Lance Reddick are also back as the manager and concierge, respectively, of The Continental, the hotel catering to professional killers, as is Laurence Fishburne as an underworld figure that occasionally helps John out of a jam. Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård, Rina Sawayama and others join as well, rounding out the cast of characters that John will encounter and sometimes have to kill to stay alive.

With Chad Stahelski also back as director it’s time to take a look at the campaign Lionsgate put together for the film.

announcement and casting

The project was announced by Lionsgate in May, 2019, just as the third film was opening in theaters. At first the studio’s plan was to shoot Part 4 and Part 5 back-to-back, but it eventually dropped that due to lots of reasons.

Originally scheduled for release in May, 2021, the movie was pushed out a year. A few months later an announcement video was released revealing a further delay to March 2023.

With Reeves and Stahelski already on board, most of the rest of the cast – including McShane, Reddick, Yen, Clancy Brown, Scott Adkins and everyone else – came on board or confirmed they had signed on to return for another installment.

Both the star and director appeared at Lionsgate’s CinemaCon presentation in April, 2022 to show off the first footage from the movie to exhibitors and other insiders and press. While there they both talked a bit about what they wanted to do in this movie that was different from what had come before.

the marketing campaign

In July 2022 Lionsgate released the first official still from the film. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to get people excited.

That was followed by the first teaser, which might be the same footage shown at CinemaCon a few months earlier. It establishes the primary conflict of the story: That John is taking on the entire High Table as he tries to get his life back, facing what for anyone else would be overwhelming odds in doing so. We see some familiar faces along with some new ones and it’s all very on-brand and therefore exciting for the audience.

Things really kicked off in November of last year with the release of the first full trailer (42m YouTube plays). It starts with John talking with Caine (Yen) about what the future holds before we see that John’s only way out is to kill a high-ranking member of the High Table, but to even get to him he needs the help of his estranged adopted sister. Then, amidst all the other plot details offered, we get the kind of highly-stylized action sequences and dry humor we’ve all come to expect from the series.

In December of last year Reeves appeared at Brazil Comic-Con to ramp up fan anticipation. That’s also where the first poster, which shows Wick dressed sharply and staring at out at the camera, was revealed.

The fate of a fifth movie was a little more iffy in an interview with Reeves where he also talked about the couple of spinoff projects that are expanding the world first glimpsed in the Wick movies.

Beginning in mid-February Lionsgate ran what it dubbed “Wick Week,” promising new and exclusive material each day for seven days.

Monday: A new poster, this time showing Wick standing and looking very serious in front of The Eiffel Tower.

Tuesday: A bunch of movie-themed Valentine’s Day cards featuring stills from the film and some phrase related to dialogue or plot points.

Wednesday: Character posters for Charon (Reddick) and Killa (Adkins).

Thursday: The next trailer (23m YouTube plays), which offers a bunch of new footage with only the very basics of the plot shared while it focuses on the intense action featured in the movie.

Friday: Two exclusive videos shared from IGN’s Fan Fest event, one with Reeves answering questions and teasing what the audience can expect and the other a featurette on the stunts in the movie.

At the end of February another event week was held, this time debuting new posters each day. Those included a bunch by artists from different countries along with exhibitor exclusives from IMAX, Cinemark and others.

Fandango shared a couple exclusive interviews with the cast and director at the beginning of March while Reeves participated in a Reddit AMA.

In a much-shared interview, Yen talked about joining the series in general but specifically called out how he worked with Stahelski to not only change his character’s name but also adjust wardrobe and other aspects of the role to be less stereotypically Asian.

Most of the leading cast along with Stahelski then walked the soggy red carpet for the U.K. premiere of the movie followed by another event in Berlin and then later in Paris.

News then broke that the movie would be the “secret screening” selection at SXSW, with the star and director both appearing for a Q&A after that screening to soak in the accolades from those in attendance.

The Hard Rock Cafe announced a partnership with Lionsgate to bring movie-themed food, drinks and exclusive merchandise to its locations. The studio also worked with the website Community to let fans sign up for early screenings of the film.

Dolby finally released its exclusive poster at this time, a bit later than some of the others.

A feature interview with the director had him talking about getting actors ready for stunt work, the potential for a fifth movie and lots more.

Sawayama has appeared on “GMA,” “The Tonight Show” and elsewhere to promote the film and talk about her first experiences on a movie set. Reeves’ talk show stops also included “The Tonight Show” and more, all of which featured him being very charming and trying to share as many details as possible without going too far. Adkins stopped by “GMA” a little bit later as well while Yen chatted on “Kimmel”

Most of those happened around the time everyone was in New York for the movie’s official U.S. red carpet premiere in New York City followed by another in Los Angeles days later.

Just before the L.A. premiere, Reddick passed away, creating an outpouring of appreciation for both his acting and friendship from the cast of this movie as well as just about everything else he appeared in.


Things obviously ended on a far different note than was anticipated with the passing of Reddick, but the campaign up to that point hit on all cylinders and continually delivered exactly the kind of messages the audience was likely to react positively to. That’s part of the reason tracking projections anticipate an opening weekend box office of at least $70 million,

Most of those positive vibes come directly from Reeves, who continually put himself front and center to sell the movie directly to fans in a variety of ways.

Keanu Reeves Enjoy GIF by John Wick: Chapter 4 - Find & Share on GIPHY

random thoughts on: legal eagles

For no reason other than it showed up in a row of recommendations on Netflix and I couldn’t decide on anything else, I rewatched the Ivan Reitman-directed Legal Eagles recently, likely for the first time in over 30 years.

For those who haven’t seen it: Robert Redford stars as Tom Logan, an up-and-coming Assistant District Attorney in New York City who’s handed the high-profile assignment of seeing whether or not there are charges to be filed against Chelsea Deardon (Daryl Hannah), the grown daughter of a famous artist who died when she was a child. She’s been arrested after allegedly breaking into the apartment of someone who might have one of the few of her father’s works to have survived the fire that took her life. Chelsea is represented by attorney Laura Kelly (Debra Winger), who winds up working with Logan to find out the truth of what happened not only with Chelsea but also all those years ago when her father died.

As is often the case when these things happen, I have some thoughts now that I’ve seen it again:

First off, that poster is really something. Nothing about the photo itself communicates any aspect of the story or characters, other than that Laura is very serious, Tom very breezy and Chelsea very blonde. The clothing styles are all over the place and that copy at the top is in desperate need of someone who can whittle it down significantly.

The movie is less the story of combative and very attractive lawyers who have to unravel a mystery surrounding art forgery and insurance fraud and more the story of how Hollywood just completely turned its back on two very talented actresses.

In any given movie, Robert Redford is the most attractive man that’s ever been on film. This is no exception.

No, seriously, I’d like to go back to the moment in time where Debra Winger was pushed to the sidelines and have a conversation about how we shouldn’t let that happen. Because, just as she does in just about every role, she shows up here and goes toe-to-toe with Redford, which is no small thing. I get that she took herself out of the system for a number of years, but still…

He’s known primarily for Ghostbusters and other straight-up comedies, but we need to more fully appreciate the romantic comedy wing of Reitman’s directorial career. While there’s certainly a Tier 1 to this list, Tier 2 isn’t terribly far behind:

  • Legal Eagles
  • Dave
  • Six Days, Seven Nights
  • No Strings Attached

No, seriously, Daryl Hannah is so good in so many things and Hollywood couldn’t get past her playing kind of a ditzy blonde and sometimes I get angry about this, especially given the conventional wisdom that her career was torpedoed by That Miramax Guy.

There’s an extended bit in the film where Winger’s character gives Redford’s a hard time about the various charming looks he utilizes to appeal to juries and I feel like we didn’t appreciate how this was essentially Zoolander’s “Blue Steel” 15 years early.

It’s also an incredibly accurate encapsulation of Redford’s entire career, which is nice.

Steven Hill as a New York district attorney, but not the one you’re thinking of.

Ladies and gentlemen, Christine Baranski, but make sure you’re looking for her because she’s easy to miss given this is 1986 and all.

Speaking of 1986, remember when even romantic thrillers meant for audiences over 30 looked this good as a matter of course? Not that the cinematography is incredibly innovative or anything, but László Kovács’ work here is representative of a period of filmmaking when it looked like people cared about how the movie looked and knew how to frame a damn shot.

shazam: fury of the gods – marketing recap

How Warner Bros. has sold its latest super hero sequel

Shazam: Fury of the Gods movie poster from Warner Bros.
Shazam: Fury of the Gods movie poster from Warner Bros.

Shazam!: Fury of the Gods arrives in theaters this week four years after the first movie was released and as a new case study in creative title punctuation. Zachary Levi returns as the titular hero and Asher Angel as the young Billy Batson, his alter ego. This time he’s joined from the outset by the rest of the Shazam Family – Billy’s foster siblings who now have their own hero identities – in his adventures. Those powers have gotten the attention of Kalypso (Lucy Liu), Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Anthea (Rachel Zegler), the daughters of the Titan Atlas, who are out for revenge against the Council of Wizards, especially wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) who gave Billy his powers, for killing their father.

David F. Sandberg is back in the director’s chair as well, even as the movie arrives at an odd moment. Originally scheduled for release a year ago, it now finds itself a vestigial limb of the DC Extended Universe: It’s very much part of the universe focused around Man of Steel, Justice League, Aquaman and other entries (even if the connection in the first film was flimsy at best) but in the last few months James Gunn and Peter Safran have taken over the division and made it clear they’re largely cutting ties with that old continuity.

So the stakes in terms of what this story means and how it will influence future entries are extremely low because it seems there will be no impact as the old is replaced by the new. Still, the first movie was well-received for its less dark tone and Levi’s performance, which means it’s time to dive into the campaign and see how Warner Bros. has balanced all of that and more.

announcement and casting

WB announced in early 2020 that it was being pushed from April, 2022 to November of that year.

Well before the movie’s marketing started, Sanberg took the opportunity created by a bunch of reviews mysteriously being posted to Letterboxd to have a bit of fun and create a completely fake trailer for the non-existent film in August, 2020.

Later that same month Levi made a scheduled appearance at DC’s virtual Fandome event, revealing the movie’s subtitle and having a bit of fun with comedian Sinbad, the subject of one of pop culture’s greatest myths/prophecies.

A couple months later in October WB announced that the combination of the pandemic and production delays the release date was being moved from late 2022 to June, 2023.

Most of the original cast had confirmed their return by that point. Zegler was added in an undisclosed role in mid-2021, with Mirren and Liu joining around the same time.

the marketing campaign: phase one (first steps)

Sandberg offered a very brief teaser in June 2021, promising the movie was coming “soon…ish.” A few weeks later the director shared a picture of the adult cast in full costume, showing off the changes in those costumes since the first movie.

The movie was among those slated for the second edition of DC Fandome in October 2021. During that event a behind the scenes video was shared along with first looks at the villains played by Mirren and Liu.

In April 2022 exhibitors and others got a look at the movie when it was part of the studio’s presentation at CinemaCon.

the marketing campaign: phase two (basically just comic-con)

While it was still scheduled to hit theaters in December 2022 the cast and Sandberg appeared at San Diego Comic-Con in July of that year to share their excitement for the sequel with fans and talk about what they could expect of the movie. Mirren was not there in person but did weigh in via recorded segment.

That’s also where the first trailer (18m YouTube plays) was released. It starts by more clearly establishing itself as part of what at the time was the DCEU as Billy, in therapy as Shazam, talks about how he’s not as cool or unique as heroes like Flash, Aquaman and Batman. He explains his backstory a bit before we get into the vague conflict between the heroes and the Daughters of Atlas, who are upset that those children have stolen the powers of the gods. Billy still seems to be having fun as a super hero, though, and the tone is still much lighter than in other movies from this universe.

A month later in August, after having moved the film’s release to June it was then shifted again, this time up to March because it was ready before Aquaman 2, which had previously been in that calendar slot.

the marketing campaign: phase three (for real this time)

The first poster only came out in November of last year, once the final release date was established. It’s a variation on the one-sheets for the first movie, this time showing Shazam looking like he’s doing a fun little dance as smoke and sparks surround him.

In December DC unveiled the movie-themed variant covers planned for select March releases to coincide with the movie hitting theaters.

The next poster was shared exclusively by IGN in January. This one shows Shazam in a more traditional upright heroic pose, different parts of the background split up by a lightning bolt show the other characters, including the Daughters of Atlas, the Wizard and the rest of the Shazam Family.

Also hitting in January was the second trailer (26m YouTube plays). This one gets to the threat posed by the Daughters of Atlas right off the bat before sidetracking into Billy talking about everything that’s changed in the last few years, especially everyone getting powers. It then establishes the story as one of Billy choosing to stand up and do the right thing despite a series of setbacks and nagging self-doubt over his abilities. Also, it’s about massive CGI dragons attacking Philadelphia.

Around the same time DC released a preview of its “Shazam! Fury of the Gods Special #1 – Shazamily Matters”, a special prequel comic with a story that sets the stage for where the characters are as the movie starts.

Footage from the trailer was cut down into TV spots like this one that began running in early February.

Levi appeared in a PSA for pet adoption that ran, along with a dedicated TV commercial for the movie, during the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet in February.

Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook users could send their friends an AR quiz to determine their super power, with the finished results including a costume of their own overlaid on the video.

An interview with Mirren had her talking about how she agreed to be in this movie because she loved the first one so much but that the story was so convoluted she couldn’t even explain it, so just don’t worry about it.

Exclusive posters were released for Dolby and ScreenXUSA as tickets were going on sale in mid-February. To mark that event Fandango also released an exclusive interview with the cast, who all gushed about the great time they had making the movie.

Character posters for Shazam, Hespera, Kalypso and Anthea also came out.

At the end of February and into early March the cast hit the road for the press tour, including stops in Rome, London, Toronto and elsewhere for special screenings and red carpet fan events.

Levi appeared in two more PSA spots, one from the Ad Council to raise awareness about teen adoption and foster care and one to raise funds for No Kid Hungry to fight child hunger in the U.S.

Items and characters from the movie were added to Roblox’s Strongman Simulator game.

Mirren and Levi appeared on “The Masked Singer” along with DC’s Jim Lee as special guest for “DC Superheroes Night.”

Skittles released a co-branded commercial to capitalize on the candy’s use in the film to tame unicorns.

In a bold move, a short TV spot that came out earlier this week includes an appearance by Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, a cameo that was previously unconfirmed and which again comes off as kind of odd given the future of that incarnation of the character is up in the air at the moment.

Everyone came out for the red carpet premiere in Los Angeles despite the rain in that region creating a very wet experience for everyone. While there Levi and others talked about not only this movie and what it was like to return (or join) for the sequel but also speculate about their potential involvement in future films.

A feature that focused on both Mirren and Liu had them talking about joining the story, what makes their characters unique and the bulkiness of their costumes.

Adam Brody, who plays the heroic version of Freddy, appeared on “Late Night” while both Liu and Levi appeared separately on “The Tonight Show.” Those two also showed up together on both “Today” and “Good Morning America.”


Tracking for the movie indicates a fairly underwhelming $35-40m opening weekend, but there appear to be hopes that such projections aren’t fully accounting for family audiences who may be uncertain about committing to heading to theaters amid both the continued pandemic and massive inflation.

The campaign, though, has some very nice touches that have sold the movie well despite the myriad challenges it faces.

Themed and relevant PSAs: Levi personally appears in at least three cause-related PSAs designed to raise awareness/funds for social issues, including those dealing with foster care, childhood hunger and pet adoption. The actor has spoken out in the past about his own mental health issues and how he’s overcome those, so it makes a lot of sense for them to be part of this campaign and they work well in this context as well.

Continued sense of fun: Even with the elements that show how Billy is struggling with his role as a superhero, the campaign keeps communicating a lighthearted tone that’s in-line with that established in the first movie.

How much those overcome the very real complications of potential superhero fatigue in the audience, the uncertain future of these characters in the DC film franchise and more remains to be seen, but on the whole it’s an entertaining and engaging marketing effort.

65 – marketing recap

How Sony has its latest sci-fi action flick

65 movie poster from Sony Pictures
65 movie poster from Sony Pictures

Adam Driver stars in this week’s new theatrical release 65. The title refers to how many million years back in Earth’s history a pilot named Mills (Driver) finds himself after his craft crashes on what at first appears to be an unfamiliar planet along with fellow survivor Koa (Ariana Greenblatt). The two then have to survive an environment filled with a multitude of dangers, including the massive dinosaurs that dominated the planet at the time and make their way to the one point that offers them a chance to return to their own time safely.

Directed and written by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods – who previously wrote A Quiet Place – the movie costars Chloe Coleman and Nika King. Sony Pictures’ campaign hasn’t been all that extensive, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

announcement and casting

Driver was the first of the cast to sign on in September, 2020 with the others joining between then and the end of that year.

The directing pair marked the first day of production in December, 2020 and the last day of filming a couple months later.

the marketing campaign

Without much preamble the campaign kicked off in December of last year with the first trailer (24m YouTube plays). After it establishes itself as coming from the writers of A Quiet Place we see the premise, that Mills’ transport ship has crashed and can’t communicate with his base. He believes he’s on an alien planet, albeit one with breathable air and potable water. The truth of the situation becomes apparent, though, when he and Koa start encountering what are clearly dinosaurs on ancient Earth, but that doesn’t make things less dangerous as they try to find a way home.

The poster that came out at the same time sets things up by not only making the same pitch about the story’s origins but by showing Mills with his rifle at the ready while a dinosaur lurks behind him.

In keeping with how the movie has been heavily branded as coming from the writers of A Quiet Place, there’s no dialogue in the TV spot Sony aired during February’s Super Bowl broadcast. But there are plenty of jumps and scares and big dinos terrorizing the human characters.

Additional commercials began running shortly after that both on TV and as online pre-roll spots. They offer more explanation of the movie’s story, but still rely heavily on promising the audience a lot of thrills.

Sony again went to make an appeal to sports audiences with a commercial that aired during an NBA game broadcast in late February and which features basketball star Anthony Edwards, who’s digitally inserted into the action to react to what’s happening and make fun of what Mills is doing.

Another poster came out earlier in March that shows both Mills and Koa making their way through a cave, with the T-Rex stalking them through the waterfall they’ve already passed.

Driver appeared on “The Tonight Show” to promote the film and talk about a handful of other things. Earlier in the month Greenblatt responded to fan questions in an Instagram AMA session and later on the directing duo along with producer Sam Raimi participated in a Reddit AMA.

The cast and crew turned out for the premiere screening in New York City earlier this week

Both Driver and Greenblatt were interviewed about their experience making the movie, including working with all the special effects, the physical demands of their roles and Greenblatt’s attempts at making the famously focused Driver break up a little on set.


The weak sub-$10 million opening weekend projected for the film shouldn’t, I don’t think, reflect on the quality of the campaign. While this certainly can’t be said to be a massive or all-encompassing effort, it’s well put together and knows what’s being sold.

Its biggest hurdle is one faced by a lot of movies these days that aren’t already part of a franchise, series or established IP. Specifically, that while the campaign may have generated sufficient awareness it wasn’t able to convert that into interest.

That’s why at every opportunity the marketing reminded audiences that the movie involved the writers of A Quiet Place. Without a brand of its own to rely on, this was the next best thing.

scream vi – marketing recap

How Paramount has sold yet another entry in the horror satire series

Scream VI movie poster from Paramount Pictures
Scream VI movie poster from Paramount Pictures

It was just over a year ago that directors Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin successfully restarted the Scream franchise with a sequel that resonated with both critics and audiences. Now they and the series are back with this week’s Scream VI hitting theaters.

Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega return from the previous film as half-sisters Sam and Tara Carpenter. After surviving Ghostface’s last attack the two have moved from Woodsboro, where all the previous movies were set, to New York City. But the new location has the same old threats as they’re soon plagued by another Ghostface killer.

Once again written by Guy Busick and James Vanderbilt, the movie also stars Samara Weaving, Mason Gooding, Jasmin Savoy Brown and others. Courtney Cox also returns as journalist Gale Weathers and Hayden Panettiere reprises her role of Kirby Reed from Scream 4. Legacy cast members David Arquette and Neve Campbell are not here, though, for reasons expanded on below. So with all that said, let’s take a look at the marketing campaign.

announcement and casting

The movie was announced in February 2022, about a month after the successful opening weekend of the first (fifth?) installment. The surviving cast from that movie were revealed to be returning, with Panettiere reported to be coming back as the same character she played in Scream 4 a short while later.

Mulroney joined in June 2022, but just a little while later Neve Campbell announced she was not returning, citing what was apparently a lowball offer from the studio she didn’t feel was representative of her talent or value. Weaving and Revolori were added in July.

Barrera assured fans that despite the change in venue there’d be plenty of blood and gore in the new installment.

the marketing campaign

The first poster that came out in mid-December got the campaign underway and, by showing Ghostface peering through a subway car window, sets up the change of venue nicely even if it weren’t emphasized by the copy reading “New York. New Rules.”

The teaser trailer (4.7m YouTube plays) released at the same time does similar work, showing a bunch of the characters riding the subway on what in the rest of the country would clearly be Halloween but which in New York might a random Tuesday before they see one of the several Ghostfaces in the car with them staring a bit too intently before approaching and attacking them.

The New York City subway setting was used in a clever graphic released in early January showing Ghostface’s mask formed by a map of the different train lines.

Comments from some of the cast about the story and its’ new setting accompanied a handful of new stills in EW.

Later in January another poster came out that this time shows most all of the cast arrayed around two separate photos of Ghostface as well as a massive knife coming out from the bottom, all with New York City in the background. Fans and others of course spent a good amount of time analyzing the poster for clues about who might be the killer, who are the victims and more based on how they’re standing, whether they’re looking at the camera or not and other details.

The official trailer (14m YouTube plays) came out then as well. It starts out dramatically with Ghostface hunting Sam and Tara through a corner bodega. They wind up connecting with Gale and Kirby over their shared trauma before going on the hunt for the killer, whoever they are this time. There’s an extended look at Ghostface’s attack on Gale in her apartment but otherwise it’s mostly about the characters being hunted or doing the hunting.

More new footage was seen in a commercial that aired during February’s Super Bowl broadcast. It offers a bit more with Kirby as well as the various forms of peril everyone will find themselves in as they’re chased around New York City.

Dolby, RealD 3D, Fandango and 4DX released exclusive posters, all of which focused exclusively on Ghostface and eschewed the rest of the cast, indicating where the real appeal of the franchise is seen to lie.

Cinemark also served fans by bringing back some of the chain’s popular Ghostface-themed popcorn and soda cups.

Also in early February an advance “Fan Event” screening of the movie was announced for March 9th at select theaters across the country, with ticketholders receiving an exclusive poster.

“Try to cut it in the Big Apple” says another poster that came out showing a massive knife stuck into a bleeding apple.

Bloody Disgusting revealed a set of 13 character posters showing off all the various characters in the movie. Shortly after that Demi Lovato shared the title of her new song appearing on the soundtrack.

Ortega was scheduled to host “Saturday Night Live” on March 11th, just as the movie was hitting theaters.

Scream VI online banner ad from Paramount Pictures
Scream VI online banner ad from Paramount Pictures

Online ads like the one to the right began running around this time to drive traffic to the official website where people could find showtimes and buy tickets.

As has become common, an in-person “immersive walk-through” event titled “Scream VI: The Experience” happened in Santa Monica, CA the last weekend of February and first weekend of March promising visitors a look at props from the entire the series as well as a few surprises.

Cox was in the spotlight when she was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last week.

Paramount launched a web app where you could request a call from Ghostface themself in case you felt that was something missing from your life and you could add a Snapchat AR lens where to add Ghostface’s mask to your own face. There was even a ChatGPT-powered “Survive Scream VI” bot users could add to their Discord server to get AI-generated scenarios to see if they could survive them.

The studio sent people dressed like Ghostface to towns across the country with no context or warning in what seems to be an official stunt designed to get people thinking about the character and by extension aware of the movie coming out.

The studio used some corporate synergy to get some of the “Reno 911” cast to create a short video where Lt. Dangle gives a briefing about a new serial killer that just happens to be Ghostface, which seems troubling until they realize it’s about New York.

Last-minute talk show appearances included Ortega on “First We Feast,” Gooding on “The Daily Show,” Barrera on “CBS Mornings” and “Late Night”, Cox on “Kimmel”, and more, all leading up to the movie’s red carpet premiere in New York City where the cast and crew talked about Campbell’s decision not to return, the location shift and what might lie ahead for future installments.

One final short trailer was released just days ago that sells the movie as a pulse-pounding ride full of jump-scares while sharing pull quotes from some of the positive reviews it’s accumulated to date.


The $35 million the movie is projected to earn at this weekend’s box office is reported to be a best for the now six-film strong Scream franchise. That reflects well on the film’s marketing campaign, indicating that it’s done a good job of raising awareness and showing that the very tight window since the last movie hit theaters might be helping, not hurting.

That help might be in part because these movies are so closely tied to particular moments in time and culture that getting them out quickly to capitalize on a hot cast or other element makes a big difference in how the campaign resonates with audiences.

So on that front: Nice work.

On the other hand, what seems to be largely missing from this campaign (and it was an issue in the marketing of the previous installment as well) is any of the meta, self-aware fun that the first few movies had. From the marketing materials, this looks a lot like just another horror/slasher flick, not anything that deconstructs the elements of the genre or comments on the current state of these movies.

The stunt of sending people dressed like Ghostface to random towns and cities is exemplary of that in how it’s similar to how the recent straightforward horror hit Smile and other movies like it were sold.

Still, these movies are almost always enjoyable, even if they seem to occasionally forget to not take themselves or the genre so seriously, and the campaign effectively sells a fun continuation of the franchise’s story.

creed III – marketing recap

How the latest in an unlikely film series has been sold.

Creed III movie poster from MGM
Creed III movie poster from MGM

When I say it’s surprising that 2015’s Creed has now spawned two sequels, including this week’s Creed III, what I mean is that the first two movies have no right being as good as they are, mainly because unlike other legacy sequels they actually build something new instead of simply retreading the past.

Michael B. Jordan directs this installment as well as returning in the title role of Adonis Creed. As the story picks up, Adonis has retired from professional boxing and is married to Bianca (Tessa Thompson). His past isn’t done with him, though, as Damian “Dame” Anderson (Jonathan Majors) appears, seemingly intent on settling old scores from an incident when they were younger that sent Anderson to prison.

With Adonis now having established enough of his own history to not be reliant on Rocky Balboa’s let’s take a look at how the movie has been sold.

announcements and casting

Baylin was announced as the movie’s writer in March of 2020. Rumors and comments circulated for the next several months that not only would Jordan return in the title role but that he would use this as his directorial debut. Those rumors were confirmed in March 2021 at the same time MGM announced a release date.

While he was promoting Without Remorse Jordan was also asked about this movie, confirming in an interview that Stallone would not be returning as Rocky Balboa so that Adonis could more fully come into his own. Jordan continued teasing the movie, later talking about the directing tips he got from Denzel Washington when they were working on Journal For Jordan.

Leyva, Moore II and others joined the cast in early 2022.

Thompson commented briefly about where the movie was and what it was like to work with Jordan as director as well as costar while she was promoting Thor: Love and Thunder.

Amazon released a pair of first look stills in mid-October of last year.

the marketing campaign

Two posters were released in mid-October last year, one each showing Creed and Anderson sitting in their respective corners. There’s no additional copy outside of the title, with the appeal here being exclusively the look of the two stars.

Food trucks were sent to a handful of HBCUs to give away food and offer a first look at the trailer along with other surprises.

That trailer (15m YouTube plays) begins with Adonis reflecting on how far he’s come and what he’s accomplished before he reconnects with Damian, who wants to be a fighter himself. But he has his own agenda, namely to get what Adonis has because he felt it should rightfully be his. It all, of course, leads to a showdown between the two to settle old scores and see who’s the best.

Jordan talked about the influences he pulled from as a first time director and more in an Empire interview that contained a handful of new stills. At a press conference around the same time he shared the reasons he worked to cast Mexican boxer Canelo Álvarez and include elements of Mexican boxing in the story.

Adonis, Bianca and their daughter Amara are featured on the next poster to show the very personal stakes Adonis is fighting for in the story.

An IMAX featurette has Jordan talking about the personal nature of the story and how it’s the result of living with the character for so many years now as well as his desire to push both the character and himself.

In late January Jordan appeared on “The Tonight Show” and hosted “Saturday Night Live.” TV commercials also started airing at this time as tickets were going on sale.

A new poster was also released showing Adonis in mid-punch against an unseen opponent. On another he’s squaring off against Damian.

More new stills were part of a Total Film interview with Majors where he shared more details about his character. Majors was also the subject of an EBONY cover story.

Exclusive posters came out from Dolby, IMAX,

Another featurette has the main cast talking about the story and their characters and how so much of what’s come before pays off in this movie.

Jordan attended the Mexico City premiere in early February. We get more details on the conflict between Adonis and Damian in a TV spot that aired during the Super Bowl broadcast at that time.

An extensive profile of Jordan focuses on this movie and how he worked to overcome his nerves around directing for the first time and more while also looking at how it fits into his long journey through the entertainment industry in his career.

Additional premieres and screenings were held in Paris, London and elsewhere.

One more poster has Damian looming in the background like a super-villain with Adonis in the foreground.

The final trailer (16m YouTube plays) offers more details on Damian’s background and his history, as well as his beef, with Adonis, and how Adonis needs to confront the mistakes of his past to settle things before all that he’s accomplished is destroyed.

Jordan took part in IGN’s Fan Fest event and hinted at the anime influences behind some of the fight sequences. He also continued to appear on “GMA” and other talk shows to promote the film.

Promotional partners for the movie included:

  • BOXRAW, which launched a line of movie-inspired boxing gear.
  • Dreamville, which worked with Interscope Records to hold a boxing-themed workout and wellness day at the L.A. Expo Center.
  • Fortnite, which offered an Adonis Creed outfit to those who took part in a particular event.
  • Ralph Lauren, which featured Jordan in a new campaign
  • Calvin Klein, which also had Jordan in a new campaign though with a decidedly different wardrobe
  • Hennessey, which sponsored a boxing gym pop-up experience in L.A.

The studio worked with local artists in New York City and Los Angeles to create murals promoting the movie.

Everyone was in attendance at the Los Angeles premiere event at the end of February. While there Jordan praised his cast and crew and talked more about how the challenge of directing and continuing Adonis’ story was something he felt he had to do to prove himself.

There was a short featurette on Ann Najjar, a real boxing trainer who appears in the movie as one of those helping get Adonis back in fighting shape. We get more behind the scenes footage and comments in another featurette. A bunch of athletes were invited to Creed Camp to get a taste of what training as a fighter is really like.

Majors did a few more talk show appearances, including on “Late Night” and “The Late Show.”


There are a few things that stand out to me about the campaign:

  • The expected $40 million opening weekend box-office would definitely be a win for all involved as this is Jordan in particular going all-in on making and defining his own career.
  • Jordan is such a fascinating mix of being intensely serious and also playfully funny and all of that comes out here, where he is the single biggest focus of the campaign for a number of very good reasons.
  • OK, but I would have also loved more of Thompson in the marketing.
  • Jonathan Majors and I basically have the same body type, so it was heartening to see myself represented on film.

No, seriously, this is a quality campaign that sells a simple story extremely well. At the heart of it is Adonis Creed – and by extension Jordan – standing on his own without the legacy of Rocky and Apollo dictating everything.

the academy goes full batman

Ready. For. Anything.

The head of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science has said the group will be ready for anything out of the ordinary at this year’s Oscars ceremony. The prep work comes a year after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on stage in response to Rock’s performance in Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back comments about Jada Pinkett Smith.

Putting aside the fact that you can’t be “prepared for anything we can’t anticipate” since you can only prepare for the things you *can* and *have* anticipated, that we’re still talking about this incident seems like the most clear indication we’re living in the dumbest timeline.

But it does have me wondering what kind of scenarios the producers of the broadcast might be preparing for with their crisis intervention team. Here’s an incomplete list:

  • Austin Butler is still using his Elvis accent and needs to be muzzled like Tom Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises
  • Pauly Shore rushes the stage and starts trying to weeze the juice with Brendan Fraser

Of course those are just the potential incidents that occur to me. But the idea that AMPAS has a team of professionals ready to descend on the stage to break up a fist fight between Colin Farrell and Judd Hirsch when one tries to steal the other’s Milk Duds like the S.W.A.T. team raiding the Griswold’s house at the end of Christmas Vacation is just incredibly amusing.

It’s also more than a little depressing. At this point everyone in Hollywood has been asked for their opinions on the slap incident, all parties involved have addressed it ad nauseum and yet this is what the trade group has decided is the most important thing to focus on and prepare for like they’re a grade school principal monitoring the playground during recess.

cocaine bear – marketing recap

How Universal Pictures has sold a for realzies true story

As hard as it may be to believe, the new movie Cocaine Bear is based on a true story. Even harder to believe is the cocaine-powered bear of the title *isn’t Larry Kudlow.

Directed by Elizabeth Banks and written by Jimmy Warden, the movie’s premise is this: A duffel bag full of cocaine falls out of a plane as it’s being transported by criminals and lands in a national park where it’s ingested by a massive grizzly bear, which then proceeds to act exactly as you would expect a coked-out bear to.

Keri Russell stars as Sari, one of the local residents that gets involved in efforts to wrangle the bear after it takes its disco nap. O’Shea Jackson Jr., Ray Liotta, Brooklyn Prince, Alden Ehrenreich and others play those who encounter the bear or are searching for it, whether they’re locals just trying to survive or criminals trying to get their drugs back.

The real story the movie is inspired by is much less dramatic, but that doesn’t make for good cinema so let’s take a look at the marketing campaign Universal Pictures put together.

announcements and casting

The movie was announced in March, 2021, with Banks as director. Russell, Ehrenreich and others were added to the cast in June.

A release date was revealed in May of last year.

Unfortunately just a short while later Liotta passed away, though it was clarified he had finished filming his scenes already.

the marketing campaign

Universal kicked off the campaign in late November with the release of the first trailer (16 million YouTube plays). It is…insane…but shows the basic premise and major characters pretty well. Basically, a bear eats an entire package of cocaine and everyone is just trying to not die while a bunch of criminals are trying to recover said cocaine and also not die. It plays as very over-the-top, which is the only choice you can make with material like this.

The poster accompanying the trailer shows the bear of the title dancing around in a shower of cocaine, communicating to the audience exactly what the movie is about. A motion poster that came out a month later illustrates this point even more clearly.

Banks talked about how the story is really about the dynamics between the characters and that there’s a lot of empathy for the poor bear that didn’t know what it was getting into in an interview from December.

In late January TV advertising began with a commercial that takes the opposite approach of the trailer and juxtaposes that insane footage with a very serious score and pacing, making it seem like an awards-contender type of release, not a ridiculous commercial film about bears, drugs and death.

Rotten Tomatoes shared an exclusive featurette that had Banks and much of the cast talking about how nuts the movie was and how in tone it’s a comedy wrapped instead a horror movie.

Banks was the subject of a Variety cover story in early February that focused on how she went about preparing to tell a story like this as well as how this was her first directorial effort after her version of Charlie’s Angels didn’t connect with audiences. She then promoted the film when she appeared on “The Tonight Show” to tell lots of crazy stories.

What it was like to reunite with producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller as well as working with Liotta were both covered along with other topics in an interview with Ehrenreich.

A Snapchat lens was released that added Cocaine Bear to the background of your photos or videos.

Most everyone turned out for the premiere red carpet where they talked about hitting the right tone with the film, how wonderful Banks is as a director and more.

Warden was also interviewed about the process of taking the true story and turning it into something even more outrageous, including what liberties he took with the real events.


The movie is projected to open with about $15 million this weekend, which is a testament to how good the campaign is that it might be able to reach beyond the niche appeal film’s like this often have.

But really, inspired by Banks’ comments she would be open to making a movie about a coked-out shark, we need to think about the future and speculate about what other drug/animal stories might be coming soon:

  • Heroin Hedgehog
  • Oxycontin Ostrich
  • Marijuiana Manatee
  • Ecstasy Elephant

What else you got?

stop making value judgements about movies

“…isn’t worth your time.”

That was part of the headline for a recent movie review. The movie in question wasn’t one of the major studio releases but a title debuting on a popular streaming service that week.

Critics are, of course, paid to share their opinions on films and to, on some level, weigh in on whether or not it achieves some level of quality. And in our current media environment the stronger the opinion of the critic the better in order to break through the background noise.

The reason the headline in question caught my eye is that it seemed to cross the line from evaluating the movie itself and became about offering direct advice and direction to the reader. And that rubbed me the wrong way.

let’s stick with subjectivity

There are certainly movies where the acting is of higher quality.

There are certainly movies where the various production elements show higher levels of skill and proficiency.

There are certainly movies where the writing is more cohesive and the story easier to follow.

None of that, though, is an indication of whether or not a movie is worth your time.

Over the years there have definitely been times when I’ve taken a somewhat snooty approach to evaluating movies and sharing my opinion of them with others. But in that regard I’ve calmed down quite a bit and have come to the following conclusion:


I’m not mad I spent three and a half hours watching The Irishman a few years ago. When it ended I felt I had enjoyed myself and appreciated the craft that had gone into making it.

I’m also not mad I spent a total of about three hours watching The Babysitter and its sequel, subtitled Killer Queen. Both movies were fun and made in a way completely appropriate to the subject matter and at the end of both I felt I had enjoyed myself.

it’s my time, thank you very much

One of the great things about the era of streaming is that the barrier to entry for any movie is almost non-existent. If I already subscribe to Netflix, the incremental cost of watching The Babysitter over watching The Irishman is zero, essentially just my time.

While the actual economics are slightly different, this is largely the same role second-run movie theaters used to serve when they were more common than they are now that so many have been pushed out of business by collapsed home video windows and other factors. You could try something you were a little unsure of for $1.50 a ticket when the first-run price of $7 seemed too high. If you had a good time then it was totally worth it and hey, you tried something new. If you didn’t, you were only out $1.50 and a few hours.

critique, don’t warn

Considering there are so many forces actively working against feature films as an artform – gaming, mobile video, prestige limited series and more – it’s surprising to see any critic or journalist actively warning potential audiences away from experiencing any movie.

I’m not saying we need to go full tech press and have film journalists unquestionably praise any movie that comes down the funnel. But there’s a way to say “I enjoyed this movie for the following reasons and you might too” or “I didn’t enjoy this movie for the following reasons but you might” and have it be acceptable.

By engaging in hard and fast warnings and telling readers, in essence, they are better off not engaging with a film, critics are potentially denying people an enjoyable experience. And they’re doing damage to the art form as a whole by creating mental boundaries that may result in someone choosing to spend their time on TikTok instead of even trying a movie that isn’t a blockbuster cultural event with a $300 million marketing budget.

As I said above, my opinion is nearly every movie is worth seeing at least once. Certainly there are exceptions to this for clearly objectionable material. Outside of that, though, audiences should be encouraged to sample from a breadth of material, allowing them to determine which areas they wish to explore more deeply.