all the old knives – marketing recap

How Amazon has sold a thriller of friendship and betrayal.

All The Old Knives poster
All The Old Knives poster

Based on the Olen Steinhauer novel of the same name, All The Old Knives is an espionage thriller centered around the relationship between CIA agents Henry Pelham (Chris Pine) and Celia Harrison (Thandiwe Newton). The former couple reunite when Pelham is assigned to investigate Harrison and her suspected connection to an airline hijacking that’s still an open case.

Laurence Fishburne and Jonathan Pryce co-star in the movie, directed by Janus Metz and with a screenplay by Steinhauer, opens in a limited theatrical run this weekend at the same time it debuts on Amazon Prime Video.

Let’s take a look at how it’s been sold.

announcements and casting

When the movie was first announced in mid-2017, Pine was already attached to star alongside Michelle Williams.

Amazon signed on to produce the film in September of 2020. At that time Newton was cast to replace Williams, who had bowed out because of scheduling conflicts. Metz was also brought on to replace James Marsh as director.

Fishburne and Pryce joined the cast around the same time.

the marketing campaign

The campaign for the movie really began just a little over a month ago, when the first poster was released at the beginning of March. That poster doesn’t offer much in the way of story detail but does attempt to set a mood by showing all four of the main characters arranged in shadows and darkness. At the bottom a mysterious figure runs through a darkened hallway, helping to establish we’re dealing with a story of danger and intrigue.

At the same time the first trailer (4.6m YouTube views) came out. It opens with the reunion of Henry and Celia, but we quickly find that Henry has been tasked with finding out whether a team of hijackers had help from a mole inside the CIA. Specifically, with finding out if Celia was that mole. Their past relationship is both a help and a hindrance in the investigation as it becomes less and less clear who is playing who in the search for the truth.

A bit later in March the studio held a red carpet premiere for the movie in London, with Pine, Newton and others in attendance. At that premiere Pine talked about working with an intimacy coordinator for the love scenes with Newton while the whole cast also discussed what – or in some cases who – attracted them to the project and what they thought of the script and working with each other.

A second poster was released just a few days ago that shifts the focus to the relationship between the two main characters, showing them close together in an intimate moment.

overall

It’s a surprisingly light campaign and the reason why isn’t clear in my mind. But the movie has a positive 86% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, a mark of the generally good reviews it’s been getting.

As for the marketing itself, it seems to be selling an old-fashioned kind of cerebral espionage thriller. There’s not a single explosion or car chase to be seen here. Instead it’s filled with hidden meanings, secrets between former lovers, institutional agendas and more that are less Bond and more le Carré. But it sells all that with two very good looking, popular and relatively young stars at the forefront, making it seem less boring and more steamy, which is the central message being conveyed here.

the tender bar – marketing recap

How Amazon Studios has sold a character drama about family.

Ben Affleck stars in The Tender Bar, available now on Amazon Prime Video after a brief theatrical run at the end of last year. Affleck plays Charlie Maguire, the owner of a Long Island bar who becomes a father figure to his nephew J.R. (Tye Sheridan) after J.R.’s mother Dorothy (Lily Rabe) and father get divorced.

The movie, directed by George Clooney, is based on the J. R. Moehringer memoir of the same name, focusing on J.R. ‘s attempts to become a writer and his family’s determination to get him an Ivy League education.

With all that in mind, let’s take a look at how it’s been sold to the public.

announcement and casting

The project, with Clooney attached to direct and star in, was announced in July, 2020 when Amazon Studios acquired rights to it after Sony let them lapse. Affleck was attached to star a few months later.

Sheridan and Rabe were added to the cast in early 2021 just before filming got underway.

the marketing campaign

Amazon released a first look still from the film back in September showing Charlie and J.R. spending time together at the former’s bar.

The movie’s formal coming out party was held in October at the Director’s Guild of America in L.A.. There Clooney, Affleck and others all commented on how excited they were to be back doing press events but also how they worked together on-set and what attracted them to the project.

As the trailer, also released in October, begins, Dorothy and a young J.R. are moving back with her father (Christopher Lloyd) after her marriage has ended. Charlie and the rest of the family quickly embrace J.R., who begins spending time with his uncle. As he gets older J.R. goes to school and meets a girl, all while trying to figure out how to make his dreams come true and carve out a life of his own.

The first poster came out at the same time. There isn’t any explanatory copy adding context to what we see, but the image of Charlie and J.R. driving together in the former’s convertible communicates the tone pretty well while the vintage car and outfits convey the setting.

Clooney talked about why he made a smaller, character-driven moving during the pandemic and what kind of work influenced his approach to this film in an interview.

How the production team recreated a real life bar and other locations was covered here while Sheridan talked about how working with Clooney differed from some of the other directors on earlier films.

The theatrical poster was released in November still doesn’t have any copy but uses another photo of the two main characters to similar effect. This time there are a number of positive quotes from early reviews to make the movie attractive to anyone who sees the one-sheet.

Clooney appeared virtually on “Kimmel” along with Daniel Ranieri, who plays the young version of J.R. Ranieri got a profile of his own shortly after that. Affleck also stopped by “Kimmel” to promote the movie.

The first clip was released in mid-December and shows Charlie encouraging young J.R. to keep working on his writing.

A profile of Affleck focused on the his evolution over the years from frat boy star to serious actor who’s unconcerned about his public image and other matters.

Two more character posters, one of Charlie and one of Dorothy, were released in early January.

overall

The positive reviews featured on the theatrical one-sheet might be hard to find given the movie’s paltry 52% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But that’s not the point, really.

As for the campaign itself, it’s not bad but never really makes a strong case for the audience’s time. There are some very strong Hillbilly Elegy vibes coming off it, and given the shelf life on that film was about two minutes, that doesn’t help. So the allure is dependent almost solely on the charm of Affleck and Clooney as the biggest names involved.