This Newsweek story has been making the rounds over the course of the past week or so. It is, by my count, the 734th story regarding the lack of classic films available on Netflix and other streaming services. That minimal offering is held up as a disservice being done to the younger generation that relies on streaming availability in determining what it watches.

It’s a ridiculous argument that doesn’t seem less so with endless repetition.

The same comments could be made about Blockbuster Video back when it was thriving. Because it operated at the skinny head of the Long Tail, constrained by physical limits, it largely stocked recent movies, particularly the blockbusters everyone wanted to see. Smaller indies might have a few copies available, and there may be scattered classics here and there in the store. But that was it.


While Netflix and other streamers may not be subject to physical limitations determining stock, it does have to make decisions on what to offer based on what it’s going to cost to acquire the rights and what sort of return on that investment it can expect. Right now it, like most other OTT services, is leaning on original content – both short and long-form – as a key differentiator. The expense of The Criterion Collection no longer made sense at some point, for instance.

More than that, it’s not Netflix’s responsibility to create an archive of cinematic history. So many studios have let their libraries collect dust on the shelf while focusing home video efforts on current releases. New movies get a dozen collector’s editions and pop-culture favorites get endless reissues while The Marx Brothers get a few no-frills poor transfers. None of that is Netflix’s fault, it’s a determination based on market considerations.

What makes the “Blame Netflix” mindset especially confusing is that, while FilmStruck, TCM and others have carved out a niche for classic movie fans, these movies aren’t even the focus of streaming programs from the studios or their parent companies. MGM isn’t making headlines by offering a portal representing its vast library of classic films. It’s working on a streaming service dedicated solely to Stargate. Warner Bros. stands largely alone in this field with Warner Archive, which not only produces limited run DVD editions but also a subscription streaming service.

Finally, I truly believe that a love of classic film begins at home. If you’re not exposed to these movies consistently at a young age, you won’t grow up demanding them from your entertainment providers. For myself, it was a “Family Classics” on WGN every Sunday combined with American Movie Classics (its original incarnation) that exposed me to the world of 1930s and 40 film and created a love for those movies.

Stop blaming Netflix for a problem studios could fix tomorrow if they chose to do so.

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

As this week’s sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle opens, the elite British spy agency has suffered a terrible setback as a secret – and evil – organization has destroyed their headquarters and announced its intention to take over the world. Leading that charge is the organization’s charismatic leader Poppy (Julianne Moore), who maintains others have failed and so now she has to step in and clean up their mess.

That leads the surviving members of Kingsman, including Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong) to seek the help of their American cousins the Statesman. That brings them into contact with Tequila (Channing Tatum), Ginger (Halle Berry) and the head of that group, Champ (Jeff Bridges). The colonials may have a different way of doing things, but the two groups have to work together to take Poppy and The Golden Circle down before it’s too late.

The Posters

The first teaser poster accompanied, and basically served as, the news that the movie was officially happening at all. It shows a pair of glasses with one lens blacked out sitting on top of a surface with the text “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” a reference to the fate of a character from the first movie who may not be as gone as fans were led to believe. The second teaser also hinted at a character, but this time a new one that was American. This came out at the same time rumors were circulating around Tatum’s involvement and seemed to confirm those. Two more did the same thing for different characters.

The next primarily conveys the idea that the story is moving across the pond in this story, with the British character on one side holding his umbrella and dressed like a chartered accountant and the other character on the right dressed in jeans and a denim jacket and holding a bullwhip.

A whole series of posters featured each individual character standing against a white background. The Brits were labeled as “Suited” while the Americans were “Booted” to differentiate the teams and Moore’s villain was “Deluded.”

Another series offered a brief explanation of who they were alongside each character.

Another put each character in front of a contextual background like a cabinet full of guns, stylish clothing, sports equipment and more.

The Trailers

In advance of the first trailer, an “Ultimate Breakdown” was released that took the viewer through much of the movie, all condensed into quick flash single frames that took just 15 seconds to cycle through. It certainly worked to get people talking.

The first trailer starts with a brief recap of how Eggsy was recruited as a Kingsman before an important building is destroyed. That sets things in motion and there’s little story on display in the rest of the trailer, which is primarily concerned with showing off the action sequences. Along the way we get hints of the American counterparts they’ll encounter before a major reveal is made at the very end.

Before the panel at San Diego Comic-Con a red-band trailer was released that explains a bit more about the challenge the Kingsmen are facing and what brings them to America to work with the Statesmen. It’s violent and high-concept and looks awesome.

One more short trailer introduces us to Poppy and The Golden Circle. She’s bringing her secret organization out of the shadows because she feels society has failed, leading to lots of destruction, villainy and…dancing?

Online and Social

The theatrical key art sits at the top of the movie’s official website, just above links to the Facebook and Twitter profiles created by the studio as well as prompts to watch the trailer or buy tickets.

Scroll down and you can check out a bunch of the “Videos,” including the trailers, clips, TV spots and a few featurettes focusing on the stunt work involved in making the film. After that “About” has a story synopsis and cast and crew list. “Posters” lets you view, download or share many of the one-sheets.

After a section encouraging you to sign up for email blasts there’s “The Goldin Foldin,” a page you can print out with an original Al Jaffe (of MAD Magazine fame) illustration that can folded into a new image much like his landmark works on the back of that magazine.

There are a few activities under “Featured Content” that are relevant to the movie. “Gallery” has some production stills to check out. You can download a mobile “Game” that allows you to play as a Kingsman. Finally, “Social Updates” brings in posts from the movie’s social profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Whiskey also figured heavily in the first TV spot for the movie, which aired, appropriately enough, during the Kentucky Derby. This one was heavy on the story’s American connections, following the British team as they travel to Kentucky and meet the Statesmen, with scenes in a distillery and more being the focal point.

Further TV spots leaned heavily on how the Kingsmen and their American counterparts had to team up to save the world, with plenty of violent gunplay and other action shown. A ton of commercials were released over the course of the last four to six weeks prior to release, each taking a slightly different approach to selling the story but all playing up the slapstick violence. There were so many spots the movie was the biggest TV spender in the last couple weeks.

There were a number of promotional partners for the movie as well, including:

  • Old Forester, which created a special label of its bourbon whiskey named after the American version of the Kingsmen that’s introduced in the movie. That new product, framed as a partnership that was integral to the movie, received an extended video spot to introduce it to the audience.
  • VisitBritain and Expedia Media Solutions, which partnered on a campaign to encourage U.S. travelers to head across the pond. That campaign included banner and other online ads, an online game and exclusive content on and more.

Media and Publicity

The first bit of real publicity for the movie came in the form of an announcement of its title, which was enough to get people talking. It was quite a while then until some first-look stills were released along with from Egerton, Strong and others about where the characters are when we meet them again in this installment.

Vaughn talked about Moore’s taking on the role of the bad guy in the series and how she pulled inspiration from an unlikely source in Entertainment Weekly’s big San Diego Comic-Con preview issue. It also received a Hall H panel at Comic-Con featuring Egerton, Tatum and other members of the cast and crew.

The movie’s panel at SDCC included the cast and crew but it opened with a fun bit of original animation that placed Eggsy in the animated world of “Archer.” The opening scene from the movie was also shown. After than EW’s fall movie preview included an interview with both Firth and Egerton where they talked about their on-screen chemistry and off-screen friendship.

There was a fun video Fox created to tie into real world events that shows the studio’s marketing team first brainstorming and then executing the solar eclipse as a promotional stunt for the movie.

Egerton, Firth, Moore and a few others did a bit of press and publicity but there didn’t seem to be much. Whether that’s because of any trepidation on the part of Fox, a scheduling issue or something else I’m not sure, but it’s odd to see a lack of interviews and other activity by the main cast.


I failed to mention at the outset that I’ve not yet seen the first Kingsman movie, so I’m missing some of the context that might be necessary for the second outing. That being said, there’s nothing about the campaign here that makes that knowledge necessary. Meaning I don’t find much about the marketing that assumes the audience knows exactly who these characters are and what they’re up to. There’s the reveal that’s placed at the end of the first trailer, but that’s about it. Everything else just sets this up as a globe-trotting spy caper involving a team of Brits and a team of Yanks trying to stop a vague and ill-defined bad guy.

It’s all played fast and loose here, with tongue firmly in cheek. This is exactly how the first movie was sold, which means it’s in-line with the tone that’s been used to market just about all the cinematic adaptations of Mark Millar’s work, including Wanted and Kick-Ass. Considering that consistent brand tone it’s a bit surprising Millar isn’t name-checked more often in the campaign. Everything that’s here is good enough if you’re inclined toward such movies, promising an action adventure that’s high on style and low on substance.

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

Paramount’s marketing head wags his finger at audiences, saying if they keep claiming to be so eager for new and innovative filmmaking they would have turned out for this movie.

I don’t think that’s quite the point that was made by mother!’s disappointing $7.5 million box-office last weekend. Megan Colligan, the Paramount exec quoted in that story particularly calls out those who said the movie was too difficult and off-putting for audiences. Some even took Paramount to task for distributing the movie. Netflix is praised, she says, so why is Paramount held to a different standard?

That’s legitimate point, but it needs to be answered in context.

Netflix releases difficult films to be sure. There’s nothing “standard” or easily-accessible about movies like Okja and others. But the marketing is subsequently scaled around the understanding by all involved that this isn’t going to be for everyone. There’s rarely a substantial press push, there often isn’t a poster and there’s almost never a website or other online effort. The company understands the audience will be niche at best and so runs appropriately-sized campaigns.

Compare that to Paramount’s push for mother!, which had Jennifer Lawrence out on her usual charm offensive, extensive commenting from director Darren Aronofsky, a slew of posters, substantial online and other advertising and more. The expectations were set that this would be a movie that certainly connected with audiences, even if that was smaller in size.

The interesting thing is that Paramount is seeming to embrace the extreme reactions to the movie, running new TV ads like this one that play up the divisive nature of the film and make that a selling point. It’s trying to draw in more people by using the movie’s inaccessiblety as a selling point, not a wedge to drive audiences away.

It’s good to point out the occasional double standard in what’s deemed “appropriate” for one distributor over another. Let’s have that conversation. But the scale of the movies being discussed, particularly the apparent expectations of the marketing to support those movies, needs to be scaled appropriately.

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

In 1973 the tennis superstar Bobby Riggs, known for his antics and stunts, challenged world champion Billie Jean King to a match. Billed (by Riggs mostly) as a contest between genders it came in the midst of the sexual revolution of the time that included the mainstreaming of feminism and other cultural shifts. The CBS broadcast was a milestone of television, drawing in tens of millions of viewers.

The story behind that match is now coming to theaters in Battle of the Sexes. Steve Carell plays Riggs, who wants to stoke the fires of the cultural revolution underway for some self-aggrandizing publicity and a big payday. King, played by Emma Stone, is reluctant to sign on for such a spectacle but ultimately agrees not only out of her fierce competitiveness but also as part of her own search for identity.

The Posters

I’m not sure what the designers were going for with the first poster. The only element here is a tennis ball that has a lit fuse coming out of it, as if it were about to explode. Is this supposed to symbolize that the tennis world was about to blow up because of the events depicted in the story? The rest of the poster is solid yellow (like a tennis court?) but there are visible creases as if we’re looking at a physical poster that’s been folded and stored for a while. That last part, in particular, seems unnecessary and out of context. It’s a meta joke that might work for something like Machete but there’s no winking at the era in this movie. Odd choice.

The second poster uses the same visual conceit of the tennis ball that’s about to explode like a grenade set against a yellow backdrop. The main addition here is the photo of Carell and Stone at the top that’s pulled from the recreation of the famous press conference with the two tennis greats they’re playing. Two versions of that poster seem to have been created, one that keeps the photo shaded in the same yellowish-green as the rest of the image and one with an unfiltered version of the photo.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts out with Riggs at a support group meeting that he disrupts, exposing him as a shameless opportunist. He calls King to propose a matchup where the central idea is “male chauvinist pig versus hairy-legged feminist.” It’s clear Riggs will do and say anything for a headline and King just has to deal with all that insanity and do the best she can. Her goal is not just to win but, to some extent, upset the patriarchy that’s in place and upend some social norms.

There’s lots of glitz and flash on display here. Carell is clearly in full “go for it brash and loud” mode as he embraces the showier aspects of Riggs’ character. Stone plays her emotions closer, wanting to effect change but also win. There are also shots of her then-hidden life as a lesbian in an effort to make it more timely for today’s audiences. The use of an Elton John song is also a great touch given John’s marriage to King around this time, an effort to hide each one’s true sexual orientation.

Online and Social

Fox Searchlight’s website for the movie uses the same yellow/green as the key art and opens by playing the trailer. The same photo we’ve seen for a while is on the main page after the trailer is closed, accompanied by a carousel of positive critic’s quotes, encouragement to buy tickets and links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

Moving up to the content menu at the top, “Cast” allows you to click on each of the major players in the movie and see both a picture of them in character and read a quote from that actor on the real person they’re playing. The same format is used in “Filmmakers.” “Story” offers a brief plot synopsis.

As far as I can tell, “Photos” only has the one image, the same still that was used in the initial publicity volleys for the movie. “Videos” just as the one trailer. Finally, “Partners” has the companies that have signed on to help promote the film.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV advertising started off just a week or so before release with spots like this one that played up the showmanship of Riggs and the determination of King, showing the spectacle that surrounds the match they’re planning.

In terms of promotional partners there were far more than I expected for a period movie like this:

  • Atria Senior Living, which has a partnership with Billie Jean King to promote healthy living for seniors.
  • Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, which is focused on empowering the next generation of leaders.
  • Citizen, created a new watch…sorry, “timepiece”… the purchase of which helps support King’s above group.
  • Crunch Fitness, which had their Grand Slam Soiree events at locations across the country “powered by” the movie.
  • Orbitz, but I couldn’t find details on what this entails.
  • Title Nine, which interviewed King about the history of gender equality in sports and the statute that formalizes that need for that parity.
  • Tory Burch Foundation, which created a custom t-shirt celebrating the real-life match portrayed in the movie.
  • Wilson, which of course is going to use the opportunity to promote tennis and its line of products.

Media and Publicity

The publicity campaign started as soon as filming began with the release of an official still that resembled a famous photo from the actual King/Riggs press conference.

Of course as with anything remotely political these days, Stone was asked about how this chapter of history relates to the continued struggles of today, including the fight for pay equality in Hollywood. She was later interviewed by EW for its fall movie preview about preparing to play a real person, coming to terms with all the sometimes odd and inconsistent elements of King’s life and personality and more.

The movie was announced as one of those that would screen at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was also later confirmed for the BFI London Film Festival. The movie’s festival screenings, including Telluride, resulted in powerfully positive buzz, especially for Stone’s performance.

EW’s fall movie preview included a story about how the filmmakers recreated the legendary tennis match that was the culminating event in the clash between the two players.

Stone was interviewed jointly with King where the actress talked about getting to know the real woman she’s playing and the tennis legend talked about the real story she lived through.

Both actors also made some late night and morning talk show appearances to be charming and talk about the movie and hit similar notes as the rest of the publicity campaign.


The strongest thing this movie has going for it, I think, is the positive word of mouth that’s coming out of the recent festival appearances. That’s coming at a good time, when it could snowball into more mainstream buzz. At the very least it indicates that word of mouth among the general public could help power box-office turnout. It’s a good thing too since I’m a bit surprised there wasn’t at least one more trailer and that the TV advertising seemed to start so late in the game. I know it’s late summer and all that, but still, we could have used a bit more.

That being said, what’s here is plenty attractive. It’s an interesting story to be revisiting at this point in time, with gender identity and roles so much in the spotlight of our daily cultural conversations. I’m surprised there wasn’t more of an effort to lean into that in the campaign but also just as surprised the movie hasn’t become a right-wing lightning rod as the denounce the libs who want to demean the position of men.

Either way, the movie has received a good campaign that highlights the stars and positions at as a story that’s certainly timely.

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

The LEGO cinematic universe expands a bit more with this week’s release of The LEGO Ninjago Movie. Based on the popular line of toys, there’s already been a few Cartoon Network series over the last few years but now, with a big-name cast providing the voices, it’s time for a theatrical debut.

The story follows Lloyd (Dave Franco), a member of a secret team of ninjas who defend the island of Ninjago. While he and the others, including Cole (Fred Armisen), Jay (Kumail Nanjiani) are taught by Master Wu (Jackie Chan) at night, during the day they’re ordinary high school students. Their primary foe, the one who’s constantly threatening Ninjango, is Garmadon (Justin Theroux) who also happens to be Lloyd’s father. So there’s a lot going on here.

The Posters

The first poster is pretty basic and not all that interesting but does get the message across that the movie is coming and that, as we’re told at the top, it comes from the same team that brought us previous LEGO movies. It just shows Lloyd standing at the edge of a pond, his ninja alter-ego showing in the reflection of the water. Not very compelling but it does what it needs to do.

The second poster takes the perspective of someone on the ground looking up as all the ninja work their down through the trees. Everyone but Lloyd has their face covered with a mask to single him out as the main character.

A few different series of character posters were released over the next few months, all of which featured different visual themes.

One had each character in a different unique environment with some goal attached to them like “Be Green,” “Be Masterful” and so on to identify a different character trait or show what kind of skill each had.

One shows each character standing in front of the mech suit, ship or transport they use for extra power and abilities.

One puts each character in front of their own unique symbol.

One presents the characters in what was meant to look like traditional Japanese paintings.

A Comic-Con exclusive poster was given to attendees there that showed Lloyd and his evil dad along with the rest of the Ninjago team. It has kind of a retro poster feel and even was made to look distressed, like the poster for a kung-fu grind house flick from the 1970s.

Another poster shows the cross-worlds elements of the story and is specifically meant to promote Dolby Cinema at AMC screenings, that branding clearly presented at the bottom. The rest of the poster has the Ninjago team looking out over the top of a roof, a real-life cat peering back over it at them.

The Trailers

The first trailer makes it clear the story is filled with the same humor found in the previous LEGO movies, all revolving around the story of a heroic son who is out to defeat his evil father. From the outset the conflict between the two is laid out amidst all the fighting and other action.

If you feel like you’ve just seen most of the movie’s best parts, you’re likely not wrong. This is pretty much what you can expect.

The short trailer that was released at Comic-Con didn’t offer much that was new, just another look at the movie’s comedy and style. Specifically it doubled down on the daddy issues that drive Lloyd to stop his father and shows the real life cat the filmmakers included.

A full-length trailer was released at roughly the same time that starts off with Garmadon rampaging his army through the streets, cut with scenes of Lloyd asking his mom if his dad was always an evil warlord. Turns out she just thought he was ambitious, not actually intent on taking over the world. When duty calls all the ninjas take the fight to the villain, but Lloyd is determined to learn more about his father and so undertakes a journey of discovery. That leads to some unexpected teaming up between the bad and good guys.

It’s funny in all the same ways the first one was, with the jokes flying fast and furious at you. Nothing all that notable here but it’s sure to get the attention of those who have made the other LEGO movies into hits.

Online and Social

A battle scene greets you when you load the movie’s official website showing the Ninjago team taking on Garmadon in the streets of the city. In the upper right is a rotating series of prompts offering various activities for younger members of the audience. In the lower left is a button to buy tickets as well as links to the movie’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter profiles.

The photo on the front page is littered with buttons to various sections that are also accessible via the menu on the left. The first section there is “Videos,” which just has both of the primary trailers. “Fun and Games” is stocked with Games, Wallpapers, Posters and Activities for kids and others to download and play. Those Wallpapers can be easily added to whatever device you’re viewing the site on.

You can get to know everyone better in the “Characters” section, which offers a short bio of that character as well as a poster featuring them to download. “Story” has a synopsis and the details on the cast and crew of the movie. “Gallery” lets you scroll through a number of stills, though these aren’t downloadable.

Not forgetting about commerce, “Products” takes you to a page where you can browse and buy the various Ninjago sets LEGO offers. Finally, “Partners” has links to the companies who have teamed up with Warner Bros. to help promote the movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one featured minimal footage from the movie, instead opting for a few brief clips framed by Chan telling a bad ninja joke. There may have been more traditional story-based commercials run, but I can’t find any of them.

Promotional partners on the movie included:

  • McDonald’s, which put movie-themed toys in its Happy Meal boxes.
  • Visa, which seems to have run some sort of sweeps I couldn’t find details on
  • Color Me Mine, which offered special movie-themed events that gave away promotional gift

Key art was used in online ads while the trailers and other videos were used for social media ads.

Media and Publicity

The first look at the movie came in a USA Today story that offered a still and comments with the filmmakers. Another new still came later in Entertainment Weekly’s San Diego Comic-Con preview issue. The studio put out a fun “greeting” video to the fans attending SDCC. The cast and crew showed up a panel there where they had lots of fun telling jokes, revealing new characters and more.

Another new photo was shared in EW’s fall movie preview showing the whole team. That was followed by a fun back-to-school themed video.

The cast would make various comments in various venues, particularly over the last month or so leading up to release, but nothing that seems to qualify as a concerted or purposeful press campaign.


Let’s not even discuss how essential this movie might or might not be. That’s beside the point. It’s created in the same vein as not only the previous LEGO movies but the various “G.I. Joe,” “Transformers” and other cartoons over the years, as a means to sell toys and action figures. This is both a celebration of the fans that have made Ninjago into a hit line for LEGO and a way to reinforce the idea that they don’t yet have enough toys in that series.

It hits the same kinds of notes as the campaign for the previous LEGO movies, emphasizing harmless violence and humor over anything else. More than anything, I come away from the campaign with the same questions I had about The LEGO Batman Movie, namely whether or not this takes place in the same universe at The LEGO Movie, meaning in a kid’s basement?

Whatever the case, this is likely going to be a hit with the younger crowd, potentially even finally upsetting IT at the box office.

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

There’s no denying that both “2036: Nexus Dawn” and “2048: Nowhere to Run” are cool. The short films were created and recently released as part of the marketing for Blade Runner 2049 is cool. Both offer a bit of backstory that sets the stage for the new movie and fill in some of the in-world histories between the original and the sequel.

While I’m a fan of transmedia storytelling, there are two kinds of stories that are generally told with these executions: Those that engage in a bit of world-building on the side of the primary story and those that fill in plot holes in that primary story. My problem is that these two are very much the latter.

It’s possible the information in both films would have been otherwise shared in the full movie, especially considering it’s over two-and-a-half hours long. So at best these shorts are duplicative, helping to build anticipation for the movie. At worst, though, it’s backstory that not everyone will have (because not everyone is going to be aware of, much less watch, this short) and which therefore might cause some confusion or create the appearance of a plot hole.

Again, I enjoy a good transmedia execution. But the best ones, in my experience, aren’t straight prequels to the main story. If this is so essential, my thinking goes, why isn’t it in the movie/book/show? This might just be personal preference, but in this case it actually has me more concerned about the content of the movie than I was before.

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

The story of what happened in and around the 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon has already come to the big-screen. Last year’s Patriots Day, named after the Boston holiday it took place, on, turned the events into a police procedural. This week’s new movie Stronger takes a different and more personal approach.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jeff Bauman in this true-life tale. Jeff is a somewhat inattentive boyfriend to Erin (Tatiana Maslany), who’s running in the marathon. He makes the effort to go see her, though. Unfortunately he’s in the wrong place when one of the bombs goes off, losing his legs as a result of injuries suffered. The story follows Bauman’s journey through recovery as well as his reluctant acceptance of the role of inspirational role model for the whole city.

The Posters

The poster shows Gyllenhaal as Bauman in the middle of physical therapy, straining on the bars as he learns to walk again using the artificial legs we can just barely see at the bottom of the photo. “Strength defines us” we’re told at the top while below the title we’re reminded this is based on the “inspiring” true story.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts out as Jeff Bauman encourages everyone at a bar to donate and support Erin’s upcoming run in the Boston Marathon. From there we see that their relationship isn’t always rosy before an explosion goes off in the crowd watching the race. We see Jeff wake up to find he’s missing his legs and everyone is trying to support and help him. He’s struggling, though, for obvious reasons. Eventually he begins to accept the new reality, including how everyone wants to view him as some sort of inspirational figure.

Well, it’s better than the trailers for last year’s Patriots Day, that’s for sure. It’s still all about hitting as many easy emotional chords as possible in an attempt to make the audience feel something, but at least it’s telling a personal, and therefore slightly more compelling, story. All the actors, from Gyllenhaal to Maslany, look fine as they’re asked to emote in various ways.

Online and Social

There doesn’t appear to be an official website for the movie, just a Facebook page and Twitter profile where the studio has been sharing updates on the marketing and publicity.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one show what happened to Bauman as well as the way the public expected something out of him that he struggled to deliver, namely the personification of hope and survival. We also see his rehabilitation and the work he does to eventually make peace with life and get better. Others like this were more concerned with focusing on the relationship between Bauman and Erin and how that changed over time.

The trailer was used later on as an ad not only on social media but on YouTube, where it ran as pre-roll. There were banner and other ads run elsewhere online that used the image of Gyllenhaal in the midst of physical therapy to help sell the movie as an emotional and triumphant story.

Media and Publicity

It was announced the movie would have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it received a good amount of praise for the performances by Gyllenhaal and Maslany.

The real Jeff Bauman was interviewed here about not only the events he lived through but the experience of seeing a version of himself on screen.

Gyllenhaal carried most of the publicity load, though. He was interviewed here about his production company which was created specifically as a place to shepherd smaller films that deserve a bigger audience like this one. While at Toronto he also commented that after years of being asked if he’d play a superhero, this role allowed him to feel as if he’d done so. He made appearances on various morning and late night talk shows as well to talk about the movie and the real-life story that inspired it.


Usually my tolerance for these kinds of campaigns is pretty low. I don’t handle “inspirational” that well and tend to get tripped up in the attempts to blatantly appeal to my basest emotions.

This one hit me in a different way, though. There’s plenty of sentimentality on display, of course. The sweeping music, the nicely-lit shots showing someone overcoming the odds and enduring despite all the setbacks. But it was presented as much more of an individual than a spiritual story, which is a very different thing. Maybe that’s the influence of director David Gordon Green or someone else who more interested in not underlining the universal truths but keeping the focus on a more relatable subject.

Whatever the case, the campaign comes together very nicely as a cohesive whole. There are strong consistent elements throughout the push that create a single feeling in the audience and which could help the movie when it hits theaters this weekend.

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


  • My latest post at Adweek dives a bit more deeply into some aspects of the IT marketing campaign I didn’t focus on last week to see what it was that helped make the movie a success.

Home Again

  • More here on how director Hallie Meyers-Shyer leaned on her famous mother for support during the writing and filming of the movie.


  • Some new details on the movie’s mystery-shrouded campaign, including details on how Paramount used trailers as a call-to-action and didn’t bother with testing some of the ads and other promotional materials.

This week’s Rebel in the Rye is one of several late-summer/early-fall movies detailing the creative processes of famous authors. in this case Nicholas Hoult plays a young J.D. Salinger during his formative years, before he eventually created the book everyone had to read in Senior English, “A Catcher In The Rye.”

The movie follows Salinger as a young man who’s just returned from serving in World War II, shaking by his experiences there. He feels the impulse, the driving need, to write something that will reflect his worldview and perspective but doesn’t know what that is. Discouraged by his parents, who view writing as a less than noble career but encouraged by a professor (Kevin Spacey) who wants him to dig deeper into his soul, Salinger eventually produces the book that would define his career.

The Posters

The poster puts the floating head of Spacey behind a shot of Hoult, who’s seen looking very much the part of the rebel with his short sleeve shirt and cigarette. “Behind every masterpiece is a story” we’re told, making it clear we’re going to be watching an origin story of sorts. Typewriter-written words hover throughout the poster, establishing that we’re following a writer. The whole thing is tinged brown and orange to look like a faded photo, evoking the time period the movie is set in.

The Trailers

The first official trailer starts off showing a young Salinger when he’s just an aspiring writer looking to make a name for himself. He’s told to just keep writing until he gets it right but gets advice of different levels of quality from different people. We see some of the traumas and issues he deals with on the way to writing “Catcher” but even when he has someone in his corner he can’t quite get it over the finish line.

It’s clear that the struggle to create “Catcher” is the primary driving force of the story. We’re watching its origin story as much as, if not more, we’re watching Salinger’s. While it does present the movie as yet another variation on the “frustrated genius” theme, the dynamic between Hoult and Spacey is what really shines here. This may be most of Spacey’s screen time, but he clearly makes every moment count.

Online and Social

There’s not much on IFC Films’ page for the movie, just the trailer, a synopsis of the story, the poster and a cast list. Bloom Media’s page was similarly sparse, but it included a list of links to news stories about the movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing here that I’ve seen. There may have been some local advertising done in the limited markets the movie opened in last week, but I’m not hip to those efforts.

Media and Publicity

The first big press was a feature story in The New York Times focusing on Strong’s career as an actor, writer and now director as well as his perspective in approaching such sensitive material that’s been hard to translate to film to date. Strong also talked about taking on the story at the beginning of the movie’s production.

The premiere at Sundance in 2017 was well-received but a bit of time passed before it was picked up by IFC for release later in the year. Strong explained later how and why he went about significantly editing the movie between that Sundance premiere and its eventual release.


The campaign seems to be appealing to two groups: 1) Those who want more information about the creation of a beloved – and often controversial – touch point of American literature and 2) All writers everywhere who have struggled with the disconnect between the internal voices that drive them to create and the results of that drive, along with the reception given the end product.

It’s the story that’s the strongest appeal here. Salinger has been such an enigmatic figure that there’s always been a hunger for more background on him and how he created “Catcher.” I don’t know how much that exists in the general public anymore after the passage of so many years, but it’s something that was still around when I was reading the book and likely lives on, even if it’s mostly in creative circles. So it’s hard to know how much clamoring there might be for a new take on that story, which is part of the reason it seems to be sold as a dramatic tale of overcoming setbacks as well.

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

No one has ever accused, at least not with any sort of evidence or other substantiation, director Darren Aronofsky of being an easily-accessible filmmaker. He’s built a career around difficult, challenging films that beg for repeated viewings, often defy interpretation and at times seem solely geared toward upsetting the audience. Aronofsky is Todd Solondz without the dark humor. Terry Gilliam without the whimsy.

With his latest film, mother!, hitting theaters this week and seeming to continue his tradition of challenging, inscrutable and divisive films, it’s a good opportunity to look back at the director’s previous six films and how they were sold.

Pi (1998)

Max (Sean Gullette) has developed a supercomputer that can unlock the key to life and existence, part of his belief that numbers can solve any problem. When he accidentally stumbles across a number that seems to have widespread spiritual and financial implications he becomes sought by mysterious agents from both worlds. The trailer for Aronofsky’s feature debut is a weird tonal mix. The visuals are cutting edge and off-kilter. The narration, though, makes it seem like a traditional thriller about a lone genius trying to evade capture in light of his discovery. It’s clear there wasn’t a good idea of how to sell Aronofsky’s films yet.

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Obsession and mental capacity are again at the core of the story in this movie. With a cast that included Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Marlon Wayons and Jennifer Connelly, the film has each of them playing a character who can’t rise above their station because of one kind of addiction or another. Existing problems only become greater when supplies begin to dry up and the characters resort to desperate measures to maintain their highs. Some of that is on display in the trailer, which shows the fast-paced, drug-fueled and often frustrating lives the characters lead. Notable is the lack of narration this time around, as it just would have gotten in the way of the disturbing visuals being sold here.

The Fountain (2006)

Hard to believe it was six years before Aronofsky went back behind the camera. When he did it was with a Hugh Jackman along for the ride. Jackman played three roles (or, actually, one spread out over millennia) in this time-spanning story of the search for love, played by Rachel Weisz, with all three stories converging into something truly mind bending. We see all three in the trailer, though the emphasis is on the one set is present day. Still, the whole span of the story and incredibly visuals Aronofsky conjured up as he embraced special effects that go hand-in-hand with emotional turmoil.

The Wrestler (2008)

Possibly Aronofsky’s most mainstream movie (at least to that point), this one cast Mickey Rourke as an aging wrestler who’s having trouble coming to terms with how his life has turned out. A faded shadow of what he once was, he tries to reconnect with his family while also seeking out one last shot at the spotlight. The trailer opens with praise for Rourke’s performance, something that was the central focus of the marketing campaign on all fronts. We see the depths he’s fallen to and the way he’s trying to go out on his own terms while listening to a haunting original Bruce Springsteen tune as we’re sold a tale of redemption and that’s way more emotional than anything else Aronofsky has put out there.

Black Swan (2010)

That sentimentality didn’t last long as the director quickly got back into the world of twisted mental states and questions of identity and the lengths one will go to in order to succeed. Natalie Portman plans Nina, a top ballet dancer who’s selected as the lead in a prestigious staging of Swan Lake. She’s challenged by Lily (Mila Kunis), a newcomer who has all the sensuality and vulnerability Nina lacks. The two become friends, but the truth is much darker than it initially appears. We immediately get the idea that issues of identity and reality are at the heart as the trailer opens. As things progress and become more terrifying and mysterious the pace increases, showing a truly disturbing movie being sold. It’s easy to see why this is one of the two films from the director frequently name-checked throughout the mother! campaign.

Noah (2014)

An oddly mainstream entry in Aronofsky’s filmography, this one cast Russell Crowe as the Old Testament figure tasked by God with preserving humans and animals from the flood waters of judgment He was about to unleash. Noah’s assigned mission brings him into conflict with others nearby as we see in the trailer. It’s also clear here that the director is once more doing everything he can with the special effects he’s given to heighten the impact of the story and show God’s wrath being executed in as epic a manner as possible.

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