Concrete Cowboy – Marketing Recap

How Netflix has sold Idris Elba on a horse.

Based on the novel “Ghetto Cowboy,” the new movie Concrete Cowboy stars Idris Elba as Harp, one of a number of individuals in Philadelphia who patrol the streets of the neighborhood on horseback. They do so in an attempt to maintain a connection to a simpler time and culture, knowing full well they are out of step with other parts of society. Harp’s estranged teenage son Cole (Caleb McLaughlin) comes to live with him, opening up tensions both old and new as the father tries to teach his son a few things while the son holds on to old problems and baggage.

Directed by Ricky Staub, the movie arrives on Netflix this week after a small-scale campaign from the streamer. It currently has a decent 78% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, so let’s see how it’s been sold to the public.

The Posters

Just one poster, released in early March, but it’s a pretty good one. Harp looms in the background of the collage-esque design, with other elements conveying Cole’s role in the story as well as the urban setting and more. It’s not the flashiest design, but it communicates a solid sense of what audiences can expect.

The Trailers

The first trailer (638k views on YouTube) finally came out in mid-March, opening with Cole clearly not on the same page as Harp. We see Cole exposed to the world Harp lives in and the rules and legends that go with it, a process that isn’t always easy or comfortable. The two eventually come to an understanding, but only just as the way of life Harp and others have long embraced becomes threatened with extinction.

Online and Social

Nothing here, but the movie did get some support from Netflix on its brand social channels.

Advertising and Promotions

A short clip was released around the time the movie was debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was also slated for screening at the Telluride Film Festival. Netflix acquired the film in October.

In early March Netflix finally gave it an April release date.

Media and Press

Staub and Elba were both interviewed during TIFF about the road the project has taken to date and what they hope for in the future. Another conversation with the cast and crew included comments on the story, working together and more.

Overall

The movie came out of Toronto early last year with some very strong word of mouth, especially for Elba’s performance. But that was a year ago, and a lot has happened since then.

So it’s a little surprising to see that while the trailer and poster are both pretty strong, they add up to the majority of the film’s campaign. Very little seems to have been done to build on that festival buzz, and Elba’s press activity has been minimal. It would have been nice to see some more promo spots or other elements that allow Elba to be his charming self as well as allow McLaughlin to come to the spotlight.

Godzilla vs. Kong – Marketing Recap

How Warner Bros. has sold a showdown that has nothing to do with justice dawning.

Hollywood is, if nothing else, certainly an interesting place. Take, for example, this week’s Godzilla vs. Kong, which has a couple things going on.

First, this is the fourth and latest film in Warner Bros.’ MonsterVerse franchise, which started in 2014 with Godzilla, continued in 2017 with Kong: Skull Island and most recently was seen in 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters. It’s notable, though, that GvK was greenlit all the way back in 2015 and moved into production, before Skull Island was released, with the assumption the series would be enormously successful and each installment highly anticipated.

In reality each installment has experienced diminishing returns from the one prior, at least domestically in the U.S. Godzilla’s $200.7m box office has fallen to a mere $110.5 for King of the Monsters. But a ship of this size isn’t easy to stop (though it might get stuck), so we’re just going to keep going because the international box office is still fairly strong.

Angry Mad As Hell GIF by HBO Max - Find & Share on GIPHY

Second, the movie is being viewed as the latest test of whether the U.S. audience is ready to return to theaters. Originally scheduled for November 2020, it comes this week to both HBO Max and over 90% of U.S. screens, the highest number available since many closed a year ago. While estimates for opening weekend are relatively paltry at less than $30 million, that would still be the most of any film since the Covid-19 pandemic shut most everything down.

So we find ourselves with the two monsters – known in-universe as “Titans” – finally coming face to face. The reasons why aren’t necessarily important, as the title does double duty as a synopsis of the story, such as it is. Kyle Chandler and Millie Bobby Brown return from King of the Monsters, joined this time by Alexander Skarsgård, Rebecca Hall, Kaylee Hottle, Bryan Tyree Henry and others, who will be offering exposition and acting as scale references so we know just how massive the two Titans are.

Warner Bros.’ campaign for the movie, helmed by mumblehorror director and noted fetish porn blogger Adam Wingard, is…well…it’s exactly what you might assume it is given the premise.

The Posters

The first poster (by marketing agency BOND), came out in January, immediately establishing the campaign’s red and blue color palette while showing Kong standing among the skyscrapers while Kong’s dorsal plates can be seen poking above the ocean surface as he advances toward that same skyline.

Godzilla has made landfall on the second poster (by marketing agency Concept Arts), released toward the end of February, as we see him walking through the city toward Kong.

Another poster from early March has the two Titans facing off like boxers, with a design seemingly inspired by Vegas promotional art, their faces close together and seen within the transparent letters of “Vs.”

We get different perspectives on two posters (by agency Little Giant Studios) that came out just a short while later. One shows Kong from Godzilla’s point of view and the other shows Godzilla from Kong’s, each one again emphasizing their massive size as compared to the buildings they’re walking between and through.

One more theatrical poster hit the red/blue Kong/Godzilla clash one more time, with the two shown to be so tall their heads poke above the clouds.

Exhibitor-specific artwork included one-sheets for IMAX, which has the two monsters falling into one another like this is a 90’s erotic thriller from Paul Verhoven, RealD 3D, which offers a variation on the previous imagery of the Titans lunging at each other, and Dolby, which is a bit more original in showing Kong climbing a skyscraper above the cartoonishly round world below.

The Trailers

A series of teasers were released on social media in advance of the first trailer, which was finally released at the end of January. As it begins, someone is talking about how much humanity needs Kong, who is being transported across the ocean. The threat, it turns out, is Godzilla, but no one knows why he’s attacking. Amid all the subsequent fighting it’s revealed this may not be the first time the two – and others like them – have faced off.

A second, shorter trailer came out in mid-February. Whatever story there was in the first spot, it’s excised in this one as it cuts straight to the action as Kong and Godzilla punch each other and rampage through cities, destroying countless buildings as they do so.

Online and Social

There’s not much on the movie’s official website, but you will find a few trailers as well as details on how to watch the film in the way of your choosing, assuming you either subscribe to HBO Max or live near one of the theaters it’s playing at.

AR lenses for Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook allowed people to put themselves in the middle of the showdown between the two titans.

I have to hand it to the WB team on Twitter, which seemingly had the latitude to share fan memes and other fun content via the official account. That’s made scrolling through the account’s updates a lot more interesting as it is less about amplifying only adoration and praise and more about reflecting how the internet really reacts to things. A similar attitude can be found the movie’s official Giphy channel, which has not only straight GIFs but also a bunch of goofier, meme versions.

Youre Too Cute King Kong GIF by Godzilla vs. Kong - Find & Share on GIPHY

They even shared an image from a *very* current meme and got onto the NFT bandwagon with exclusive artwork available there.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

While the movie was initially scheduled to open in early 2020, less than a year after King of the Monsters, that title’s lackluster performance at the box office had Warner Bros. pushing this one back to later in the year to tighten things up and perhaps even do some more drastic reworking. Despite that delay, the movie was among those included in the studio’s CineEurope presentation to exhibitors in June of 2109. Another delay moved it from March to November 2020 before the Covid-19 pandemic pushed it even farther out to May, 2021.

Rumors last December that Legendary was shopping the film to Netflix or other streaming services came and went but were followed by WB’s official announcement that it like the rest of their 2021 slate would be released to both theaters and HBO Max. Legendary was none too thrilled, threatening some sort of action.

One of the first, albeit very brief, looks at the movie came via an HBO Max promo touting the same day theatrical/streaming availability of WB’s 2021 lineup.

The release date was later moved up to March, 2021.

Short promo spots were released online in the build up to the movie’s debut.

Warner Bros. signed a deal with exhibition company CineWorld that would make this movie the first to play in CineWorld’s reopening Regal Cinemas.

Featurettes released in the lead-up to release included one that had the cast and crew introducing the idea of #TeamKong vs. #TeamGodzilla and talking about the scale of the action. That match-up was extended to social media, where people were asked to choose sides. Later on a map of the U.S. was shared showing how the majority of people in each state had voted.

More TV spots started coming out just in the last couple weeks and, like this one, largely played like cut-down versions of the trailers, working to set up the conflict. Longer spots went a bit more in-depth, but still focused on the big action of the story.

An IMAX-specific spot was pretty short but got the point across that people should see this huge movie on a huge screen. RealD 3D got a similar promo. For its part, Dolby shared a handful of interviews with the cast talking about the story and their characters.

Promotional partners for the movie included:

  • Snickers, which released a spot tying into the Kong vs. Godzilla fan voting.
  • Roblox, which hosted a movie-themed event in the popular virtual world where players could unlock exclusive rewards.

Legendary also announced a handful of publishing tie-ins just a bit before the movie came out.

Warner Bros. sponsored a TikTok challenge that involved a number of influencers on that platform.

A handful of longer featurettes, originally released on home video editions of the previous movies, were published by WB to YouTube over the last several weeks as a way of making sure the audience was familiar with what had come before. Those included:

Landscape artwork acted as both online ads and likely were used for outdoor ads also.

Media and Publicity

Bichir was interviewed about the movie, saying he enjoys the freedom to take different kinds of parts in movies of various sizes.

An interview with Wingard had the director talking about creating the massive monster battles and more of the action that everyone hopes fans are looking for. Another had him sharing the kinds of showdowns he envisioned and how he wanted to pattern the action after some of his favorite ‘80s action movies.

Overall

There’s a great deal that’s very good about the campaign, even when you overlook how it’s supporting a movie that, based on the shrinking box-office returns for the previous films, may not have a huge audience pool to pull from. It has a very nice visual brand that’s consistent from start to finish and it sells a simple message over and over again, counting on repetition being key to both engagement and interest.

When it comes down to it, that simple message is best summed up in a single GIF that, despite the lack of hyperbole or any other pitch, shows exactly what Warner Bros. hopes the audience will either come out to theaters for or use their parents’ HBO Max login to watch.

Fight Punch GIF by Godzilla vs. Kong - Find & Share on GIPHY

French Exit – Marketing Recap

How Sony Pictures Classics has sold a movie about falling from the 1 percent.

“Schitt’s Creek” became a TV sensation for a number of reasons, including its heartwarming story of a family that finds itself suddenly losing its fortune and having to do without in new surroundings. French Exit, now out nationwide after a limited release in mid-February, covers similar ground but in a slightly different setting.

Michelle Pfieffer stars as Frances Price, a Manhattan socialite who has led a comfortable lifestyle thanks to the sizable inheritance from her late husband Franklin (Tracy Letts). When she finds that the money she’s counted on has been almost completely exhausted, she decides to move from New York to Paris with her son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges). The two try to make a new life there in an apartment borrowed from a friend, with new acquaintances, experiences and more coming along the way.

The studio’s campaign has focused on Pfeiffer (never a bad idea) and sold a family drama about finding a new way after what’s familiar disappears.

The Posters

Frances and Malcolm – as well as their cat that may or may not be the reincarnation of the late Franklin – are shown on the one and only poster, released in December. The two/three are sitting in the back of a town car, but what they’re doing there is unclear as there’s no other context given, including a lack of copy or tagline. Instead most of the poster’s real estate is devoted to pull quotes from positive reviews, largely coming out of festivals and other screenings, to help make the case to the audience.

The Trailers

Frances is being informed, as the first trailer (861k views on YouTube) from early December opens, that the money she inherited and has been living on has run out. When a friend offers her an empty apartment in Paris she takes her grown adult son with her and moves across the ocean. That offers Frances plenty of new opportunities to create uncomfortable situations, be rude (either intentionally or unintentionally) to new acquaintances and otherwise continue on with her odd and unusual life.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website has the basic marketing materials, including trailers and a synopsis, but it’s mostly about selling tickets. Sony Classics’ page for the film has that as well as a gallery of stills.

Advertising and Promotions

Sony Pictures Classics acquired the film in September of 2019. About a year later, in August 2020, it was announced the movie would close the New York Film Festival, which was going to be structured differently because of the Covid-19 pandemic. That NYFF screening was followed by a number of positive reviews, especially for Pfeiffer’s performance.

The first official clip, released in early February, shows the moment Frances finds out she’s broke.

Commercials like this were used online as well as presumably as TV spots.

Media and Press

An interview with Pfieffer and Hess had them talking about getting involved with the film, how they worked with Jacobs and more during NYFF. Pfieffer again talked about being given the opportunity to get weird in her performance.

A later interview with Pfieffer had her talking about how she approached playing her character and working with Hedges. Similar ground was covered in another conversation that also reflected on her place among Hollywood royalty.

Pfieffer talked about shooting the film in France when she appeared on “Kimmel” in January and about her trepidation in taking on the role when she appeared on “Late Night.” Hedges later appeared on “Kimmel” as well.

She and Hedges were interviewed jointly about working together and shooting in Paris and Pfieffer spoke about her career in general and how this film fits into that here.

Overall

Two important points come to me when reviewing the campaign from top to bottom.

First, It’s surprising in some regards that the marketing effectively ended (save for a few additional social media updates from SPC) in mid-February, when the movie’s limited release began. That leaves a long time for people to think about other movies, but given how the press has been dominated by bigger releases, the studio may have been banking on all the oxygen in the room being taken up. And it doesn’t seem it’s making a big awards push, or there would have been more.

Second, this feels like another step in the revitalization of Pfeiffer, a process that began a few years ago with mother!. And I for one am here for it.

Michelle Pfeiffer Mother Movie GIF by mother! - Find & Share on GIPHY

Random Thoughts on Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Let the airing of grievances commence.

Well, it’s here, and it’s been long enough that most people who wanted to have likely already watched Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the official title for The Film Previously Known As The Snyder Cut.

As such, it’s time to finally share my random thoughts after watching the…film?…just to put it out there for discussion. So, in no particular order:

About the Movie Itself

This is exactly what I would have expected from a movie fans demanded. It plays like a collection of scenes the members of a message board wrote, with no cohesive material making them into a whole.

It’s easy to see most of what’s new compared to the theatrical version, but at no point is there an answer as to “why” things are different.

The one improvement over the theatrical version is Cyborg’s story actually has some sort of point, but even that is sketchy. Still, it’s better than it was.

It once more needs to be noted, especially since we just watched Wonder Woman 1984, how different the Amazons are clothed in this movie compared to Patty Jenkins’ films. The latter look like warriors, the former like the worst stereotype of female video game characters.

While Henry Cavill’s face in the theatrical cut was certainly disturbing, at least it gave us a Superman that occasionally smiled, something completely missing from Snyder’s previous movies.

The Martian Manhunter bits make zero sense.

The Martian Manhunter ending makes less than zero sense.

The Martian Manhunter bits mean Henry Lennix’s previous appearances as General Swanwick make zero sense. Zero.

Mera: “Your mother would have been responsible for following Steppenwolf to the surface, Arthur, but also let’s sit here and have a leisurely conversation about the burden of parental legacy while you stick your hand in the water like a four year old at a shopping mall fountain.”

Can anyone explain to me what the point of all those random supporting character introductions was? I mean, great, that’s Iris West, but it doesn’t go any further. Same with Mera. And Lois Lane. Oh, hey, I think I’m figuring out a connection.

At one point someone is asking Dr. Stone about an item that has gone missing from a high-security lab with multiple government contracts dealing with items of alien origin. Stone says “Oh yeah, we just kind of lost track of that.” and the investigator shrugs and moves on like this wouldn’t bring the entire operation to an immediate halt.

Steppenwolf and Darkseid are idiots. The former came to Earth, lost the Mother Boxes to a bunch of Atlanteans and Amazons in the Battle of Helm’s Deep and retreated. Then he comes back looking for the Mother Boxes and fights a bunch of Atlanteans and Amazons. When he calls Darkseid he’s like “Hey, I think this is the same place we lost that big battle eons ago…”

On a related note, Darkseid’s inclusion in this cut was a major selling point in the campaign and something folks were super-anxious about. But he’s barely in it, and the one moment that seems as if it might turn into a confrontation with the heroes instead becomes a staring contest.

Does every scene actually require a six-minute establishing shot?

Sure, taking out the Russian family that needs to escape from the battleground is an improvement, it also means there’s no context to the fight, but that’s par for the course.

I’m actually a bit surprised some of the jokes remained, assuming they had been Whedon’s contributions.

How much more objectivist nihilism could you fit into a single movie? None. None more.

The chapter titles are insulting and ludicrous, mostly because they imply the existence of an actual story, which is inaccurate.

Oh, you fridged Lois in the Knightmare epilogue in order to make Superman even more of an angry worldwide terror who apparently is hunting down his former friends and teammates? How original.

Four hours, $70 million dollars and not only are there

  • Scenes in the trailer that didn’t make the final version, including one that seemed to be the main point of one spot in particular, but also
  • Snyder’s already out there complaining about the rules WB put in place regarding what could or couldn’t be included and what additional scenes he shot despite those rules knowing they would be cut. So now there’s even more gristle for conspiracy-minded individuals to chew on.

About the Movement That Birthed It

Of course it took less than a week for “fans” to demand that Snyder now be restored as the captain of the DCEU. Even Neville Chamberlain would have known this appeasement wouldn’t work.

Along those same lines, I’m completely unsurprised by the renewal of the #RestoreTheAyerCut movement, seeking to restore some version of Suicide Squad that might be better than what hit theaters.

A black and white version? Who was asking for that?

If you’re wondering what this means for the future of film, it’s simple: Anything less than exactly what has dominated the fever dreams of angry trolls will not be tolerated. We’ve already seen that in various ways.

“Just let people enjoy things” only seems to be said regarding massive international IP releases and not about movies like Small Axe, Promising Young Woman or others.

It’s remarkable we got through the movie’s entire hype cycle without revisiting Ezra Miller’s filmed assault of a fan from 2020.

It’s Not Crime, It’s a Hustle

Gotta get paid, son, no matter who gets hurt.

John Mahoney gives an unmistakably great performance in Say Anything… even if the character he plays is someone the audience is ultimately asked to condemn. He may still evoke some amount of sympathy or empathy, but he pleads guilty to what in 1989 seemed like a horrible crime: Stealing from the elderly individuals he claimed to be caring for. While his motivations may have been something approaching honorable – wanting to provide the best for his daughter – they didn’t justify the actions he took in their service.

It’s hard, at least for many people like myself, to not think about that movie while watching Netflix’s recent I Care A Lot. Rosamund Pike plays Marla Grayson, a woman who has made a career of being appointed by family court judges as guardian to senior citizens she and a network of healthcare associates target in order to raid their estates. Grayson is running roughly the same scam James Court was 30+ years ago, but with more overt accomplices and in a way that’s almost impossible to revoke should a relative of one of her marks challenge the court order.

Stick The Landing Or GTFO

Aside from Pike’s blonde bob haircut, the thing that’s been noted most frequently about the film is that the story casts little to no judgement on Grayson’s actions. She’s not held accountable by the legal system she’s manipulated, there’s no justice as we would expect if her character were being investigated on an episode of “Law & Order”. Whether or not she falls victim to a more raw form of justice is vague thanks to some creative editing, but it seems as if she makes it away unscathed.

Criticism that Grayson didn’t face legal consequences for her immorality seemed to be based on the belief that stories need to be wrapped up nicely at the end and offer the audience a sense of ethical and moral closure. We want to make sure that societal norms are being upheld and communicated.

The lack of such consequences didn’t bother me much, but then again I’m the guy who feels the best ending to a modern movie can be found in No Country For Old Men, so it’s possible I’m a sociopath on this front. Others are currently debating whether or not the ending of “WandaVision” was both satisfying and legitimate, as if art can only be judged to be worthy if the final half hour lived up to expectations.

No Country For Old Men Film GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Why this movie in particular struck such a chord was perplexing to me until I read one of the essays in Jia Tolentino’s 2019 book Trick Mirror. In it she talks (and I’m paraphrasing *very* loosely here) about how over the last 20-odd years people have come to believe that everything is legitimate if it’s done in the pursuit of that all-alluring bling. All of life is a scam, the only way to make a living is to engage in some sort of hustle 24 hours a day etc.

They Believe In Nothing…

Such a worldview is disconcertingly nihilist, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t representative of reality to some extent. In an era where getting a full-time job with healthcare and a 401(k) is a pipe dream for many while becoming a TikTok influencer seems much more realistic and attainable, if it makes you a buck it’s condoned.

Moving Pictures Sleeping GIF by Tech Noir - Find & Share on GIPHY

Why should Grayson be held responsible for stealing from senior citizens, then? In fact, why should her doing so be viewed as a crime – or even something to disapprove of – at all? She’s found an angle and is working it, so let’s not judge her. Life is a zero-sum game, so anything I don’t actively work to take is something I don’t have and you might, so you’ll excuse me if I throw under this oncoming bus before you do the same to me.

That same attitude can be found in the real estate office location of Glengarry Glen Ross, where the salesmen engage in tactics they know to be unethical if not illegal because “only one thing matters; get them to sign on the line that is dotted.”

Even then, the story at least made an effort to present the actions of those men as wrong. They are somewhat conflicted about what they’re doing, even if they choose to put their moral compass in the drawer in order to keep the job they need.

Whether or not I Care A Lot writer/director J Blakeson wanted to portray an “anything goes in pursuit of a buck” ethos or simply wasn’t interested in showing how Grayson might get some form of comeuppance is unclear. That choice, whichever way it went, certainly shows how our artistic conscience has adapted over the last 30 years, from one where bad people by necessity must pay for their crimes to one where bad people are simply making different choices for their own reasons and it’s not our place to judge.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League – Marketing Recap

Our long national nightmare…is now here.

When Justice League arrived in 2017, the term “troubled production” was frequently used to describe it. The critical drubbing received by the preceding Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice created tension between Warner Bros. and director Zack Snyder, including rewrites by then DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns to the script from David Goyer and Chris Terrio. Confusion was created when different interviews with Snyder, Johns and others seemed to alternate between there being one two-hour movie, two two-hour movies, one four-hour movie in two parts and so on.

Then, as the movie moved into post-production, Snyder stepped away, reportedly to deal with the recent death of his daughter. The narrative at the time was that writer/director Joss Whedon was being brought in to handle a small number of reshoots and other pickups because he had already done even more work on the script.

And then of course there’s the issue of Henry Cavill’s mustache.

Henry Cavill Summer GIF by HBO Max - Find & Share on GIPHY

Kicking off at San Diego Comic-Con 2016, the marketing campaign for Justice League was more or less what audiences expected given both BvS and Snyder’s earlier Man of Steel. It was dark and moody, but after Whedon took over there seemed to be a bit more humor. Throughout, though, you couldn’t help but notice the distinct lack of Superman, an omission informed largely by the movie’s story – he dies at the end of BvS – and not wanting to spoil his return here.

When the finished product finally hit theaters the reaction was “mixed,” to say the least. Critics called it a mess and the $229 million it grossed domestically was a disappointment compared both to Wonder Woman earlier that year and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which at that point was nearing its eventual conclusion.

No…There Is Another…

Almost immediately, the most fervent adherents to Snyder’s nihilistic artistic view began to believe they’d been duped. Demands to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut were soon at full volume online, with those signing petitions and saying “Actually I have more of a comment than a question” at panels believing Warner Bros. had someone in its archives a version of the film free of Whedon’s influence. That version would more fully represent the intent of Snyder, who for years has been referred to in the marketing of his films as a “visionary director.”

WB continually denied such a version existed, pointing out that Snyder left an incomplete movie to Whedon’s stewardship. Snyder himself said much the same thing, that there was only a work print with unfinished effects and some scenes completely missing. There was no Snyder Cut.

Wonder Woman Family GIF by HBO Max - Find & Share on GIPHY

That didn’t mean much to those whose very personal brands seemed to depend on the opposite being true. Over the course of the next three years the DCEU was hit or miss, with the same group of toxic fans howling in delight whenever something that wasn’t The Snyder Cut failed to live up to expectations. Not only that, but similar groups made concerted efforts to strangle movies like Captain Marvel and Star Wars: The Last Jedi in their cribs on the grounds that girls are icky and anything that doesn’t cater to the lowest common denominator of male mob mentality shouldn’t be allowed.

Superman Shrugged

Denials from Warner Bros. were said to be the first and last word on the matter, right up until they weren’t.

Snyder’s tune began changing in early 2019 when he started posting pictures that seemed to confirm his cut of the film did exist in some manner. Members of the cast and others involved in the production made similar comments, with people like Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck, who play Wonder Woman and Batman respectively, getting in on the hashtag action.

Finally, in late 2020, as part of WarnerMedia’s hype cycle for the then pending launch of HBO Max, it became official that the streaming service would be the release platform for the reworked movie.

Just as there was confusion in 2017 as to whether there would be one or two movies and how long they would be, reports have differed over the last several months as to what form this one would take. At one point it was said to be four one-hour installments. At another it was back to being two two-hour movies.

The Snyderhead

Despite Snyder’s rejection of any mention of “toxic fandom”, the director himself credits fans using every channel at their disposal, including sliding into the replies of Sesame Street’s Twitter account, with turning dreams into reality by consistently pressuring the studio into action.

It’s almost like a demagogic political figure saying he doesn’t want his supporters to be violent but then buying them all airline tickets to attend an event specifically intended to foment insurrection. And then at the end he tells them they’re very special and he loves them, but only after people have died and others have had their life put in danger.

But what do we expect from Hollywood’s leading objectivist? So many of the stories he’s been part of telling focus on heroes or other characters that can’t find anything in life worth living for until they act on the power they have. Possession of that power in and of itself gives them the right to use it in the manner of their choosing. So it’s no wonder Snyder would be on board with a group of individuals claiming whatever power they could in order to achieve whatever goals they wanted, especially if those goals happen to overlap with his own.

Let me pause here and make a few clarifications.

First, I’m painting with an overly broad brush here. Not all #ReleaseTheSnyderCut adherents are examples of the worst of toxic male fandom. There are some genuine movie fans who feel Snyder is a great filmmaker, so good for them. Like any other art form, people are allowed to like what they like. People might judge me based on my love of Rush or Kenny Rogers, but all art works differently for different people. That being said, this particular group in my experience over-indexes in terms of members likely to verbally assault a woman cosplaying as Power Girl at Comic-Con, labeling her a “fake fangirl” if she doesn’t know who pencilled a random 80’s comic issue she appears in.

Second, Snyder has harnessed this and adjacent groups for good, working with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. That effort, clearly borne of the tragedy that befell his family years ago, is a good one, selling t-shirts and other swag to help worthy cause.

Crisis On Infinite Snyderverses

In the months leading up to and following WarnerMedia’s announcement that the movie would finally see the cold, desaturated light of day, the landscape has changed significantly, as has the narrative that framed the release of the theatrical cut of Justice League over three years ago.

Beginning in mid-2020, costar Ray Fisher, who plays Cyborg in the film, began making a series of accusations against Whedon and by extension Johns and others at Warner Bros., saying the pinch-director created a hostile work environment for him and others after Whedon took over on set. Fisher’s claims were enough for Warner Bros. to open an investigation, though then it turned into dueling statements over whether Fisher had or hadn’t cooperated with that investigation. Representatives for Whedon and Johns denied those accusations, but Fisher remained adamant and public. Ultimately Warner Bros.’ investigation recommended moderate remediative actions but was light on public details.

Batman Dc GIF by HBO Max - Find & Share on GIPHY

As time went on, Fisher received public displays of support from Momoa and other members of the cast and he discussed the talking points WB had given him and the rest regarding Whedon’s involvement, most of which matched up with how things were framed in 2017. All of that acted as prelude to actress Charisma Carpenter, who had worked with Whedon on “Buffy, The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel,” making similar comments, saying he had become hostile and offensive toward her and others. Those accusations, combined with Fisher’s made WB’s lack of overt action odd, especially since Whedon had over the last couple years, been removed from other Warner projects including a planned Batgirl movie and the HBO original series “The Nevers.” Someone, it seemed, knew something.

While Whedon’s reputation was being dismantled, Snyder’s was being enhanced/rehabilitated.

A major feature appeared in Vanity Fair that offered an official version of the events of the last few years. Quoted in the story are Snyder, his wife and producing partner Deborah and a handful of past and present Warner Bros. executives. According to them, the situation around Snyder’s exiting of the original film was much more complicated, including not only the death of his daughter but a new lack of support from studio heads in the wake of Batman v Superman’s critical drubbing. Whedon’s involvement then grew from script doctor to eventually reshooting as much as three-quarters of the film. Similar points were made in a later interview with Snyder.

With that polishing of Snyder’s image, he’s been positioned by himself and the studio at the forefront of the marketing campaign for this new version of the movie, now officially titled Zack Snyder’s Justice League to emphasize his importance.

The Marketing of Zack Snyder’s Justice League

All of that now brings us to the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League on HBO Max and the marketing of the movie, which Snyder has been at the bleeding edge of.

Darkseid and DC Fandome

That began in May of last year, when Snyder strongly hinted the movie was in the works during a Vero-hosted “watch party” for 2013’s Man of Steel, hints that were quickly confirmed when HBO Max released the first official announcement later that same month, leaving the official release date as a vague “2021” at the time.

Almost immediately Snyder began teasing out what would be new and different, sharing images that confirmed the inclusion of Darkseid in this new cut.

That continued in June, when promotions for the virtual DC Fandome event began. With Snyder and many of the cast scheduled to appear there to answer fan questions and show off more of the upcoming movie, teasers began coming out. In one, Wonder Woman navigates a cave where she discovers ancient wall paintings showing Darkseid.

Cavill spoke briefly about the project in June, saying he was anxious to see the finished product but offering few details.

As a way to prime the pump for the new movie, HBO Max debuted Batman v Superman – Ultimate Edition in July, with this new version containing about a half hour of additional material.

In an interview in July, Snyder hinted that the reworked movie wouldn’t fit in nicely with how the DCEU has evolved – meaning he would not be obligated to acknowledge Shazam or Birds of Prey (both of which have higher Rotten Tomatoes scores than either of Snyder’s previous entries) but work instead as the culmination of the trilogy he began in Man of Steel and continued in Dawn of Justice.

Snyder appeared virtually during a fan convention, discussing his upcoming remade version and making it clear not a single frame of what Whedon had shot would be included. That interview also marked the first shot in the official change in the messaging around the theatrical version’s release, exposing some of the conflicts that emerged between Snyder and the studio and other details.

Additional teasers in advance of Fandome showed more a pre-Cyborg Vic Stone and more.

The full trailer, preceded by a short teaser, then debuted during Fandome in August. How well it and to what extent it delivered on expectations depends greatly on your feelings about the original, Snyder himself and other factors. Set to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and sporting a Super 16 aspect ratio, the trailer features a mix of old and new footage. Added are more scenes featuring Barry Allen, including one where he saves Iris West, and Cyborg. The latter in particular is notable as this indicates more of his backstory would be fleshed out, something that’s been anticipated for a while. The scenes carried over from the theatrical edition feature revised color palettes, adhering closer to what was seen in the original trailers back in 2016. Most importantly, this gives fans their first look at Darkseid, who will be the main villain of the story instead of his henchman Steppenwolf.

Video from the DC Fandome panel was also released to the public.

Reshoots, Trailer Confusion and HBO Max’s Evolution

Much like there were different stories about what the theatrical cut would look like – two movies, one super-long movie etc – there was at this point the beginnings of some confusion about what the new version would be packaged as and what it would include. While Snyder said he wouldn’t use a single frame of Whedon’s footage it was unclear whether he was being permitted to shoot anything new himself. Budget estimates have ranged from $20 million – which would seem to just allow for post-production work on existing footage – to $70 million.

Finally, news came out WB had scheduled a short period of reshoots, though who was or wasn’t involved remained unclear. In October news broke that Leto would be reprising his Suicide Squad role of Joker in the film, something that would require new footage being shot.

In a very odd turn of events, that trailer had to be pulled from YouTube in early November, reportedly because Warner Bros. failed to clear the rights to “Hallelujah,” which is something you wouldn’t expect from a major motion picture studio. The trailer was re-released later that month but was once again pulled for unstated reasons, meaning that beat was almost completely lost from the campaign.

This is unquestionably a weird stage of the campaign, one with so many false starts, walkbacks and other problems you kind of can’t believe a major studio is involved. But this may be the result of allowing one person to lead the campaign, with the studio itself being a fast-follower more than a driving force.

It’s also a period where HBO Max started to carve out its own identity. Instead of being “the place where The Snyder Cut would eventually be available,” it gained some momentum thanks to series such as “Lovecraft Country,” “The Undoing,” “The Flight Attendant,” and other buzzed-about hits.

Not only that, but it was in mid-November that Warner Bros. announced Wonder Woman 1984 would debut on HBO Max on Christmas Day, the same day it was released to limited theaters due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. That was just the first step, though, with WB revealing a month later it would do the same for its entire 2021 movie slate.

All of a sudden it’s a very different ballgame. ZSJL now wouldn’t just be competing against catalog titles, a few exclusive series and a handful of original features but with titles like Godzilla Vs. Kong and other big-budget movies.

Finally, a Campaign

After so many twists and turns through the end of 2020, the campaign itself finally kicked into a higher, more substantive gear in January.

Snyder released a series of posters at the end of the month that finally announced the movie’s premiere date on HBO Max. Two of the three just showed the “JL” symbol in some form of disrepair due to battle damage, but one showed a film canister laying on the ground, as if this had finally been unearthed for the public to see.

Additional shared by Snyder on Twitter at the end of January hinted at the appearance of Martian Manhunter and Joker from Suicide Squad. A more complete look at Joker came out shortly after that.

Another trailer (21.5m views on YouTube), teased by Snyder ahead of its release, came out on Valentine’s Day. Though it largely contains footage we’ve seen before, it does have a few notable elements, including:

  • Slightly more Cyborg
  • Actual footage of black-suited Superman
  • Actual footage of Joker, providing a live-action version of the “we live in a society” meme
  • Reinforcement that the movie will be shown in a 4:3 aspect ratio.

Unlike earlier trailers, this one still seems to be available online.

An interview with Lennix had him talking about finally taking on the role of Martian Manhunter, something that drastically changes how his character is seen in the previous movies and a development that’s completely unearned by those appearances.

Clips from the movie’s soundtrack were released by Water Tower Records shortly after that.

DC then announced a series of movie-themed variant covers for Justice League #59, scheduled to hit store shelves the day before the movie became available.

At the end of February IGN debuted a video showing the members of the Justice League as different sides to a Mother Box, with each character and his or her powers and attributes represented as a relief on the cube.

In a later interview Snyder called out Fisher’s Cyborg as the centerpiece of his version of the story, something that runs in marked contrast to the theatrical cut. He also teased what he had in mind for a potential sequel, though he’s also said on multiple occasions this movie ends his involvement with the DCEU.

The theatrical poster showing a black and white photo of the assembled heroes advancing toward the camera came out at the beginning of March.

Short character introduction – or reintroduction as it were – videos for Superman, Batman, Flash, Wonder Woman, Cyborg and Aquaman came out earlier this month. There was even one for Darkseid, Steppenwolf and Deathstroke.

Character posters for Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Flash, Aquaman and Darkseid also came out around this time using the same black and white aesthetic as the theatrical poster.

The AT&T Discover District in Dallas opened up an exhibit of costumes and props from the film.

At this point it’s worth calling out some of the promotional partners for the movie, including:

  • Wonderland Restaurants, which created a movie-themed menu of items for people to order in while watching the film.
  • Foot Locker, which offered a line of movie-inspired t-shirts.
  • Vero, which hosted a cosplay contest

One final trailer (6.7m views on YouTube) came out earlier this week. While it features a lot of footage seen in previous clips or trailers, there’s a lot more of Darkseid, showing how dangerous he is, or at least claims to be, and how the heroes are holding out hope their combined strength is enough to take him on.

A virtual watch party was scheduled for 3/18, with the movie’s red carpet premiere planned for 3/17. But before that, earlier this week, a screening that was planned that wound up erroring out for everyone involved, leaving them unable to watch the movie and feeling pretty sore about it. That came after a glitch that had this movie playing when HBO Max subscribers pulled up Tom & Jerry, something that caused no small amount of laughter and confusion.

Overall: For the Fans, Not The Literally Anyone Else

Well, let’s see what we have here.

Reviews of the revamp have been generally positive but mixed, citing improvements in some areas while problems either persist or have newly cropped up in others. Almost universally, it’s said to be much more Snyder-esque, right down to the Randian worldview and carry all the positives and negatives that implies.

The same can be said about the marketing itself. As stated earlier, Snyder is frequently referred to as “visionary” in the campaigns for his films, but that only really resonates in the small percentage of the audience that has fully bought into that vision. For the rest, it almost acts as a sort of warning that the film in question contains more nihilism is recommended over the course of an entire year.

What’s on display here is just that.

Batman Dc GIF by HBO Max - Find & Share on GIPHY

The theatrical cut of Justice League is an unquestionable mess, the cinematic equivalent of putting peas in your guacamole recipe. But there’s nothing in Snyder’s previous DCEU movies that would have indicated his original cut would have been any more coherent and there’s nothing in this campaign indicating this version will be so either.

Those feelings are compounded by the multiple instances over the course of the marketing where trailers disappeared for one reason or another and confusion reigned as to what the movie would ultimately look like and what it would include.

Also raising eyebrows is how power dynamics within Hollywood are on display here.

While Snyder has been brought back into the light with multiple profiles and interviews that have allowed him to tell his side and come out as the aggrieved party, Fisher in particular still seems to be sidelined. His complaints about how he was treated by Whedon, though vindicated in the court of public opinion, were still largely dismissed and denied by the studio and his involvement in future projects hasn’t been improved. Why might that be?

Justice League Dance Moves GIF by HBO Max - Find & Share on GIPHY

For the last three years, fans of the director have been clamoring for this movie, believing it to be the ultimate lost classic, pure bath salts in cinematic form. All art is compromise, though, and the idea that any version would ever be delivered free of influence from outside parties is naivete, and it’s likely the reaction to this when it’s finally available will represent that. If it’s not everything they’ve been dreaming of and speculating about, things will go poorly. More theories will emerge that this *still* isn’t the movie Snyder could have or wanted to make, and those grievances will be taken out the next time a studio casts a woman or person of color in the lead role of a franchise property.

This campaign, though, is meant solely for that group. There’s little to nothing here that might attract someone who isn’t already a charter member of the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement. Even someone who was simply disappointed by the theatrical version and wants to see if this might be an improvement will find no appeal to them has been made.

At least this time we don’t have to sit through the studio pretending like Superman isn’t in the movie.

Considering the 2021 Oscar Nominees…or not

I mean…OK…

As usual, my thoughts on award nominees are summed up easily as “Sure…fine.” So too with the Academy Award nominations announced earlier this morning.

Such nominations represent a particular cultural snapshot, one filtered through the lens of a group that’s largely unrepresentative of the population as a whole. In that regard, they are similar to the pool of films as a whole, in that the demographic makeup of those that greenlight production is very different from that of the moviegoing public.

That means they’re going to offer some insight into what kind of cultural conversations were happening at the time, but generally only the kinds of conversations you might overhear in an affluent neighborhood’s second most popular Starbucks. Most of the movies nominated will fade from relevance inside of the next six months while some that were “snubbed” will go on to be considered classics for decades.

Thus it has always been and thus it always will be.

Bob Hope Oscars GIF by The Academy Awards - Find & Share on GIPHY

More interesting to me at the moment is the coincidental timing of the Oscar nominations coming immediately after what seems to be regarded as an extremely effective and well-produced Grammy awards ceremony.

While I didn’t watch the broadcast, it seems the Grammys were a hit because artists turned in intriguing, relevant and entertaining performances, a good mix of artist genres and demographics and a reminder that, especially this year, it’s important to remember the kinds of people who have born the brunt of the pain related to pandemic closures and shutdowns.

As many other people have pointed out, there’s little that award-giving bodies in music, movies or television can do at this point to turn around the long-running decline in ratings for any awards show. That’s a symptom of not only the often-unrepresentative nature of the items nominated and the media fragmentation that impacts every category.

It’s been over a decade since the Oscars expanded from five to 10 the number of movies that could be nominated for Best Picture, an attempt to offer some room for more commercially popular films to be included, which would hopefully bring in more viewers to the broadcast. No actual problems were solved by this, though, and nominees still tend to be films that only played in limited runs or at least didn’t perform as well as expected.

Perhaps if AMPAS really wanted to make the Oscars more relevant it would heed the results of stories like this pointing out that tens of billions of dollars are being left on the table by studios not producing films featuring more racial and ethnic diversity. If more people felt more movies were made by, for and about people like themselves, then interest in which films are heralded would rise. Or maybe if, just once, the Oscars broadcast itself didn’t feel like an endless self-indulgent slog, more people might choose it over literally anything else.

Using the Grammys as an example, a push at this year’s Oscars to bring the focus to theater employees (not owners or executives) as well as other support personnel would go a long way to making the ceremony more interesting. So would skipping the canned and corny scripted bits that haven’t been fresh since Bob Hope last hosted as well as the rest of the overproduced and overly-long recorded segments.

Stick with concise and respectful presentations of the awards that allow the winners to speak their mind in a reasonable amount of time, performances of the original songs by the artists that recorded them.

Most of all, convey an appreciation of movies from the audience’s point of view, not that of a talent agent or associate producer.

If changes like that – ones that tear the show down to the studs and reimagine the entire structure and flow – aren’t made, then more and more of the public will come to the realization that watching the broadcast is a lot less fun than playing video games, scrolling through TikTok or finishing season 3 of whatever it is they’re watching at the moment.

Cherry – Marketing Recap

How Apple is selling a story of trauma, addiction and how they intersect.

No matter what else you might say about Joe and Anthony Russo, they certainly seem to inspire loyalty among the actors the directing brothers work with. Nearly every post-Avengers project they’ve been involved with has included at least one of the actors from the MCU, and this week’s Cherry is no exception.

Based on the novel by Nico Walker, Tom Holland stars in the film as the title character, a young man who’s a romantic at heart in the early 2000s. He meets and immediately falls in love with Emily (Ciara Bravo), but when complications in the romance emerge he enlists in the military and is shipped to Afghanistan. When Cherry returns, the relationship with Emily restarts, but his trauma from his time overseas leads them both into dangerous drug addiction, which is financed by Cherry beginning to rob banks both for the money and the rush.

Early reviews were largely positive, praising Holland’s mature and charismatic performance, but the movie sports a less enthusiastic 43% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie received a limited theatrical release a few weeks ago but hits Apple TV+ this Friday.

The Posters

In December a teaser poster showing Cherry staring straight ahead at the camera, his haircut and look conveying a sense of someone who’s seen some stuff and has little left to lose was released. That poster was notably misprinted online when it debuted on Variety, with the title messed up to the extent lots of people had a laugh at its expense. It was republished quickly.

A short while later a series of posters that retained the dark red background but this time showed each character in profile with a noun that describes them came out.

The theatrical poster from January has the same aesthetic but while Cherry is the only one really seen, arms presumably belonging to Emily are shown reaching from off-camera to hold his face in her hands.

The Trailers

Cherry is robbing a bank as the first trailer (4m views on YouTube(, released in mid-January, starts. Via voiceover he’s wondering what the point of life is before we flashback to his earlier life, including meeting Emily and then, much to her dismay, joining the Army. When he returns he’s suffering from PTSD Emily can’t help with, so he turns to robbing banks to try and silence the voices in his head or at least do something that feels like anything. It’s a powerful trailer, made more so by the glimpses we get of Cherry narrating his actions and life to the camera.

Online and Social

Nothing special on the web page for the movie from Apple TV+, which didn’t set up individual social pages but did support the film on its brand profiles.

Advertising and Publicity

The Russos brought the still-in-production movie to Cannes 2019, hoping to lure buyers with the promise of the project’s potential. They discussed it further, including that Holland was starring in the film, during their panel at San Diego Comic-Con in July of that year.

With Covid-19 shutting down most all theaters for an indeterminate period of time in early 2020, the Russos admitted they weren’t sure what the distribution future for the film was going to be. That changed in September when Apple acquired the movie following a brief period of speculation Netflix might pick it up.

In early January the Russos offered the first real look at the movie via a clip showing Cherry enlisting in the military.

A featurette came out at the beginning of March that had Holland and Bravo talking about the story and their characters.

Shorter promos like this were shared online and may have been used as ads or commercials.

Media and Press

An interview with the Russos offered more details about the story and more as well as showing off some of the first official stills from the film. Another later interview with the brothers had them talking about Holland’s performance, the origins of the story and more.

Shortly before the movie came out there was a feature profile of not only Joe and Anthony Russo but also their sister Angela, who wrote the film.

An interview with Holland had the actor talking about taking on such a risky – both emotionally and physically – role. He later appeared on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the film.

There were additional interviews with the Russos about the personal nature of the story and how the production of the film was such a family endeavor. They also talked about what sort of generational elements inspired the story.

Henry Jackman was interviewed about creating the film’s score. The movie’s cinematographer talked about how the story is divided into a handful of distinct chapters.

An appearance by Holland on “The Tonight Show,” as many of his interviews did, talked briefly about this movie but also went heavily into talking about Spider-Man.

Overall

Having seen the movie (thanks to a Hollywood Reporter-hosted virtual screening) I can safely report the campaign as outlined above matches the finished product pretty well. There are a few story elements, especially the extent and cause of Cherry and Emily’s descent into addiction that aren’t fully communicated here, but the marketing’s focus on Holland’s performance is justified.

Having said that, it’s Bravo’s performance that really centers the story and shines through. So much of that performance involves her speaking directly to the camera, a surrogate for Holland’s Cherry, and her calm but emotional demeanor comes through strongly. It’s a shame she wasn’t more fully involved in the publicity and press components of the marketing.

Is The Box-Office Actually Warming Up?

Maybe, but let’s see if it lasts.

A significant – and significantly delayed – milestone was marked last week when Tenet, initially released last September, finally opened in New York City theaters. Unlike when it played in a handful of theaters elsewhere in the country several months ago, this time the opening was not marked by director Christopher Nolan openly decrying Warner Bros. executives, but the larger narrative in the movie industry couldn’t have made him very pleased given his dislike of anything less than 100% theatrical distribution.

See over the last week or so several studio heads and others have weighed in with their own prognostications on the future of movie release patterns given we’re now a year past when most theaters shut down for most of the rest of 2020.

Jim Gianopulos, Paramount Pictures

Exclaimed Gianopulos at Viacom’s Paramount+ Day today, “We believe in the power of theatrical releases and we have faith that after things get back to normal, audiences will enthusiastically return to theaters. At the same time, consumers have increasingly embraced streaming as another way to enjoy films,” said Gianopulos, “our strategy accounts for both.”

Bob Chapek, Walt Disney Company

“I think the consumer is probably more impatient than they’ve ever been before,” said Chapek. “Particularly since now they’ve had the luxury of an entire year of getting titles at home pretty much when they want them. So I’m not sure there’s going back, but we certainly don’t want to do anything like cut the legs off a theatrical exhibition run.”

Jason Kilar, WarnerMedia

“It sure feels like it’s not going to go back to 2015,” Kilar said, adding, “I can only speak for ourselves.”

Bob Bakish, ViacomCBS

“If you look at the curve, the degradations on most film titles, they do very little business on post-Day 30 and certainly post-Day 45,” Bakish, who was the morning’s keynote speaker at the (virtual) 2021 Morgan Stanley’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications Conference, continued. “So moving to an in-house streaming window at that part we think works, certainly for us, but also for constituents, including consumers.”

Tenet finally coming to New York theaters happened at about the same time San Francisco announced bars, theaters and other public spaces could reopen, though still at reduced capacity. That’s also good news for the movie industry as it is another major market that, with vaccination rates rising due to increased supply and Covid-19 cases dropping, is allowing businesses to get back to business.

If things continue to improve, it should mean that Disney’s decision to keep Black Widow’s May release date makes sense. And we might even see titles like No Time To Die and others this year. Indeed studios are feeling positive, with Paramount recently announcing a Memorial Day release date for The Quiet Place Part II.

[record scratch]

Of course there are still potential monsters lurking around a number of corners.

The CDC reported last week that areas where mask mandates and in-person dining restrictions were lifted wholesale have seen fresh increases in Covid-19 infections.

Over 745,000 Americans signed up for unemployment assistance last week and there are 10 million fewer jobs than there were a year ago. 10% of Americans are estimated to have given up on the job market completely, much more than the official 6.4% unemployment rate.

So not only are there still public health concerns that will impact people’s decisions whether or not to head to a movie theater (assuming one near them is open yet), but there is still the very real situation of tens of millions of people not working and therefore not having disposable income to spend on something as inessential as a movie ticket.

What Should We Watch Elizabeth Olsen GIF by Disney+ - Find & Share on GIPHY

All that is on top of the year of being solidly in the habit of watching new releases via streaming or PVOD.

That’s why it’s likely most, if not all, the studios will adopt some form of hybrid or mix-and-match release strategy for their lineups.

It may not be as ad-hoc as Disney’s approach, where some films are held back entirely while others get full-on Disney+ releases while others are “Premier Access” titles requiring additional payments. Or as one-size-fits-all as WarnerMedia’s day-and-date theatrical/HBO Max releases.

Something fundamental has shifted, though, and it may not be possible to shift it back. While Kilar and others still see a place for theatrical releases, Paramount announcing major title will come to the newly-rebranded Paramount+ just 45 days after they hit theaters shows theaters are no longer the powerhouses they were just a few years ago. Even at the height of DVD sales in the 2000s, studios would never have dared anything less than at least a 90 day window, with 120+ being the tightest it ever really got.

Some theater chains are still trying to exercise some power, though, with Cinemark’s decision to not play Raya and the Last Dragon because of it’s Disney+ availability playing a large role in that movie’s lackluster box-office.

How the theatrical box-office continues to improve after losing essentially an entire 12 month period remains to be seen given how many states are still enacting stricter guidelines and we’re nowhere near “herd immunity” vaccination levels. Adding to the uncertainty is how studios have taken to just not reporting box-office results, afraid those numbers will be taken out of the context of a global pandemic.

That means it could be even longer before we see dollar amounts reflecting wide release patterns. And when those numbers are available, they may not look like what we would expect to see a few years ago because, quite frankly, the results don’t include the number of people who opted to stream it at home now or 45 days in the future.

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