Cinematic Slant

Stay Tuned (25th Anniversary Flashback Marketing)

Back in 1992 comedies were still being written and marketed for adults, not just for kids and teenagers. That allowed for something like Stay Tuned to be produced that was definitely meant to appeal to an older audience. So with the movie celebrating its 25th anniversary today, it’s a good time to look back at how it was sold to audiences at the time.

The movie follows Roy and Helen Knable (John Ritter and Pam Dawber), a married couple that’s still happy but definitely having issues, especially around how much TV he watches on a daily basis. After she smashes the family TV in frustration a mysterious figure named Spike (Jeffrey Jones) appears and offers Roy a brand new, high-end unit. He takes it but the couple are quickly sucked into the set, forced to bounce from one hellish, twisted program to the next. Escaping, of course, brings them closer together, but they have to get past Spike and the devilish contract Roy signed first.

Right off the bat you can see a concept that has far more resonance for older audiences than it does for kids. It goes without saying that both Ritter and Dawber were major TV stars on classic shows, so putting them in a story that revolves around the world of television generates some knowing chuckles in and of itself.

The theatrical poster sells the premise in great fashion, still on the “artistic” side of the key art design divide that was opening at the top. So the painted image shows the Knables sitting in some sort of contraption, clearly in peril within the confines of the television set and looking panicked. Their kids – as well as the family dog – are on the outside looking in and just as worried.

There’s quite a bit of copy on the poster. That starts at the top with “Something weird’s on the air.” Next is “The Knables signed up for a cable system that’s out of this world.” Finally, at the bottom we’re told the movie is “A comedy on the wrong side of the screen.” All that combines to clearly tell the audience that the story will involve the world of television in some way that’s kooky and unexpected, a message that’s hammered home by the presence of Dawber and Ritter.

The trailer starts well into the story, skipping much of the setup of the relationship between Roy and Helen. Instead, we join it as Spike is delivering the TV to Roy. After some initial shock, it cuts to the main selling point, which is the crazy, homicidal shows that are broadcast on this particular TV, a world that Helen and Roy soon find themselves in the middle of. That includes variations of “Wayne’s World,” exercise programs, popular movies and more. It’s explained that Spike is basically the devil and this is part of his plan to claim their souls and that the Knables’ kids are trying to keep track of them from the real world. All the craziness ends with one of the more obvious jokes, where Ritter’s Roy winds up in a show that looks suspiciously like “Three’s Company,” allowing him to poke a little fun at himself.

What’s surprising in retrospect is how heavily the trailer leans on the premise, particularly the spoofs of the various shows, and not the stars. Neither Ritter nor Dawber were established as movie stars, though, so their casting was kind of “stunt” in nature, TV stars in a movie that revolves around TV. Now, years after his passing, Ritter is widely lauded as a comedy genius and this could have been a big turning point for Dawber though it didn’t turn out like that. Still, the focus is so squarely on the concept and the various goofiness of the demonic TV land the couple finds themselves in, there’s little room for either actor’s charm and charisma to come through.

Even more than that, the trailer shows where pop culture was in 1992 by highlighting the kind of programming that gets spoofed. “Wayne’s World,” Driving Miss Daisy, Jane Fonda-esque exercise programs, “Tom and Jerry” cartoons…that’s what the studio felt would resonate with audiences. That didn’t necessarily pan out as it only made about $10m at the box-office, but it lives on as a movie that, even if it hasn’t quite achieved “cult” status, is still fondly remembered by those of us who saw it back then.

Warner Bros. Offers New Trailer for Blade Runner: The Final Cut 4K Release

As we get closer to the release of Blade Runner 2049 Warner Bros. is making sure we remember not only that the new movie is coming out but that 1982’s original Blade Runner exists as well. To that end it’s releasing Blade Runner: The Final Cut in a new 4k home video edition on September 5th, a month before the new movie hits theaters.

Over the weekend the studio put out a new trailer for that 4k edition.

As you can see, the trailer positions the original as “The film that started it all,” which is a bit odd considering this year’s new movie is the first real expansion of the story in 37 years outside of a couple of videos games and a few books. None of those are held up as great works and it’s entirely likely the new movie ignores them entirely. So it’s not as if we’re talking about dozens of adaptations, spinoffs, side stories and other stories.

If anything, what the original started was a cottage industry of commentary about the movie and its production. That and a regular series of debates as to what is the first movie’s “definitive” edition, as it has been reedited a number of times as elements were taken out, footage from international releases added back in and so on. What this trailer is promoting is the “Final Cut,” which is meant to be director Ridley Scott’s final word on what the movie is meant to look like and which received a limited theatrical release back in 2007 for the movie’s 25th anniversary.

The emphasis on this trailer, unsurprisingly, is on the conflict between the Blade Runner played by Harrison Ford and the Replicants he’s charged with hunting down and “retiring.” Text in the trailer is pulled from the opening of the movie as it establishes the premise of the story. Given less attention is what I always felt was the most interesting aspect of the story, which is the question of what it means to be human.

It’s hard to imagine anyone who wants to own a copy of Blade Runner, whichever version they believe to be the most essential, doesn’t already have one in their collection. That makes the main value proposition of this release the new 4k transfer, which is meant to make the movie’s gritty, grimy, washed-out visuals appear brighter and crisper than ever before. And it’s a nice way to both capitalize on the interest in the upcoming sequel and remind others in the audience that it’s coming out.

What Happened to Monday – Marketing Recap

Stories of dystopian futures where society is being controlled in some manner often revolve around the hero that will rise up and challenge the oppressive system. What Happened To Monday, the new film hitting Netflix this week, makes the stakes a bit more personal.

Set a vague amount of time in the future, overpopulation and food scarcity has lead to governments putting population controls in place, limiting all families to one child each. Into this world are born septuplets, who are hidden by their grandfather (Willem Dafoe). He gives each the name of a day of the week and creates a system where they all take on the same identity, each going out only on the day they’re named after. Once they’re grown (and played by Noomi Rapace) something happens to Monday that has the potential to expose their secret and bring the full weight of the government down on the family.

The Posters

The poster does a pretty good job of conveying a few different story points in a single effort. First, there’s the overall setting, which is shown here to be a city that looks as if it were pulled straight from Blade Runner. All the buildings are close together and tightly-packed, offering clues as to the state of society at this point. That’s helped by the “One family, one child” message that’s displayed on a couple of the buildings, a message that seems tied to the face that’s shown on other building exteriors. Toward the top we see seven women leaping across a gap between two buildings, a man with his gun drawn on the other side waiting for them. “Seven sisters. One identity.” helps convey the intrigue and subterfuge that will form the crux of the story.

The Trailers

There was some unofficial marketing done a while ago but the first official trailer hit just a few weeks before the movie’s release date. it starts out with the Cayman explaining that the siblings laws are there for the protection of all society and that illegal children will be taken away, their parents punished. We see then the father of newly-born septuplets conspiring to hide his children, explaining to them all the plan. The authorities are soon on to them, though, and lots of running, jumping, shooting and other action follows as the dragnet around them tightens.

I like the trailer’s pace. It’s a tight recap of the premise of the story and the action that will form much of the movie’s appeal. There’s no time wasted on explaining the backstory of the world it takes place in and why population controls are in place, it just states that reality and moves on to what’s important, namely the lives of the seven sisters. Dafoe is always great but let’s give it up for Rapace, who has to not only play seven different roles but play off six other versions of herself while doing so.

Online and Social

Nope. Netflix gave the movie limited support on its own social channels but that’s about it for online marketing efforts.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Similarly, another goose egg from Netflix, which doesn’t see movie-specific advertising as an important revenue driver.

Media and Publicity

After it screened at the Toronto International Film Festival news broke that Netflix had already picked it up for distribution.

Not a whole lot of publicity outside of that. Most of the press coverage over the subsequent months came from the release of various marketing materials or small comments from Rapace or Dafoe but nothing that amounted to a big press push.

Overall

Another movie with a really interesting premise and some well-known actors that are being given short shrift by Netflix in the marketing department. It’s too bad because this seems like a decent story that might have something to say about the path the world is going down, a cautionary tale of sorts. But the small-scale campaign is focused not on the story but on the shootouts and chase sequences that make for better visuals. There’s a nice consistent tone to the campaign as it’s all decked out in slick grays and blues, but it still suffers from just not being substantive enough to, I’d imagine, get on most people’s radar.

This Week’s New Trailers: mother!, Our Souls At Night and More

Director Darren Aronofsky is going full-on horror with mother! if the first trailer is any indication and with Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, as well as Michelle Pfieffer and Ed Harris, on board so am I.

The concept of awkward family gatherings around second weddings isn’t new, but the trailer for Wilde Wedding has Patrick Stewart, Glenn Close and John Malkovich so you have my attention.

There’s not much in the first teaser for Our Souls At Night, just the promise of Jane Fonda and Robert Redford working together for the first time in decades.

Picking Up The Spare: The Emoji Movie, Wonder Woman, The Glass Castle

The Emoji Movie

  • You can get a free ticket to see The Emoji Movie if you buy a Happy Meal at McDonald’s, which is great but also seems a bit late to help the movie’s box office fate.

Wonder Woman

  • The Warner Bros. Studio Tour is jumping on the Wonder Woman train with a new exhibit featuring props and costumes from the movie.

Passengers

  • Jennifer Lawrence’s minor comments about Passengers wherein she admits some problems with the story have been blown out of proportion. It’s not like she disavows the movie entirely.

The Glass Castle

  • Brie Larson shared a few more details about how she and the other filmmakers brought The Glass Castle to the big screen.

Unforgiven (25th Anniversary Flashback Marketing)

Today’s multiplex is filled with sequels to movies that last graced theater screens a decade or more earlier. These “legasequels” or whatever you might want to call them are an attempt by studios to revive dormant IP, hoping that people will be pulled in by a nostalgia-driven campaign and the promise of a return of old favorite characters.

Unforgiven, which turned 25 this past Monday, wasn’t a long-delayed sequel to anything. It was a wholly original story written by David Webb Peoples and directed by Clint Eastwood, who also starred. In its own way, though, it was not only a call back to the era of Westerns – a genre Eastwood was plenty familiar with – but also a sequel of sorts to the stories those movies used to tell.

It’s easy to see William Munny (Eastwood) as the older, more grizzled version of the same sort of cocky gunslinger that had been a staple of film from the 1930s, hitting their heyday in the 50s. Munny was a bandit back in his younger years, now retired and raising his kids on a small farm. One day a young man calling himself The Schofield Kid comes to Munny’s door, asking him to join him on a quest to collect a $1,000 reward. That prize has been offered by a group of prostitutes for the death of two cowboys who disfigured one of their number and was let off with merely a fine by Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman), the sheriff of the town. Munny reluctantly agrees and brings along his friend Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) for the journey.

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Ingrid Goes West – Marketing Recap

Aubrey Plaza plays Ingrid in this week’s new release Ingrid Goes West. Ingrid is a slightly-unhinged young woman who has a tendency to mistake social media for the real world and obsess over celebrities and “influencers,” envying their life and engaging in a bit of stalking that goes beyond the mobile world of Instagram.

Upset over a recent situation gone bad, Ingrid latches onto her latest obsession: Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), a new influencer in California who’s become famous for her bohemian lifestyle and perfectly-lit and filtered photos and other media. Ingrid ingratiates herself into Taylor’s life and while the two initially become friends things quickly spiral as Ingrid’s true motivations are uncovered and unstable nature comes back out.

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The Glass Castle – Marketing Recap

Based on Jeanette Walls’ memoir of the same name, The Glass Castle hits theaters this weekend. The movie follows Walls beginning in early childhood as she and her sisters are constantly being moved around from one unusual environment to the next by their unconventional parents Rex (Woody Harrelson) and Rose Mary (Naomi Watts). The two believe they are giving their children something unique, teaching them to be self-reliant and not lead conventional lives.

Adult Jeanette (Brie Larson) doesn’t remember those years quite as fondly. Now settled into a successful career and comfortable life in New York, she once more has to deal with the emotional baggage heaped on her by her parents and the scars they’ve left behind. It’s not all negative, though, as she also realizes they did what they could and if nothing else gave her and her sisters a passion for life.

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The Trip to Spain – Marketing Recap

It’s hard to believe that an unassuming, largely unscripted movie that started out as a BBC mini-series about two frenemies eating good food across Great Britain would spawn a legitimate comedic franchise. But that’s where we are as we look to this week’s release of The Trip To Spain.

Once more Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, both playing slightly fictionalized versions of themselves, are pairing up and heading out for a road trip. After first tackling England and then Italy, they now take their bit to Spain. Once more Coogan has been asked to review restaurants as part of the publicity for an upcoming movie and recruits Brydon into that trip. And so they set out for long drives, incredible food and conversations that include their careers, sniping at each other in a (mostly) friendly way and sharing their dueling impressions of other celebrities.

The Posters

The poster doesn’t do a whole lot, but it doesn’t need to. Coogan and Brydon are shown at a big oak table with a handful of exquisitely-crafted food dishes in front of them, Brydon pouring a bottle of wine. That’s it, that’s the entire premise and the entire message that needs to be sent to the audience. There’s a quote at the top that praises the movie and copy making it clear “The two amigos are back” but otherwise the image of the pair is all we really need.

The Trailers

The first teaser didn’t show much but it presented everything audiences might be wondering about. It’s just Brydon and Coogan in a car driving along the Spanish coast while beatboxing and freestyle singing. That’s it. There are some title cards that place this in the context of the first two movies as well as positive pull quotes from critics, but that’s about it.

The first official trailer starts off by immediately setting the premise, which is that Coogan wants Brydon to engage in a trip to Spain. We see them engaging in their usual banter, including their dueling impressions, as they eat incredible food against amazing backdrops.

What else needs to be said? It’s fantastic, promising just what we love about this series of movies only in a different section of the world. Perfect.

Online and Social

Not much on the web for the movie. IFC has a page on its site that has a synopsis, the cast and crew list and the studio gave the movie some promotion on its own social channels but that’s about it.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’ve come across. It’s likely there’s been some advertising done overseas for the BBC series, but I don’t think anything happened on the paid front in the U.S.

Media and Publicity

The studio knew exactly what it was doing, starting off the campaign by releasing a clip featuring Brydon and Coogan doing impressions, including another excuse to do their dueling Michael Caines.

The movie was one of those announced as screening at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. There doesn’t appear to have been a big round of press or anything else, though, meaning the studio is relying mostly on word of mouth and familiarity with the first two movies to get people motivated.

Overall

It’s absolutely understandable that this marketing campaign doesn’t rise to the level of other summer releases. It’s about as small-scale as a film can be, with just two stars that U.S. audiences will mostly tag as “Oh, that guy who died in the opening 10 minutes of Tropic Thunder” and “The other one.” The story revolves completely around food and conversation and, if the previous two movies are indicative, very low stakes.

But it succeeds by very specifically telling the audiences that have enjoyed those other two movies that this is more of the same, just slightly evolved. The premise is the same but the characters have changed a bit since we first met them. Not so much, though, that we’re not going to get more cracks about Coogan needing the best room and making his career seem bigger than it actually is. And Brydon will be there insisting his impressions are better and more than happy to take his friend down a peg. That’s the formula that’s worked so far, so the existing fanbase is being told it won’t be tinkered with too much here.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Goes 80s for Home Video Campaign

OK, this Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 music video with David Hasselhoff is kind of goofy. But I don’t get the sudden 1980s-themed campaign being taken in selling the movie’s home video release. It’s not just this video, a few weeks ago Marvel Studios released a commercial for the release that looks like an old-fashioned infomercial that looks like the kind of thing that would air at 2 am on basic cable.

The approach strikes me as odd because it’s so out of left field when measured against the movie’s theatrical marketing campaign. There was nothing there that harkened back particularly strongly to the eras of the Reagan or Clinton presidencies. Nor was there anything in the movie itself that really provided a strong nostalgic hook to those decades. The music of the soundtrack that was such a big part of the campaign was pulled more from the 70s than anything else. The running gag about Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) believing as a child that Hasselhoff was his father is about the only overt nod in that direction.

So what’s behind this unusual and out-of-context direction for the home video release? It may simply come down to doing something to break through the media clutter. Goofy videos with grainy footage and a mugging star best known for talking to his car and rescuing people off a beach will get the internet’s attention. That attention translates into sharing by individuals and coverage in trade press and fan sites, all of which aides awareness that the home video is about to drop, which hopefully translates into sales.

Notably, it’s not impacting how the actual disc is being sold. The cover for the DVD/Blu-ray/digital combo pack uses a variation on the established key art from theatrical campaign. It’s not quite exactly what was used on the posters, but it pulls different elements from different versions of that campaign and mashes them together.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun little campaign Marvel Studios has put together here. But it’s way out of the lane established in the lead up to theatrical release and so comes off as a bit off-brand. The studio obviously wanted to do something unique, though, and it’s got enough press coverage to call the campaign a success.