enola holmes 2 – marketing recap

How Netflix has sold its young adult mystery sequel

Enola Holmes 2 movie poster from Netflix
Enola Holmes 2 movie poster from Netflix

Millie Bobby Brown returns in the title role in Enola Holmes 2, out this week on Netflix. In the sequel to the surprise 2020 hit and still based on Nancy Springer’s series of books, Enola has decided to hang out her own shingle as a detective for hire. She’s enlisted by a young girl who works in a matchstick factory to find her missing sister. Soon Enola discovers she’s working on a different part of the same case being investigated by her older brother Sherlock (Henry Cavill).

Louis Partridge returns as Viscount Tewkesbury, a young man Enola frequently encounters and sometimes needs help from in her adventures around London. Helena Bonham Carter is also back as Eudora Holmes, who disappeared years ago but who trained Enola for the day she’d be on her own. Others from the first movie are back as well, as is director Harry Bradbeer.

Let’s recap the campaign Netflix has run.

announcement and casting

Netflix announced the sequel to much acclaim, especially because both Brown and Cavill were slated to return, in May 2021. In September during that year;s TUDUM virtual event it revealed Louis Partridge would be back as Tewkesbury.

The end of filming was marked in January, 2022 when Netflix shared a short video.

Footage from the film was included in Netflix’s 2022 feature film preview back in February.

the marketing campaign

Things kicked off in August when a batch of stills was released.

Brown took part in this year’s TUDUM event to hype the film and introduce the first trailer (5.4m YouTube views). It starts with Enola being chased by the police before stopping to explain what’s happening. We see how she’s started her own agency and gets involved in the case of the missing girl and from there things get crazy as she once more defies everyone’s expectations for how she should act in order to make her own life as well as solve the mystery.

We see Enola standing and looking quite pleased with herself behind the door of her agency on the poster that came out at the same time.

The second trailer (2.1m YouTube views) came out in early October. It uses different footage but sells the same basic idea, that Enola is once again in over her head but refuses to give in or give up despite everyone telling her to do just that. We see a bit more of her working with Sherlock and enlisting the help of Tewkesbury as it again sells a high-energy, fast-moving and funny good time.

The poster that accompanied that trailer uses the same collage style as the one-sheet for the first movie, placing cutouts of the main characters against a pasted-together backdrop of the London skyline with a few codes and maps thrown in to add to the sense of mystery.

A clip showing Enola reluctantly convincing Tewksbury to teach her to dance came out a couple weeks later.

Shortly after that came a series of posters showing all the main characters, all of which also feature some form of pun or other play on words as part of describing that character.

Brown and Cavill both appeared in a handful of fun little videos where they recapped the first movie, unraveled word game mysteries and unscrambled anagrams.

Brown appeared on “Kimmel” to promote the film and engage in some hijinks with her “Stranger Things” costar Noah Schnapp.

Netflix brought the cast and crew out for the premiere at the end of October. At that premiere the stars commented on the story of the movie, how they worked out having Enola break the fourth wall, the unique place these stories hold in the overall Holmes landscape and more.

overall

Like the campaign for the first movie, this marketing push is just a lot of fun. There’s a light entertaining attitude and vibe throughout the campaign that makes it look like it will be just as enjoyable as the first one was. And it maintains much of the branding established in the first campaign, creating a nice sense of continuity for the audience.

Much of that attitude comes from the stars. Brown is *so* much more fun and charming when she’s not weighed down by the pressures of “Stranger Things” where she can’t discuss plot details or get too casual lest something be spoiled. And as much as Cavill was sidetracked by discussion of his returning as Superman in Black Adam recently, he’s infinitely more engaging here (and elsewhere) when not constrained by the demands of the DC Universe.

all quiet on the western front – marketing recap

How Netflix has sold another adaptation of a stirring war story

All Quiet on the Western Front, out this week from Netflix, is at least the third adaptation of the original 1929 novel. As the campaign will note, though, despite the novel coming from a German author as the story focusing on a young German soldier during World War I, this is the first adaptation to actually be filmed in German.

This version stars Felix Kammerer as Paul, the aforementioned young soldier who, like his other new recruits, is filled with the belief war is a romantic, idealistic pursuit. It isn’t long before that belief is shattered as the realities of battle become clear and Paul and the others find it’s nearly impossible simply to stay alive. Daniel Brühl also stars as German finance minister Matthias Erzberger, a leading figure in the country’s war trajectory.

Let’s recap the marketing campaign Netflix has run for what it’s hoping could be an awards contender when that season comes around.

announcements and casting

The movie was announced with director Edward Berger and most of the primary cast already on board. Netflix was reported to be on the verge of acquiring the film in December, 2020, ultimately successful in that purchase.

the marketing campaign

Netflix offered a first look at the movie in July along with comments from director Berger about offering a German perspective to the story and more.

The horrors of warfare – particularly the trench warfare of WWI – are fully on display in the teaser trailer (5.2m YouTube views) released in September. We watch as Paul goes from a green soldier full of enthusiasm to go be a hero for his country to a terrified veteran frequently caked in mud, dirt, blood and other materials as he tries to stay alive amidst the constant cannon fire, doomed infantry advances and other obstacles.

Paul is turning to look toward the camera on the poster that came out at the same time. He’s in the middle of a throng of other soldiers, all marching toward some kind of inferno as ash falls down on them to make sure the audience understands just how hellish their situation really is.

Director Edward Berger was interviewed as the film was screening at the Toronto Film Festival about why a new adaptation was needed and how important it was to finally have a filmed version in German.

Germany announced in mid-October this movie would be its official selection for Best International Picture at the upcoming Academy Awards.

Another trailer (7m YouTube views) was released just a week or so ago. The same basic message is conveyed, but this time the scenes more regularly cut between Paul’s traumatic experiences on the front lines of battle and Erzberger’s efforts to broker a ceasefire between the warring nations.

overall

And…that appears to be the entirety of the marketing, which is a little surprising given the source material’s prestige and the fact this is clearly a major release for Netflix, especially when it comes time for awards consideration.

The latter point may actually explain why this seems a bit lackluster. While the marketing itself is very effective, the paucity of publicity and other efforts may be strategic as Netflix keeps that in its pocket until the months and weeks before Oscar etc nominations are announced. In short, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more press activity after the beginning of the new year.

the good nurse – marketing recap

How Netflix has sold a true life serial killer drama

True crime stories are all the rage at the moment. Not that they haven’t been for a long while now, but the current resurgence seems driven by the popularity of podcasts like “Serial” and the endless subsequent knockoffs that dive deep into certain stories. Of late Netflix, Hulu and others have worked hard to keep up a steady stream of documentaries, feature films, series and other content based on famous cases.

Joining that sub-genre is this week’s new Netflix release The Good Nurse. Based on author Charles Graeber’s 2013 book, the story revolves around Amy Loughren (Jessica Chastain), an ICU nurse with a life-threatening heart condition, and Charles Cullen (Eddie Redmayne), another nurse who also happens to be a serial killer. When the hospital the two work at experiences a string of unexplained patient deaths, Amy begins to suspect her coworker may have something to do with them.

Tobias Lindholm directs the film, with a screenplay by Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Let’s dive into the marketing campaign Netflix has mounted.

announcements and casting

Lionsgate was originally developing the movie, including in mid-2018 when Chastain and Redmayne were cast.

Then in early 2020 Netflix acquired the project and officially moved it into production. Noah Emmerich, Nnamdi Asomugha and others were added to the supporting cast in early 2021 in advance of filming.

Footage from the film was included in Netflix’s 2022 feature film preview.

Redmayne, Lindholm and Chastain were interviewed in July about how they approached the project and how they all worked together. First look stills accompanied that interview.

A set of first look stills came out around the same time.

the marketing campaign

As the trailer (2.4m YouTube views), released in September, opens, Amy and Charles are catching up after he’s been away from work for a while, an absence he’s not keen to discuss. We then flashback to see the two of them working together as well as establishing Amy is a single mom. When police begin questioning a handful of patient deaths that seem to form a pattern she starts to investigate his background herself. Only then do we go back to the opening scene, which is now presented as Amy trying to get Charles to confess on tape.

The only poster for the film came out at the same time. It simply shows the faces of Amy and Charles blending into one another, which doesn’t necessarily offer anything creepy or explain much about the story. The only hints are in the copy reading “Based on the unthinkable true story,” but what makes the story unthinkable is unclear here.

Later in September the movie screened at the Zurich Film Festival where Redmayne talked about how he was intrigued by the script and excited at working with both Chastain and Lindholm. It also went on to screen at the BFI London Film Festival.

Chastain promoted the film when she appeared on “Kimmel.” Redmayne did likewise a couple weeks later when he appeared on “The Late Show.”

An extended spot released in the middle of October takes a slightly different approach from the trailer. It features a lot of footage already seen, but arranges it in a way to heighten the tension of Amy’s staged diner conversation with Charles.

Both stars took part in a featurette conversation about working together, the process they go through while acting and more.

At the film’s New York City premiere Chastain talked about the nerve-wracking experience of performing as the real life Amy Loughren looked on from behind the cameras. An interview with Redmayne had him pointing out Lindholm cast him against type for this role and what an exciting challenge that turned out to be.

The two stars also were on the red carpet at the recent Academy Museum Gala in Los Angeles.

Netflix put out a clip just as the movie was available showing more of a look at the confrontation between Amy and Charles.

overall

As stated above, this campaign isn’t all that creepy save for a few key moments of Redmayne looking menacing.

Instead the focus is more on the performances of the two leads and the fact that this is based on a true story. On that front it hits pretty well but also doesn’t contain much that sets it apart.

That’s particularly so when you consider Netflix has had a lot of publicity recently for their series about Jeffrey Dahmer. So the company has a true-crime dramatization that’s made headlines and maybe didn’t have the bandwidth for another big promotional push on a similar topic.

call jane – marketing recap

How Roadside Attractions has sold a drama that couldn’t be more timely

Call Jane movie poster from Roadside Attractions
Call Jane movie poster from Roadside Attractions

It’s hard to overstate how well-timed this week’s release of Call Jane actually is. Directed by Phyllis Nagy, the movie stars Elizabeth Banks as Joy, a suburban housewife in the 1960s who becomes pregnant, only to learn carrying the pregnancy to term would put her own life at risk. With abortion outlawed at the time, she turns to the informal network of women referred to collectively as Jane that helps women find safe abortion providers. Sigourney Weaver, Wunmi Mosaku, Kate Mara, Chris Messina, Chad Michael Smith and others costar.

As for the timing, the movie comes out just a few months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal nationwide and just weeks before midterm elections that have been largely framed as a referendum on whether a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions is revoked entirely.

The story is “inspired by” real events, and the Jane organization was very real and a documentary on the group can be found on HBO Max. So with all that in mind, let’s take a look at how Roadside Attractions has sold the film.

announcements and casting

Weaver, Banks and Mara were all attached when the project was announced in October 2020. Messina, Smith and others joined in mid-2021 when production began.

A well-received debut at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival this past January was followed by Roadside acquiring distribution rights a month later.

the marketing campaign

Marketing for the film began in earnest in mid-August with the release of the trailer (1m YouTube views). It opens with Joy finding out her pregnancy is dangerous to her own health and life, with abortion being the only option to make sure she herself survives. But the board of her hospital refuses to grant an exemption, so she reaches out to Jane for help and gets the procedure. Determined to then help others Joy joins the group, only to then be investigated by the police for her role in what at the time was aiding an illegal activity.

Banks interviewed Weaver about how this movie relates to the latter’s own social activism over the years as well as just her career in general.

“You are not alone” says copy on the poster, which came out in early September. It shows Joy in her car driving through a protest calling for women to be given the right to choose, Virginia (Weaver) most clearly seen through the window amidst the throng of women.

A feature profile of Banks focused on this movie specifically but also tied it to both her career as a whole and her increased advocacy for issues like abortion and LGBTQ+ rights and more.

There were some short promo videos that came out before but a full TV spot was released just a few weeks ago that follows a condensed version of Joy’s journey, from finding out her pregnancy is dangerous to her own health through joining the cause.

Joy gets picked up by Gwen (Mosaku) and learns more about the Jane group in a clip that came out earlier this month.

Just last week Roadside held the movie’s Los Angeles premiere with the cast and crew in attendance along with long-time activist Gloria Allred. The screening had the added benefit of aiding Planned Parenthood.

Weaver appeared on “CBS Mornings” to promote the film. She and Banks both appeared on “The View” to talk about the movie and the story it tells of life in the 1960s for women seeking abortions. That all followed Weaver’s time doing publicity for The Good House which came out just last month (also from Roadside) where she often mentioned this film as well.

overall

To repeat myself, it’s remarkable how this movie is coming out at this moment, when the Dobbs decision from SCOTUS coupled with the potential return of Republican control of Congress has opened up the possibility of a return to the pre-1973 world of abortion being outlawed across the nation. That could then lead groups like Jane once again springing up to fill a need in the lives of women that would otherwise be unavailable, at least legally.

That point is made but not necessarily underlined in the campaign, by which I mean there’s clearly a point of view at work but it never becomes so overt as to lose all meaning. Also on the positive front, I could listen to Banks and Weaver banter with each other for a good long while.

If there’s a weakness it’s similar to other stories about various social issues from the mid-20th century: Namely, that it’s very white. There’s a brief moment where Mosaku’s Gwen calls out the rest of the group for making choices that once again put women of color at the bottom of the list, but that’s all the acknowledgement that’s offered. The movie itself may address the issue more fully, but that’s all we see here.

ticket to paradise – marketing recap

How Universal has sold a romantic comedy with two mega-stars

Ticket To Paradise movie poster from Universal Pictures
Ticket To Paradise movie poster from Universal Pictures

Julia Roberts and George Clooney have been Hollywood royalty for a few decades now and have worked together before, notably on Ocean’s 11 and its sequel Ocean’s 12. Now they’re back together in this week’s Ticket To Paradise, opening in theaters from Universal Pictures.

The two play Georgia and David Cotton, a divorced couple who are brought back together when they find out their daughter Lily (Kaitlyn Dever) is about to marry Gede (Maxime Bouttier), a man she just met in Bali. Determined she’s making a mistake that will haunt her for the rest of her life, David and Georgia put their differences aside and work together to sabotage the upcoming nuptials. Of course it’s not quite that simple for anyone.

Written and directed by Ol Parker and costarring Billie Lourd and Lucas Bravo, the movie’s expected to enjoy an opening weekend of about $15m after already bringing in $75m overseas so let’s take a look at the campaign Universal put together.

announcement and casting

Universal Pictures announced the film at the end of February, 2021. Parker was attached to direct and both Clooney and Roberts were already set to star at that time.

Lourd, Dever and Bravo were added a couple months later as production ramped up.

Dever spoke briefly about the movie toward the end of 2021 while promoting other projects.

The movie’s original September 2022 release date was pushed back a month in October of last year.

Universal showed off the trailer to attendees of CinemaCon in April 2022.

the marketing recap

As the trailer (34.1m YouTube views), released at the end of June, begins, Georgia and David find themselves on the same flight and make the life of the person stuck between them miserable. We then see a brief shot of Lily falling in love in Bali. When they arrive they call a truce in their sparring in order to undermine their daughter’s plans, but those plans are soon discovered. As things progress the couple find themselves actually having a good time despite themselves, which is probably going to lead exactly where you think it’s going to.

The poster that came out at the beginning of August knows exactly what it’s selling and what the audience is looking for: Two big stars all dressed up and set against a tropical backdrop. It’s not exactly the world’s most innovative graphic design, in fact it’s quite boring visually, but the appeal here is clear and can’t really be argued with.

The first of many profiles of Clooney and Roberts that focused on how they are such great friends in real life and how much they enjoyed working together on a breezy romantic comedy like this came in The New York Times in early September.

Everyone was in attendance at the London premiere of the movie around that time as well.

Clooney and Roberts explain the premise of the film and show off their chemistry in a short video that kind of seems like it might have been used as a commercial or pre-roll, but the exact purpose isn’t clear. Another similar video featured Dever and Lourd also declaring what great friends they are and how that made working together even more fun.

When he appeared on “The Late Show” Clooney kept hitting the same topics, selling the film based largely on the chemistry between all the stars.

A promo for the film aired during an episode of “Bachelor in Paradise” in late September.

The first clip shows the moment Lily introduces Gede to her parents, who can’t stop their sniping for even a minute.

Roberts and Clooney praise their younger costars in a short featurette that keeps the fun, light vibes going.

Ticket to Paradise online ad featuring the same poster art of Roberts and Clooney.
Ticket to Paradise online ad

Promotional stops on “Today,” “CBS Sunday Morning”, “Kimmel” and other shows had both of the older stars appearing together so their charm and banter could be fully displayed to the potential audience. Dever stopped by “Today” and “Late Night” to talk about what a fun set it was during filming on her own while Bravo appeared on “Kimmel” to share what it’s like to kiss Roberts on camera.

Online ads used the poster key art to drive traffic to the official website, where people could find out more and buy tickets to a showing near them.

The L.A. premiere happened just earlier this week, with the cast and crew once more turning out. On the red carpet the mutual admiration society kept going as everyone talked about how wonderful everyone else was and what a great time it was filming the movie. Clooney also commented on how “brave” Universal has been by insisting the movie open theatrically when there was pressure from a lot of angles to sell it off to one of the streaming services.

overall

Centering the entire campaign around the chemistry and friendship of two of the most likable and bankable movie stars of the last 40 years can’t be a bad bet, right? That $15m opening weekend estimate may be the clearest message yet of how the theatrical landscape has changed in recent years than anything that’s come before.

Everyone’s mileage will vary, of course, but I’m pulled all the way in on this because, as has been made clear before, I’m a sucker for movies that actually feature two seasoned professionals playing off each other like this. And to make that the entire focus of the marketing just increases its appeal that much more.

black adam – marketing recap

How Warner Bros. has sold a change in the hierarchy of power in the DC Universe

Black Adam movie poster from Warner Bros.
Black Adam movie poster from Warner Bros.

Black Adam, in theaters this weekend, is ostensibly the 11th film in the DC Extended Universe of movies that began with 2013’s Man of Steel, though you’d need a protractor and slide rule to actually make all those movies fit together into a cohesive narrative. And that’s without trying to figure in one-off projects and TV/streaming series.

The movie stars Dwayne Johnson as Teth-Adam / Black Adam, a slave boy from the city of Kahndaq five thousand years ago who, after his father is killed for angering the king, is given the power of the wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou, who played the character in 2019’s Shazam!) before being imprisoned. When he’s woken in the present day by those searching for the same mystical artifact the ancient king was after he goes on a rampage that draws the attention of the Justice Society of America, who go after Adam. Alliances shift but Adam resists the call to become a hero, even if he is not quite a villain.

As the above implies, Black Adam is connected to the hero Shazam, though Zachary Levi (who played the hero in his own 2019 movie) doesn’t appear here. Viola Davis, though, is back as Amanda Waller, who calls in the JSA composed of Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) and Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan). Sarah Shahi plays Adrianna Tomaz, the modern day researcher who awakens and eventually befriends Adam.

The movie is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and seems inspired by various elements of Black Adam’s backstory from both DC’s Post-Crisis and New 52 eras. So let’s say the magic word and take a look at how the movie’s been sold to the public.

long road to adam

Johnson has been trying to get this movie made for years, constantly talking it up on his social media profiles and saying the script is amazing and so on. He officially announced he was playing Black Adam in 2014 after speculation he may play either that character or Shazam.

His bravado was muted somewhat by the 2019 release of Shazam!, in which he wasn’t featured, but later that year it was announced director Jaume Collett-Serra had come aboard, perhaps breathing new life into things.

In October of 2019 Johnson Tweeted an announcement that production would finally begin in July of 2020 and then shared the news of an official release date. An interview from that time also had him hinting that the movie would include the Justice Society of America. Johnson confirmed in April his belief that production would begin at the end of summer, despite most things being shut down because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Centino was added to the cast as Atom Smasher in July, 2020.

dc fandome 2020 makes things instagram official

The lineup of DC’s “Fandome” virtual event in August 2020 included Johnson, fueling speculation he might offer a first glimpse at this movie. That speculation proved accurate when Johnson started sharing first looks at the design of Black Adam on social media, leading up to the Fandome panel where he and others shared more information – including that he would be butting heads with members of the Justice Society – and debuted a sizzle reel of animated concept art with Johnson narration added.

More JSA-related news came a month or so later when Hodge was cast as Hawkman. Brosnan and Mirren were added to the cast in March, 2021.

Pandemic-related production and other delays prompted WB to take the movie off its schedule in October, 2020, leaving it off the calendar at that point.

It was added back to the release calendar in March, 2021. At that time Johnson shared a video of a big outdoor display in New York City that revealed the film’s planned July, 2022 date. That announcement was also aired on TBS during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

A number of interviews like this with Collett-Serra had him teasing what he was taking away from his experience filming Jungle Cruise and applying to this film, including working with Johnson and developing cutting edge special effects. During the Jungle Cruise press cycle Johnson was also frequently asked about this movie, saying it was the hardest production he’s been a part of to date and offering other vague teases.

continuing adventures in pre-marketing

Warner Bros. gave CineEurope attendees a look at the movie in October 2021.

A year after those first official looks, fans were promised another tease of the movie during DC’s 2021 installment of Fandome. That came in the form of a video showing Adam’s first appearance in the film, though his full look still isn’t seen clearly. Garcia later commented on how the movie wouldn’t pull any punches with the character or story. An interview with Johnson had him sharing how the initial costume had too much padding for his liking.

In March 2022 the movie’s release date was moved back three months to late October, reportedly because of a VFX backlog plaguing the entire industry that meant the effect just wouldn’t be ready for the July release date.

Despite that delay, that same month DC announced a new Black Adam comics series from writer Christopher Priest and artist Rafa Sandoval scheduled to debut in June. A trailer for the series was released a bit later.

At CinemaCon in April both Centineo and Swindell were in attendance to give executives and journalists a look at the first trailer.

Some new looks at character designs were offered a little while later when the movie’s Funko POP! Figures were revealed.

marketing finally says the magic word

Things more officially got underway in early June with the release of the first poster, which shows Adam in profile with the copy “The world needed a hero. It got Black Adam.” helping to set the tone of the story.

That was followed by the first full trailer. We get a little bit of Adam’s history going back centuries. In the present, Adam has embraced the powers he has, which brings him into conflict with the heroes we then see, including Atom Smasher, Hawkman and Dr. Fate. Whether or not Adam is a hero is up to him, Dr. Fate intones.

It’s not a bad trailer, but there are several questions it generates, including whether the heroes we see here exist at the same time as those in the Justice League universe, whether Johnson is capable of playing anything other than a variation on his own persona and more.

Just after the first trailer debuted DC announced one-shot comics offering introductions and backgrounds on characters like Cyclone, Dr. Fate, Hawkman and Atom Smasher.

WB made this movie a centerpiece of its Hall H presentation at San Diego Comic-Con in July. Johnson appeared there in costume to introduce a new “sneak peak” that doesn’t expand too much on the earlier trailer but does feature a few new shots. The rest of the main cast along with Collet-Serra, who had previously clarified the movie does *not* include either Shazam or Superman.

As part of its SDCC coverage, EW debuted a new image of Johnson in costume along with comments from Collet-Serra about the characters in the story and more. The cast was also interviewed at Comic-Con by AMC Theaters.

Vanity Fair debuted a number of new stills along with an interview with Johnson about the character’s moral philosophy and how that unique take on an anti-hero is what has drawn him to Adam for a long time.

There was a massive tie-in promotion in early September with the Los Angeles Rams that included the players sporting the film’s branding, Johnson appearing in promos and other videos and the second trailer debuting during the game’s broadcast.

That trailer (22.6m YouTube views) begins with the same history lesson from the first one and shows a lot of the same bits about Adam’s journey and how he isn’t a hero. It’s primary focused on the showdown between Adam and the Justice Society, though we continue to hear how Adam isn’t necessarily a bad guy, just one who refuses to yield or bow before anyone, which brings him into conflict with the heroes.

That emphasis on the JSA is reinforced by their appearance on a new poster that came out at the same time as the trailer and by the character posters that include members of the team along with Adam himself.

The next Vanity Fair profile was of Centino, who gushed about the opportunity to work with the veteran actors in the cast.

The next one-sheet features Black Adam sitting on his throne looking somber and serious while the copy declares “The time of heroes is over.”

“There’s no one on this planet that can stop me” Black Adam declares in a TV spot from mid-September that features more of his fight with the JSA as well as dialogue making it clear Adam is willing to cross lines heroes can’t. Another extended spot hits many of the same notes but ties his story into the broader legacy of heroes and villains on Earth.

The IMAX, 4DX and Dolby Cinemas exclusive posters both feature slight variations on the JSA assembled around Adam.

A global press tour with Johnson and others from the cast and crew kicked off at the beginning of October and took them to screenings and events in New York, London, Mexico City and elsewhere.

Swindell was interviewed in October about making the movie and the process of undergoing so much physical training for the role.

Warner Bros. put street teams around New York Comic-Con giving out tickets to the world premiere screening that ended the above-mentioned press tour.

While the cast was in New York City Centino promoted the movie in an appearance on “The Tonight Show” while Hodge and Brosnan showed up on “GMA.” Brosnan also appeared on “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night”. Johnson confirmed a much-anticipated cameo by another DC character when he promoted the film on “The Tonight Show”.

A Black Adam skin and powers were added to Fortnite. The character was also added to the Injustice 2 mobile game.

An extended clip of Adam being awakened by Intergang and tearing through the over-matched mercenaries was released just before the premiere.

A partnership with EVgo gave those using the company’s charging stations a $5 Fandango promo code they could use when buying tickets for this movie. Circle K Stores also offered a Fandango code to those who engaged with the company on Twitter.

At the premiere Johnson weighed in on whether he would consider taking an advisory position in the development of future DC projects and talked more along with the rest of the cast about the long road involved in bringing this movie to fruition and more.

HBO Max offered an exclusive featurette about Black Adam’s moral gray area and how that impacts the other characters as well as the world the story is set in. Rotten Tomatoes also had an exclusive featurette focusing on the costumes of the characters.

DC shared an interview between Johnson and Echo Kellum, who has appeared in a few DC TV series.

overall

Projections have the movie bringing in about $75 million in its opening weekend, which would be a good start for a title like this that has more than a few question marks around it.

The campaign is, as such things tend to be, almost completely driven by Johnson’s personality and will. What seems like half the social media updates from the official movie account are reposts or shares from Johnson’s profile and that’s on top of him spending the better part of the last two decades simply forcing this movie into existence through public statements in addition to whatever behind-the-scenes politicking he’s been doing at the studio.

A decent single brand identity has been created around Black Adam’s defining character traits, namely his willingness to go to dark places, his repeated assurances he’s not a hero and his belief he’s the new major power in the world. Those have been repeated time and again across marketing elements.

What sticks out, though, is how most of the trailers, TV spots and other clips seem to draw most of their footage from the same 15 minutes of the movie, especially Adam’s slugfest with the JSA. That’s fine in and of itself but it also indicates there’s a lot of the movie that’s still unseen by the general public. Such things aren’t uncommon with movies like this, but it seems especially prevalent here.

the school for good and evil – marketing recap

How Netflix has sold a magical YA story of friendship and destiny

The School For Good and Evil movie poster from Netflix
The School For Good and Evil movie poster from Netflix

The School for Good and Evil comes out this week on Netflix. Based on the 2013 novel of the same name, the movie is directed by Paul Feig, who cowrote the screenplay with David Magee.

Sofia Wylie and Anne Caruso play, respectively, Agatha and Sophie, two friends who one day are suddenly whisked away to The School for Good and Evil, a mysterious place where one half teaches students how to be heroic and good while the other half teaches its students to be villainous and evil. While there, Sophie and Agatha find their friendship tested as they are thrust into a world of fairy tales and powers prompting them to question who they were meant to be.

An impressive roster of actors has been assembled to play the instructors and others at the school, including Michelle Yeoh, Charlize Theron, Kerry Washington, Laurence Fishburne, Rob Delaney and others.

announcements and casting

The movie was announced with Feig attached as director in late May 2020. Several months later Feig revealed much of the main cast, with Washington and Theron joining in February of the next year.

Chiani met some of the cast for the first time and interviewed them about their impressions of the book and story in a first look featurette released in early June as part of Netflix’s “Geeked Week” campaign.

A brief video was shared at the end of July to announce the end of production.

Bloom, Kingsley and a host of others were added to the cast in November, 2021.

Footage from the film was included in Netflix’s 2022 feature film preview.

Fieg then revealed Blanchett had been cast as the story’s narrator in June.

the marketing campaign

“There are two sides to every story” the first poster, released in June, declares. Two figures are seen in the distance on the bridge connecting the two schools, showing that the conflict between those schools will be embodied by a couple specific characters.

https://mobile.twitter.com/NetflixGeeked/status/1533886443042512896

The first teaser (1.9m YouTube views) came out at that time as well. It’s a very good teaser, primarily focusing on vague imagery of the school as Theron’s Lady Lesso introduces the concept of the school to students as well as the audience. Toward the end we see Sophie and Agatha as they’re plucked from the woods by a giant bird and transported toward their destiny.

Those both appeared during Netflix’s “Geeked Week” campaign, which included a featurette interview with Wylie and Caruso as well as Soman Chainani, the author of the original book. Those two stars also appeared in a trailer reaction video.

July brought a second poster. This time the schools are used as background to the four main characters, now front and center.

The first trailer (3.1m views on YouTube) came out in mid-September. As it begins Agatha and Sophie have been selected to join the school and learn it plays a role in teaching those who go on to live the lives others only read about. The two friends have very different experiences at the school, though, as Sophie sees it as a path to power and respect while Agatha isn’t convinced this is what she wants. So a confrontation is set between them.

A clip showing new students being tested for their magic potential before Sophie interrupts and begins to embrace her new status and powers was released later in September as part of Netflix’s Tudum promotional event. A couple character posters came out at about the same time.

The original song “Who Do You Think You Are” from Kiana Lede came out earlier this month.

The dynamics of the school and how Agatha and Sophie adjust to being on opposite sides of the spectrum are on display in an extended spot/trailer released a week before the movie came out. Sophie is convinced she was sent to the wrong school before embracing the darkness despite Agatha’s attempts to “save” her, making it clear what conflict will be driving the story.

overall

It doesn’t break any new ground or give the impression of being wholly unique, but there’s a fun vibe to the campaign that makes it seem like it will be a fun time to watch. And we certainly need a new “kids learning to harness their powers at a mysterious magical school” franchise these days.

What stands out to me as the biggest question here is whether the campaign has been strong enough or achieved a wide enough reach to challenge the two big releases hitting theaters this week: Black Adam and Ticket to Paradise.

quick takes: movie marketing news for 10/17/22

A few brief thoughts on stories that have caught my eye while considering when the G.I. Joe team will be assembled to stop Elon Musk from completing whatever world-dominating project he’s working at the moment.

The theater industry keeps having very bad months, up to and including this past September, despite a number of films performing better than expected or beating their projected opening weekends. There seem to be a lot of people out there who are blaming streaming (as if it isn’t four of the same five companies supplying both distribution points) but it’s not as if there weren’t options at the box office. It’s simply that there’s a lack of audience desire to go see anything that isn’t a known quantity, at least not en masse.

To illustrate how it’s an audience interest issue, Blonde didn’t last very long at the top of Netflix’s “most popular” list before being supplanted by Gerard Butler’s latest generic action flick.

Also, the price of a movie ticket keeps going up, though the National Association of Theater Owners hasn’t updated its figures since 2019. NATO claims the more current figures wouldn’t be comparable to pre-2020 years because fewer kids and seniors are going to the theater and the discounts they enjoy have always heavily influenced the average it tracked. That may be but if fewer kids and seniors are going to the movies then that in and of itself is significant news, as is the fact that a major trade organization doesn’t want to publicize prices if it can’t put its thumb on the scale.

Movie Theater Popcorn GIF by filmeditor - Find & Share on GIPHY

Oh, and all this isn’t going to get better anytime soon given housing, food and energy costs keep going up so people have less disposable income for entertainment. And while streaming services are also raising prices, the per-unit cost is still drastically lower than it is for theaters and so is a better bargain.

I had a similar thought as Alissa Wilkinson at Vox, that so many recent movies feature a half-dozen or more stars that just a few years ago would have been carrying their own film. My theory on this has two parts:

  • That fewer non-IP movies are being made and so if they want to keep working they’ll jump into an ensemble project even if the role they’re offered isn’t at the level they would prefer
  • That movies have entered the same era the live music industry did in the mid-90s, where if you were either The Eagles commanding hundreds of dollars a ticket from well-off Boomers or a younger band still making their bones at smaller ballrooms. Anyone inbetween signed up for a “festival” tour with three to six other mid-range bands all hoping the combined appeal would keep them going for another couple years.

Adam B. Vary is a good writer but I have to take issue with the part of his recap of the “She-Hulk: Attorney At Law” finale where he says “part of the MCU’s gargantuanly successful appeal is that it’s never been a self-serious endeavor.” If anything the MCU has always been remarkably self-serious, treating every moment like it matters *so much* and everyone involved is not having any fun at all. Even the supposed comedic entries are tremendously self-important.

Super Hero Disney GIF by Marvel Studios - Find & Share on GIPHY

Oh are we supposed to be surprised that the same terrible people who harassed Amber Heard a few months ago are now going after Angelina Jolie as the latter goes public with the abusive behavior of her ex? I’m not, largely because this is all an extension of Gamergate-era behavior that platforms haven’t adequately dealt with.

The release of Halloween Ends has provided an opportunity for two of my least favorite modern media story types, specifically:

  • Is [insert name of movie” streaming?” This isn’t really a question given the campaign for every movie will make it clear the film is “Only in theaters” or prominently display the name of the streaming service it’s debuting on.
  • Is this movie really the end of the franchise it’s part of?” Come on, we know that even if a release is the end of one particular cycle it’s not the last time we’ll see that franchise in theaters. Sure, when Tom Holland moves on from playing Spider-Man his particular story arc will conclude, but it won’t be more than a couple years (if that long) before another Spider-Man movie comes out.

till – marketing recap

How MGM has sold a drama about a terrible tragedy

Till movie poster from MGM
Till movie poster from MGM

Till, out this week from MGM, begins with one of the most tragic stories in American history before turning it into one of the most empowering and inspirational.

Danielle Deadwyler stars as Mamie Till, a Chicago mother who one day in 1955 sends her son Emmett (Jalyn Hall) to visit family in Mississippi. While there, and having never lived in under that South’s extreme Jim Crow rules, he accidentally offends a white shopkeeper and is subsequently beaten to death by a racist mob. In the years following that terrible incident, Mamie Till went on to become one of the leading speakers and activists in the burgeoning civil rights movement. Frankie Faison and Whoopi Goldberg play Mamie’s father and mother.

The movie is directed and co-written by Chinonye Chukwu, so let’s look at how MGM has sold it to the public as we get deeper into awards season.

announcements and casting

The movie was announced in late-July 2020, with director Chinonye Chukwu attached to helm the project.

Goldberg and Deadwyler were announced as cast leads in July, 2021. Hall was cast in the title role a month later and Bennett added in November of that year along with others as filming was getting underway.

the marketing campaign

A poster showing Emmett hugging his mother – her yellow dress the only color in the otherwise black-and-white photo – was released in July, 2022.

Goldberg appeared on “Good Morning America” to debut the trailer (3.5m YouTube views) at that time. It begins with Mamie sending Emmett off to Mississippi with warnings about minding his behavior while he’s down there. His death incites her to activism, beginning with her well-known decision to leave his casket open so everyone can see exactly what was done to her son. That’s only the beginning of her work, though.

MGM announced the film’s world premiere would take place during the New York Film Festival and include a Q&A session with the filmmakers that would also be shared with classrooms across the country.

In mid-September a featurette was released that has the cast and crew, including the president of Orion Pictures and others, talking about why they wanted to tell this story and how important it is for today’s audience to see it. Also addressed is how the movie does not feature violence against black bodies because of how exploitative and traumatic such incidents are often portrayed.

Along those same lines, an interview with Chukwu has her talking about how she and others wanted to focus on Mamie’s story as a source of inspiration and the legacy she created as opposed to the terrible tragedy that befell Emmett.

Goldberg hosted a screening in New York City with Chukwu talking about making the movie and crafting the story. A number of notable names from Hollywood, journalism and the ongoing civil rights movement were in attendance to lend their support to the film and its message.

The first TV spot that aired a bit later in September plays like a short featurette, with Chukwu and Goldberg talking about what the movie’s story is and how they want to share an important and inspiring chapter of American history. Later commercials alternated between that or a more traditional approach.

News came at that point that the movie’s soundtrack would feature the new song “Stand Up” from Jazmine Sullivan and D’Mile. That song was released a few weeks later.

Most of the cast and crew appeared at the NYFF premiere at the beginning of October. While there Goldberg made it clear the events depicted in the film are the result of systemic racism, which was and is a real thing. She also implied that the movie had been considered by other festivals earlier in the year but weren’t chosen because it wasn’t seen as the right fit for those audiences.

A second trailer (2.3m YouTube views) came out at that time, perhaps to capitalize on the positive buzz coming out of the screening. It follows the same basic outline as the first trailer but with some new footage that continues to emphasize how Emmett’s murder in Mississippi galvanized Mamie to speaking out about the kind of racism faced by Black people everywhere.

Another poster was released as well, this one just showing Mamie Till in close-up, making it clear this is her story the audience can expect to see.

Deadwyler appeared on “Kimmel” to promote the film and working with the other filmmakers to tell such an important story.

There was another premiere, this time in Los Angeles, where those involved once again walked the photo line along with others from activist circles.

One last interview with Deadwyler had her talking about what a privilege it was to play Mamie Till with all her strength and fire.

overall

It’s not uncommon to see a campaign for a movie based on real-life events to focus on *why* the story was important to tell.

What’s less common is what we see here, which is the filmmakers explaining repeatedly why they decided to tell a story *in this way.” Specifically, Chukwu, Goldberg and others have made a point of explaining that despite Emmett Till’s terrible, violent death being the incident that incites Mamie to activism, that event is not shown on-screen.

The rest of the marketing doesn’t stray too far from standard tactics and beats, but that in particular stands out and illustrates how much the people who are making a movie – or any other piece of art – matter. A group of white filmmakers may not have been as sensitive to how triggering or traumatic yet another depiction of violence might be, but this group was and made a different choice.

halloween ends – marketing recap

How Universal has sold the final installment in the horror franchise.

Halloween Ends movie poster from Universal Pictures
Halloween Ends movie poster from Universal Pictures

Halloween Ends hits both theaters and Peacock this weekend. As the name implies, this is the third and final installment of the series that began in 2018 when director David Gordon Green and others gave the franchise a fresh start by ignoring everything except John Carpenter’s 1978 original.

Jamie Lee Curtis is back – reportedly for the last time – as Laurie Strode, the woman who has survived a number of encounters with the villainous Michael Myers and the killing sprees he’s gone on in the past. When yet another tragedy hits her hometown, Laurie and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) set out to make it the last time Myers is able to terrorize anyone and the last time their lives are dictated by his actions.

As with the previous two installments the movie is directed by Green, who co-wrote the screenplay with Danny McBride. Let’s dive into how the marketing campaign has been run.

announcement and casting

Comic-Con 2019 included news this movie as well as its predecessor were on the release schedule with the same cast and creative team intact.

Along with the other sequel, this one was pushed a full year from 2021 to 2022 as the Covid-19 pandemic kept theaters closed.

Universal gave CinemaCon 2021 attendees in August of that year a look at footage from this and other upcoming movies.

As he was doing press for Kills, Green hinted that he’d come up with a new twist ending for this movie, which would have a slightly different tone than the other films.

In April of this year Curtis appeared at CinemaCon 2022 to show off more footage and thank theater owners for their support over the years.

the marketing campaign

It was just this past July that the campaign kicked off with the release of the first trailer (4.9m YouTube views). Laurie is clearly not playing around as we see multiple instances of her taking the fight to Michael as he stalks around in the shadows threatening her and others. The main point is to communicate this is the end of the story, and so uses a few shots from the original film to mark the passage of time in addition to showing off what’s new.

The poster that came out at the same time is a variation on those used for the previous two movies, showing Michael’s mask up close and looking more than a little worn while sparks float up from an off-screen fire.

In August Universal announced the movie would be available on Peacock at the same time it was distributed to theaters. While there was uncertainty at first, theater chains soon made it clear they would still book the film despite the hybrid release, apparently not wanting to lose out on a horror title that always does well when it comes to selling tickets.

The one-sheet that helped make that announcement shows Laurie and Michael back-to-back.

Total Film debuted several new stills from the movie along with comments from Curtis about where Laurie is when this story opens and how this time she’s ready for Michael in a way she hasn’t been before.

Around that same time news came the film’s premiere was scheduled for the opening night of Beyond Fest later in September.

In a short featurette Curtis talks about the conclusion of the story and how this movie represents a “final reckoning” between Laurie and Michael.

The final trailer (10.3m YouTube views), released at the end of September, begins by establishing it’s been four years since the events of the last movie. Laurie is convinced Michael is back but people aren’t sure and believe she’s just obsessed and refuses to move on. When the killings start the attitudes change, but this time Laurie is prepared to do whatever’s necessary to end this once and for all.

Another featurette a week or so later makes it clear this is the final battle between the characters while Curtis shares Laurie’s journey in a third.

An interview with Curtis had her talking about her 45 year history with this franchise, what she thought about playing Laurie one last time and lots more about her career in general.

The Dolby Cinemas-exclusive poster that came out at the end of September shows Michael holding a knife placed between the company’s brand logo. Similarly, the IMAX logo gets slashed by that knife on the poster for that format.

Universal used Peacock to release a special titled “Halloween in Hollywood” that included exclusive interviews with the cast and crew along with first-look footage from this movie.

Short videos that were used as online and TV commercials had come out for a while before this, but full 30-second spots don’t seem to have been used until earlier this month.

Street teams were out around New York Comic-Con last weekend handing out tickets to those who found them that could be redeemed at the movie’s booth for exclusive swag.

NYCC also hosted a panel with Curtis celebrating the role these movies have played in her career, praising the skill with which Green reinvented the franchise and generally giving fans a big “thank you” for supporting it all.

While she was in New York City Curtis stopped by both “Kimmel” to promote the film and reiterate her commitment to this being the last time she plays Laurie Strode. On “Late Night” host Seth Myers had his “cousin” Michael Myers on for an interview that went very poorly.

overall

The main message being conveyed to the audience is that they better not miss this movie because it’s the summation of everything that’s been going on to date, at least if you make sure not to count all those sequels that have been retconned out of the franchise’s canon. Whether it’s in theaters or on Peacock, this is your last chance to see Curtis as the original Scream Queen in anything new so you’d better get on it.

That appeal has included lots of praise and thanks offered to fans of the franchise as well as lots of Curtis reflecting on her experiences playing Laurie. But many of those aren’t substantively different from her comments about *returning* to the character for 2018’s Halloween, so the impact of them is somewhat muted.