How Netflix has sold a movie based on a groundbreaking stage play.
The Boys In The Band, on Netflix now, is the second film adaptation of Mart Crowley’s 1968 play of the same name and, like the previous version, features a screenplay by Crowley. This version, directed by Joe Mantello, features the same story of a group of friends gathering for a birthday party that gets increasingly tense as everyone has more and more to drink and the humor becomes a bit more pointed.
The movie stars a high-caliber cast including Jim Parsons as Michael, the host of the party, Zachary Quinto as Harold the birthday boy, Matt Bomer as Donald, a man questioning his own sexuality, and a number of others, many of whom reprise their roles from a recent Broadway revival of the play.
Ryan Murphy, creator of “Glee,” “American Horror Story” and several other critically acclaimed shows produced the film, which comes to Netflix with an 84% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The whole cast is on display on the one sheet (by marketing agency P+A), released toward the end of last month. Over their faces the title treatment is displayed with the text “Based on the Tony Award-winning play that changed a generation” at the bottom along with the release date. It’s a simple design but given that the cast is the biggest selling point here it makes a lot of sense.
The first trailer (1m views on YouTube) came out at the beginning of September and starts out with Michael talking about his preference for a restless lifestyle while offering brief looks at the rest of the characters. From there we see them all arrive for Harold’s birthday party, hosted by Michael, many of whom are anticipating an…interesting…evening. Michael’s antics take the evening in unexpected directions, including a confrontation with his former friend Hank (Tuc Watkins), whose sexuality is unclear. There’s laughter and crying and a bit of yelling and punching as the party truly gets out of order.
Online and Social
No website of its own but the movie has received a good amount of support from Netflix on its brand social channels.
Advertising and Promotions
The film adaptation of the stage play, with the same cast as that show, was announced in August of last year.
News of the movie had been circulating for a while when, in August, Netflix released some first-look stills showing the cast.
There were also promotional featurettes and videos on the background of the character played by Quinto, the cast talking about their childhoods and the cast introducing the characters they play and how they fit into the story.
A clip shows a key moment in the story that starts out with fun dancing to Hank’s arrival and how it changes the tone of the party.
Media and Press
Mantello was interviewed about adapting the play for not only the screen but in the current period. He, Parsons and others were all part of a feature on how this version changes certain aspects of the story, including the ending.
Costar Charlie Carver talked about how starring in the 2018 stage revival was an important moment in his own coming out journey. Another interview with Mantello allowed him to talk about how important the 1970 film version directed by William Friedkin was to him and how he assembled the cast for that stage production, which he also directed.
Parsons appeared on “The Tonight Show” to talk about this movie and more
In many cases when a movie is based on older material there’s a conscious effort to distance the new version from what’s come before, presenting it as something not necessarily new but fresh, not tied to previous incarnations.
That’s not the case here, with the entire campaign celebrating the five decades of history behind the play and the relevance of the story, including how that relevance has remained while also changing slightly over that time. Crowley’s involvement helps with that, as does the deep emotional connection with the source material evinced by Mantello and many members of the cast.
Along with that reverence for history, the way the campaign embraces the entire ensemble is notable. Largely a byproduct of the story and its character-centric nature, everyone is on display here and shown to be equally important to what transpires, despite the presence of a handful of bigger stars in significant roles. All that adds up to a well-rounded campaign that sells a movie worth seeing as both historical artifact and acting showcase.
Picking Up The Spare
Another video promo from Netflix, this one tying Crowley’s writing of the original play to the Stonewall riots of the era.