How Paramount has sold an adventure-based romantic comedy
The Lost City, previously titled The Lost City of D, has a familiar premise for those of us who celebrate Kathleen Turner’s entire body of work, especially from her heyday in the 1980s.
Sandra Bullock plays Loretta Sage, a romance novelist on tour promoting her latest book. Joining her is Alan Caprison (Channing Tatum), the handsome but thick model for Sage’s character Dash McMahon. When Sage is kidnapped by a billionaire (played by Daniel Radcliffe) who believes the lost city she wrote about is real and wants her to lead him to it, Caprison heads off to try and rescue her but isn’t exactly qualified to do so.
Directed by Adam and Aaron Nee, the movie also stars Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Patti Harrison and others. Let’s take a look at the film’s marketing efforts.
announcements and casting
The movie was announced in October 2020 with Bullock in the lead and the Nees directing. Tatum was cast in December of that year, with others like Radcliffe joining in the first few months of 2021.
In mid-February 2021 Paramount gave the movie an April 2022 release date, with that date moved up a few weeks to late March a bit later.
the marketing campaign
A first look still at Bullock and Tatum seemingly in a candid moment of having fun on set was released in December of last year. While it didn’t offer much in the way of story or plot it did show off the basic look and feel of the film.
A couple of *actual* production photos came the next day via EW along with comments from Bullock and Tatum about the preternaturally easy chemistry the two had on-set along with the natural comparisons to Romancing The Stone.
As the first trailer (19m YouTube views), also released in mid-December, opens, we immediate see Sage is a writer trying to figure out a plot point in the book she’s working on. Her promotional tour with Dash is going poorly because it’s not clear if he knows he’s not actually the character he serves as the cover model for. That’s part of the reason he goes after her when she’s kidnapped by Fairfax, leading to all sorts of misadventures as Sage realizes she may be onto something after all.
You can see just how those misadventures are impacting the two main characters on the first poster, which has them walking dejectedly through the jungle with ancient temples, ruined cars and more in the background.
Another version of the trailer was also created that had a fun little intro from Tatum, Bullock and Radcliffe. Paramount then shared some outtakes from the shooting of that intro to help sell the chemistry between the two leads.
Aside from a few short promotional videos that pulled out key moments from the trailer, things were relatively quiet until February, when Paramount announced the movie’s world premiere would happen at SXSW in March. An extended TV spot came out around the same time that hits the same basic beats as the trailer.
That was followed by a commercial that aired during this year’s Super Bowl.
Tatum received a feature profile in early February that focused on how, along with his recent directorial debut Dog, this movie marks his return to acting after taking a bit of time off.
A second one-sheet expands the cast from the first one to include more of the secondary characters and show off some of the key moments that have been highlighted in the various videos to date. Another poster has Sage and Caprison in an awkward moment from their joint press tour. Character posters then gave some of the others in the cast the spotlight, all of them placed in the jungle or other exotic setting.
At the beginning of March Fandango announced early screenings a week before general release through a video with the three leads.
The first featurette covered, unsurprisingly, the “leeches” scene that’s featured prominently in the campaign, including Bullock and Tatum talking about how they worked to overcome any awkwardness from him being completely naked for that scene. The second featurette is all about the sparkly purple jumpsuit Bullock’s character wears throughout the movie.
Most of the cast and crew, sans Tatum, appeared in Austin for the SXSW premiere.
While there they talked about making the movie during the pandemic, how much fun they all had while filming, how Bullock is considering taking a break of her own to raise her kids and more.
What it was like to see Tatum in costume as Dash – the fictional character his character is the model for – and how he worked with the massive hair he sports in those sequences was the subject of the next featurette.
An AR tool for Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook let people put themselves on the cover of a romance novel.
Harrison, Randolph, Radcliffe and Bullock both appeared on the late night talk show circuit to promote the film, including Bullock bringing a blooper reel to “The Late Show.” Radcliffe also got into the promotional groove on “Today” and “The View” while Bullock was interviewed on “GMA.”
Bullock and Tatum sang each other’s praises in the next featurette that also focused on the locations they filmed at as well as the scope and humor of the story. Another had them talking about one particular scene they say was done in a single take.
The cast appeared in exclusive videos for Regal Cinemas and AMC Theaters.
Most everyone once again turned out for the red carpet premiere in Hollywood earlier this week. While there Bullock was interviewed about how this differs from the usual kinds of rom-coms she’s done or is offered. The Nee brothers spoke about what attracted them to this movie and how working on it has helped them get ready for shooting He-Man for Netflix.
With a solid 78% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and a projected $20m opening weekend, you can make the case that the campaign worked pretty well at getting people’s interest. But, as the Variety story points out, this is the kind of movie that hasn’t resonated all that well in the last several years for various reasons, including the audience’s seeming preference for recognizable IP and how theaters are programming their screens.
Perhaps that’s why the campaign makes no attempt to treat the cameo by Brad Pitt a secret or something surprising to be revealed only after the fact. It’s using all the tools at its disposal to bring people in, eschewing the “don’t spoil anything!” tactics that have become standard in marketing campaigns in recent years.
As someone who grew up with the kind of ludicrous genre-mixing adventure movies being referenced here, I’m intrigued by the campaign, but the proof will be in how close to that $20m box office debut this film gets.