We love origin stories for our icons. That’s true not only for superheroes but for the real people who have influenced our world. This week brings another sort of origin story in the new release Marshall. Directed by Reginald Hudlin, the movie stars Chadwick Boseman as Thurgood Marshall in one story pulled from the years before he became the first black United States Supreme Court justice.

The story follows one particular case from early in his career. In Connecticut, a black man (Sterling K. Brown) has been charged with the rape of the woman he drove for (Kate Hudson). Marshall is called to help defend the accused, but because of segregation laws at the time he enlists the help of a local Jewish lawyer (Josh Gad). Together they work to overcome the biases in the town that threaten to convict based more on race than on the evidence of the case.

The Posters

The first poster is simple, showing a black and white image of Boseman as Marshall, standing there in a suit and hat and clutching his briefcase. The red of the title treatment provides a bit of contrast to that photo. “Live hard. Fight harder” is the copy, which tells us that we’re in for a bit of scrapping of some form in the story.

“His weapon was the truth” is the copy on the second poster, which uses the photo collage design concept to share as much about the movie as possible in a single image. Boseman, Gad, Brown and Hudson are all shown here in individual photos along with other pictures of scenes that are important to the story. It’s fine, but it’s an approach that’s been used dozens of times in the past and conveys little that’s unique or compelling about the movie.

The Trailers

The first trailer sets out by immediately establishing Marshall as kind of a badass as he gets into a bar fight. Then we hear about how far he’s come from his grandfather’s position as a slave, but he faces prejudice and anger from all quarters. He’s assigned a case where a black man was charged with assaulting a white woman, which has exposed the racial ugliness of the period. When he brings on a Jewish partner for the case things only get worse but Marshall is no less determined to fight for justice and break down all the barriers society has put in place, ending with a shot of him drinking from a “Whites Only” water fountain.

It’s a powerful trailer, to be sure, but the audience’s expectation is likely that this is more of a biopic about America’s first black Supreme Court justice. It’s not that at all, though. Instead we get a clear cut procedural story that wouldn’t be out of place on “Law & Order” or in a John Grisham novel, though with Marshall in the spotlight. That’s different from what might be expected, taking an awfully narrow slice of his life instead of trying to track it on a larger scale. Not saying it isn’t still compelling, just unexpected.

The second trailer starts out much the same way as the first, showing us the hard life Marshall led before his appointment to the Supreme Court. We see again how he’s assigned a controversial case with great racial implications.

Online and Social

Full-screen video pulled from the trailers plays on the front page of the official website, obscured by the title, pull quotes from early reviews and a prompt to watch the trailer. There are also links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles as well as call-outs for both the #MarshallMovie hashtag for conversations about the movie and #StandUpForSomething for more general activism. It’s also the name of an original song on the movie’s soundtrack.

“About” has a Synopsis and Cast and Crew information for you to peruse. After that is a section on the soundtrack, with a link to buy or stream the album. “Videos” has the trailers and other promotional videos, including all the introductions from the cast. “Photos” has a decent gallery of stills.

Persistent on the site is a call to action for “Group Sales.” The studio obvious want to encourage people to go see the movie en masse, a common tactic with issues-based films like this.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Boseman himself introduces Marshall as a forerunner to other civil rights heroes in a TV spot that has the whole primary cast encouraging the audience to not only see the movie but stand up and fight for equality, calling out racism and other problems when they see it. Further TV commercials would range from those that used short, emotional appeals based on the praise the movie has already received to those that used the second collage-based poster as a starting point to dive into the characters played by each member of the cast.

Using either of the hashtags mentioned above unlocks a sponsored emoji on Twitter, a symbol of the balanced scales of justice. The trailers and other videos were also used as sponsored posts on both Twitter and Facebook.

Media and Publicity

Boseman also showed up on “Kimmel” right around the time of the debut of the first trailer to help promote it along with Black Panther.

Later in EW’s fall movie preview Boseman talked about how yes, this was another historical figure he was portraying, but that he was drawn to characters of significance.

Boseman showed up again on “Kimmel” closer to release and he and the other cast did various other interviews and appearances. Both he and Brown did this joint interview where they talked about the representation of black people on film and how, while there’s still room for improvement, things are better than they once were. Ethnicity also came up in an interview with Gad, where he talked about how taking on such an overtly-Jewish role was a decision made in part to honor his Holocaust-surviving grandparents.

Hudson was the subject of a feature profile where he talked about his career as well as why he got involved in making this movie and how the story, because it’s a less well-known part of Marshall’s career, makes it a perfect one to surprise audiences with.

Perusing the social profiles for the movie, it seems Open Road organized plenty of screenings and Q&A sessions around the country to help get people excited for the movie and position it as an important one for people to see and spread the word regarding.

Overall

Context matters. I mentioned above that my initial reaction to the first trailer was a bit underwhelming because it came off like a preview for the latest episode of a TV police procedural. It was only after reading the interview with Hudlin that I realized the dramatic implications of framing a relatively unknown part of Marshall’s life and selling it like this. The whole point is to sell it in a familiar way because it will be more appealing to the audience and provide the most impact when they do see it.

More than that, I think the best thing the campaign does is get the actors involved in selling it directly. Specifically I’m referencing the trailer introductions and other videos from Boseman, Brown and Gad. In a cultural era where athletes, actors and others are asked to take a side on any number of issues, these three are putting their money where their mouth is, not only selling the move but the racial equality Marshall – and others – sought in all things. They are loudly declaring that not only are they proud of the movie, they’re proud of its message. That’s a powerful appeal.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

  • Old Forester, the bourbon brand that helped with marketing tie-ins, is running paid Twitter ads promoting the movie with a sweeepstakes awarding a trip to “Bourbon Country.”

Blade Runner 2049

  • Everyone is discussing this interview with Ford and Gosling on a British morning TV show that devolves into constant laughter so why not share it here too.

The Mountain Between Us

  • Idris Elba graces the cover of Entertainment Weekly because of his starring role in this and a number of other movies coming out this fall.

IT

  • While the ad isn’t specifically part of the movie’s campaign, a new Burger King ad in Germany uses it as the basis for a new push reminding the audience they should never trust a clown.

I fell in love with Glengarry Glen Ross pretty quickly. It was my first exposure to David Mamet’s writing, hitting me at a time when I was seriously getting into film and beginning to notice the creators behind movies I was enjoying. Over the years I’d see more movies he wrote, including those he directed as well. Like may later appreciation for Aaron Sorkin, I was a sucker for the rapid-fire, ellipse-filled dialogue he specialized in, amazed at how detailed and nuanced it was.

Based on Mamet’s own stage play, Glengarry is mostly set in the office of Premiere Properties, a real estate sales office. The salesmen there are hyper-competitive, always vying for advantage over the others in the office, employing whatever tactics might be needed to close the deal. Shelley Levene (Jack Lemmon) is the old veteran, Ricky Roma (Al Pacino) the slick hotshot and Dave Moss (Ed Harris) and George Aaronow (Alan Arkin) the guys who just want to do their jobs. When an executive from the home office (Alec Baldwin) shows up to explain people will be fired if they don’t meet sales goals, the situation gets even more desperate. Schemes are hatched to somehow access the new, high-quality leads dangled under their noses. One way or another, not everyone will survive the day with their job intact.

With the movie recently celebrating its 25th anniversary, let’s take a look at how it was sold to audiences in 1992.

Considering how unique the movie is and the kind of value proposition made in the trailer below, the poster always struck me as oddly generic. It shows a businessman in a suit and tie with his briefcase walking a tightrope set high in the sky. The impressive cast list appears at the top while the copy point “A story for everyone who works for a living” is near the bottom, just above the title.

While neither the copy or the illustration are inaccurate, they’re also not great representations of the film being sold. It’s pretty bland, without the verve or spirit that could be conveyed. These seem like they could be used for any workplace-set story. Yes, the movie is about that – albeit an amped up, testosterone-filled one – but it’s about how far you’re willing to go in selling your soul to keep that job.

The trailer opens in the middle of the famous speech by Alec Baldwin’s unnamed character as he tells Levene to “put that coffee down” because he wants to make sure all the salesmen in the office know what’s going on. They’re all on the cusp of being fired and the title cards that are intercut with the footage explain these guys will do anything to win. There are conversations that seem to hint at plans to rob the place to gain an advantage, which we soon see has actually happened, leading to accusations and investigations. That’s where the footage ends, though, with the trailer ending by touting the all-star powerhouse cast that’s been assembled.

Not only is the trailer selling that cast, but it’s selling Mamet’s lightning-fast dialogue. Everyone is given a mouthful and the editing of the footage here only enhances the pace at which it’s delivered. It explains the story well enough, but that’s inconsequential. You’re being told the main attraction is the cast engaging in some serious verbal gymnastics.

In some ways, the campaign undersold the movie. The poster doesn’t play to its strengths and even the trailer doesn’t go far enough in selling how dramatic and dynamic the story is. What the audience was promised was a glorified play, which isn’t wrong. It’s just not as pulse-pounding as it could be.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

A recent report of a gathering of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the governing body of the Academy Awards, portrays an organization that is wrestling with the changing face of the film industry.

The focus of the meeting was, according to reports, to discuss Netflix’s continued disruption of that industry and whether or not to award official recognition to the movies it either acquires or produces. There’s a concern that by allowing movies that receive grudging, minimal theatrical releases but which are distributed primarily on the streaming platform, the awards would be “cheapened.” Any movie not made for showing in theaters is, the thinking seems to go, not a “real” movie.

Boy, where to start with this one. There are so many issues to choose from.

The biggest one to my mind is that AMPAS seems determined to define a movie based solely on distribution. That right there is an outdated mode of thinking. A new music release is no less an album because it was distributed on compact disc instead of wax LP. Nor does that definition change for streaming or downloadable distribution. The same should apply to films.

Honestly, we should have had this conversation decades ago. While I can understand that the melodrama of the traditional network “made for TV movie” from the 1970s or before isn’t something the Academy would want to consider including in industry awards, what about the original movies produced by HBO or other cable networks over the years? Is Okja any less a film than And the Band Played On? And is either substantively different from The Florida Project?

Not in form or format. They are all somewhere between one and four hours long, telling a story in a single, unbroken way. If you want to define a movie in that way, I don’t think anyone would argue with that. It would disqualify media produced to be consumed episodically in the manner of most TV shows, where the story is chunked up over multiple installments, each distributed at a different time and wholly distinct from what’s come before and what’s coming later.

In reality, there’s been a blurring of the lines by both TV and movie creators. Shows made for Netflix or FX are often conceived as 12-hour long movies and can be binged in roughly that manner. The expansion of “shared universe” film franchises has turned movie-going into a more expensive version of tuning in for new episodes each week, each installment only fully understood if you’ve seen the previous seven. TV is becoming more singular while film is becoming more serialized.

The debate – centered around Netflix because Amazon, even as it enters self-distribution, still emphasizes theatrical runs months before its original films hit its streaming service – seems more intent on propping up both the theatrical distribution industry and the role of studios as gatekeepers of “real” movies. It’s only legitimate if it comes from one of those media conglomerates.

Should AMPAS decide that Netflix’s original movies don’t qualify for awards consideration, it will only delay the inevitable. Streaming service subscriptions are now more common than cable subscriptions. Theatrical attendance is dropping precipitously. And the talent attracted to the freedom afforded by Amazon and Netflix is becoming bigger and bigger, no longer made up mostly of first-time or indie filmmakers. I’d love to see an AMPAS official tell Martin Scorsese that the only reason his upcoming film The Irishman doesn’t qualify for an Oscar is that it was produced by Netflix.

Relying solely or primarily on distribution platform to determine quality is ludicrous, meant only to punish innovation and prop up legacy players. We’re going to have this conversation, and all signs point to a day when home streaming or on-demand viewing is the new normal for a critical mass of the audience. Embracing that is the only way forward, otherwise these awards will appear increasingly out-of-touch culturally out-of-touch irrelevant to the general audience. The industry insiders may still care, but that diminished impact on the public will make them worth less and less as a commercial selling point.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Childhood adventure is at the core of the story in this week’s new release The Florida Project. Written and directed by Sean Baker (who made a splash with the highly-praised Tangerine), the movie focuses on Moonee (newcomer Brooklyn Prince) who lives with her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) in a low-rent motel just outside Disney World.

Moonee is a free spirit with a rich imagination who turns every day into an adventure. She’s constantly exploring the area, which is decidedly seedy despite the presence of so many glamorous tourist attractions. Sometimes those adventures involve Bobby (Willem Dafoe), the manager of the hotel. The lengths Halley goes to in order to support her daughter become increasingly dangerous, though, which could impact the innocent childhood Moonee enjoys.

The Posters

The first and only poster shows Moonee running through the parking lot of the hotel where she lives, living her best childhood life, it seems. A rainbow streaks through the sky behind her while copy reads “Find your kingdom,” a nice nod to the setting of the movie.

The Trailers

As the first trailer opens with Bobby lovingly scolding the kids for dripping ice cream inside the office of the Magic Castle motel. They leave complaining he’s no fun. From there we’re primarily following Moonee and her friends as they wander about from place to place on endless summer days. Bobby becomes concerned no one is looking after the girl when her mom Halley gets a new job. Things quickly return to Moonee and her childhood adventures, though.

It’s…well…it’s kind of amazing. There’s no shortage of movies that are about childhood in some manner, but this one seems to double down on the idea that we’re not only following the kid but seeing the adult world from her perspective. That’s unique, as is the Florida landscape that’s captured on film here, the one that’s meant to appeal to tourists but is filled with locals just trying to make things work.

Online and Social

The title treatment is the main element on the front page of the movie’s official website. Below that is a rotating series of quotes from early reviews praising the film. At the bottom are links to the movie’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles as well as a prompt to buy tickets.

Accessing the menu in the drop-down in the upper left the first section is “Story,” which offers a brief synopsis of the plot. “Trailer” is next and just has the one trailer. Finally (with the exception of another “Tickets” link) is “Acclaim,” which collects more positive quotes from critics, though it doesn’t link to the full reviews.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There may have been some online advertising done, particularly in the first markets the movie is opening in, but I can’t confirm that. A24 did boost the trailer with some paid promoted posts on Twitter and Facebook. Nothing on TV that I know of.

Media and Publicity

A first look at the movie, specifically Dafoe’s character, came via IndieWire which also shared comments from Baker about why he shot in Florida again, some confusion surrounding the title and how he cast a good amount of the roles via social media or other unorthodox channels.

Things went dark for a while until Baker spoke more about the movie, both its story and his experience making it, as it was about to debut at Cannes, which resulted in very positive buzz among attendees. That buzz lead to it being acquired by A24. Much later it announced it would screen at the 2017 New York Film Festival. It also appeared at the Toronto Film Festival, where it continued accumulating positive word of mouth and reviews.

In the last few weeks both Dafoe and Baker have made the media rounds to talk about the movie, working together, what it’s like to shoot so close to the Happiest Place on Earth and more. Many of Dafoe’s interviews took unfortunate sidetracks into his work on the upcoming Aquaman movie, but that’s inevitable.

Overall

The strongest thing this movie has going for it is the word of mouth that’s come out of various festivals and screenings. The critics who have seen it have almost universally loved the film, praising Baker’s writing and directing as well as the acting work of Dafoe and especially Prince, who anchors the film as Moonee. If that buzz can break out of Film Twitter and into the mainstream, it could help this small film become a box-office success.

As for the campaign itself there’s a lot to like. The consistent use of the title treatment across media ensures a singular brand identity for the movie, no matter where people might encounter it. The variable is how widely those campaign elements have been spread and how many people have seen them. It’s a case where if they’ve seen the trailer and can be swayed by the critical praise, they’ll seek out the movie. Hopefully it hasn’t been buried by all the coverage awarded to bigger blockbusters.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

In what I can only call an unqualified failure on my part, I missed this past Monday’s prominence as the anniversary of the birth of the late, great Groucho Marx. The comedian would have turned 127. If he were alive that milestone would certainly qualify him for membership he had no interest in being in simply because it would accept him.

I came at the Marx Brothers catalog a bit sideways. My first exposure to their humor likely came from “M.A.S.H.”, on which Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda) would frequently don a fake mustache and oversized cigar and engage in a blatant impersonation of Groucho’s style, from the walk to the delivery and more. That got me interested in who this was he was aping, which led me to discover the films the Brothers had produced, first for Paramount and then for MGM.

Because I can’t let such an auspicious milestone pass unremarked upon, especially when it comes to one of my comedic heroes, today we’re going to look back at the trailers for five of my favorite big-screen romps featuring Groucho and the rest of the Marx Brothers.

Animal Crackers

Groucho plays Capt. Jeffery T. Spaulding, a famous explorer returning from an expedition to Africa and being welcomed back by Mrs. Rittenhouse (frequent Groucho foil Margaret Dumont) at her lavish estate. They become involved in a plot hatched by Arabella, Mrs. Rittenhouse’s daughter, to prop up the flailing painting career of her fiancé John, something that devolves into first-rate farce as mistaken identities, multiple forgeries of a famous painting and more all come crashing together.

There’s remarkably little story contained in the trailer, other than a brief shot of Spaulding being carried into reception by a group of “natives.” Instead most of the running time is devoted to spotlighting the talents of each of the Brothers, from Chico’s piano playing to Harpo’s talent with the harp and more. There’s a bit of Groucho’s verbal fireworks but even that is in short supply, as the studio clearly felt it was just the combination of the four that was enough to draw in audiences.

Duck Soup

Hands down my favorite in their filmography and widely considered one of the greatest comedies of all time, Duck Soup is the pinnacle of everything the Marx Brothers had built in the preceding years. Groucho is Rufus T. Firefly, an unqualified huckster thrust into the leadership of Freedonia because he’s favored by the wealthy Mrs. Teasdale (Dumont). Aided by his secretary (Zeppo) but undermined by two agents of neighboring Sylvania (Chico and Harpo), Firefly’s ego winds up getting in the way of peace between the two countries more than any plots of sabotage.

None of that is on display in the trailer. Instead, it’s sold as just the latest exercise in insanity featuring the four brothers, with almost no explanation given as to what situation they find themselves in this time. There are scenes of pomp and circumstance, but it’s mostly selling the promise of more pratfalls, verbal jousting, and musical numbers.

A Night At the Opera

Zeppo exited the familiar team when they switched studios, arriving at MGM and experiencing a change in tone. Gone were the gleeful anarchists of the Paramount years, replaced by a bunch of eccentric but generally nice characters, eager to help the girl wind up with the right guy and for someone who needed their aid to get it. All these elements were on display in A Night At the Opera, which is no less funny for the change in tone.

The Brothers introduced themselves as the trailer opens as each one appears in the place of the lion in MGM’s famous opening, heralding their arrival at a new home. Despite the more helpful approach of their character in the story, the trailer still sells the movie as being filled with the raucous antics audiences had come to expect, with little story laid out but plenty of Groucho’s famous rejoinders and attempts to get out of ever paying a check.

Room Service

The troupe was firmly entrenched at MGM by the time of 1938’s Room Service, the only one of their films not either based on an existing stage play or written specifically for them. Groucho is Gordon Miller, who’s producing a play while trying to house his cast at a hotel he has no plan to pay. Much of the plot involves finding someone else to foot the bill, namely a mysterious backer, before everyone is evicted by the hotel manager.

The trailer opens immediately with lots of things falling on various people, showing we’re in physical comedy territory here. Co-star Lucille Ball shows up as the would-be star of the play. From there on out it’s slamming doors and propped up bodies and more, selling audiences on a zany farce. There’s also a notable focus here on the supporting cast, which included Ball and other studio system-era character actors, something that was relatively unusual in the marketing of the Marx Brothers’ theatrical outings and reflecting, perhaps, changing audience tastes.

A Night in Casablanca

This isn’t the final Marx Brothers feature – that would come three years later in Love Happy, but is essentially the end of the group as a box-office powerhouse. Groucho plays Ronald Kornblow, the manager of a hotel in Casablanca that stands between a criminal and the stolen art he’s trying to retrieve. He’s variously aided and hindered by the involvement of Corbaccio and Rusty (Chico and Harpo).

Madness. mayhem and mirth are all promised as the trailer opens. It goes on to sell the movie as a direct spoof of the Humphrey Bogart classic Casablanca. There’s no footage here, just a series of production stills with narration that lays out the story and promises the Brothers will be getting into all their usual hijinks. That comparison to the *other* Casablanca was a point of contention that verged on, but never resulted in, legal action, a point the Brothers were all too happy to use to help raise the movie’s profile. That makes the movie’s eventual acquisition by Warner Bros., the other party in the potential legal action, fairly hilarious.

Groucho was well-known as a fast-talker, delivering insults and jabs and moving on so quickly he was five deep before the person he was insulting knew what hit him. Each one of the Marx Brothers brought something unique and essential to the ensemble, but Groucho remains my favorite because his comedy was about words and the power they have. He talked himself both into and out of situations, always staying one step ahead of bill collectors and other bullies, both selfish and protective.

 

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Warner Bros. has had its work cut out for it in putting together a marketing push for Blade Runner 2049 on a number of fronts.

First, it’s a sequel to what has long been considered one of the greatest standalone science fiction movies of all time. 1982’s Blade Runner is just about perfect as it is, despite all the different version and edits that have muddied the waters over the years. It’s moody and tense, with deep, rich characters living a fully-realized world and a story that contains not only deep details but also overarching mysteries that have driven countless conversations and arguments.

Second, it’s another in a long line of “legacy sequels” a format that hasn’t fared well in the last couple years. Audiences, it seems, just aren’t that interested in catching up with Derek Zoolander, the various characters of Independence Day and other movies. They want something that’s both new and familiar and these offerings, which often simply remake the original but with different characters, haven’t caught fire.

So it’s into this market that WB releases Blade Runner 2049. As the title suggests, the story has moved forward 30 years from the 2019 setting of the original. Society is balanced on the brink of collapse, a situation that could be further destabilized when K (Ryan Gosling), an LAPD officer, discovers a secret tied to the history of Replicants, the “more human than human” constructs first created by the Tyrell Corporation and now manufactured by Niander Wallace (Jared Leto). K’s investigation opens a lot of boxes people would rather stay closed. To help him he seeks out the legendary Blade Runner Deckard (Harrison Ford), now living the life of a recluse.

The Posters

The first poster wasn’t much more than a title treatment. In the background though is a starry sky, with a few trees or other figures visible in the dark of the night. Surely this hints at something, right?

Two character posters were released next, one showing Deckard walking through a dusty, barren environment and the other showing K walking through the fog next to his police vehicle. Neither offers machine the way of hints as to the story and both recreate looks first seen in the teaser trailer but still, any new looks at this movie were welcome.

Two versions of a theatrical one-sheet were released, one that featured a standard photo collage of the main characters, the left side of the image with Gosling red and fiery, the right side with Ford blue and colder. A slight variation on that added some digital billboards to the backgrounds on both sides and smudged the photos a bit to make it look more artistic.

The hot/cold dichotomy of the characters was continued on a couple character posters featuring the two leads. An IMAX-specific poster used the same hot and cold sides of the design but eliminated the secondary characters, just focusing on IMAX and the two leads. That layout also appeared in a motion poster.

A series of banners combined a number of character posters into a single image, with the title spread out across the whole thing. Some featured just the main five actors/characters, others an additional five supporting characters.

 

The Trailers

The “Announcement” trailer starts off with a bit of dialogue from the original over new footage of the same L.A. we saw in the first movie before cutting to a scene of K walking through some sort of desert, past a fallen monument and into an abandoned building. Now there’s new dialog from Deckard as the camera shows him emerging from the shadows, his gun drawn and pointed at K.

Holy cow. Whatever concerns I had about this movie have been completely erased. It has a mood, it has a style and it has more. While my guess is this overplays Ford’s role in the picture a bit, what else are you going to do to market this movie?

We’re immediately thrown into the environment of the story in the full trailer, which starts out showing Wallace talking about how he’s working as fast as he can to create a disposable workforce. Lt. Joshi talks about the war that’s inevitable if the two opposing sides realize there’s no wall. K finds and confronts Deckard and the two spend at least some of the time working together, evading the people who are after them like they’re trying to find out the truth of something. Lots of shots of the overall look and feel of the movie, along with music that sounds like an updated version of the iconic Vangelis-penned theme from the original and some vague story hints round things out.

It’s pretty darn effective. Gosling is stoic and on-point in a story that looks like it takes his role as a police officer and turns him into a rule-breaking vigilante of sorts. Ford’s role looks very specific and I’m still not convinced he’s in more than 30 minutes of the movie. Indeed his appearance may actually be a look at the finale of the movie. Outside of all that there are lots of lines about bubbling conflicts, secrets being uncovered and so on. One thing that jumped out at me is that the Atari symbol on the billboard, something that was seen in the original movie, shows that the filmmakers are staying true to that timeline and not trying to “update” it based on the real world.

The second trailer offers a bit more information about the story. Officer K starts out by confronting what seems to be a rogue Replicant before he goes on to search for Deckard and learn more about the history of the Replicants. It’s clear, though, that there are powerful people who don’t want Deckard found and certain secrets revealed. When he does find Deckard the two go on the run while various forces around them seek to bring them in for their own reasons.

Yep, still on board. It’s a solid trailer where the only real issue I have is that some scenes can be interpreted as containing major story revelations. Still, I’m not going to nitpick about that because it’s very, very cool.

Online and Social

The “hot/cold” key art appears at the top of the Tumblr-hosted official website with prompts to watch the trailer and get tickets prominently displayed. There’s also a button toward the bottom of the front page with the “Road to 2049,” an animated timeline that covers the events of the first movie as well as what’s transpired in the 30 years between movies. That includes some of what’s seen in a series of short films produced by different filmmakers which is covered more below.

The first content section in the menu is “Story,” which offers a very brief Synopsis that tells you little about the actual story details but does explain what sets K on a search for Deckard. “Partners” just has the information on Johnnie Walker’s movie-branded whiskey, which, again, is covered more below.

If you scroll down the site you’ll encounter lots of GIFs, images and videos, all of which can be sorted in the “Gallery” menu.

They’re not linked anywhere I can see on the site, but there were also Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles for the movie as well.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Two TV spots started off the paid television campaign, one that asked a handful of questions and one that offered a few answers. Both continued the trend of selling the movie based on a combination of dark, edgy visuals and the promise of a mystery that needs to be unlocked. Another extended TV spot shows that Officer K is being tasked with erasing Deckard from the world while also making it more clear that Wallace is searching for him as well.

There were a few promotional partner companies who signed on, including:

  • Atari, which made special hats that included their own speakers to really bring the gaming experience fully into your ears.
  • Johnnie Walker, which offered a limited special edition whiskey in a custom bottle to mark the drink’s inclusion in the movie.

The shorter of those character poster compilations mentioned above, along with two banners that show either K or Deckard walking toward their vehicle of choice, were likely used as outdoor billboards.

Various videos, including this “Plan” TV spot, were used over the course of the last few weeks before release as ads on Twitter and Facebook.

Warner Bros. became one of the first companies to use Snapchat’s new paid 3-D World Lenses ad unit, creating a virtual flying car from the movie that could be overlaid onto the real world.

Media and Publicity

The publicity cycle started with a one-two punch, first the announcement of the movie’s title and then the news of a VR experience, though that release focused more on the technology than the potential story.

The stars talked about the movie for a while in advance of the actual publicity campaign while they were promoting other projects. That included comments by Gosling while he was touting La La Land that Ford isn’t in the movie as much as people might expect or hope.

Shortly after the first trailer dropped there was a bit of a press push featuring an EW cover for its’ 2017 preview issue that included interviews with Gosling and other members of the cast as well as a couple first-look photos. There was also a similar feature in Empire. The second trailer debuted at the end of a cast Q&A with Ford and Gosling.

Villeneuve spoke fairly often about how conscious he was of the shoes he was stepping into and how he had to come to terms with the possibility he might fall on his face with the movie.

To mark the 35th anniversary of the first movie’s release a new featurette was released that contained quite a bit of new footage and provided a bit more detail about this movie and its story.

Everyone involved, including Villeneuve and Gosling, kept talking about how they wanted to remain true to the sequel’s roots, how unbelievable it was to be involved in something like this and more.

The movie got a big push at San Diego Comic-Con, with a panel featuring the movie’s stars and director. On the show floor fans could wait in line for a VR experience and walk through a life-size replica of a street scene from the movie. At the panel and elsewhere Ford, Gosling and Villeneuve all talked about the movie, with Ford sharing how he got back into the role of Deckard and a timeline showing the audience some of the major replicant-related events have transpired since the end of the first movie.

A little over a month before release a short film titled “2036: Nexus Dawn” was released that filled in some of the gaps between 2019 and 2049. That continued with “2048: Nowhere to Run” and then with “Black Out 2022,” a short anime that garnered lots of attention for its stylish look and feel.

Villeneuve kept reiterating how much he didn’t want to just copy the original but bring something new and fresh and essential to the sequel while still committing to the continuation of the overall aesthetic that first movie created.

The famously grouchy and tight-lipped Ford was the subject of a Vanity Fair cover story that touched on his career, his attitude toward the business, what made him sign on for this sequel and more, including the story of how he accidentally punched Gosling in the face while shooting an action sequence.

Just before release, it became clear that the visual style of the movie would be a major selling point, a focus reinforced by stories like this that specifically covered the design of the costumes.

Ford and Gosling, in particular, did a number of other media interviews and appearances, often talking about an infamous on-set incident where Ford accidentally punched his co-star during a stunt sequence as well as the return of the older star to yet another role from early in his career. That also includes Gosling hosting “Saturday Night Live” the weekend before release, reminding everyone he’s a pretty gifted comedian.

Overall

The core question here has to be this: Does the campaign overcome the legitimate and serious concerns a generation of fans has that this sequel is going to tarnish, disrespect or diminish the original? Is a continuation of the story even necessary after so many years of it living on its own, with only a few easily-forgotten spinoffs popping up here and there?

Based on WB has put together here, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Not only does the marketing itself sell a movie that’s a stylish, colorful sci-fi noir, but it’s reinforced the idea that the filmmakers wanted to remain consistent with the iconic look and feel of the original, a point made over and over again in the publicity efforts.

I can only speak for myself, but the campaign has worn down whatever resistance I initially felt for the idea of a sequel, which first seemed to me like cynical move to wring more value from an IP that was just sitting on the shelf, sadly unmonetized. Unlike other “legacy sequel” campaigns, it hasn’t used the promise a return to old and familiar characters as its central value proposition, though the prominent role of Deckard in the marketing and Ford in the publicity certainly takes that approach.

Instead, it’s more about selling the audience on the idea of following up with the repercussions of the events of the first movie and seeing what impact they had on the world the movies are set in. While I might have some issues with the short films that fill in story gaps, those are minor compared to how anxious I am to see what a new set of characters and filmmakers can make of the Blade Runner concept.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

As many have noted over the last 24 hours, Tom Petty was no stranger to movie audiences. The singer/songwriter, who passed away yesterday, had his songs featured in a number of movies and TV shows over the years, not surprising how talented he was at writing not only catchy music but narratively-rich lyrics filled with memorable characters.

In no movie was his presence felt more deeply than writer/director/star Edward Burns’ 1996 sophomore effort She’s The One. Having achieved notoriety with The Brothers McMullen a couple years prior, this time Burns was operating with a star-studded cast and the support of a major distributor, Fox Searchlight. The story was similar – the drama around the romantic troubles of a couple of Irish brothers – but now he had Cameron Diaz, John Mahoney and Jennifer Aniston as his conduits, bringing the film a much higher profile than his independently-financed debut.

While McMullen had featured a great single from Sarah McLachlan, the soundtrack for She’s The One featured just as much of an escalation in firepower as the cast list. This time around, the entire score and soundtrack was written and recorded by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.

The collaboration reportedly came out of a circumstance where Burns found himself at Petty’s house, where the singer shared a few songs he wanted the filmmaker to consider for his new movie. Seizing the opportunity, Burns agreed and Petty went on to create the entire soundtrack, filling in a few gaps with songs that hadn’t made the cut for his Wildflowers solo album two years earlier.

The album holds up as, I believe, one of the finest Heartbreakers records in their entire catalog. It’s filled with some of Petty’s catchiest songwriting and most fun and poignant lyrics. Nowhere is that more evident than in “Walls,” a tune that appears in two different versions on the record.

A full consideration of the songs making up the soundtrack is something I may tackle another day, but for now, attention will turn to the prominence Petty’s involvement played in the marketing of the movie.

It’s important to set the stage for why Petty was deemed to be important enough to feature as singularly as he did in the movie’s marketing. 1996 marked seven years since the release of Full Moon Fever, which kicked off a new era in the career of Petty as a solo artist and his output with The Heartbreakers. Fever was followed by Into the Great Wide Open, which was followed by Wildflowers, each one generating hit singles that kept Petty on the radio and in the public eye. He was a massively successful artist operating at the height of his powers, especially with his band.

That’s why the movie’s campaign makes sure to note his involvement to the extent it does.

That starts with the poster. The photo at the top sells a standard-looking mid-90s relationship drama, each of the five main characters arranged around each other in a way that communicates their relationship while the New York City background makes it clear where the story takes place. Below that, though, a good amount of real estate is utilized with the value proposition that the film features an original score and new songs from Tom Petty, including “Walls,” which around this time began to get some airplay of its own on radio as well as a video entering steady rotation on music video channels. His name is shown bigger than even Burns’, clearly showing how popular Petty’s music was at the time. Interestingly, aside from a cameo by Burns at the beginning as a cab driver, that video doesn’t feature much of anything in the way of ties to the movie. There’s no footage from the film or anything else, it’s just another trippy, slightly-surreal Heartbreakers music video.

That music plays throughout the trailer, which tries to explain the romantic pentagon that drives the story. Clearly heard throughout the 2:30 runtime are “Walls” and some of the other music from Petty, who’s also name-dropped toward the end of that trailer.

Not only does She’s The One’s marketing show just how much of a draw Petty was at the time to the mainstream audience, one Fox Searchlight hoped would help the box-office draw of the movie, but it’s a singular instance of the single-artist soundtrack, a topic I’m going to continue to explore over time.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

“The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” has become a Netflix hit with a lead character whose personality and optimism was undiminished by years spent as the captive of a criminal passing himself off as a religious leader. This week’s new movie Una presents a much more dramatic – and realistic – about the toll sexual abuse of minors takes on someone throughout their life.

Rooney Mara plays the title character, a grown woman still dealing with the emotional scars left by an affair she had with a much older man (Ben Mendelsohn) when she was just 13. Seeking answers as to why he did it, she searches for him. Eventually she finds him, but the confrontation opens wounds and leads to revelations that neither anticipated.

The Posters

The first poster, released before the movie had a U.S. distributor, places Mara and Mendelsohn next to each other, both of them simply looking at the camera relatively impassively. The only nod to the story is the explanation below the title that this is based on the play that apparently “shocked the world.”

“Absence makes the hurt grow stronger” is the copy that’s written on Mara’s cheek as we see a close-up of her face looking sadly slightly to the side of the camera. Those two elements are about all the hint we get about the story, but it’s clear it’s going to deal with some emotional trauma.

The Trailers

The first domestic U.S. trailer starts off with Una, still a child, testifying at the trial of the man who abducted her. Cut to her as an adult on the search for Ray and finding him living under a new name. She’s looking to confront him about what he did all those years ago and get some answers about why he did it. There’s obviously a lot of anger that she wants to get off her chest.

This is a much better effort than some of the earlier foreign release trailers, though they served to create awareness and keep the movie top of mind in the audience. Mendelsohn and Mara are both giving emotional performances, though hers is a bit more external than the internalized fear and regret he’s showing. The subject matter is, of course, disturbing, but it looks like a compelling and gripping story.

Online and Social

I couldn’t find a website for the movie, either on its own or on the sites for Swen or any other company involved in its U.S. release. There were a couple social profiles, but both seemed questionable for various reasons. Barring any other evidence, I’m saying there’s no official online presence for the movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’ve come across.

Media and Publicity

Photos appeared in Entertainment Weekly ahead of the movie’s Toronto Film Festival debut that provided the first glimpses at both Mara and Mendelsohn. The movie was also among those selected for the Telluride Film Festival.

While that Toronto appearance didn’t get universally positive reviews it did highlight the impressively deep cast that had been collected, something that Andrews talked about since it was quite a feat, especially since most of these actors are at the height of their buzz at the moment.

While the movie wasn’t screening at Sundance, it did get picked up by Swen during that festival in what was seen as the distributor’s first big move into the U.S. market. Swen eventually agreed to release it in the U.S. and gave it a fall premiere.

Mara was the feature of a Vanity Fair cover story where she talked extensively about the movie as well as her career in general and her overall outlook on life.

Overall

It’s not easy selling a story involving predatory sexual assault, which is absolutely the term to use when an older man preys on a teenage girl. Usually these stories involve dramatic quests for revenge or justice denied someone by the courts. Any story is going to come under fire for presenting a single point of view, one that may not be shared by all survivors of such trauma.

What the campaign does well is keep the focus on Mara’s Una. That seems commonsensical, of course, but it’s nonetheless notable for having actually been executed. It’s clear that she’s not only on a journey seeking answers but that she’s not sure what to expect when she reaches its end. Mendelsohn’s Ray, for his part, isn’t presented as a cipher for all that’s bad and creepy about men but about someone who did a very bad thing and has tried to pick up his life in the wake of that. Such an approach may seem like cheap rehabilitation of a sexual predator, but it’s likely the movie itself has angles that aren’t apparent in the marketing.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

The best option moviegoers could think of over the weekend was to see IT, either for the first time or again. The Stephen King adaptation took in another $17.3 million, driven by little but word-of-mouth and continued press coverage that’s been trying to dig into every nuance of the movie and its story to unearth new clues and hot takes to get people’s attention.

That meant Tom Cruise’s true-life drug running caper American Made was relegated to the second position. Apparently, audiences weren’t that eager to see Cruise not playing a super spy in a movie featuring a generic title. There may also have been an adverse reaction to the fact that the movie features a rather “down” ending that doesn’t involve Cruise’s character retiring peacefully.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle tied for second place with $17 million, continuing a relative success that seems driven both by positive word-of-mouth and by the continued release of new TV spots like this one that keeps playing up the over-the-top violence of the movie.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie survives in the fourth slot despite poor word of mouth by virtue of it being basically the only family-friendly release in theaters right now.

Taking up the rear of the top five is Flatliners which, despite a campaign that eschewed cheap nostalgic appeals, didn’t resonate with anyone, scoring terrible reviews that kept audiences away.