Paramount’s marketing head wags his finger at audiences, saying if they keep claiming to be so eager for new and innovative filmmaking they would have turned out for this movie.
I don’t think that’s quite the point that was made by mother!’s disappointing $7.5 million box-office last weekend. Megan Colligan, the Paramount exec quoted in that story particularly calls out those who said the movie was too difficult and off-putting for audiences. Some even took Paramount to task for distributing the movie. Netflix is praised, she says, so why is Paramount held to a different standard?
That’s legitimate point, but it needs to be answered in context.
Netflix releases difficult films to be sure. There’s nothing “standard” or easily-accessible about movies like Okja and others. But the marketing is subsequently scaled around the understanding by all involved that this isn’t going to be for everyone. There’s rarely a substantial press push, there often isn’t a poster and there’s almost never a website or other online effort. The company understands the audience will be niche at best and so runs appropriately-sized campaigns.
Compare that to Paramount’s push for mother!, which had Jennifer Lawrence out on her usual charm offensive, extensive commenting from director Darren Aronofsky, a slew of posters, substantial online and other advertising and more. The expectations were set that this would be a movie that certainly connected with audiences, even if that was smaller in size.
The interesting thing is that Paramount is seeming to embrace the extreme reactions to the movie, running new TV ads like this one that play up the divisive nature of the film and make that a selling point. It’s trying to draw in more people by using the movie’s inaccessiblety as a selling point, not a wedge to drive audiences away.
It’s good to point out the occasional double standard in what’s deemed “appropriate” for one distributor over another. Let’s have that conversation. But the scale of the movies being discussed, particularly the apparent expectations of the marketing to support those movies, needs to be scaled appropriately.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.