Since the movie didn’t exactly get a traditional marketing campaign The Cloverfield Paradox deserves something other than a traditional campaign recap.
I shared some of the ways the marketing breaks many of the established movie marketing rules over at Adweek today but wanted to expand on a few points here.
The commercial that premiered during last night’s Super Bowl broadcast just hours before Netflix made it available for subscribers to watch, starts out by showing footage from the original 2008 Cloverfield, specifically of the first explosions that rock New York City and start the story in motion. In this spot we get that from a different perspective as someone a ways away watches it happen out the window of his apartment. Cut to 10 years later aboard a space station where….things…are happening. It’s never explained what it is, but it’s evident that there are answers here as to what brought the monster to Earth a decade prior as well as new threats – including a creepy crawling disembodied arm – that must be faced.
The poster that hit at the same time continues the visual branding that was used on the Lane one-sheet, with the long white vertical lines going up and down from the title treatment. A field of stars covers the background while the copy tells us “The future unlocked every thing.” That’s a curious – and ominous – inclusion of a space in that last word that changes the meaning drastically from what it otherwise might have been. It also harkens back to the theatrical poster for the original, which warned the audience “Some thing had found us,” the similar word usage hinting that there’s a definite connection between the two films. The connection is reinforced by a shot from the commercial of a bobblehead carrying a Slusho drink, an item that figured heavily into the 2008 release’s marketing.
So there’s a conscious effort being made to offer this as the connection between the two previous movies. That means a lot when you’re talking about a series of films that has relative niche appeal like this does. It promises too an explanation of why those things happened, even as it sets up more mysteries of its own. That’s only deepened by a new promo released this morning of a character sending a message back to Earth telling everyone there to stop what they’re doing and enjoy what time they have left with their families.
Competing Against Everyone
When Bright came out it was seen as Netflix’s attempt to horn in on the one bit of territory theaters were holding on to: The sci-fi blockbuster. The Cloverfield Paradox would seem to be another move along those lines. Indeed, it’s meant to both test and take advantage of how going to the movies is no longer in vogue – as seen in the falling ticket sales over recent years – and highlight how easy it is to watch something spontaneously where there’s no incremental cost associated with the decision.
You could make the case that accepting any ad for a movie is a case of a TV network encouraging the competition. People have limited time for entertainment, so that two or three hours of moviegoing is two or three hours they’re not watching TV. That’s even more true here, where Netflix was directly counter-programming against NBC. It’s almost as if Netflix is fighting a war the networks aren’t even aware is happening.
So too, it’s a preemptive strike against Amazon Studios. That company has stated and made moves recently to realign the priorities of its film and TV divisions to focus on bigger productions. Both streamers sat out this year’s Sundance Film Festival, not making a single acquisition as they move away from prestige awards contenders to crowd pleasers. Even if Paradox isn’t the best movie in the world, it’s step in that direction and between it and Bright it has first-mover advantage over the competition, at least for the moment.
PICKING UP THE SPARE
Netflix finally created and released a more traditional trailer for the movie that still doesn’t offer a whole lot of plot or story points but does add to the dread and mystery, positioning it as a space-based terror film while seeming to forego the explicit connections to the rest of the Cloverfield series. One exception to that statement is the use of the seemingly innocuous music that’s used, which harkens back to the first trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane.
The New York Times gets around to writing the same article everyone else has recently, about how it’s weird this new situation where “Ehh, give it to Netflix” is a viable option for some studios looking to offload “difficult” films.
Paramount COO Andrew Gumpert confirmed in this interview that the decision to sell the movie to Netflix at the last minute was based on the studio having questions about its commercial viability.
To say the movie has proved divisive would be an understatement, though I maintain that people criticizing Netflix for its zero-turnaround-time marketing would be singing a different tune if they liked the movie more. CNBC has a take similar to my Adweek story and the write-up at Quartz is worth reading as well. And while David Fear at Rolling Stone says we’ve been suckered, Neil Turitz at Tracking Board sees some of the same potential I did.
The Hollywood Reporter quotes sources saying Netflix paid $50 million Paramount for the movie, helping the studio not only cover production costs but also earn a nice profit since it didn’t have to spend any money on distribution or marketing. And it may have been worth it. While reviews have not been kind, a survey gauging how Super Bowl spots moved the needle on purchase consideration found Netflix got the biggest lift this year as people were intrigued by the mysterious commercial and release strategy.