1517 to paris poster 2Director Clint Eastwood continues the “true life stories” phase of his career he began in 2009 with this week’s 15:17 to Paris. Like some of his other recent films this movie tells the story of ordinary people who rose to the occasion when something extraordinary was asked of them. In this case, it’s the 2015 attempted terrorist attack on a Paris-bound train that was scuttled by three American soldiers who happened to be on the train and who apprehended the attacker before he could do serious harm.

Notably, Eastwood cast the three actual individuals to play themselves. So Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos all reenact the events of that day as well as the journeys that lead them to be on that train at that place at that time. Helping them along are seasoned pros like Jenna Fischer, Judy Greer and others who play the family, friends and other influences on the lives of the three soldiers.

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A quick look at some of the more notable titles hitting home video this week.

bad moms christmas poster 6A Bad Moms Christmas

This sequel to 2016’s surprise hit (said because as usual expectations for a female-led comedy were pretty low) didn’t perform at the same level as the original but still brought in some pretty decent box office. Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Katherine Hahn all returned as the frazzled mothers and wives who are trying their best to live up to the expectations society places on women, this time with the added comedy and pathos of their visiting mothers. Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines and Susan Sarandon play the moms of the moms. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the overdone gender cliches on display in the campaign, a lot of people apparently were.

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peter rabbit poster 2The simple, no-frills stories originated by author Beatrix Potter come to the big screen this week with the release of Peter Rabbit. Mixing live action and animation, James Corden voices the titular rabbit, the de facto leader of all the animals who live on McGregor’s farm. They are well fed and everything is great, including enjoying an understanding with their human neighbor Bea (Rose Byrne).

Things change with the arrival of Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson). He wants all the animals gone and off his farm immediately, thinking them to be pests and vermin. That not only brings him into conflict with Peter but complicates the romance budding between him and Bea since she’s very protective of the creatures. You get where this is going.

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Since the movie didn’t exactly get a traditional marketing campaign The Cloverfield Paradox deserves something other than a traditional campaign recap.

I shared some of the ways the marketing breaks many of the established movie marketing rules over at Adweek today but wanted to expand on a few points here.

Connective Material

The commercial that premiered during last night’s Super Bowl broadcast just hours before Netflix made it available for subscribers to watch, starts out by showing footage from the original 2008 Cloverfield, specifically of the first explosions that rock New York City and start the story in motion. In this spot we get that from a different perspective as someone a ways away watches it happen out the window of his apartment. Cut to 10 years later aboard a space station where….things…are happening. It’s never explained what it is, but it’s evident that there are answers here as to what brought the monster to Earth a decade prior as well as new threats – including a creepy crawling disembodied arm – that must be faced.

The poster that hit at the same time continues the visual branding that was used on the Lane one-sheet, with the long white vertical lines going up and down from the title treatment. A field of stars covers the background while the copy tells us “The future unlocked every thing.” That’s a curious – and ominous – inclusion of a space in that last word that changes the meaning drastically from what it otherwise might have been. It also harkens back to the theatrical poster for the original, which warned the audience “Some thing had found us,” the similar word usage hinting that there’s a definite connection between the two films. The connection is reinforced by a shot from the commercial of a bobblehead carrying a Slusho drink, an item that figured heavily into the 2008 release’s marketing.

So there’s a conscious effort being made to offer this as the connection between the two previous movies. That means a lot when you’re talking about a series of films that has relative niche appeal like this does. It promises too an explanation of why those things happened, even as it sets up more mysteries of its own. That’s only deepened by a new promo released this morning of a character sending a message back to Earth telling everyone there to stop what they’re doing and enjoy what time they have left with their families.

Competing Against Everyone

When Bright came out it was seen as Netflix’s attempt to horn in on the one bit of territory theaters were holding on to: The sci-fi blockbuster. The Cloverfield Paradox would seem to be another move along those lines. Indeed, it’s meant to both test and take advantage of how going to the movies is no longer in vogue – as seen in the falling ticket sales over recent years – and highlight how easy it is to watch something spontaneously where there’s no incremental cost associated with the decision.

You could make the case that accepting any ad for a movie is a case of a TV network encouraging the competition. People have limited time for entertainment, so that two or three hours of moviegoing is two or three hours they’re not watching TV. That’s even more true here, where Netflix was directly counter-programming against NBC. It’s almost as if Netflix is fighting a war the networks aren’t even aware is happening.

So too, it’s a preemptive strike against Amazon Studios. That company has stated and made moves recently to realign the priorities of its film and TV divisions to focus on bigger productions. Both streamers sat out this year’s Sundance Film Festival, not making a single acquisition as they move away from prestige awards contenders to crowd pleasers. Even if Paradox isn’t the best movie in the world, it’s step in that direction and between it and Bright it has first-mover advantage over the competition, at least for the moment.

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

fifty shades freed poster 3We’re finally done.

The Fifty Shades series finally reaches its conclusion in this week’s Fifty Shades Freed, the rare recent example of a final book in a franchise being contained to just one movie and not split into two installments. Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan can, at long last, breathe a sigh of relief that their time playing Anna and Christian, two people sharing a deep connection based on their love of Twilight fan fiction, is over.

Before they can check out it’s time for one more overwrought soap opera steeped in gender roles and self-esteem issues. This time Anna and Christian have stopped living in dirty, dirty sin and gotten married, exactly the kind of old-fashioned tradition people with commitment issues long histories of casual relationships engage in all the time. But there’s still danger lurking as someone something with a gun and then another flirting and wow sex car chase before honeymoon reboot in 2025.

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Sharing a few stories that have popped recently regarding movie marketing that deserve more attention than I have to give them.

If I Wanted to Read, I’d Pick Up a Book

There certainly is a trend toward long, full-sentence movie titles, particularly in the indie world. Of the two theories offered at Quartz I’m more inclined toward the “differentiating themselves from the simplicity of franchise titles” explanation and don’t include ridiculously drawn-out subtitles as part of the trend.

Because branding is so important in those franchises I think indie film producers are just kind of enjoying not being beholden to those constraints and want to offer something memorable to the audience. That’s in addition to the reality that many of them are based on previously-published material and want to retain that audience recognition, which is its own form of branding, so disregard what I just said.

This Trailer Has Been Submitted For Your – YOUR – Consideration

The question of how effective custom movie trailers meant to support awards campaigns is pondered by Calum Marsh at Variety. Essentially they serve a similar purpose as other “for your consideration” ads, working to remind awards voters of how well-received the film that’s been nominated was and providing a reason to choose it. Two things go untouched on by Marsh:

  1. That the reach of these trailers extends far beyond the actionable audience, meaning mainstream audiences are often seeing the same spots. The trailers then have to walk the line between making the soft sell to voting members and supporting whatever phase of release the film is currently in.
  2. It seems like an odd editorial call to interview Jeff Wells and include his comments about how of course special “consideration” campaigns, including trailers, are necessary without pointing out that his site, like many others, relies greatly on the ad bonanza that comes during awards season. He has skin in the game and a nod to that would have gone a long way.

How Deep Should Data-Driven Movie Advertising Go?

The V By Viacom team (disclosure: I did some freelance writing for that site, though I don’t think they ever published my one post) recounts the conversation it hosted at Sundance around using data as part of movie marketing campaigns. Filmmakers are wary of over-targeting the messaging of their movies, either because it feels creepy or because doing so risks making too narrow an appeal.

While I admire the “don’t stalk my fans” ethos espoused by the filmmakers, they’re thinking of a more or less traditional ad campaign run on the open web in support of a theatrical release or at least an on-demand one. The dynamics are much different for a film that’s distributed via a streaming service such as Netflix. In that case, data-driven audience targeting is the rule, not the exception, all done internally within the service’s own ecosystem. There may be some broader ads run as well, but without using data to trip the recommendation engine, the movie isn’t going to get on anyone’s radar.

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

I, Tonya

The movie has come under an increasing amount of criticism since it was released, both for its depiction of domestic abuse and for how it plays fast and loose with the truth, the latter centered around an account from a sports writer who covered the events of the film in real-time.

Call Me By Your Name

Sony Pictures Classics has come under fire by those who don’t feel it supported the film adequately or did enough to raise its profile to a mainstream audience. Tom Brueggmann at IndieWire pushes back against some of the main arguments and finds them all wanting, bringing receipts to support his case.

The Florida Project

Distributor A24 has pledged a percentage of the revenue from the movie’s home video release will go to a charity in Kissimmee, FL that supports families living in motels and other temporary housing like those in the film.

Three Billboards Outside…

It’s not exactly about the movie but Nancy Fletcher at The Drum uses the titular outdoor ad units and how they’re portrayed in the film to talk about the out-of-home advertising industry as a whole.


Yep, as I expected, after visiting the website I’ve started seeing a ton of online ads for the movie, most of which feature the key art of Helen Mirren looking pale and tragic behind her black lace veil.


Amidst reports that Amazon Studios was foregoing a physical home video release entirely (which…wow), I noticed there are a ton of ads for the movie plastered around IMDb, which Amazon owns. Those ads are sometimes, as in the screenshot example below, interrupting the flow of content on the site and take you directly to where you can stream it now on Amazon.

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

Without question there is still much, much progress to be made when it comes to representation and inclusion on film. It’s great that so many of this year’s Sundance Film Festival award winners were women, but female characters in 2016 only accounted for 38% of on-screen speaking roles and too many studios are not making significant progress on improving that number this year. Both Fox and Paramount have no films by female directors on its release slate for the rest of this year, for instance.

Still…there are shafts of light appearing in the cracks formed by the recent shifts in conversation that hold men accountable for their terrible actions instead of rewarding them while blaming, shaming or dismissing the victims. Those signs of hope are coming from a few recent movie marketing efforts.

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A new study, reported by Adweek, breaks down a key difference in the movies being released based on Marvel Comics characters and those from DC: Audiences immediately, when the trailers are released, connect with Marvel characters on an emotional level they just don’t with DC characters. Here’s the key graf:

ZappiStore says the data shows the DC trailers received a positive response from their special effects and explosive action, rather than from their characters. However, fans show a strong affinity toward Marvel’s superheroes and react positively toward its trailers’ humor, driving the higher levels of emotional engagement with its trailers.

What’s interesting about the results of the study is that this sounds so familiar. If you’re at all aware of the history of Marvel Comics, you’ll know that Stan Lee (and plenty of others, including Jack Kirby) set out to create characters that were very different than the heroes published by DC Comics at the time. Those heroes – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Shazam, Hawkman and others – were seen as being too godlike to be relatable. They were a kind of new Roman Pantheon, great and powerful beings who could do anything, without the kinds of real-world issues and personalities people could easily relate to.

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February brings with it, as most months do, plenty of new movies based on previously-published works.

Peter Rabbit (2/9)

I remember listening to a Nerdist podcast in mid-2016 with Domhnall Gleeson where he said he didn’t have much on his plate in the near future. That changed at some point because the guy is now everywhere. This month he plays Farmer McGregor in the hybrid live-action/animation adaptation of Peter Rabbit and the subsequent books featuring that character from author Beatrix Potter. James Corden voices Peter, one of several anthropomorphized animals who live on McGregor’s farm in a story that it seems involves…well…elements that aren’t in the original.

peter rabbit pic

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