dune – marketing recap

Dear Paul Atreides…

If you’ve seen David Lynch’s 1984 version of Frank Herbert’s Dune you know that the conventional wisdom of the novel being essentially unadaptable might not entirely be hyperbole from die-hard fans who want their favorite book to remain unadulterated. Herbert’s text is dense with detail and story, making it an imposing wall to climb for anyone trying to translate it to another medium.

Dune movie poster

This week brings another attempt to scale that wall in the form of Dune, directed by Denis Villeneuve. Timothée Chalamet stars as Paul Atreides, the son of Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) and his concubine Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson). House Atreides is called by the emperor to take on stewardship of the desert planet Arrakis, important because it’s the only source of spice – a drug that extends human life and which is so pervasive it’s now essential to life itself – in the galaxy. But the enemies of House Atreides stand in the shadows to attack. And once on Arrakis, Paul and the others will have to work with the Fremen, natives of the planet that include Chani (Zendaya), a young woman Paul has been having visions of in his dreams.

Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa, Charlotte Rampling, Dave Bautista, Javier Bardem and others round out the cast.

That the movie, which runs over two-and-a-half hours, only covers the first half of the first book indicates just how dense that book is, though Villeneuve’s luxurious, unhurried style surely contributes as well. With that in mind, let’s see how it’s been sold.

announcement and casting

While there had been other projects that had attempted to get off the ground over the years, this one was officially announced all the way back in 2017, when Villeneuve was revealed as the director of this new version.

Though Blade Runner 2049 wasn’t a smash success, that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for Villeneuve to take on Dune, with the director being called the “sci-fi remake master” in this interview where he discussed both movies. Later on he revealed he planned to make the adaptation a two-parter, a format he confirmed in a separate interview.

Chalamet and Ferguson were cast in mid-2018, with others added that year and up to the beginning of production in mid-2019.

One of the first cross-media expansions of the story announced was a video game from Funcom, news that showed the movie was renewing interest in the universe as a whole.

Warner Bros. announced in May 2019 that the series “Dune: The Sisterhood” would debut on its upcoming WarnerMedia streaming service. The series would focus on the women of the Bene Gesserit, the enigmatic mystical power brokers in the story’s universe and be produced by Villeneuve, who would also direct the first episode.

marketing phase 1: pandemic is the release date killer

An interview with the filmmakers was accompanied by a number of first-look photos from the film in April 2020, showing off Chalamet, Issac and others in the cast. More photos along with additional comments from Villeneuve came a bit later.

Also on the tie-in front, a comic version of the “House Atreides” novel was announced in May, telling a story set some 30 years prior to the events of the movie.

Reports circulated in mid-June that WB was planning to release a first look at footage from the film along with Inception when that movie returned to theaters to celebrate its 10th anniversary.

A Q&A featurette with the cast was released in early September at the same time as the first trailer.

Despite the marketing seeming to get up and running through September, in early October reports emerged that WB was pulling the movie from its planned December release date and pushing it all the way to October, 2021.

A first-look package in Empire included Villeneuve talking about the expanded role he gave Lady Jessica, Issac talking about the relevance of the story in today’s world and more.

Warner Bros. debuted the first trailer in theaters in front of Tenet’s release at the end of August 2020, weeks before it came online.

When it did (37.5m YouTube views) at the beginning of September of last year it went a long way toward making even skeptics eager with anticipation. The focus of course is on Paul as we follow from his training to his life on Arrakis and the adventures and people waiting for him there. It offers significant glimpses at other major characters as well, especially in how they relate to Paul, but only at the end do we get a look at the worms that dominate the planet, offering the key to its place in the universe while also presenting a clear threat to the humans living there. It’s…just great.

Just after the first trailer came out, Zimmer was interviewed about working with a full choir on the version of Pink Floyd’s “Eclipse” that appears in that spot. The use of Floyd is also a nod, intentional or not, back to the development of a Dune adaptation in the mid-70s with Alejandro Jodorowsky set to direct. At the time, Jodorowsky intended to have the movie’s soundtrack created by the band.

There was a feature profile of Chalamet that covered the actor’s role in this film as well as his rise to stardom over the last few years, including comments from Villeneuve.

Like the rest of Warner Bros.’ 2021 slate, the release of Dune was altered in December of last year to include both theaters and HBO Max, a concession of pandemic reality by the studio. But that didn’t sit well with financier Legendary, who blasted the decision, or with Villeneuve, who penned an op-ed criticizing WB for grabbing cash instead of respecting artists.

When Chalamet appeared on “Saturday Night Live” in December of last year, about the time the movie was originally meant to be in theaters, his choice to wear a “Legendary” branded t-shirt raised lots of eyebrows given that company’s disapproval of WB’s HBO Max decision.

Zendaya commented on making the movie when she was promoting Malcolm & Marie earlier this year.

Rumors came early in 2021 that the studio may not have completely settled on a release plan for the film despite it appearing in a number of HBO Max promos, but nothing solid was reported or announced. Eventually WB execs confirmed it would receive a hybrid release just like the rest of this year’s lineup, and not be exempted from that plan.

marketing phase 2: hope clouds observation

With Warner Bros. now committed to that theatrical/HBO Max release plan, the marketing restarted in July of this year.

That’s when a series of character posters came out showing extreme close-ups of Paul, Chani and others.

The second trailer also came out at this point. It opens with Chani describing how beautiful the planet Arrakis can be but also how that beauty is marred by the greed and brutality of the outsiders who want her homeworld for the spice, regardless of who gets hurt. The focus then shifts to Paul and the rest of House Atreidis, which has been tasked with managing the spice and the world as a whole. As loyalties are betrayed and war comes to the planet, we’re reminded numerous times that Paul may have a destiny that’s unknown and unexpected by others, one that seems intimately tied to the Fremen and Dune as a whole.

IMAX offered theater goers at that time not only the trailer but also an exclusive look at even more of the film at a special event slated for late July.

An interview with Villeneuve had him talking more about the imposing nature of the story and how casting Chalamet was crucial to his deciding to make the movie at all.

“It begins” we’re told ominously on the next poster, released in early August. It shows Pau wandering the vast nothingness of Dune at the bottom while above the main cast is shown assembled in the standard franchise design.

IGN offered introductions to the heroes of the movie that included exclusive images and character backgrounds. The site would later publish similar roundups of the Fremen, House Harkonnen and other major groups from the story.

marketing phase 3: if you don’t see this movie in theaters, we’ll kill this dog

At this point the director began hitting on a notion that would become common through the rest of the publicity campaign, namely that this may be the first movie but it’s just the first part of the larger story he’s telling. Building on that, he makes it clear fans shouldn’t take the second installment for granted as it will depend on this first one being successful.

The message is this, then: You better go to the theater because that’s the yardstick WB is using to measure whether or not it greenlights Part 2. The fate of Dune as a movie series is thus clearly placed in the hands of the audience. That message is underlined by his additional comments about how moviegoing is an almost religious experience, one that should take place communally, not just on your own at home.

Screenwriters Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts were interviewed about the challenges in adapting what’s long been seen as an unfilmable book and story. A later interview with the movie’s costume designers covered their own struggles with recreating the looks described in such detail in the book, as would the director of photography in his own conversation.

Warner Bros. included footage from the movie in their presentation to exhibition executives and others at CinemaCon in August.

Shorter videos – likely used as TV spots, social media and other promos – started coming out at this time that each focused on a slightly different aspect of the story, from Paul’s journey to the other characters like his mother and father that influence his path and more.

The IMAX exclusive poster simply zooms in on the image of Paul in the desert seen on the earlier one-sheet while calling out that the movie was “filmed for IMAX” to lure in those who want to see it in the format it was apparently intended for. The same message was shared in a commercial for IMAX and in an exclusive featurette on how Villeneuve shot the film specifically for big screens.

The movie’s appearance at the 2021 Cannes International Film Festival was confirmed in May. It was also scheduled (out of competition) for September’s Venice International Film Festival and as a “special presentation” at the Toronto Film Festival. Villeneuve received the TIFF Ebert Director Award at Toronto. It was later added to the lineup of the New York Film Festival.

That Venice appearance garnered mostly positive buzz and reviews, with critics calling it some mix of exhilarating and impressive and mildly disappointing, though many of the latter comments seem to stem from this not being the complete story. In interviews from the festival Villeneuve again called for audiences to see it on the big screen and urged for them to turn out in droves so the studio will allow him to make the sequel.

We’re introduced to the characters, especially the warring houses that drive the action and drama, in a featurette given to Fandango’s MovieClips.

The director joined Chamalet and Zendaya in a short featurette about the process of making the movie together. In another he talked about working with composer Hans Zimmer on the score of the film.

Dolby’s exclusive poster shows Paul still wandering the desert, but this time from a slightly different and harsher looking point of view. It also had its own featurette on how Villeneuve directed and crafted the sound of the movie.

The cast and crew headed to Paris in early September for a screening there.

Additional interviews with Villeneuve had him talking about why he chose Abu Dhabi to serve as Arrakis and how he wanted the screenwriters to focus specifically on the influence and importance of the story’s female characters.

A takeover ad campaign run on IMDb at the beginning of October caused more than a few negative reactions for being too obtrusive, covering information on pages and rendering the site largely unusable because the ads couldn’t be minimized.

Both Ferguson and Villeneuve appeared on “The Late Show” to hype the movie while revealing as little of what it entails as possible.

An exclusive poster for RealD 3D pulls the camera out a bit but, like the others, shows Paul walking along a massive sand dune

MovieClips received an exclusive featurette that had the cast and crew talking about the massive scale of the movie and how it was filled with visuals and more that the audience had never seen before.

The final trailer (3.1m YouTube views) came out in the first week of October. It doesn’t have a whole lot that’s brand new, though there are a few scenes we haven’t seen before, but does sum up the story and the epic nature of the movie nicely, including some quotes from positive reviews to help make the case to the audience.

At the same time, Villeneuve and composer Hans Zimmer were hosting a screening and Q&A at New York Film Festival.

EW ran a cover story package of features that went into the making of the movie, including how Villeneuve first began considering how a new adaptation might be made, the process of bringing the cast together and lots more.

Momoa praised Chalamet when he appeared on “The Tonight Show.”

AMC Theaters had a couple exclusive interviews with the cast and crew, as did Regal Cinemas.

Cinematographer Greig Fraser talked about how he worked to make a big movie that felt small in terms of the focus on the characters.

The movie took over @TwitterMovies this week, sharing videos of the cast and crew answering fan questions.

Another interview with Villeneuve had him making it clear that he took this job not in spite of being seen as difficult but because it was seen as difficult, which is a nice sentiment.

HBO Max announced just days before release that the movie would be available on Thursday, not Friday, as part of a “special preview event.”

overall

Let’s be about what works in the campaign.

It focuses on Paul Atreides, which makes sense given the entire story revolves around that character, but it doesn’t go too hard in the paint in setting him up as a white savior out to rule the native people and their lands. Nor does it spend too much time tipping its hat toward Paul’s role as a prophet or Christ-like figure. Instead he’s a young man put in a rough situation and making the best of it and trying to fulfill his destiny as well as his father’s expectations for him.

It highlights bits of comedy – or at least levity – that are wholly missing from the source novel or previous adaptations. Those especially come through in some of the scenes featuring Isaac’s Duke Leto Atreides and Duncan Idaho, played by Jason Momoa. With such a weighty product being pitched to audiences, it’s good to include a few lighter moments added by screenwriters Ross, Villeneuve and Jon Spaihts to make it a bit more attractive.

It keeps the scale both massive and human. This is addressed in one of the interviews linked above, but the marketing nicely balances showing how big the movie is while also making it clear the story hinges not on those huge ships or the grand, detailed buildings we see but on the characters walking around and through them. That helps communicate that the audience won’t be overwhelmed or wonder who they’re being asked to care about or why they should care.

Mood Protect GIF by Dune Movie - Find & Share on GIPHY

With those all in mind there’s one thing that strikes me as odd about the marketing.

Namely, the message sent by Villeneuve and others that the fate of the second movie being made at all hinges on audiences going to theaters in huge numbers to see this one.

It’s odd, especially in this age of franchises being central to studio success, that there would be any contingency placed on the second installment, especially given the admission that this is only the first half of the first of multiple stories that could be told. If not “odd” then it’s at least out of character for a major studio to not immediately say that both movies will be made and released. After all, that’s the approach WB itself took with both the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, reassuring fans that they would see the whole thing over a few years and wouldn’t be left hanging without The Return of the King because The Two Towers had underperformed. We know when the next 12 Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are coming out, so why not lock dates in for the entire Dune two-parter?

Instead we have the cast and crew sounding increasingly desperate in their appeals.

Critics, who have given the movie positive reviews adding up to an 87% Fresh Rotten Tomatoes ranking, have added to that. For a while now the unofficial line has been that the movie needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible to get the full experience. While that may be true and is relatively common/innocuous, many have gone further recently and suggested anyone who doesn’t go to the theater is someone who doesn’t actually love movies.

That’s not fair and does a disservice to critics in general, who should be more concerned with substance than delivery platform. And, based on what’s seen in the marketing campaign, Dune has plenty of substance and style, both of which can be just as easily enjoyed at home as on a big theater screen.

Army of the Dead – Marketing Recap

How Netflix is selling a zombie-tastic romp through Sin City.

Imagine Ocean’s 11 but instead of Andy Garcia’s security apparatus, the thieves had to get through a horde of zombies to get to the casino safe full of cash.

That’s the basic premise of Army of the Dead from director Zack Snyder, taking a break from encouraging his most toxic fans to attack Warner Bros. for..reasons. In the movie’s story, a zombie outbreak has overtaken Las Vegas, leading casino owner Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) to hire a group of mercenaries lead by Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) to battle their way through the undead and retrieve $200 million from vault of the casino. Time is tight on the mission because the U.S. government, fearful the quarantine of Vegas won’t hold, plans on nuking the city to wipe out the threat. But everyone has their own hidden agendas.

The movie, which also stars Garret Dillahunt, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Tig Notaro and others, has a solid 72% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with early reviews calling it a fun, action-filled caper film.

The Posters

The first poster (by marketing agency P+A) came out in February, showing a massive bank vault with various playing cards and currency flying around in front of it to help establish the Las Vegas setting of the story. To convey the presence of the zombies, a number of hands can be seen reaching out from the closed door, obviously not human and obviously not doing well.

Ward and his team stand atop a bright neon-lit slots bar on the second poster (by marketing agency BOND), released in April. With more neon in the background, there are a couple of skulls, a handful of poker chips and lots of weaponry on display to help sell the elements of the story. Two additional posters came out a bit later, one showing a zombie hand holding up a playing card and one showing a human hand holding a pike with a zombie head mounted on it. The bright pop-art colors keep the visual identity of the campaign going.

A series of brightly colored posters featuring each individual character were released in late April, each featuring a different tagline along with lots of neon decorations in the background in an attempt to convey the story’s Las Vegas setting.

Three more posters came out in the weeks leading up to release. One on, the focus is back on Ward’s team as they stand in the middle of the bright lights of Vegas, a group of undead hands reaching from the bottom. The other two look like comic book covers, with Ward on one walking through the flotsam of a ruined Vegas while carrying his packs. The other looks more like some kind of Mexican or similar artwork, with The Bride — a more intelligent, advanced zombie the team encounters — standing amid a collection of flowers and skulls.

The Trailers

The first trailer (3.7 million views on YouTube) came out at the end of February, immediately establishing a harsh post-apocalyptic landscape before flashing back to Vegas prior to the outbreak. Without offering much in the way of details, we get that a small armed unit is trying to break into a casino vault, fighting their way through the zombie hordes to do so.

We get a little more context for the story in the second trailer (11.1 million views on YouTube) from early April. Ward is approached by Tanaka to see if he’s interested in breaking into Tanaka’s old casino, now surrounded by zombies, before Las Vegas is nuked by the government. But things get complicated when they realize the zombies now roaming the streets have evolved and are smarter than the ones they faced in the war years ago.

Online and Social

As is common, Netflix supported the movie on brand social channels — including creating a bunch of GIFs on Giphy — but didn’t launch any new profiles or sites for the campaign. But it *did* create a publicly-accessible Dropbox where, in a feature it called #DeadDrop, the company put new posters, GIFs, videos and other assets.

Advertising, Press and Publicity

In August of last year news broke that, despite the movie being fully shot and in post-production, Netflix announced original star Chris D’Elia was being replaced and Notaro brought in. Those reshoots were said to be scheduled for as soon as pandemic conditions would allow, and have Notaro acting largely against a green screen and stand-ins.

Netflix was apparently so entranced by the project it announced a prequel film and anime series later in August.

The first footage came in January, part of Netflix’s announcement of its ambitious 2021 feature film slate. An official release date was set in February.

Snyder was interviewed about the film as part of EW’s 2021 Movie Preview, with some first-look stills also provided. He also spoke about the more in a Vanity Fair piece that was focused on his new version of Justice League, putting the development of this film in the context of his return to directing after taking a couple years off in the wake of his daughter’s death.

A few weeks after the second trailer came out Netflix shared a video of Snyder watching and reacting to a low-budget fan remake of that spot. Maybe this is meant to humanize the director or show how in-tune with his fans he is.

How the VFX team created the zombies – including the tiger – and more topics were covered in an interview with producer Deborah Snyder.

Zack Snyder Zombie GIF by NETFLIX - Find & Share on GIPHY

In a surprise move, news broke at the beginning of May that Cinemark planned to screen the movie at many of its locations nationwide ahead of its debut on Netflix. That’s a major concession by a large chain and one that shows how the calculus may have changed over the last year and a half.

Why Bautista chose this project instead of joining the cast of The Suicide Squad was the subject of this interview, with the star saying he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to work with Snyder.

The process of replacing D’Elia with Notaro was covered in-depth in an interview with her and Snyder, including how they had to make a number of adjustments simply because of the difference in size between her and the other actor.

Tig Notaro Army Of The Dead GIF by NETFLIX - Find & Share on GIPHY

Additional interviews with Deborah Snyder and others included how production had a smaller scope than the DC Films movies, more on how they created that CGI zombie tiger, how working with Netflix differs from working with Warner Bros., the respect Bautista gained for Snyder’s work ethic as director and cinematographer, how Snyder got all the extras thinking and walking like zombies and lots more. Zack Snyder offered an overview of the story and characters as well.

Netflix released the first 15 minutes of the movie online to give audiences a taste of what they could expect when they watched the whole thing.

Cut down versions of the trailer along with other promos offered additional glimpses at the movie, mostly focusing on the mix of humor and violence it’s presumed will be most attractive to the audience.

A number of banners, some used as ads, some used just as organic promos, were created. Most simply repurposed some of the key art, but others like the one below attempt to recreate the look of classic zombie movie title treatments.

Overall

One review of Army of the Dead simply said something along the lines of “Well, it definitely is a movie” and that sums things up nicely.

With a bunch of solid actors in the lineup, there’s so little emphasis in the campaign on the human characters the message becomes they really don’t matter. Instead the primary selling point of the marketing here is the work put in by the VFX team to create a CGI tiger.

At least it hasn’t been preceded by months and months of kowtowing to online trolls, making them feel as if they have power they don’t. But, that being said, Snyder has spent a decent chunk of this movie’s publicity cycle litigating his past super hero work, which shows he’s not as interested in selling this movie as maintaining his status as Hollywood’s most persecuted director.

My Spy – Marketing Recap

How [checks notes] Amazon Studios is selling an action comedy.

My Spy has gone through some stuff on its way to this week’s release direct to Amazon Prime.

Dave Bautista stars J.J., a CIA operative known for leaving behind more carnage and destruction than usable information. Pulled out of the field by his superiors, he’s sent on a mission with surveillance expert Bobbi (Kristen Schaal) to watch an arms dealer and his family. That becomes more complicated when that dealer’s niece Sophie (Chloe Coleman) manages to stumble upon their operation. She decides to blackmail the spies, wanting to learn what they do in exchange for not ratting them out, though she’s not aware her family is the target they’ve been tasked with.

The movie, from director Peter Segal, is the kind of “big tough guy has to deal with a small child who is more than a match for him” story Hollywood has been turning out for decades. But the path it’s taken to release has not been smooth, to say the least, and the marketing campaign has been run in fits and starts depending on A) which studio owns it at any given moment and B) what release date they have in mind.

The Posters

Sophie and J.J. are at opposite sides of the first poster from April, 2019 (by marketing agency Works Adv), separated by a thick red line in which we’re told “He’s a pro. She’s a natural.” That’s meant to explain how they approach dangerous situations and such, but it’s not super clear. Basically it’s being sold in the same way as others in a long line of “big tough guy has to deal with/take care of tiny girl” action comedies.

A second poster came out in November of last year, before the release date was once again changed. Sophie and J.J.’s faces are shown close to each other, his with a bright adhesive on his cheek. It gives off strong Curly Sue vibes, tbh.

One final poster came out just a couple weeks ago, using the same photo of J.J. and Sophie with their faces next to each other. This time there’s no tagline or other information but the fact that this is “An Amazon Original” is touted at the top.

The Trailers

J.J. isn’t very good with people, he says in the opening of the first trailer (4.4 million views on YouTube) from April 2019, but he is good at blowing things up, which makes it difficult for the agency he works for to interrogate suspects because they’re all dead. On his last chance assignment his operation is discovered by Sophie, who essentially blackmails him into teaching her how to defend herself against school mean girls. While that goes exactly as you’d expect it to she’s also teaching him how to lighten up and enjoy life a little instead of always looking for danger and calculating how to counter it.

Amazon Studios put out basically the same trailer just a day before the film hit the Prime streaming platform.

Online and Social

The website for the film has the basic marketing materials along with an introduction to the main characters but that’s about it. There were also some social profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Bautista was in attendance at CinemaCon in April 2019, part of the studio’s bigger presentation to industry executives. STX later included the movie in its CineEurope presentation to exhibitors there.

A short while later – and just a month before it was scheduled to hit theaters – the studio pulled the movie from its expected mid-August release date, promising it was still coming soon but might not be until early 2020. Publicly the reason given was to put a bit of space between this movie and Bautista’s other recent comedy Stuber, but the movie also came amidst a series of stories about troubles STX was having in the wake of some expensive and high-profile flops like Uglydolls.

In December of last year a new release date in March was finally revealed, but that wouldn’t last long.

Online ads using elements of the key art – especially the faces of Sophie and J.J. – along with short video snippets began running in late February. At the same time TV commercials began running with spots that introduced J.J. and Sophie and their bond, the deal they cut after she discovers his operation and other elements of the story. Some of those, particularly shorter spots, were also used as pre-roll and social media ads.

The first clip, released in March, shows J.J. making it clear to his new partner Bobbi that his personal things are not to be touched. It’s meant to show how tough he is.

An entire wave of commercials – over a half-dozen – were released before the movie was pushed another month, from March to April, to try and take advantage of the opening provided by No Time To Die moving to later in the year.

In April, STX sold the movie to Amazon Studios, which didn’t immediately announce a new release date, but it was clear the existing plan (such as it was) was being discarded. It was mid-June before Amazon announced a Prime-exclusive release date just two weeks out.

TV spots also used online were released in the last few days.

Online ads used the key art to drive people directly to Prime where people could start streaming the movie.

There was also behind-the-scenes featurette put out recently that has all the major players talking about having fun on set and so on.

Media and Publicity

Bautista and Coleman engaged in a few interviews, but not many and it kind of seems like Amazon was keeping a lid on this to some extent.

Overall

The campaign is pleasant enough, especially for a movie that will be available in homes immediately, not requiring the commitment involved in going to a theater, even putting aside the current closures and other problems relating to that experience.

It’s really just offering audiences the same kind of experience previously provided by Hulk Hogan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dwayne Johnson and other strong men, that watching them realize all their muscles and combat training aren’t enough to deal with a 10 year old child is inherently hilarious.

There might be issues with the film itself, just as there have been with those other similar movies, but the campaign doesn’t build it up any more than that.

Stuber – Marketing Recap

You can ready my full recap of the marketing campaign for Stuber at The Hollywood Reporter.

Online and Social

Fox’s official website features all the usual marketing content, including the trailers, a synopsis, some stills and more. In addition to links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles there’s information on getting a complimentary ride to an early screening.

Media and Publicity

A profile of Nanjiani covered how he got involved in the project and how he felt once more playing a ride-hailing service driver.

Nanjiani then appeared on “Kimmel” to talk about the unique experience of filming with his costar.

Mira Sorvino, who plays Bautista’s superior officer, did a number of press interviews promoting the film.

The two main stars did several other interviews, either on their own or together, often playing up the physical differences between them but also usually emphasizing the fun they had during filming and how that will translate for the audience.

Overall

The more I dived into this, the more it became apparent that the women in the movie have been entirely erased from the marketing campaign. Sorvino did some press and Natalie Morales is in one clip, but Betty Gilpin and Karen Gillan are completely absent. Super weird choice.

Picking Up the Spare

There have been a few more profiles of Nanjiani, including one that focused on his workout routine among other topics and one more about him trying to create something new in the “buddy cop” genre. 

While Bautista appeared successfully on “Kimmel,” Nanjiani had to cancel an interview on “Conan,” with the host making the biggest comedic deal possible about it and promoting The Lion King instead. 

The two stars did another joint interview here. 

A featurette focused on costar Iko Uwais. 

Hotel Artemis – Marketing Recap

hotel artemis posterJodie Foster is here to tell us the rules in Hotel Artemis, written and directed by Drew Pearce. Foster plays Jean Thomas, the nurse at an establishment that acts as a safe spot and hospital for the criminal underworld. She’s assisted there by Everest (Dave Bautista) and operates successfully because everyone who comes there understands the rules, including that there’s no violence on the property.

That rule winds up being broken when a series of events brings a strange group of people together on a single night. Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) is on the run and in need of help after pulling a job. But he’s attracted some unwanted attention from a crime lord named The Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum), who is out to recover what’s been taken from him. Also there that night are bad guys played by Sofia Boutella, Charlie Day and more, all with their own agendas and desire for survival.

The Posters

The teaser poster doesn’t include any mentions of the high-caliber cast or the story, just showing the hotel’s logo and name. Not much and not hugely effective unless you know what the movie is about already and have other information to support it and add context to it.

The second poster uses that same logo but shows all the shady characters that will pass through the hotel in the frame of the door. The orange, fire-like tone everything has hints that there will be more than a little chaos caused by all these folks and their actions.

The Trailers

The first half of the trailer is devoted to introducing us to the world the story takes place in. On a broad level that means the violent hellscape that is LA in 2028 (insert “so I see things haven’t changed” joke) and the hotel itself, which has specific rules to protect the staff and those who seek sanctuary there. The second half is about how, as we see early on, Waikiki has stolen something valuable from a very powerful man who wants his property back. That theft, while unintentional, has consequences for Waikiki and the hotel in general as everyone looks to make it through the night.

Well that looks like a lot of fun. It’s wacky and violent and over-the-top but also completely committed, at least based on what’s seen here, to the premise. With such a great cast that’s been brought together this has to be at least kind of good.

A red-band trailer later on hit the same basic chords but presented things a bit differently, mixing up some of the character introductions, overview of the rules of the hotel and more. Missing is much of the exposition about why all these criminals have converged in one place on one night and in its place is lot of cursing and glorified violence.

One last “Character” trailer took the approach of trying to look like a 70s grindhouse type flick, with grainy footage and voiceover that introduced all the various criminals and their associates that keep the story going. It’s alright, but not as clever as it thinks it is.

Online and Social

There were Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles for the movie but no official owned site.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A TV spot focused mostly on setting up the hotel and its rules as well as its all-star cast, showing the movie as a grungy and violent story with a wicked sense of gallows humor. Another delved more into the story and the rules of the hotel as well as how those rules get broken. This one was just about presenting a kinetic and violent good time with a catchy rhythm. A special TV spot featuring Bautista ran during “Sports Center.” There were also online ads that used elements of the key art as well as video snippets, which also showed up in social ads.

Media and Publicity

Brown showed up on the late night TV circuit, engaging in hijinks and promoting this movie as well as talking about that show he’s on and some of his other recent movies. Foster did the same to talk about the movie’s story and lots more. Other members of the cast did other publicity stops on various media.

Overall

There’s quite a bit to like about the campaign. It sometimes goes a little far in trying to sell the style over the substance, but it’s hardly the first marketing push to do so. There’s certainly a consistency to the brand here as everything is bathed in that orange brown light, like street lights filtered through window that hasn’t been cleaned in far too long.

Foster is, of course, the central focus here even if she isn’t the central focus. What I mean by that is that the marketing spread the attention around to Brown, Bautista, Goldblum, Boutella and others, but it all revolves around Foster’s nurse, both because she’s a central figure and because Foster is just such a presence. The campaign presents a lot of reasons to see the movie – it’s violent and darkly funny among them, but Foster disappearing behind an accent and glasses might be chief among them.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

Brian Tyree Henry has done a bit more press now that the movie is in theaters, including “The Daily Show.”
Writer/director Drew Pearce also has talked with Vanity Fair, The Hollywood Reporter and more about what kind of movie he set out to make and how he created something fairly unique.