Land – Marketing Recap

How Focus Features sold a drama of emotional and physical escape.

(ed note: Yes, this came out last week. Let’s move on.)

Robin Wright makes her directorial debut with Land, in which she also stars. Wright plays Edee, a woman who experiences great personal tragedy and, fed up with the pressure of those around her, decides to escape to the wilderness of Wyoming. There she hopes to find solitude and peace. But she also finds the harsh environment there more dangerous than she anticipated, but gets by with the unexpected help of a local hunter named Miguel (Demián Bichir), someone who is also there to get away from it all.

Focus Features has run a relatively short campaign for a movie released in limited theaters, one with a 69% Fresh Rotten Tomatoes rating.

The Posters

This is super-nerdy, but I love the comma in the middle of the copy “A story of humanity, in the face of uncertainty” on the poster (by marketing agency Cold Open), released in December. That punctuation slows down the sentence and asks the reader to pause and consider both halves and what they mean both on their own and together. Other than that, the message is simple in how it shows Edee in front of her Wyoming cabin with the callouts of the festivals the film screened at placed toward the top.

The Trailers

Toward the end of December the first trailer (2.8 million views on YouTube) came out, opening by showing us how Edee is grieving by moving away from everyone who just wants her to be better and get over her loss. Her life in the Wyoming wilderness is hard, though, and almost gets the better of her until others help her out. One of those people is a local hunter and recluse himself, who teaches her how to survive on her own, though it’s implied from the trailer that the two may wind up alone together by the end of the story. Still, it’s a powerful proposition made here that’s anchored by what looks to be a fearless performance by Wright.

Online and Social

The official website for the film is primarily focused on selling tickets to the limited theatrical screenings, with only a little other information available. There were also social profiles that shared various promotions and more.

Advertising and Publicity

Wright and her team brought a sales pitch for the movie to Cannes 2019. A few months later in October Focus Features acquired distribution rights.

The movie was among those scheduled to screen at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

The first clip shows Edee getting help from the mysterious hunter who comes by her remote cabin. Additional clips showed more of the movie, including extended looks at scenes glimpsed in the trailer.

There was also a video of a song from the film’s soundtrack performed by Ben Sollee and Time For Three.

Cinemark Theaters shared an exclusive behind the scenes featurette.

Shorter versions of the trailer were cut down and shared as promos on social media and, I imagine, elsewhere.

Media and Press

Wright talked about how she wanted to create an uplifting film and story while sharing a handful of stills from the movie.

Additional interviews with Wright had her talking about what it was like to direct herself, how real events informed her telling a story of grief, the process of shooting in such a remote location, how she directed out of necessity and more. She hit on some of those topics when she appeared on “Kimmel.”

A profile of Bicher was published in early February.

Later on Wright was interviewed on “CBS Sunday Morning” and NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

Overall

The emphasis on Wright playing roles in front of and behind the camera is great, showing how the actor is taking another step in her career, though she’s directed episodes of TV before. That’s something that’s hit time and again throughout the campaign, which is good for her and helps to differentiate the film.

Unfortunately that’s about all that does. The rest of the campaign sells a movie that we’ve seen in various forms a number of times before, though with the promise there may be something new being offered here.

Sponsored Post Learn from the experts: Create a successful blog with our brand new courseThe WordPress.com Blog

Are you new to blogging, and do you want step-by-step guidance on how to publish and grow your blog? Learn more about our new Blogging for Beginners course and get 50% off through December 10th.

WordPress.com is excited to announce our newest offering: a course just for beginning bloggers where you’ll learn everything you need to know about blogging from the most trusted experts in the industry. We have helped millions of blogs get up and running, we know what works, and we want you to to know everything we know. This course provides all the fundamental skills and inspiration you need to get your blog started, an interactive community forum, and content updated annually.

Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar – Marketing Recap

How Lionsgate is selling a comedy about…well…something, I’m sure.

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is a movie that’s been in development and pre-production for a number of years, back to shortly after Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo had a hit in 2011 with Bridesmaids. Now it’s finally coming to PVOD via Lionsgate.

Mumolo and Wiig star as Barb and Star, respectively, two lifelong best friends who finally embark on a long-planned vacation to Vista Del Mar, Florida, where they expect to have lots of fun in the sun. Instead, in true comedic fashion, they get mixed up in a criminal plot to kill everyone in town and other hijinks.

Given the pedigree of those involved, let’s see how Lionsgate has sold the long-gestating film.

The Posters

The two friends are seen only from the neck down as they descend from the bright blue sky on the first poster (by marketing agency Leroy and Rose), released in mid-December. Of course it calls out the fact that the same team brought audiences Bridesmaids.

On the second poster (by marketing agency P+A), released in January, we still don’t see the faces of the main characters, who this time are sitting in a giant clamshell, surrounded by pink flamingos, leaping dolphins and other decorations that scream “Florida!” Copy at the top reads “The friendship we all want. The vacation we all need.”

There are even more sea and beach items scattered around the design of the final poster, released later last month. We finally see Barb and Star’s faces this time as they ride a giant shrimp while they happily hold fancy cocktails, the resort where the story’s action takes place in the background.

The Trailers

The first trailer (153k views on YouTube) finally came out in early January. Labeled a “teaser,” the spot takes a meta approach, centered around Barb and Star discussing how much they love movie trailers. Only a few scenes, none of which show the faces of the two leads, are shared, but you still get the very pastel vibe of the film.

The next trailer (5.6 million views on YouTube), released at the end of January, starts out by having a bit of fun with a “Stranger Things” vibe, right down to the title treatment font and music. From there we see just how awkward the two are, though they’re very comfortable with who they are and the choices they’ve made. There’s not much story on display here, it’s just about the laughs, which works just fine.

Online and Social

You’ll find information about the movie and where to rent it on the official website, but not much else. There were promos and other updates shared on the social profiles created by Lionsgate, including stickers and GIFs on the movie’s Giphy channel.

Kristen Wiig Heart GIF by Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar - Find & Share on GIPHY

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Lionsgate released the first photo from the movie in early July, 2020 to get conversations started. Things remained quiet until January, when the studio announced a mid-February PVOD release.

A short while after the teaser trailer came out a “Fashion Video” was released showing a number of women wearing some of their finest vacation outfits on a picturesque beach.

That was followed by a clip of Barb and Star checking into their hotel room, which is super-exciting. Additional clips, including one sharing a…provocative…song that’s played at the resort the pair visit, followed over the next couple weeks.

A short video purported to be a Zoom call between some of the characters.

TV spots like this started running in early February that, like the trailers, don’t worry about the story, instead selling the movie as just a good laugh from the Bridesmaids creative team.

Additional spots took a similar approach.

Finally, Lionsgate put out a comedic instructional video on how you can watch the movie.

Media and Publicity

An interview with Mumolo and Wiig included them talking about the script, the creative origins of the characters and more, including the story behind the long delay in getting the film made.

Trayce Gigi Field, the movie’s costume designer, was interviewed about creating the unique fashions worn by the two main characters as well as the rest of the cast.

Dornan spoke about the film when he appeared on “Kimmel.” Wiig then appeared on “The Late Show” to talk about how long she and Mumolo have been working on the film and how much fun it was to finally film it.

That same topic was covered in a feature profile of the two collaborators.

Overall

There are a couple things worth calling out here.

First, it was a bold move by Lionsgate to not only keep the faces of Barb and Star hidden for the first half of the campaign, especially considering that campaign only launched in earnest a couple months ago. It’s not like the studio is hiding how some beloved pop culture figure will look, but it did create a sense of fun that works here.

Second, the constant reminders that it took Wiig and Mumolo the better part of a decade to get the film made after scoring such a big hit with Bridesmaids should serve as a reminder of how much Hollywood distrusts women, especially comedians. Meanwhile, Adam Wingard, who’s made one successful movie and runs a fetish Tumblr blog, directed the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong.

Finally, if the state of Florida hasn’t already adopted the poster designs and other graphics in its official tourism campaigns I’m not sure what we’re doing here.

Judas and the Black Messiah – Marketing Recap

How Warner Bros. has sold a story of power, politics and betrayal.

Judas and the Black Messiah, directed by Shaka King and co-written by him and Will Berson (with the story from Keith and Kennth Lucas), travels back to 1960s Chicago to tell the story of Illinois Black Panther leader Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya). Specifically, it focuses on Hampton’s betrayal by William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield). That betrayal by O’Neal comes after he’s picked up by the FBI and told the only way he can stay out of jail is by informing on Hampton and his organization’s activities at a time when the Black Panther movement was viewed by law enforcement as a terrorist organization.

The movie, which also stars Jermaine Fowler, Martin Sheen, Dominique Fishback, Jesse Plemons and others, is hitting both limited theaters and HBO Max this week as part of Warner Bros.’ day-and-date release strategy. With a 98% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes and already either having been nominated or won a number of awards, WB’s campaign has focused on the performances as well as the real-life drama that inspired the story.

The Posters

Last September the first poster (by marketing agency Statement Advertising) came out, showing O’Neal in the foreground with a red-tinged photo of Hampton and the crowds that believed in him in the background. That design, even independent of the copy reading “You can kill a revolutionary but you can’t kill the revolution”, is similar to the look and feel of propaganda posters, with the red usually indicating a socialist or similar message, one that’s appropriate for Hampton’s mission.

The second poster (by marketing agency Concept Arts) came out in January and pares things down to just Hampton and O’Neal. While it keeps that red shading, it also loses the copy but adds all the festivals the film has appeared at and claim that this is “One of the best films of the year.”

A final poster (by marketing agency GRAVILLIS) came out just last week and takes a different approach but keeps the idea of generally looking like some sort of propaganda poster. This time though it’s a blue and black color scheme and a design that also kind of mimics a paperback book, with the title at the top and the imagery in the bottom two-thirds. This one was designed for artist and former Black Panther member Emory Douglas.

The Trailers

The first trailer (2 million views on YouTube) was released in early August, opening with Hampton introducing himself and then showing how he is ready to lead a revolution. It quickly switches to focus on O’Neal, who is being interrogated by the FBI, who want him to inform on Hampton. Scenes of violent uprising are mixed with shots of Hampton and his organization helping feed and support communities, showing the good and the bad that the FBI was so eager to quash.

The second trailer (6.9 million views on YouTube) came out in January, showing Hampton and the community work he and the Black Panthers are doing. That’s far from the terrorist threat the FBI makes them out to be, something O’Neal comes to realize after he’s already in too deep. There’s an awful lot of powerful emotion here, selling a movie that’s focused on presenting a much more accurate picture of that period than may be taught in many history classes.

Online and Social

You’ll find information on showtimes (where applicable) as well as a synopsis and other very basic information on the film’s website, which uses a variation on the key art at the top.

Advertising and Promotions

As with the rest of the studio’s 2021 slate, it was among the titles named by Warner Bros. as debuting simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max.

The movie’s profile was raised significantly when it was added as a late entry to the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, which served as the film’s premiere.

A featurette released during Sundance in early February went into the real people and stories that influence the movie.

Cutdown versions of the trailer were used as preroll ads on YouTube and elsewhere.

The song “What It Feels Like” from Nipsey Hussle and Jay-Z came out earlier this week, one of the tunes on the movie’s “inspired by” soundtrack.

Media and Press

Right about the time the trailer debuted, King was interviewed about the controversial casting of a British actor to play a prominent Black American, something he said he was aware of but had to make the best choice he could regarding. Kaluuya was later interviewed about how the movie follows a path he’s carved out in her career to date along and more.

There was a feature profile covering how long King and others had worked on the project, how there were at times two Hampton-oriented films in development and how a number of studios passed on the film for reasons that seemed based more on “no one wants to see a movie about Black power” than anything else.

How Kaluuya researched his role and what that research exposed him to in terms of American history, as well how he worked with King and others were covered in an interview with the actor.

Stanfield appeared on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the film, though the conversation of course spilled over into more of his recent and upcoming projects.

King was interviewed about focusing on Hampton’s story and making it as realistic as possible, while Fishback spoke about how the film is part of her effort to tell important stories.

H.E.R. performed their song from the soundtrack on “The Late Show.”

Overall

WB’s campaign here is very strong, selling a biopic about a public figure that’s too often marginalized in many history books and lessons. Kaluuya and Stanfield are rightly front and center here, but so is King and that’s great to see since, as a filmmaker himself, the opportunity afforded by a higher profile is that he will be able to tell more like this.

The performances by the leads are at the forefront of a marketing push that has a clear and easily recognizable brand identity, one that makes it clear the film does not shy away from addressing sometimes uncomfortable societal issues. It’s not one that will likely drive massive amounts of new subscribers to HBO Max, but it does make the case that it’s a movie that needs to be watched if you can.

The Super Bowl LV Movie Commercials

OK, but we can all still agree Tom Brady is the worst, right?

As the date of Super Bowl LV approached, there were a number of stories indicating Hollywood studios may not be throwing the game much support. Indeed, in a year where the number of overall commercials that were teasing their spots in advance – or releasing them in full – in advance of the game seemed to be low, studio advertising seemed to be following the trend.

The reality turned out to be slightly different. While the number of movie commercials was certainly lower than it has been in past years, there were more than appear to have been expected.

Reasons for the dearth of movie spots likely vary, but factoring heavily into studio considerations has to be that of the nine movies advertised during last year’s Superb Owl, six still haven’t come out. That’s in part because of the coronavirus theater closures and the insistence – on the part of the studios, filmmakers or both – that the movies go to theaters and not streaming. Of the remaining three, only two actually did get a traditional theatrical release, but only just under the pandemic wire. The other one – Disney’s Mulan remake – went to streaming via Disney+.

So what movies were advertised last night?

The Super Bowl LV Lineup

Nobody (Universal, 4/2/21): Bob Odenkirk as a criminal “auditor,” someone who comes in to clean up a mess someone else has left, may seem like an odd choice given it’s not a franchise or remake. But when you see that Universal is selling it as a slightly more comedic John Wick and consider Odenkirk’s profile is still high given his starring role in “Better Call Saul,” it makes a bit more sense.

Old (Universal, July): This is the first look at the new film from M. Night Shyamalan, who is enjoying a career and reputation resurgence, so Universal must have felt it had enough appeal to advertising during the game. It teases the usual Shyamalan mystery, clearly trying to get some word of mouth speculation and anticipation built up.

Raya and the Last Dragon (Disney, 3/5/21): Like Mulan, Disney will offer this Raya on Disney+ via “Premier Access,” meaning an additional fee on top of the standard subscription charge. I’m a little surprised, then, that the spot is so action focused and doesn’t offer more of a comedic pitch like the recent trailer.

F9 (Universal, 5/28/21): The only repeat from last year, F9 was one of the first movies to have its release date pushed an entire year, meaning unlike others it hasn’t gone through 13 cycles of “oh it’s coming out now…no, now…no, wait…”.

Coming 2 America (Amazon Studios, 3/5/21): The only pure-play streaming movie of those advertised, Amazon is looking for a return on the money it paid Paramount to acquire this film and so sells it using scenes and other gags that are likely familiar to fans of the first movie.

Without Remorse (Amazon Studios, 4/30/21): OK, not actually a full-blown movie commercial, but Amazon took advantage of Michael B. Jordan being in their commercial for Alexa (which oddly sexualizes technology in a way that we shouldn’t be wholly comfortable with) to also plug the Tom Clancy adaptation he stars in. The movie, another Paramount acquisition, got a new release date as well.

What Was Missing?

With just five movies making the cut, and knowing the struggles studios have had with release dates, it’s hard not to read into which titles were notable by their absence from the ad lineup.

No Marvel: You might think if Marvel Studios/Disney believed Black Widow was actually sticking to its early May release date, a commercial would have run. Instead, the only Marvel property to be advertised was the upcoming “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” Disney+ series. That decision may also represent producer Kevin Feige’s recent focus on series over movies, but still…

No HBO: This is actually the most surprising of the omissions. HBO has been releasing a number of commercials and other promos in the last two months to raise awareness and interest in the fact that HBO Max will stream Warner Bros.’ entire 2021 lineup day-and-date with theatrical release. So to not see a commercial here that touts the release of titles like The Suicide Squad, Godzilla vs. Kong and others – in addition to the rest of the service’s catalog, seems like a missed opportunity, especially after the success of Wonder Woman 1984 on the platform.

No Netflix: Similarly, Netflix made headlines recently when it announced it would release a new feature film every week of 2021. Given the…fungible…nature of studio release dates over the last 11 months, such reliability coupled with ease of access could have been a great boost to subscriber numbers. That’s especially true when you consider some of those movies are big-budget action films and comedies starring Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and others in addition to the usual mid-tier dramas and tear-jerking romances.

Malcolm & Marie – Marketing Recap

How Netflix has sold a shot story of love and all the messiness that entails.

Malcolm & Marie gained notoriety early in 2020 for being one of the first films to be shot after pandemic-related closures and other restrictions went into place. Appropriately, the movie features a small cast of just two and takes place in a single location.

Zendaya and John David Washington play Marie and Malcolm, respectively. The couple live together in Los Angeles, with the story opening as they return from the premiere of a film directed by Malcolm. As they wait for reactions and reviews to come in, the two engage in a number of conversations that alternately solidify and call into question their relationship, with each speaking their real feelings – both good and bad – about the other.

Written and directed by Sam Levinson, the movie currently has a poor 58% on Rotten Tomatoes, having been sold as a stark drama anchored by the performances of the two leads.

The Posters

“Madly in love” is a nice way for the copy on the poster (by marketing agency P+A), released in January. That communicates some of the range of emotions in the story, while the black and white photo of the two reinforces that with its image of the two in a passionate embrace. The retro title treatment also acts as a nice hint to the slightly throwback nature of the drama being sold.

The Trailers

Netflix released the first trailer (2.8 million views on YouTube) in early January. “This is not a love story. This is love.” is the message displayed on title cards halfway through the trailer, and that’s certainly the message that’s sent. We see the couple laughing and loving and fighting and running, all seemingly over the course of a short period of time. The performances really come through here, which is good since those are the central selling point of the film.

Online and Social

The movie did have its own social media accounts, including a Twitter profile where promos and other updates were shared. Netflix also created a Giphy collection of GIFs from the film.

John David Washington Dancing GIF by NETFLIX - Find & Share on GIPHY

Advertising and Promotions

Zendaya released a still from the film in early July, effectively announcing the film was coming. Details emerged after that about how the film was shot in secret and during the Covid-19 pandemic’s quarantine period, with multiple safety protocols in place for everyone involved.

Netflix acquired worldwide distribution rights to the film in mid-September, later setting a February release date.

A clip released late last month shows just one of the heated conversations the couple has over the course of the night.

Media and Press

A feature profile of Zendaya had the actress offering lots of insights into the origins of the story and how she and Washington worked in the early pandemic conditions. For his part, Washington talked about similar topics, and addressed the decade-plus age difference between the leads, in an interview later on.

Zendaya was interviewed by Carey Mulligan about making the movie. She also appeared on “The Late Show” to promote the film and had a feature profile that covered her career to date as well as what’s next for her.

Couple Love GIF by NETFLIX - Find & Share on GIPHY

Both Washington and Zendaya spoke about how they used their real life relationships to influence their performances.

Overall

While sure there’s a certain cloyness to some of what’s presented here, it comes off even more like a stage play than some of the actual filmed stage plays that have come out recently. That’s a positive thing, since it brings with it connotations of it being an actor’s showcase, kind of like a play being produced in a black box theater in order to strip away some of the distracting artifice in order to focus on the story.

We can take issue with the age difference between Washington and Zendaya, but it’s not so great – and neither so young – that it becomes overly creepy in a Woody Allen kind of way. And purely from an acting perspective, it’s clear Zendaya can hold her own against her older costar. So it’s a solid campaign that sells a throwback, performance-centric drama that, if nothing else, will serve as one of the first artifacts of how very weird 2020 was for film productions.

John David Washington Love GIF by NETFLIX - Find & Share on GIPHY

Falling – Marketing Recap

How Quiver has sold a drama about making peace with those who don’t understand you.

Not only does Viggo Mortensen star in Falling, the movie marks the actor’s directorial debut. Mortensen plays John Peterson, who lives with his partner Eric (Terry Chen) and their children. John’s father Willis (Lance Henriksen) is getting older and showing signs of dementia so comes to live with John and his family. That situation creates tension between the father and son, the latter having never accepted the former for who he is. But it also creates an opportunity for everyone, including John’s sister Sarah (Laura Linney) to come to terms with each other and start a new chapter together.

The movie, out this week from Quiver Distribution, has a solid 72% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and has gotten a campaign that represents the story in all its messiness.

The Posters

There were a few posters that came out last year but the official release one-sheet was released in mid-January. It shows the core relationship and drama of the story, with John and Willis having what looks to be a heated conversation. It’s a simple message on display here, which is complimented by the icons for the festivals it’s appeared at on the bottom of the layout.

The Trailers

John has brought his father home to live with him as the first trailer (11k views on YouTube), released in mid-January, opens. Willis is having memory problems and can’t handle living on his own, but the two fall into conflict frequently as the elder man disapproves of his son’s life while also struggling with his own problems. The story seems to slip between time periods, intermingling the past with the present to show how the relationships in the family have or haven’t changed, adding to the poignancy of what’s presented here.

Online and Social

The only web presence I can find for the movie is a single page on Quiver’s site that has some elementary information but not the trailer or other marketing materials.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The movie was announced as among those screening at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. It was also selected as a Cannes feature, despite that event happening virtually because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was also chosen for the San Sebastian Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival.

Media and Publicity

While Mortensen was promoting Green Book this film was announced as his directorial debut.

In an interview at Sundance, Mortensen talked about drawing on his family for inspiration, even if the story isn’t actually about them. Similar themes were the subject of another interview with the actor, who commented on what is or isn’t real in the film. A video conversation with the cast touched on the same subject matter.

Later on Mortensen again talked about preparing for the film and working out the story. He also addressed the topic of him, a non-gay man, playing a gay character. Other interviews with the actor/director covered similar ground, especially focusing on his experience behind the camera for the first time.

Mortensen appeared on “The Late Show” to talk about the movie.

Overall

I’m not qualified to speak to whether or not the story is a positive portrayal of a gay man and his partner or related issues. But the campaign does show a good story with good performances from all the leads. Obviously the focus is on Mortensen and Henriksen, but there’s no bad that’s going to come from showing the two of them going head-to-head in some highly-charged scenes.

The Little Things – Marketing Recap

How Warner Bros. has sold a dramatic procedural with some big stars. 

A good number of early reviews and write-ups of The Little Things, the new movie from writer/director John Lee Hancock, have called it out as a throwback to the kind of mid-grade drama with an all-star cast that was commonplace in the 80s and 90s but which lately has fallen out of favor with studios. 

As we’ll see in the campaign for the movie, which has an unfortunate 48% on Rotten Tomatoes, those descriptions are pretty spot-on. 

Denzel Washington plays Joe ‘Deke’ Deacon, a former LAPD detective and now county sheriff who is asked to come back to the department by new guy Jim Baxter (Rami Malek) to find a serial killer before he strikes again. When Deacon becomes convinced he’s found the guy in Albert Sparma (Jared Leto), his propensity for cutting corners becomes a problem that might outweigh his ability to notice small details that often uncover important clues. 

Let’s see how it was sold. 

The Posters

It’s a split image on the first poster (by marketing agency Leroy and Rose), released in mid-December, one designed to represent the good at the top and bad at the bottom. To that end, Deacon and Baxter are seen on top and Sparma on the bottom. But the way they’re all shown on the same bridge but with different backgrounds, it seems like they’re standing across the street from each other. 

The second poster came out at the same time and uses the “horizontal stripes” format to show the three leads as well as a shot of Baxter confronting Sparma in a remote location. Both one-sheets feature the same “Some things never let us go” copy that hints at how the story will be driven by the obsessions of different characters as well as a great blue/red color scheme that creates a strong visual identity here. 

The Trailers

As the first trailer (11 million views on YouTube), released in late December, opens, Deacon is being reluctantly brought into an ongoing murder investigation by a police department that he’s not exactly on good terms with. He’s determined to do his job, though, despite the tension. When he becomes convinced he’s found a good suspect he doesn’t let the lack of evidence deter him as he continues pursuing his leads, trying to teach Baxter the value of not always playing within the rules to do what’s right. 

Online and Social

As has been the case with other HBO Max premieres, there doesn’t seem to have been a standalone website or social profiles for the movie, but it did get some support on HBO Max’s brand channels. 

Advertising and Promotions

Warner Bros. announced a date for the movie in March of last year. It was later among the titles WB said in December of last year would premiere simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max because of continued pandemic-related theater closures. 

Preroll ads for the film were placed before videos on YouTube and other streaming services. 

A featurette released earlier this week had the cast and filmmakers introducing the story and talking about their characters. 

Media and Press

Hancock reflected on the decades-long process of getting the film made, having first completed a script in the early 90s and shared his thoughts on the movie’s unexpected release strategy. He also praised Washington as a collaborator in fleshing out the characters and story. 

An interview with Leto veered too often into Joker territory but also had him talking about this film and why the character seemed attractive to him. Leto later appeared on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the movie and otherwise be his own quirky self.

Washington and Malek showed off their mutual admiration society in an interview where they talked about making the movie, its release pattern and more. Another interview with Hancock had him talking about the state of the film industry and how he went about shooting the movie from a technical standpoint. 

Malek also stopped by “The Tonight Show” to share his insights on the film. 

Leto talked about his reputation for going overboard with some of his roles and how that worked out on this film. 

Overall

The reviews may not be great, but the campaign sells a movie that has a lot of allure. Outside of the story details, the promise made to the audience is that they will spend a couple hours watching a handful of very good actors actually play off each other as opposed to reacting to CGI sky beams. That’s something special in this day and age, and so it’s a movie that seems worth checking out based solely on that point. 

What’s notable about the campaign is that it seems to be the first time we’re officially acknowledging that Washington is an elder-statesman in Hollywood. That status is something he’s earned over the decades, but yeah we see that happening here. 

Denzel Washington Pointing GIF by Turner Classic Movies - Find & Share on GIPHY

Picking Up The Spare

More interviews with Leto on why he opted to play a villain again
A featurette that came out after the movie was available for streaming had the cast and crew talking about the suspenseful nature of the story and more.

Breaking News In Yuba County – Marketing Recap

How MGM has sold a dark comedy.

From writer Amanda Idoko and director Tate Taylor comes this week’s comedy Breaking News In Yuba County. Allison Janney stars as Sue Buttons, a suburban housewife who becomes something of a local celebrity after her husband Karl (Matthew Modine) goes “missing” and she embarks on a search to find him. Entranced by her newfound fame, Buttons keeps the charade going through a series of increasingly desperate actions that bring her into contact with local crime figures, persistent police officers and other colorful characters.

The movie also stars Mila Kunis, Wanda Sykes, Awkwafina, Regina Hall and others.

The Posters

You definitely get a sense of the movie’s sense of humor on the poster (by marketing agency Art Machine), released just a couple weeks ago. That comes through not only in the wild artistic design of the primary images, which place the supporting cast around a wide-eyed Sue while offering glimpses of the locations of the story’s action, but also in the copy reading “Sue Buttons has one killer story.”

The Trailers

The trailer (1.2 million views on YouTube), also released in mid-January, follows the rough flow of the story itself, from Sue’s panic over what to do about her dead husband through the notoriety she gains when it seems like he’s been kidnapped and into how it all starts to fall apart when it becomes clear she made much of it up. Along the way we meet some of the unusual local personalities that get involved in some manner and really see the dark sense of humor the film is selling, one conveyed well by the cast, especially Janney.

Online and Social

There is a website listed at the end of the trailer, but repeated attempts to load it were unsuccessful, so it’s not clear what’s on the site. MGM did give the movie some support on its social channels, including running regular little “daily affirmations” featuring brief clips from the film.

Advertising and Promotions

MGM, through its relaunched American International Pictures, acquired the project in October of last year, announcing a January release date at that time.

Some shorter versions of the trailer were run as pre-roll on YouTube, but that’s all the paid advertising I’m aware of.

Media and Press

Janney stopped by “Kimmel” recently to talk about the movie and lots more.

That is, surprisingly, about the end of the press efforts.

Overall

A good poster and strong trailer make me want to like this campaign a lot more than I actually do. The disconnect is caused in large part by the lackluster effort elsewhere, including the site that won’t load, the mostly non-existent press push and so on. Such a showcase for Janney in particular needs more support, not provided here.

It’s such a small campaign, it actually makes me wonder if the theatrical-only release plan for the film caused MGM to scale back the marketing because what’s the point of going big when your maximum box-office take is around $5 million?

Picking Up The Spare

Bridget Everett appeared on “The Tonight Show” to promote the film.

Penguin Bloom – Marketing Recap

How Netflix has sold a story about grief and coming to terms with a new situation.

In Penguin Bloom, based on the book of the same name from writer Cameron Bloom, the story focuses on how a family adjusts to a new and very different dynamic and situation. Sam Bloom (Naomi Watts) is paralyzed after an accident, throwing the vibe of the family household completely out of whack. Her husband Cameron (Andrew Lincoln) is put in the position of having to help their three young kids adapt to their new reality, finding inspiration to do so in the form of a young magpie whom they name Penguin unexpectedly enters the house. Jackie Weaver also stars as Sam’s mother.

Netflix’s campaign for the film has been relatively brief, but highlights the emotional nature of the story, inspired by true events. It sports a middling 60% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, but let’s take a look at how it’s been sold.

The Posters

Sam and Penguin are, of course, the primary elements on the first and only poster (by marketing agency The Refinery), released in early January. The latter is perched on the former’s shoulder as they both look longingly out the window, in which the rest of Sam’s family is reflected. So it conveys the “inside looking out” nature of the story, how Sam is isolated from those around her in a relatively simple but effective manner.

The Trailers

The trailer (147,000 views on YouTube) starts by showing the Bloom family on vacation in happier times. When she has an accident on that vacation things get understandably tense, though the kids try to make the best of it. Still, Cameron and Sam are struggling, but the appearance of Penguin provides something for everyone – even Sam – to rally around and be inspired by, showing there’s a better way forward.

Online and Social

Nothing here. Netflix didn’t even give it that much support on social channels, with other movies taking precedence apparently.

Advertising and Promotions

The movie’s premiere was held at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival, with positive reviews calling out Watts’ performance in particular.

Netflix acquired the film in November of last year and set a quick January release date.

Media and Press

Watts was interviewed in early October of 2019 about the movie and its story as well as what drew her to the project and how she feels it reflects a modern audience.

During TIFF 2020, Watts and others in the cast were interviewed about the unique nature of working with live animals, how they bonded during production and more.

Oddly, given there are major stars in the film, there doesn’t appear to have been much press activity in the weeks leading up to release.

Overall

I’m a little surprised at how understated the campaign seems to be. The lack of press activity in particular comes off as a missed opportunity to get some more buzz about the film going after a long break since festival season. And it’s disappointing how little attention the film got from Netflix in terms of social promotion.

On the more positive side, the trailer is great, selling a movie that might be a bit emotional – especially since it’s based on a true story – but also looks funny and charming. More than anything, the campaign knows what it’s presenting; a story about the isolation that can come from an accident and how that creates tension in a family, but also how through hard work those impacted can find a way to survive together.

Picking Up The Spare

Watts appeared on “Kimmel” to talk about the movie and more. 
The filmmakers talked here about using a handful of trained birds in order to get the perfect performance.

One Night In Miami – Marketing Recap

How Amazon Studios sold a fictional story involving some of the 20th century’s most important individuals.

The new movie One Night In Miami, the directorial debut for Regina King, is one of my favorite kinds of stories, the hypothetical confluence of several historical individuals. In this case the movie focuses on the fictional meeting of Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) at a Miami hotel room in early 1964. The four men, some with their wives, take the opportunity of their meeting to discuss their various roles in the civil rights movement as well as the rest of what’s happening in the early 60s.

With an all-star cast and a well-regarded actor making her first foray behind the camera, the movie has a lot going for it in this unusual awards season. As such, Amazon Studios has mounted a campaign pulling heavily from history, even if the events of the film itself are largely fictitious.

The Posters

Released in mid-November, the first poster (by marketing agency The Refinery) presents a very simple message to the audience by showcasing the four leads, all standing in front of the Miami hotel where most of the action takes place. It’s a very good, simple poster that highlights the movie’s main selling point, which is the cast and the characters they play.

Character posters showcasing the four leads came out in early January.

The Trailers

The first trailer (9.7 million views on YouTube) came out in mid-November and opens by immediately establishing the premise, that the film follows what happens when four icons of the civil rights movement and the 20th century as a whole come together one night following a fight between Ali and Sonny Liston. There’s lots of scenes of the four of them engaged in deep discussions, thoughtful prayer, righteous outrage and more, basically presenting the film as a showcase for the performances from the four leads.

A second trailer (131k views on YouTube) came out earlier in January and takes a bit more in-depth approach, offering the same value proposition to the audience but showing more details about the conversations that happen between the four men and what sort of dynamic is in play. It also notably differs in that it uses Odom Jr. ‘s performance of a couple of Cooke’s songs as the background music instead of something more contemporary.

Online and Social

There were standalone social profiles for the film that ran through part of last year, but which were eventually shuttered in advance of the new year. Amazon Studios did support it substantially on its brand social accounts, though.

Advertising and Promotions

Amazon Studios acquired the film in July, 2020. Shortly thereafter it was announced in the lineup for the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival. Its debut was scheduled for the Venice Film Festival in mid-September. That screening generated such positive word of mouth it seemed to jump right into Oscar contention, specifically for King.

It was then announced as the closing night feature for the Hamptons Film Festival and added to October’s London Film Festival. In September it was announced it would close the Montclair Film Festival while news later added it to AFI Fest. Reichart and costume designer Francine Jamison-Tanchuk were awarded the Golden Key Award at the Key West Film Festival.

A clip released in September, about the same time as the festival screenings, shows many of the main characters coming together for a big night out.

Eventually a release plan was announced, with the plan being for the movie to open in limited theaters on Christmas Day before being available via Amazon Prime streaming three weeks later.

EW debuted footage of Odom Jr. performing Sam Cooke’s “Speak Now” and another clip shows the main characters heading out for the night as Malcolm X reflects on the danger he’s in from many hostile parties.

Online ads used the key art to link to Amazon Video’s play page for the movie. The studio also sponsored a playlist of R&B tunes on Spotify.

Media and Press

Some of the first publicity for the movie came in an extended profile of King where she talked about making her directorial debut and lots more. Later on she offered a first look at the film along with comments about her experience making it and more.

During the Venice festival King was interviewed about the relevancy of the story, dealing with such iconic historic figures and more. She also talked about how she sees the film’s fate greatly impacting what kind of opportunities black women are given as filmmakers in the future. In another interview she discussed how she and the cast kept going during the Covid-19 pandemic, driven largely by the desire to get this story out there immediately.

The topic of so many well known real life individuals came up in another interview with King, a later interview with Ben-Adir and another one with Odom Jr. and Hodge.

She joined many members of the cast for a conversation about the timeliness of the story and got a feature profile of her own later in the year.

Screenwriter Kemp Powers got a substantial profile that focused on his part in making this film as well as Soul, also coming out in the same time period. He talked more about adapting the play for the screen here and later received another feature profile about his career to date.

King also offered more thoughts on why she was a good fit for this project and once again about what it was like to direct for the first time.

An interview with Ben-Adir had him talking about the research he did to play Malcolm X and how King was instrumental to that process. He went even more in-depth on that process in another feature profile.

Of course King not only commented on this movie but also on the race-related happenings in the current world when she appeared on “Kimmel.” She also had to weigh in on criticisms of Ben-Adir, a British actor, playing a well-known American figure like X.

Overall

It’s quite a good campaign, one that’s rooted in the performances of Odom Jrl, Goree, Ben-Adir and Jim Brown. All four of them are the real selling point to the public here, with those who are a bit more in-the-weeds also getting plenty of reminders of King’s involvement. Also good to see is the attention given to Kemp, who is having a moment with a number of projects hitting right about now.

This is, I think, the perfect example of the kind of movie that benefits from a streaming debut in that the opportunity cost of trying it out is so much lower than it would be in theaters. And the campaign has made the point repeatedly, to great effect.

Picking Up the Spare

Amazon released a “Meet The Characters” featurette to inform the audience who it is they’re following in the story. 

More interviews with King had her praising her production crew and speaking about the societal and political ramifications of her work on this film. There was also another profile of Hodge and an interview with Odom, who also appeared on “Kimmel.” King then appeared on “The Daily Show” and then on “PBS Newshour.”