Coming 2 America – Marketing Recap

How Amazon is selling a much-anticipated and long-gestating comedy sequel.

To say there’s a fair amount of pent-up demand for Coming 2 America, the sequel to the 1988 original, a bonafide comedy classic, would be a significant understatement. 30+ years later, Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall return as Akeem and his friend and confidant Semmi, respectively. Akeem, having raised a family over the years, has now ascended to the throne of Zamunda but learned from his dying father (James Earl Jones) that he has a son he never knew back in America. So he and Semmi make their way back to Queens to connect with Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler) and, of course, engage in other hijinks.

Craig Brewer takes over directorial duties from John Landis, and the movie also stars Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, Kiki Layne, Wesley Snipes and a host of others both new and returning. With a disappointing 52% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, Amazon Studios’ campaign has sought to sell it as both familiar and new.

The Posters

The first teaser poster (by marketing agency BLT Communications) came out in mid-December, simply showing Akeem looking joyfully out the window of his royal limousine with a highway sign pointing to New York seen in the reflection of the window.

In early February the theatrical poster came out, evoking the design of the original but with a lot more characters spread around the layout. In fact it looks more like the poster for an MCU or other super hero movie than a mid-level comedy. Whatever the case, it works by presenting a big-name cast, all apparently having a great time.

A first batch of character posters focusing on Akeem, Semmi, Lisa and King Jaffe.

A second batch offered looks at Akeem and Lisa’s daughters as well as Lisa’s father and Lavelle.

The third and final batch added General Izzy and others to the mix.

The Trailers

The first trailer (14.7m views on YouTube) came out in late December and immediately establishes where we’re at in terms of Akeem’s story. His dying father has informed him he has a son in America and so, despite Semmi’s reluctance, the two are once again headed back to Queens to find the now-adult boy. There are lots of new characters briefly introduced, but the centerpiece, of course, is the return of the barbershop crew as well as others played by Murphy and Hall in various amounts of makeup. It’s glorious.

The second trailer (20.6m views on YouTube), released in early February, goes a little deeper into the story but hits many of the same beats. We see a bit more of how General Izzi wants to take over Zamumda and some of the hijinks that happen once they get Akeem’s son back to the country. It’s the same basic message, just fleshed out a bit.

Online and Social

No stand-alone informational website I could find, but Amazon did create social profiles like this Twitter page for the movie to share promos and other updates.

Advertising and Publicity

The movie going into production was officially announced in early January, with Murphy returning and director Craig Brewer behind the camera, the latter of which got people’s attention in a big way. Casting news – including new and returning actors – were the focus for a while after that.

In October news came that wasn’t wholly surprising given the pandemic situation. Specifically, it was reported Paramount was finalizing a deal to sell the movie to Amazon since a theatrical release date was uncertain at best. That deal was officially sealed in November, with Amazon giving it a spring release date.

It was revealed just a couple weeks ago that Amazon planned to advertise the film during the upcoming Super Bowl. That spot is essentially a cut down version of the second trailer, pulling out some of the bigger jokes and plot points.

The soundtrack, with a new song from Bobby Sessions and Megan Thee Stallion, came out earlier this month.

Morgan, Jones and others from the cast showed up in a reworked version of the Soul Glo commercial from the original.

Amazon Studios scheduled a watch party, sponsored by Pepsi, for Friday 3/5 and encouraged the audience to get in on the action by dressing up and sharing their party lewks and plans online.

Additional promotional partners included

  • Rent The Runway, which offered a coupon code tied to the movie.
  • The Brooklyn Nets, which promoted the movie in a series of Tweets during a recent game.
  • Spotify, which created character-specific playlists to help introduce them to the audience.
  • HSTRY Clothing, which created a movie-inspired clothing collection.
  • Crown Royal, which offered a new movie-branded package designed by costume designer Ruth E. Carter.

Media and Press

Murphy continued talking about the movie while promoting Dolemite Is My Name through the end of 2019. And Layne commented briefly on it while promoting The Old Guard in mid-2020. Similarly, Jones mentioned it during an interview about other projects in October.

A handful of stills were finally released in late December, just before the trailer came out.

An interview with Fowler was part of EW’s 2021 Movie Preview, with the actor talking about how excited he was to be part of the sequel.

Ruth E. Carter was interviewed about crafting the look of the characters at about the same time she became the first Black costume designer to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

How and why the two stars came back for a sequel, something they had previously pledged not to do, became a central focus when Hall appeared on “The Late Show,” Murphy appeared on “The Tonight Show” and both of them on “Kimmel.” Fowler also talked about the movie on “The Tonight Show”

Murphy and his daughter were interviewed about the legacy of the original film and what it was like to bring the sequel to completion all these years later.

Overall

I’ll be honest when I first heard the movie was happening i was all

Coming 2 America GIF by Amazon Prime Video - Find & Share on GIPHY

But then as the trailer and other assets were released I started to be all

Coming 2 America GIF by Amazon Prime Video - Find & Share on GIPHY

Until finally I was all

Coming 2 America GIF by Amazon Prime Video - Find & Share on GIPHY

Raya and the Last Dragon – Marketing Recap

How Disney is selling its latest animated feature with an all-star cast.

Raya and the Last Dragon is, like many of Disney’s animated films, about a character defying the odds to embrace and fulfill her destiny. In this case, the people of Kumandra have long ago splintered into various tribes and lost most of what they once shared. When an ancient threat emerges, it’s up to Raya (Kelly Marie Tran), a skilled warrior, to seek out the dragons that helped defend them centuries ago. When she finds the only remaining dragon Sisu (Awkwafina), she has to bring the young dragon back, facing different threats along the way.

Originally scheduled for release last November, this week the movie hits both theaters and Disney+ under the same “Premier Access” tier Disney previously used for Mulan. It arrives with an impressive 96% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has received a campaign that’s emphasized the action and adventure in the story.

The Posters

Disney used the social media app Weibo to release a special poster designed in the style of Chinese tapestries to celebrate Lunar New Year in 2020.

The first real poster for the film (by marketing agency Legion Creative Group) came out in October of last year and shows Raya, her face partially obscured by her hat but holding a substantial sword. A motion version of that poster came out a short while later.

Raya is seen more fully on the second poster, also from October. The camera here pulls back to show her standing defiantly in a tropic setting, the cloudy outline of a dragon visible in the background.

The next poster (by marketing agency Ten30 Studios) came out in December. Here Raya and Sisu are seen running side by side, seemingly into battle or toward some other form of danger or adventure. Both have a fun, excited look on their face that communicates their lack of fear toward whatever they’re facing.

In February what seems to be the theatrical poster came out, showing Raya at the center of all the action, with the supporting characters and some of the story’s locations placed around her. The design is wonderful, using elements that seem to be pulled from traditional Asian artwork to display everything the audience may need to know about the movie.

Additional posters continued to come out after that, including one that simplifies the design to show Raya, Sisu and others ready for a fight, one that shows them enjoying a feast together and one that shows the kind of food the characters enjoy, part of a late-campaign push focusing on food and snacks.

The Trailers

The first trailer (14.1m views on YoutTube) was finally released in mid-October. In an extended sequence we see how Raya is a sort of spy/defender, sworn to defend an important artifact. The splintering of the tribes of the world has thrown the world into chaos, prompting her to embark on a mission that could once again unite them and restore peace. The story here seems secondary, though, to simply showing how powerful Raya is.

In late January the next trailer (12m views on YouTube) came out, starting out with Raya meeting – and ultimately recruiting – a “con baby.” After that she’s on a quest to find the last dragon in order to restore peace among her home’s divided people. She’s successful in the first part but has to then contend with others who are on the same mission for their own purposes, encountering danger and adventure along the way. It presents a much more comprehensive overview of the story along with all the action and humor the movie has to offer.

Online and Social

Visitors to the movie’s official website will find the basic marketing information like trailers and a synopsis along with a downloadable movie-themed activity packet as well as links to buy tickets or find out more about Disney+ Premier Access. There were also stand-alone social media profiles for the film.

Advertising and Promotions

The movie was announced by Disney at the 2019 D23 Fan Expo, when the cast was brought out to share the story and show off the first early footage as a way to get fans excited.

A first look still from the film was released in August 2020 at the same time as the news Tran was joining the cast.

In December Disney announced the movie would not go to theaters but would instead debut on Disney+ with the same Premier Access paid tier previously used for Mulan.

After the second trailer came out Disney released a video showing Tran and Awkwafina reacting to it.

A Super Bowl spot aired in early February that takes a slightly more serious take on the story than was seen in the recent full trailer, but still looks very entertaining, with plenty of humor and adventure for fans. Additional spots came out later that took the same action/humor tone.

Disney Parks shared an exclusive clip of Raya and Sisu enlisting some help in their journey home.

In late February Disney released a featurette focused on the casting of the voice roles. There was also a lyric video for “Lead The Way” by Jhené Aiko.

A condensed version of Tran’s video diaries from the studio and other production locations was shared along with a brief tutorial on how to draw Tuk Tuk, one of Raya’s adorable sidekicks.

Promotional partners for the movie included:

  • Fitness company Obe, which offered movie-inspired workout classes as well as a discussion of some of the film’s more athletic action sequences.
  • Omson, which created special Southeast Asian sampler packages of prepared spices, offered in movie-branded packaging.
  • Raddish Kids, which created movie-inspired recipes for its meal delivery service.
  • Sanzo, which offered a 20% off coupon for those wanting to try its Asian-inspired flavored drinks.
  • McDonald’s, which put movie toys in its Happy Meal packages.
  • Kellogg’s, but details on their promotion were unavailable.

Media and Press

The filmmakers, including director Don Hall, revealed Tran’s casting in the lead role and discussed the importance of this being the first Disney animated film to be inspired by Southeast Asian legends and culture.

Tran appeared on “Good Morning, America” in October to debut the trailer and talk about the film.

Tran spoke during a group interview about the unjustified pressure she’s being made to feel about playing the first Southeast Asian Disney Princess.

Closer to release Tran appeared on “Kimmel” to talk about being a crazy Disney fan and now being in a (non-Star Wars) Disney movie. Awkwafina then appeared on “The Tonight Show.”

There were a few more interviews like this with Tran where she shared her excitement at being part of such a monumental production. She also got a cover story in THR about how this film marks a big moment for her, coming after the toxic backlash she received as a result of her Star Wars role.

Producer Osnat Shurer and others were quoted in a story about how the filmmakers found inspiration in the art and culture of Southeast Asia and how that’s represented in the movie.

Overall

In addition to the campaign’s commitment to communicating the Southeast Asian influence felt by the filmmakers, which is admirable, the main thing that comes through here is the redemption of Tran. Her treatment in the wake of The Last Jedi in particular was horrendous, and she’s made no bones about how difficult that period was for her to live through. So to see her standing tall here and taking part in a project that allowed her to pull from her own heritage and background is admirable and inspiring in and of itself.

Aside from that, Disney is making a concerted effort here to sell the movie as a funny, adventure-filled good time for audiences. There’s nothing too dark here, as even the threats faced by the protagonists don’t seem overwhelming or scary, a likely attempt to position the movie as a safe choice for younger viewers at home.

What will be interesting to see is how the movie fares as part of the Disney+ Premier Access experiment. Mulan was more or less a known quantity given it was a remake of a previously popular film. But this is an original property, so how willing people are to shell out the additional fee to watch it remains to be seen.

Moxie – Marketing Recap

How Netflix has sold a story of multi-generational efforts to upend the patriarchy.

For her second feature directing gig, Amy Poehler this week brings us Moxie. Not only does she helm the film but stars as Lisa Carter, mother to Vivian (Hadley Robinson). Vivian is tired of the overtly sexist attitude among many of the boys in her high school and frustrated with the girls who go along with it. Determined to make her mark and change the status quo, Vivian is inspired by her mother’s past activism and creates a print zine calling out the school’s toxicity. Her crusade makes her new friends, a few enemies and some unexpected notoriety.

Netflix’s campaign hasn’t been huge, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been interesting. Let’s take a look.

The Posters

“Find your voice” the poster, released in February, tells the audience. The title treatment is plastered over a black and white photo of Vivian and her friends, all shouting at the camera. If the goal was to recreate the look and feel of a late-90s alt-rock record cover, they succeeded, but it’s too bad there isn’t more information about the movie’s story and cast.

The Trailers

As the trailer (840k views on YouTube), released in early February, begins, Vivian is asking for guidance, through which we get a hint of her mom’s former activist self. Then we see what might be fueling Vivian’s search for some sort of mission, the fact that the girls in her high school are ranked by the boys based on attributes having nothing to do with academics or intellect. When she starts a zine that questions the status quo it starts an uproar in the school that leads to lots of changes, both in the school and among the students.

Online and Social

Some support on Netflix’s brand social channels, but that’s about it. Nothing unique to the movie itself.

Advertising and Promotions

The main characters got a yearbook-esque promo clip a little while ago that doesn’t name them but does offer overall personality type.

When Poehler and her BFF/frequent collaborator Tina Fey cohosted the Golden Globes last weekend they not only gave the movie a shout-out but also had stars and hearts on their hands, a plot detail seen in the trailer.

Media and Press

Nothing here that I could find.

Overall

I just wish there were more here and I have to wonder what prompted Netflix to treat this as a lower-tier release instead of something that should be given a greater level of support. Sure, it’s not The Irishman, but I’d argue that this is the kind of movie that will have a longer shelf-life on the service than a prestige title.

At the very least I would have expected press interviews and stories about any of the following topics:

  • Poehler’s second time behind the camera for a feature film
  • The role of everyday students (and others) in changing the toxic environments they find themselves in
  • How the younger members of the cast connected with the riot grrl movement of the 90s and what kind of music from that era Poehler played to get them in the mood
  • Why print is superior to online media for this kind of movement

Sadly I haven’t found any of the above.

The World To Come – Marketing Recap

How Bleecker Street is selling a 19th century love story.

Based on the book of the same name by Jim Shepard, The World To Come stars Katherine Waterston as Abigail, who’s married to Dyer (Casey Affleck), the two of them carving out a hard living on a 19th century east coast farm. They are not exactly happily married, but the distance between them grows greater with the arrival of Finney (Christopher Abbott) and his wife Tallie (Vanessa Kirby). Specifically, the supportive friendship between Abigail and Tallie soon turns passionately romantic as they seek solace from their respective loveless marriages.

Directed by Mona Fastvold from a screenplay by Ron Hansen, Jim Shepard, the movie has a decent 72% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and has gotten a campaign emphasizing the hopeful but doomed romance between the two women.

The Posters

Released in mid-January, the one poster (by marketing agency The Refinery) takes a common design – three vertical strips with a single photo in each one – and actually uses it to good effect. Dyer and Finney are at the top and bottom while Tallie and Abigail are placed in the middle, literally pushing their husbands away from them. The fire engulfing a house behind the two women hints at a tragic outcome to the story while the dark colors convey the relentless dreariness that makes up the lives of the characters.

The Trailers

Bleecker Street released the first trailer (1m views on YouTube) in mid-January. It starts out with a lot of sheep on Abigail and Dyer’s bleak farm. Abigail’s life is improved by the arrival of their new neighbor Tallie and her husband Finney, with the two women growing closer and closer over time, a romance born of the hardships each endures in their respective marriages. That change does not go unnoticed, and problems soon follow as the women seek to be happy with each other instead of miserable elsewhere.

Online and Social

The full-screen video on the movie’s official website uses bits from the trailer, but the content on the site is minimal. There are links to where the film will be available to download and rent along with the trailer, a synopsis and not much else.

Advertising and Promotions

The movie debuted at the 2020 Venice Film Festival, where it accumulated a number of positive reviews and good word of mouth. Bleecker Street acquired the film shortly after that premiere.

The movie was among those scheduled to screen at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

A clip came out during Sundance showing the moment when Abigail and Tallie first meet. Another shows a climactic moment between the two women as they discuss their relationship.

Media and Press

A profile of Kirby from early September included this as one of a couple highly-anticipated projects she was involved in. A few months later Waterston talked about crafting and filming an LGBTQ love story.

During the Sundance press cycle there were interviews with the film’s director of photography, director and editor.

Affleck appeared on “Late Night” to talk about filming the movie in Romania. There was also a joint video interview by GLAAD of both Waterston and Kirby.

Additional interviews with Waterston had her talking about working with Kirby and telling a story set so long ago and trying to make it relevant to the present.

Overall

The performances by Waterston and Kirby are the standout elements of the campaign here, with the chemistry between the two driving the drama that’s on display. It’s good that they provide such heat, too, because the rest of the marketing is very grey and cold, which could turn off some of the audience who might feel it’s a bit too drab for their liking.

Between this and the recent Ammonite, though, we have a small trend building of forbidden lesbian romance period pieces. I’m not sure what that means, especially if there’s something about setting the story a century or more in the past that makes the story more dramatic. Whatever the case, Bleecker Street’s campaign highlights the positive reviews the movie has received so far while selling a story filled with tension and romance.

The United States Vs. Billie Holiday – Marketing Recap

How Hulu has sold a biopic of a civil rights icon.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday is not the first time the story of the singer and civil rights figure has made it to feature film, first in 1972’s Lady Sings The Blues. This time around Andra Day plays Holiday and instead of being an all-inclusive biopic, the story focuses on an era of her career where she was targeted by federal agents for instigating racial unrest, specifically with her song “Strange Fruit.” As a pretense, the government goes after her for her drug uses, adding a racial element to the burgeoning war on drugs.

Directed by Lee Daniels and written by Suzan-Lori Parks, the movie also stars Natasha Lyonne as Tallulah Bankhead, whom Holiday was at least friends with and may have had an affair with, and Garrett Hedlund and Trevante Rhodes as two of the federal agents going after the singer. It currently sports a paltry 58% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, indicative of the mixed reviews it’s received. But Hulu’s campaign has played it as an awards-contender, especially based on Day’s performance in the title role.

The Posters

Elements of the layout on the one and only poster (by marketing agency BLT Communications) released in January are meant to reinforce each other through apparent contradictions. Specifically, the copy “Her voice would not be silenced” both contradicts and supports the image of Holiday with her mouth hidden by the microphone. That shows how Holiday used music and song to keep her message going out, even under pressure.

The Trailers

The first trailer (307k views on YouTube) was released by Hulu in mid-January, opening by showing us Holiday as a woman who knows what she wants. After some standard biopic elements, we see that her efforts to integrate the music scene and other activities have gotten the unwelcome attention of lawmakers in Washington, who want to discredit her and shut down whatever influence she has. That leads to her arrest, after which she has a hard time getting started again. Still, she’s determined to follow the path she believes in, even if it means putting herself in danger.

Online and Social

No website that was easily found, but Hulu did give the movie some promotional support on its brand social media profiles instead of creating one-offs.

Advertising and Promotions

The project was one of those up for grabs at the 2020 Cannes Virtual Market, with Paramount eventually winning the competition and acquiring distribution rights. Later on Paramount took it off its schedule as Hulu picked it up.

Daniels and Day participated in a video conversation about making the film and telling Holiday’s important story. Another video featured Daniels talking with the whole cast.

A featurette from early February had Day and others talking about Holiday’s part in the Civil Rights Movement and her continued influence today.

Day’s full performance of “Strange Fruit” was released to show just how powerful that song still is.

More videos came out of a conversation with the cast and crew and Day talking about the original song she wrote for the film.

Audible announced a tie-in limited-series podcast that framed contemporary issues through the lens of Holiday’s life and struggles.

At the recent virtual premiere the cast and crew were joined by a handful of celebrities, including some government officials, to talk about Holiday’s legacy and continued relevance.

Media and Press

How Day prepared for the role, including the singing she was going to have to do, was covered in an interview with the actress.

Writer Suzan-Lori Parks was interviewed about how she portrayed Holiday’s conflict with U.S. law enforcement officials and what similarities her protests have with those of today. Costume designer Paolo Nieddu spoke on not wanting to recreate Holiday’s style exactly but offer a twist on that style to make it more dramatic.

An extensive profile of Daniels not only touches on how and why he told this story but also on the fact he’s newly sober and how that played into the production. He was then interviewed about capturing the legacy of Holiday’s real-life activism, his desire to expose Holiday to a new generation of audiences, the importance of highlighting her battle with the government and more.

In a joint interview with Day, Daniels talked about how studios weren’t interested in the project for a long time as well as how they wanted to portray Holiday as realistically as possible. He also touched on the potential comparisons with Lady Sings The Blues, the previous film about Holiday.

Additional interviews with Day covered how she physically and emotionally embodied Holiday, especially on stage, the physical changes she made – including gaining weight and smoking – for the part and more.

When she appeared on “The Tonight Show” she shared again how she initially turned down the role and what she did to make herself ready for it and shared a video for a remix of “Strange Fruit”. Day performed “Tigress and Tweed” on “The View” and was interviewed by Trevor Noah on “The Daily Show.”

Overall

The campaign understands that the story is (or at least should be) compelling enough, but if the audience isn’t pulled in through that, Hulu’s hope appears to be they will tune in for Day’s performance as Holiday. That’s why she has performed “Strange Fruit” on a number of occasions and in a number of ways and why so many of the interviews with the actress have focused on the work she did to fully take on the role.

That’s coupled with the other major element of the campaign, which is Daniels’ focusing on the importance of telling Holiday’s story, one that has a number of elements making it relevant decades after the events happened. He’s been talking the entire time about her legacy and related topics in an attempt to make it less of a period piece, which may turn off some members of the audience, and more contemporary.

It also needs to be noted that this is the second movie released in February about a real life black activist being targeted – under questionable if not completely fabricated auspices – by law enforcement. If I had to guess I’d say there are countless similar stories, many of which the white public aren’t familiar with or aware of.

I Care A Lot – Marketing Recap

How Netflix has sold a story that asks audiences to sympathize with a con artist.

The new movie I Care A Lot, out today on Netflix, seems to have as its premise “What if we made a film about John Mahoney’s character from Say Anything…, but with Rosamund Pike instead of Mahoney?” Pike plays Marla Grayson, a woman who has created a nice racket for herself as a court-appointed guardian for elderly individuals. Once she has control of their assets, she funnels them into various shady investments, pocketing the profits and leaving the estates with almost nothing. When Grayson sets her sights on her latest mark, Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest), she inadvertently runs afoul of a local gangster (Peter Dinklage) and is forced to think even faster than usual to get out of a dangerous situation.

Written and directed by J Blakeson, the movie has a solid 81% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has gotten a quick, breezy campaign from Netflix that plays up Pike’s turn as a fast-talking con artist.

The Posters

The first poster, released in January, has Grayson wearing sunglasses as she looks toward the camera, her hair perfect through the title treatment, shown here in big, bold letters. A pull quote calling the film “deliciously nasty” is shown near the Toronto International Film Festival branding.

A series of pop-art-esque character posters came out earlier this week, continuing the trend of visuals using just a few bold colors to really make the photos jump in the eyes of the audience.

The Trailers

Mid-January brought the release of the first trailer (1.6m views on YouTube), which introduces Marla as a professional carer, albeit one who might be a bit of a scammer as well. While much of what she does is barely legal, she’s warned not to further harass one woman in particular, someone who has dangerous and powerful friends. Marla is unperturbed, though and continues on with business as usual, confident she’ll come out on top.

Online and Social

Nothing here, at least nothing unique. Netflix gave the movie a bit of support on brand social channels, though.

Advertising and Promotions

Netflix acquired the film in September, shortly after its well-received debut at the Toronto Film Festival.

A short clip released just as the movie became available shows Grayson getting some new and potentially valuable information from an attorney (played by Chris Messina) for Peterson’s powerful friends.

Media and Press

Blakeson, Pike and others were interviewed about the story and why they got involved in the project during TIFF.

Both Gonzalez and Pike appeared on “Kimmel” within a day or so of each other to talk about the film.

Overall

It’s surprising there hasn’t been more on the promotional and publicity fronts, especially given the positive reviews Pike’s performance has received. But you can’t say the campaign doesn’t make a point to highlight that performance, one that pops off the screen in the trailer just like the image does on the bold-hued posters.

Supernova – Marketing Recap

How Bleecker Street has sold a romance of celebrating a life together.

In the new movie Supernova, written and directed by Harry Macqueen, Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth play Tusker and Sam, respectively, a married couple dealing with an unfortunate reality. Namely, Tusker has been diagnosed with dementia and is losing his memory of their life together. So the couple has decided to take an extended RV road trip before his condition gets worse, checking in with friends and family and revisiting some of their favorite places from their relationship.

Bleecker Street has sold the movie, which has an 88% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with a sweet, gentle campaign based around the relationship at the heart of the story.

The Posters

Sam and Tusker are shown in a close embrace on the single poster (by marketing agency The Posterhuse) that came out in mid-September of last year. There’s no tagline or other copy, but the scenic photo in the background of what I’m guessing is the English countryside certainly helps establish the story’s setting. And the star chart superimposed over all that is a nice touch considering what else we’ll see in the campaign.

The Trailers

The first trailer (784k views on YouTube) was released in early January, starting out by showing how Sam and Tusker are taking a road trip together, something they’ve done frequently in the past. They’re out visiting family and friends and revisiting some of their old haunts in part because Tusker is losing his memory and they want to have one last outing together before it gets worse. It’s funny and emotional and sweet, all focused on the performances of Tucci and Firth.

Online and Social

Not much on the studio’s official website for the film. In addition to just a small amount of marketing material the site is focused primarily on helping people buy tickets to the movie’s limited theatrical showings or via various VOD platforms.

Advertising and Promotions

The movie screened at the San Sebastián International Film Festival in September and the screened at BFI Film Festival in October. That same month Bleecker Street acquired the film.

A clip came out after the trailer showing Tusker embarrassing Sam – in a nice way – at a roadside diner. Another shows the couple in a tender moment first glimpsed in the trailer.

Media and Press

The two leads spoke about how they worked on the details of their characters’ relationship, how they each got involved with the film and more. Similar ground was covered in another interview where they and Macqueen revealed the parts were initially meant for the other actor before they proposed switching.

Both Firth and Tucci appeared on “The Late Show” while Tucci showed up by himself on “Late Night.”

Overall

If you remember a movie called The Leisure Seeker from a few years ago, you’ll know this is just one of a few recent movies that have dealt with couples navigating the difficult terrain of one member no longer being fully present mentally. The difference here is not only in the sexuality of the couple in question but in how Tusker and Sam are still relatively young. While the overall trend of dementia-related movies may be in part a reaction to the aging of the Baby Boom generation, this one dials the character ages back several years to show a couple that should still be in its prime.

The marketing itself is very nice, but I do have to note that the campaign seems to downplay the relationship between the leads to some extent. That’s not to say that it’s completely ignored or overlooked, but it also doesn’t seem to emphasize that the two are more than just close friends, despite the fact that the personal friendship between Tucci and Firth is a cornerstone of the campaign.

Land – Marketing Recap

How Focus Features sold a drama of emotional and physical escape.

(ed note: Yes, this came out last week. Let’s move on.)

Robin Wright makes her directorial debut with Land, in which she also stars. Wright plays Edee, a woman who experiences great personal tragedy and, fed up with the pressure of those around her, decides to escape to the wilderness of Wyoming. There she hopes to find solitude and peace. But she also finds the harsh environment there more dangerous than she anticipated, but gets by with the unexpected help of a local hunter named Miguel (Demián Bichir), someone who is also there to get away from it all.

Focus Features has run a relatively short campaign for a movie released in limited theaters, one with a 69% Fresh Rotten Tomatoes rating.

The Posters

This is super-nerdy, but I love the comma in the middle of the copy “A story of humanity, in the face of uncertainty” on the poster (by marketing agency Cold Open), released in December. That punctuation slows down the sentence and asks the reader to pause and consider both halves and what they mean both on their own and together. Other than that, the message is simple in how it shows Edee in front of her Wyoming cabin with the callouts of the festivals the film screened at placed toward the top.

The Trailers

Toward the end of December the first trailer (2.8 million views on YouTube) came out, opening by showing us how Edee is grieving by moving away from everyone who just wants her to be better and get over her loss. Her life in the Wyoming wilderness is hard, though, and almost gets the better of her until others help her out. One of those people is a local hunter and recluse himself, who teaches her how to survive on her own, though it’s implied from the trailer that the two may wind up alone together by the end of the story. Still, it’s a powerful proposition made here that’s anchored by what looks to be a fearless performance by Wright.

Online and Social

The official website for the film is primarily focused on selling tickets to the limited theatrical screenings, with only a little other information available. There were also social profiles that shared various promotions and more.

Advertising and Publicity

Wright and her team brought a sales pitch for the movie to Cannes 2019. A few months later in October Focus Features acquired distribution rights.

The movie was among those scheduled to screen at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

The first clip shows Edee getting help from the mysterious hunter who comes by her remote cabin. Additional clips showed more of the movie, including extended looks at scenes glimpsed in the trailer.

There was also a video of a song from the film’s soundtrack performed by Ben Sollee and Time For Three.

Cinemark Theaters shared an exclusive behind the scenes featurette.

Shorter versions of the trailer were cut down and shared as promos on social media and, I imagine, elsewhere.

Media and Press

Wright talked about how she wanted to create an uplifting film and story while sharing a handful of stills from the movie.

Additional interviews with Wright had her talking about what it was like to direct herself, how real events informed her telling a story of grief, the process of shooting in such a remote location, how she directed out of necessity and more. She hit on some of those topics when she appeared on “Kimmel.”

A profile of Bicher was published in early February.

Later on Wright was interviewed on “CBS Sunday Morning” and NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

Overall

The emphasis on Wright playing roles in front of and behind the camera is great, showing how the actor is taking another step in her career, though she’s directed episodes of TV before. That’s something that’s hit time and again throughout the campaign, which is good for her and helps to differentiate the film.

Unfortunately that’s about all that does. The rest of the campaign sells a movie that we’ve seen in various forms a number of times before, though with the promise there may be something new being offered here.

Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar – Marketing Recap

How Lionsgate is selling a comedy about…well…something, I’m sure.

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is a movie that’s been in development and pre-production for a number of years, back to shortly after Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo had a hit in 2011 with Bridesmaids. Now it’s finally coming to PVOD via Lionsgate.

Mumolo and Wiig star as Barb and Star, respectively, two lifelong best friends who finally embark on a long-planned vacation to Vista Del Mar, Florida, where they expect to have lots of fun in the sun. Instead, in true comedic fashion, they get mixed up in a criminal plot to kill everyone in town and other hijinks.

Given the pedigree of those involved, let’s see how Lionsgate has sold the long-gestating film.

The Posters

The two friends are seen only from the neck down as they descend from the bright blue sky on the first poster (by marketing agency Leroy and Rose), released in mid-December. Of course it calls out the fact that the same team brought audiences Bridesmaids.

On the second poster (by marketing agency P+A), released in January, we still don’t see the faces of the main characters, who this time are sitting in a giant clamshell, surrounded by pink flamingos, leaping dolphins and other decorations that scream “Florida!” Copy at the top reads “The friendship we all want. The vacation we all need.”

There are even more sea and beach items scattered around the design of the final poster, released later last month. We finally see Barb and Star’s faces this time as they ride a giant shrimp while they happily hold fancy cocktails, the resort where the story’s action takes place in the background.

The Trailers

The first trailer (153k views on YouTube) finally came out in early January. Labeled a “teaser,” the spot takes a meta approach, centered around Barb and Star discussing how much they love movie trailers. Only a few scenes, none of which show the faces of the two leads, are shared, but you still get the very pastel vibe of the film.

The next trailer (5.6 million views on YouTube), released at the end of January, starts out by having a bit of fun with a “Stranger Things” vibe, right down to the title treatment font and music. From there we see just how awkward the two are, though they’re very comfortable with who they are and the choices they’ve made. There’s not much story on display here, it’s just about the laughs, which works just fine.

Online and Social

You’ll find information about the movie and where to rent it on the official website, but not much else. There were promos and other updates shared on the social profiles created by Lionsgate, including stickers and GIFs on the movie’s Giphy channel.

Kristen Wiig Heart GIF by Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar - Find & Share on GIPHY

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Lionsgate released the first photo from the movie in early July, 2020 to get conversations started. Things remained quiet until January, when the studio announced a mid-February PVOD release.

A short while after the teaser trailer came out a “Fashion Video” was released showing a number of women wearing some of their finest vacation outfits on a picturesque beach.

That was followed by a clip of Barb and Star checking into their hotel room, which is super-exciting. Additional clips, including one sharing a…provocative…song that’s played at the resort the pair visit, followed over the next couple weeks.

A short video purported to be a Zoom call between some of the characters.

TV spots like this started running in early February that, like the trailers, don’t worry about the story, instead selling the movie as just a good laugh from the Bridesmaids creative team.

Additional spots took a similar approach.

Finally, Lionsgate put out a comedic instructional video on how you can watch the movie.

Media and Publicity

An interview with Mumolo and Wiig included them talking about the script, the creative origins of the characters and more, including the story behind the long delay in getting the film made.

Trayce Gigi Field, the movie’s costume designer, was interviewed about creating the unique fashions worn by the two main characters as well as the rest of the cast.

Dornan spoke about the film when he appeared on “Kimmel.” Wiig then appeared on “The Late Show” to talk about how long she and Mumolo have been working on the film and how much fun it was to finally film it.

That same topic was covered in a feature profile of the two collaborators.

Overall

There are a couple things worth calling out here.

First, it was a bold move by Lionsgate to not only keep the faces of Barb and Star hidden for the first half of the campaign, especially considering that campaign only launched in earnest a couple months ago. It’s not like the studio is hiding how some beloved pop culture figure will look, but it did create a sense of fun that works here.

Second, the constant reminders that it took Wiig and Mumolo the better part of a decade to get the film made after scoring such a big hit with Bridesmaids should serve as a reminder of how much Hollywood distrusts women, especially comedians. Meanwhile, Adam Wingard, who’s made one successful movie and runs a fetish Tumblr blog, directed the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong.

Finally, if the state of Florida hasn’t already adopted the poster designs and other graphics in its official tourism campaigns I’m not sure what we’re doing here.

Judas and the Black Messiah – Marketing Recap

How Warner Bros. has sold a story of power, politics and betrayal.

Judas and the Black Messiah, directed by Shaka King and co-written by him and Will Berson (with the story from Keith and Kennth Lucas), travels back to 1960s Chicago to tell the story of Illinois Black Panther leader Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya). Specifically, it focuses on Hampton’s betrayal by William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield). That betrayal by O’Neal comes after he’s picked up by the FBI and told the only way he can stay out of jail is by informing on Hampton and his organization’s activities at a time when the Black Panther movement was viewed by law enforcement as a terrorist organization.

The movie, which also stars Jermaine Fowler, Martin Sheen, Dominique Fishback, Jesse Plemons and others, is hitting both limited theaters and HBO Max this week as part of Warner Bros.’ day-and-date release strategy. With a 98% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes and already either having been nominated or won a number of awards, WB’s campaign has focused on the performances as well as the real-life drama that inspired the story.

The Posters

Last September the first poster (by marketing agency Statement Advertising) came out, showing O’Neal in the foreground with a red-tinged photo of Hampton and the crowds that believed in him in the background. That design, even independent of the copy reading “You can kill a revolutionary but you can’t kill the revolution”, is similar to the look and feel of propaganda posters, with the red usually indicating a socialist or similar message, one that’s appropriate for Hampton’s mission.

The second poster (by marketing agency Concept Arts) came out in January and pares things down to just Hampton and O’Neal. While it keeps that red shading, it also loses the copy but adds all the festivals the film has appeared at and claim that this is “One of the best films of the year.”

A final poster (by marketing agency GRAVILLIS) came out just last week and takes a different approach but keeps the idea of generally looking like some sort of propaganda poster. This time though it’s a blue and black color scheme and a design that also kind of mimics a paperback book, with the title at the top and the imagery in the bottom two-thirds. This one was designed for artist and former Black Panther member Emory Douglas.

The Trailers

The first trailer (2 million views on YouTube) was released in early August, opening with Hampton introducing himself and then showing how he is ready to lead a revolution. It quickly switches to focus on O’Neal, who is being interrogated by the FBI, who want him to inform on Hampton. Scenes of violent uprising are mixed with shots of Hampton and his organization helping feed and support communities, showing the good and the bad that the FBI was so eager to quash.

The second trailer (6.9 million views on YouTube) came out in January, showing Hampton and the community work he and the Black Panthers are doing. That’s far from the terrorist threat the FBI makes them out to be, something O’Neal comes to realize after he’s already in too deep. There’s an awful lot of powerful emotion here, selling a movie that’s focused on presenting a much more accurate picture of that period than may be taught in many history classes.

Online and Social

You’ll find information on showtimes (where applicable) as well as a synopsis and other very basic information on the film’s website, which uses a variation on the key art at the top.

Advertising and Promotions

As with the rest of the studio’s 2021 slate, it was among the titles named by Warner Bros. as debuting simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max.

The movie’s profile was raised significantly when it was added as a late entry to the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, which served as the film’s premiere.

A featurette released during Sundance in early February went into the real people and stories that influence the movie.

Cutdown versions of the trailer were used as preroll ads on YouTube and elsewhere.

The song “What It Feels Like” from Nipsey Hussle and Jay-Z came out earlier this week, one of the tunes on the movie’s “inspired by” soundtrack.

Media and Press

Right about the time the trailer debuted, King was interviewed about the controversial casting of a British actor to play a prominent Black American, something he said he was aware of but had to make the best choice he could regarding. Kaluuya was later interviewed about how the movie follows a path he’s carved out in her career to date along and more.

There was a feature profile covering how long King and others had worked on the project, how there were at times two Hampton-oriented films in development and how a number of studios passed on the film for reasons that seemed based more on “no one wants to see a movie about Black power” than anything else.

How Kaluuya researched his role and what that research exposed him to in terms of American history, as well how he worked with King and others were covered in an interview with the actor.

Stanfield appeared on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the film, though the conversation of course spilled over into more of his recent and upcoming projects.

King was interviewed about focusing on Hampton’s story and making it as realistic as possible, while Fishback spoke about how the film is part of her effort to tell important stories.

H.E.R. performed their song from the soundtrack on “The Late Show.”

Overall

WB’s campaign here is very strong, selling a biopic about a public figure that’s too often marginalized in many history books and lessons. Kaluuya and Stanfield are rightly front and center here, but so is King and that’s great to see since, as a filmmaker himself, the opportunity afforded by a higher profile is that he will be able to tell more like this.

The performances by the leads are at the forefront of a marketing push that has a clear and easily recognizable brand identity, one that makes it clear the film does not shy away from addressing sometimes uncomfortable societal issues. It’s not one that will likely drive massive amounts of new subscribers to HBO Max, but it does make the case that it’s a movie that needs to be watched if you can.