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.”

Clemency – Marketing Recap

How NEON is selling a drama about the mental toll felt by those managing our overwhelmed prison system.

clemency posterAlfre Woodard stars in this week’s new release Clemency. She plays Bernadine Williams, a woman who for years has served as warden at a prison where death row inmates are housed and ultimately executed. In the leadup to yet another execution, Williams begins to struggle with the emotional weight of everything that’s happened on her watch and forcing her to create a stronger connection with the man about to have his fate sealed.

In a week where this is one of two movies about the realities of the criminal justice system – the other being Just Mercy – NEON has run a campaign that emphasizes Woodard’s performance as an emotionally-drained bureaucrat.

The Posters

The sole theatrical one-sheet (by marketing agency Legion Creative Group) has Williams looking tired and somber against a muted blue background. The bottom half of her body is coming apart, flitting away from her in the form of black doves. It’s some heavy symbolism, designed to show how her job is chipping away at who she is, pieces represented by twisted versions of birds normally associated with peace.

The Trailers

Williams is pragmatic about needing to just do her job in the first trailer (56,000 views on YouTube), released in September. She knows some people see her as part of the problem, but she makes it clear she tries to help the men on death row who move through her prison. No one on either side of the issue understand the position she’s in or the isolation she feels doing a difficult, almost impossible thing repeatedly, but she knows someone has to.

Online and Social

NEON gives the movie a good but not great site, with the standard marketing materials along with the “Social Assets” it usually offers.

Advertising and Publicity

A first look still from the movie was released at the same time it was announced it would be screening at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. The positive buzz that was built up from those screenings was significant, with many calling it the highlight of the festival before it went on to win the Grand Jury Prize. Still, it wasn’t until over a month later that it was picked up by NEON.

In late July it was announced the movie would get yet another festival screening, this time at the Toronto International Film Festival. Woodard was scheduled to be honored when the movie was shown at the Hamptons International Film Festival.

Closer to release the studio hosted a handful of screenings, often accompanied by Q&As with the cast and crew, to drum up word of mouth and reach a motivated audience.

Media and Publicity

While at Sundance Chukwu was interviewed about the events that inspired the story as well as how much research she did into the prison system so that every detail was as correct as she could make it.

Hodge was interviewed about the research he did in preparing for the role, including visiting prisoners at San Quentin.

An interview with Woodard had her talking about her own research for her role as the prison’s warden and the responsibility she felt to tell an important story. She and Hodge appeared together on “The Daily Show” to talk about the movie.

Overall

Clemency is likely to get lost in the wake of other, bigger movies, but given the continued conversation about the flawed prison system in the United States – including news the Department of Justice wants to bring Federal executions back – it seems like an important addition to that discussion.

It’s just too bad there wasn’t a bigger push for the movie. While there were certainly a number of interviews recently and the decision to hold screenings with interested groups is a good one, it would have been nice if the filmmakers had been given a bit more visibility to weigh in on the story and characters.

Still, it’s hard to argue with any campaign that puts Woodard at the forefront like this, so at the end it’s a winning strategy.

Picking Up the Spare

An interview with Woodard and Hodge about the quick production schedule and their work in some emotional sequences.

How Chukwu invested herself into the story was covered in this interview.