Papillon – Marketing Recap

This week’s new movie Papillon is based on the books by Henri “Papillon” Charrière, telling the story of his imprisonment on a remote island after being mistakenly convicted of murder. In the movie, Charlie Hunnam plays Charrière, someone who is a criminal but not a murderer.

Once on the island prison, Charrière befriends fellow criminal Louis Dega (Rami Malek), who encourages Charrière to continue trying to escape despite the odds against success, promising to fund those attempts.

The Posters

The first one-sheet definitely isn’t being humble as the movie is billed as “The greatest escape adventure ever told.” That’s displayed beneath the weathered and somewhat weary-looking faces of Hunnam and Malek, who we see are being held in some sort of work camp or similar type of prison. Their faces are visible through the cutout image of a butterfly that breaks up the solid yellow of the rest of the poster.

The Trailers

Henri is arrested when the trailer opens, a situation he tries to explain is a mistake. Despite that he’s sent to a terrible-looking prison where he bonds with Louis, rumored to be carrying substantial amounts of cash. After Henri promises to protect the smaller man, Louis agrees to fund an escape plan, something even the administrators of the facility encourage because of their certainty in the security. From there on out there are scenes of the various escape attempts and their consequences, including the apparent hallucinations that result from time spent in solitary confinement.

It’s an interesting trailer, one that presents kind of a mixed bag for audiences. There’s the harshness of the penal colony the two men and the others are sent to and the struggle the engage in just to make it through each day and then there’s the slightly surreal elements that come in as hope begins eating away at everyone’s psyche. Malik and Hunnam seem to play well off each other, which is important since their friendship is what will likely drive the story on all fronts.

Online and Social

Bleecker Street’s official website for the movie has all the usual content within its standard template. So as you scroll down the site you’ll be able to watch the “Trailer,” read a “Synopsis” and check out a few original “Editorial” pieces about the characters and filmmaking. There are also links to the Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles created.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A TV spot skipped much of the character establishing of the trailer and sold the movie simply as a story of trying to escape from a remote, brutal prison.

Media and Publicity

A first-look photo gave fans their first glimpse at Hunnam and Malik in advance of the movie’s screening at the Toronto Film Festival. In mid-August a couple clips like this one started to come out.


The campaign itself isn’t hugely engaging, but there are some good elements to it. The poster is kind of the strongest part of it while the trailer doesn’t offer a very strong sales pitch. It’s not bad, it’s just a more complex story than can be captured here and it doesn’t convey a clear message to the audience. Aside from the release of clips, there isn’t much on the publicity front, either, so I’d be surprised if awareness of the movie was very high.


A few days before the movie hit theaters I started to see promoted Tweets like this and others.
A new interview here with stars Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek about the bond they forged during production.


Author: Chris Thilk

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist with over 15 years of experience in online strategy and content marketing. He lives in the Chicago suburbs.

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