The Rhythm Section – Marketing Recap

How Eon and Paramount Pictures are selling a revenge drama rooted in personal tragedy.

rhythm section posterThere have been a few recent movies tackling the idea of a woman exacting revenge after her family is killed. While such stories are common with men in the lead role, those with women are still fairly rare and having been overly-successful when they do happen. One recent example is Peppermint, the 2018 film starring Jennifer Garner in the kind of role Bruce Willis has played a dozen times, which grossed only $35 million at the box office.

This week another entry comes on the field. The Rhythm Section stars Blake Lively as Stephanie Patrick, whose family is killed in a plane crash. As she learns the crash wasn’t an accident but a planned attack on specific passengers. That knowledge leads her to dive into the world of international organized crime, but only after developing the skills necessary to survive. She keeps turning over rocks not meant to be distrubed, making powerful enemies along the way.

The movie’s campaign has focused on Stephanie’s unrelenting quest to punish those responsible, regardless of what might befall her and heedless of the warnings of others. With an opening weekend estimate in the $10-15 million range, audience interest seems to still be soft for movies like this, even as early reviews have been largely positive.

The Posters

Stephanie is shown on the first poster (by marketing agency Empire Design) released in September standing in her hotel room with a gun held behind her back. There’s no copy or tagline here, but it’s clear she’s planning something that will involve that weapon given the dark shadows and the determined look on her face.

The Trailers

The first trailer (3.7 million views on YouTube) finally came out in September. Stephanie is shown enlisting the aid of Proctor in the hunt for those responsible for the plane crash that killed her family years ago. He warns her it won’t be worth it and could be dangerous for her but she’s determined, to the point she takes matters into her own hands, finding and killing them herself. Her actions have consequences, of course, as they upset some powerful and dangerous people, but she remains undeterred.

A second shorter trailer (1.6 million views on YouTube) came out just last week. It starts by showing Stephanie preparing for the mission she’s chosen to embark on and the training that entails. It goes on to show the lengths she’ll go to in her quest to exact more than a pound of flesh and the ways in which she keeps going despite the odds against her. It also makes it much more explicit that the producers of the Bond franchise are involved, hoping to lend some of that series’ appeal to this movie.

Online and Social

There’s essentially nothing on the movie’s official website, at least nothing you can’t find elsewhere. It exists largely to just sell tickets.

Advertising and Publicity

The movie was part of the studio’s presentation to exhibition executives at CineEurope in mid-July 2018.

The first clip released earlier this month offers an extended look at Stephanie engaged in a high-speed car chase with those she’s angered on her mission for vengeance. That same chase sequence was the subject of a short behind-the-scenes featurette released at about the same time. Additional clips offered more insights into Stephanie’s character and the allies she gathers along the way.

Short videos like this were used as social and online ads to drive traffic to the ticket-selling website. Other online ads used elements of the key art and other visuals to achieve the same objective.

Earlier this week the cast and crew attended the New York City red carpet premiere.

Media and Press

There were a few interviews with Lively and others in the cast, including Sterling K. Brown, but nothing of much note, at least not at this point in the cycle.

One interview with director Reed Moreno addressed the Bond connection that exists both through the story’s subject matter and Eon’s involvement in production. She was asked if she’d be interested in seeing a female Bond, something those producers recently nixed the idea of. While Moreno made a similar comment she did say seeing a Bond film with a female directorial perspective might offer a unique take on the character.

Overall

While the marketing is quite good and sells a compelling drama with a star apparently willing to push herself to physically sell the role, an increased emphasis on the inciting incident might have increased the emotional heft of the story being sold. As it stands there’s not much in the way of setup regarding the tragedy that has pushed Stephanie over the edge and into a life of violence, just an acknowledgement that something terrible has happened.

That being said, there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on here, not the least of which is simply that it’s a woman who has taken justice into her own hands after realizing the bad people are going to remain unpunished by others. There might be enough audience interest to capture people’s attention during another slow new release weekend, but if current movies keep chugging along it could also get lost in a wave of apathy during the winter doldrums.

Picking Up The Spare

Lively stopped by “The Tonight Show” to share stories from the set and engage in hijinks with the host.

A postmortem of the movie’s disappointing fate included comments on how this is just the latest action film with a complex female lead to not connect with audiences.

A Simple Favor – Marketing Recap

Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick help make the marketing of A SIMPLE FAVOR a glamourous, well-branded affair.

a simple favor poster 7Paul Feig is a director best known for his comedies, specifically his female-starring comedies. After Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy and others, he’s now taking a turn for the dark in the dramatic thriller A Simple Favor.

Based on the book by Darcey Bell, the movie follows Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), a mom with an online presence and following who one day befriends Emily (Blake Lively), who has kids at the same school Stephanie does. The two become friends, though Emily is strangely aloof and never reveals much about herself. When Emily goes missing, it’s up to Stephanie to piece together what few, confusing clues there are to find Emily and figure out who her friend really was.

The Posters

The martini glass that graces the first poster, in connection with the “It all started with…” that’s completed by the title, hint that there’s something strange happening in the story. Specifically, that we’ll be following along as the consequences of some decision or action play out.

The second poster features a huge, colorful question mark at the bottom of which is the question “What happened to Emily?” Snippets of photos of the characters are shown in the colored segments of the punctuation, giving this a very 60s drama vibe reminiscent of Wait Until Dark and similar films.

A pair of character posters came next, with Emily and Stephanie facing toward each other when you put them together. Each is wearing a lovely dress while lifting a drink, standing in front of a gorgeous deco type design in the background.

The two women come together on the next poster, both posed elegantly against the same colorful triangles seen previously. It’s a bold, deco-inspired design that also kind of comes off like a photo from a 1978 Sears catalog, but that’s a small picking of nits.

What seems to be the theatrical poster came out in mid-August. Using a similar color palette of pastels and whites, the faces of the two lead actors are intermingled on what look like shards of broken glasses, hinting at the kind of identity-based drama the movie has in store for audiences. Another shows the two leads standing next to each other in the same colorful cut out seen elsewhere.

A series of “moving posters” released earlier this week showed Stephanie and Emily in what first appear to be classy, luxurious surroundings and situations, only to have something much darker revealed as the camera pans out.

One last poster came out just after that featuring side-by-side photos of Stephanie and Emily’s faces. Notably, this one includes costar Henry Golding standing between them, like a move by the studio to attempt to capitalize on his popularity in the wake of the hit Crazy Rich Asians.

The Trailers

Stephanie is explaining that Emily is basically her best friend as the first teaser trailer opens. We see hints that something has happened to upset Emily’s stylish, sophisticated world that leads to her going missing. That prompts Stephanie to set out to find her, uncovering things about Emily she had no idea existed along the way.

A second teaser sets up the same dynamic between the two women but makes it a bit more explicit that Emily has enlisted Stephanie’s help in some manner.

It’s all super-stylized, giving the impression of a hip, darkly-funny mystery. While Lively doesn’t get any dialogue, she looks like she breezes through every scene with a feeling of luxury while Kendrick’s Stephanie kinda sorta comes off as a bit of a stalker. At least she seems like someone who has convinced herself of a friendship with someone who’s well above her.

The final trailer provides a better picture of the story, beginning with how Stephanie and Emily first met and became friends. It becomes clear Emily has a penchant for mystery and doesn’t like to divulge anything about herself, which makes her disappearance all the more strange.

Online and Social

The various iterations of the key art cycle through a carousel on the front page of the official website, which asks the audience “Can you keep a secret?” There are links there to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

Most of what’s on the site is video, with all three trailers getting their own callout in the menu on the right side of the page. Also there are links to read the synopsis – including the cast and crew list – and view the posters.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this started running in mid-August, cutting the trailer down significantly but not changing the core message, that Emily is an enigma that has gone missing for some reason, leaving behind some very confused friends and family who realize they never really knew her. That included this commercial making it clear Emily has a dark side and does not want to let people inside her firmly-protected bubble.

Online ads used the key art while social ads used various versions of the trailer and TV spots.

Media and Publicity

One of the first press beats for the movie came when it was presented as part of Lionsgate’s upcoming slate of releases at CinemaCon, including the showing of a brief bit of footage.

Feig offered some management tips to Fast Company, drawing on his experience working with a wide array of some of Hollywood’s most talented actors and comedians over the years.

a simple favor pic2The pair of Lively and Kendrick embarked on a fashionable press tour that included a stop at MTV’s VMA ceremony. Kendrick later shared what it was like when she and Lively engaged in an on-screen kiss.

A fun little video was released showing Feig, Lively and Kendrick taking part in a fictional pitch meeting run by a couple studio heads who refuse to acknowledge women can be funny and who keep saying terribly sexist things to everyone in the room. It’s funny because it’s probably 100% accurate to many people’s experiences.

Fieg later talked more about why he decided to give comedy a break and make a dramatic thriller.

Kendrick and Lively also made various TV appearances on late night and early morning talk shows, including Kendrick talking about “mommy bloggers,” something her character is.

Overall

The combined charm of Kendrick and Lively is enough to get most people interested in the movie in theory. But this is a dark thriller that keeps reminding the audience that it is not what it seems at first to be. That could prove to be a tough message to sell when right now people seem more inclined to see the glitzy rom com stylings of Crazy Rich Asians or other escapist fare.

That being said, this is the most stylistically interesting, consistent and intriguing campaign I’ve seen in a while. From the first mysterious teasers to the wonderful series of colorful posters, it’s just great. The studio has certainly made an impression, and that can’t be easily discounted. It’s just not so clear that it actually drive people to head out to the theaters this weekend.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

Another TV spot that focuses on the positive reviews the movie already received from critics even before it was released.

Lively showed up on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the movie and her fun Twitter back and forth with husband Ryan Reynolds. And Kendrick has done “The Daily Show” and “The Late Show.”  

Costume designer Renee Ehrlich Kalmus talks about the stunning styles sported by Lively’s character in the movie.

Another interview with director Paul Feig about the style and vibe he wanted to bring to the movie, his first outright dramatic effort, followed by another where he talks about getting serious.