halloween ends – marketing recap

How Universal has sold the final installment in the horror franchise.

Halloween Ends movie poster from Universal Pictures
Halloween Ends movie poster from Universal Pictures

Halloween Ends hits both theaters and Peacock this weekend. As the name implies, this is the third and final installment of the series that began in 2018 when director David Gordon Green and others gave the franchise a fresh start by ignoring everything except John Carpenter’s 1978 original.

Jamie Lee Curtis is back – reportedly for the last time – as Laurie Strode, the woman who has survived a number of encounters with the villainous Michael Myers and the killing sprees he’s gone on in the past. When yet another tragedy hits her hometown, Laurie and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) set out to make it the last time Myers is able to terrorize anyone and the last time their lives are dictated by his actions.

As with the previous two installments the movie is directed by Green, who co-wrote the screenplay with Danny McBride. Let’s dive into how the marketing campaign has been run.

announcement and casting

Comic-Con 2019 included news this movie as well as its predecessor were on the release schedule with the same cast and creative team intact.

Along with the other sequel, this one was pushed a full year from 2021 to 2022 as the Covid-19 pandemic kept theaters closed.

Universal gave CinemaCon 2021 attendees in August of that year a look at footage from this and other upcoming movies.

As he was doing press for Kills, Green hinted that he’d come up with a new twist ending for this movie, which would have a slightly different tone than the other films.

In April of this year Curtis appeared at CinemaCon 2022 to show off more footage and thank theater owners for their support over the years.

the marketing campaign

It was just this past July that the campaign kicked off with the release of the first trailer (4.9m YouTube views). Laurie is clearly not playing around as we see multiple instances of her taking the fight to Michael as he stalks around in the shadows threatening her and others. The main point is to communicate this is the end of the story, and so uses a few shots from the original film to mark the passage of time in addition to showing off what’s new.

The poster that came out at the same time is a variation on those used for the previous two movies, showing Michael’s mask up close and looking more than a little worn while sparks float up from an off-screen fire.

In August Universal announced the movie would be available on Peacock at the same time it was distributed to theaters. While there was uncertainty at first, theater chains soon made it clear they would still book the film despite the hybrid release, apparently not wanting to lose out on a horror title that always does well when it comes to selling tickets.

The one-sheet that helped make that announcement shows Laurie and Michael back-to-back.

Total Film debuted several new stills from the movie along with comments from Curtis about where Laurie is when this story opens and how this time she’s ready for Michael in a way she hasn’t been before.

Around that same time news came the film’s premiere was scheduled for the opening night of Beyond Fest later in September.

In a short featurette Curtis talks about the conclusion of the story and how this movie represents a “final reckoning” between Laurie and Michael.

The final trailer (10.3m YouTube views), released at the end of September, begins by establishing it’s been four years since the events of the last movie. Laurie is convinced Michael is back but people aren’t sure and believe she’s just obsessed and refuses to move on. When the killings start the attitudes change, but this time Laurie is prepared to do whatever’s necessary to end this once and for all.

Another featurette a week or so later makes it clear this is the final battle between the characters while Curtis shares Laurie’s journey in a third.

An interview with Curtis had her talking about her 45 year history with this franchise, what she thought about playing Laurie one last time and lots more about her career in general.

The Dolby Cinemas-exclusive poster that came out at the end of September shows Michael holding a knife placed between the company’s brand logo. Similarly, the IMAX logo gets slashed by that knife on the poster for that format.

Universal used Peacock to release a special titled “Halloween in Hollywood” that included exclusive interviews with the cast and crew along with first-look footage from this movie.

Short videos that were used as online and TV commercials had come out for a while before this, but full 30-second spots don’t seem to have been used until earlier this month.

Street teams were out around New York Comic-Con last weekend handing out tickets to those who found them that could be redeemed at the movie’s booth for exclusive swag.

NYCC also hosted a panel with Curtis celebrating the role these movies have played in her career, praising the skill with which Green reinvented the franchise and generally giving fans a big “thank you” for supporting it all.

While she was in New York City Curtis stopped by both “Kimmel” to promote the film and reiterate her commitment to this being the last time she plays Laurie Strode. On “Late Night” host Seth Myers had his “cousin” Michael Myers on for an interview that went very poorly.

overall

The main message being conveyed to the audience is that they better not miss this movie because it’s the summation of everything that’s been going on to date, at least if you make sure not to count all those sequels that have been retconned out of the franchise’s canon. Whether it’s in theaters or on Peacock, this is your last chance to see Curtis as the original Scream Queen in anything new so you’d better get on it.

That appeal has included lots of praise and thanks offered to fans of the franchise as well as lots of Curtis reflecting on her experiences playing Laurie. But many of those aren’t substantively different from her comments about *returning* to the character for 2018’s Halloween, so the impact of them is somewhat muted.

halloween kills – marketing recap

How Universal is selling the sequel to a movie that was a sequel that ignored the previous sequels to the original well I’ve gone cross-eyed…

Halloween Kills poster

2018’s Halloween got, by all accounts, better reviews than it was expected to, going on to bring in $255m at the domestic box office. Now the sequel to that film, Halloween Kills, is finally being released.

Picking up roughly right where the first movie left off, this one again pits Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) against the masked homicidal maniac Michael Myers, who is still bent on killing her and everyone around her. That list includes Laurie’s daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). It’s up to the three Strode women to try and bring Myers’ rampage to an end.

But of course this isn’t the end, and everyone knows it, as Halloween Ends, the final part of this trilogy, is scheduled for this time next year, all of which have been or will be directed by David Gordon Green. Until then, let’s see how this installment has been sold.

announcement and casting

That this movie – as well as the third installment – was coming was announced by Blumhouse during San Diego Comic-Con in 2019, with McBride, Green and Curtis all slated to return.

Shortly after that announcement the producers spoke about how unexpected this whole ride was. McBride and Green were interviewed about some details of the story, letting audiences know more or less what they could expect. Curtis talked about the movie in an interview last October, touching on the relevancy of the story to the current era.

At that same time a very short behind the scenes tease of what Green and the cast were shooting.

the marketing kills

Originally scheduled for October 2020, the release date was shifted a full year last July, with Green and producer John Carpenter issuing a statement explaining to fans why they felt the change was necessary to preserve the film and its intended presentation.

A short teaser was released in conjunction with that statement showing the Strodes being taken away from the scene of the fire while hoping that fire is allowed to continue burning in order to end Myers’ threat. Another came out on Halloween of 2020, promising the film would be coming out that time a year later while showing that things are far from safe for the citizens of Haddonfield.

An interview in late 2020 with Green had him assuring fans the filmmakers were not simply going to retread the story of the first film.

Curtis rightfully earned the title of Greatest Of All Time Scream Queen at the MTV Movie & TV Awards in December 2020.

The first full trailer (10.5m YouTube views) wasn’t released until June of this year, starting with the immediate aftermath of the previous movie. Michael has, of course, survived, with a body count following everywhere he goes. Laurie and her family are determined to end him, but he’s getting stronger the more he kills, setting up yet another confrontation between the two characters.

Myers’ cracked, scorched mask is the sole element on the first poster, also released in June. Embers swirl behind him, with the whole thing creating a very dark and gritty tone for the film.

In June of this year the movie’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival was announced along with Curtis’ receiving of a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Carpenter previewed “Unstable” from the movie’s soundtrack in August.

At Venice in September Curtis talked quite a bit about the series’ continued appeal, her award and how the movie’s message of evil being something not easily dispatched is relevant to the modern world.

Universal then announced the movie would debut day and date in theaters and on the company’s Peacock streaming service.

TV advertising began around that time as well, with spots like this that cut down the trailer while showing it’s not just the Strodes who are out to put a final end to Myers but the whole town, with the three core women leading the charge.

The final trailer (8.5m YouTube views) was released in late September. It shows that Myers is out once again on Halloween, terrorizing the residents of Haddonfield. He survived the fire Laurie set, but this time it’s not just her and a few others that have had enough but the whole town.

Early October brought a featurette that had the cast and crew talking about returning to the characters and story, whether their absence has been long or short. A second short featurette had Curtis talking about how the fight against Myers is multigenerational. In a third video everyone promises audiences that this is a *very* different movie and that the audience can expect lots of shocks.

The film screened at Beyond Fest earlier this month, with the cast and crew in attendance to answer fan questions and generally get folks excited.

A new poster released just over a week before the movie came out shows all three Strode women standing defiantly as their house burns in the background. There were also breakout character posters for Karen and Allyson.

Two more behind-the-scenes videos have Green talking about the technical difficulties of shooting this movie, including some of the more complicated effects sequences.

Overall

While this isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, the marketing campaign Universal has put together is cohesive, makes strong appeals to the target audience and spends only as much time as necessary connecting this to past films while keeping the focus on what’s new and upcoming. Those are all strengths. And you have to stand up and applaud how Curtis commits to the project, selling the movie with conviction and making sure to call out her costars and others.

Initial reviews haven’t been strong, with a paltry 54% on Rotten Tomatoes at the moment. But tracking projects a strong opening weekend total of $35-55m, which may not be Bond numbers but certainly indicates strong audience interest. Whether or not the hybrid theatrical/streaming release impacts those projections will, I imagine, be watched with great interest.

Michael Myers GIF by Halloween - Find & Share on GIPHY

Stronger – Marketing Recap

The story of what happened in and around the 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon has already come to the big-screen. Last year’s Patriots Day, named after the Boston holiday it took place, on, turned the events into a police procedural. This week’s new movie Stronger takes a different and more personal approach.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jeff Bauman in this true-life tale. Jeff is a somewhat inattentive boyfriend to Erin (Tatiana Maslany), who’s running in the marathon. He makes the effort to go see her, though. Unfortunately he’s in the wrong place when one of the bombs goes off, losing his legs as a result of injuries suffered. The story follows Bauman’s journey through recovery as well as his reluctant acceptance of the role of inspirational role model for the whole city.

The Posters

The poster shows Gyllenhaal as Bauman in the middle of physical therapy, straining on the bars as he learns to walk again using the artificial legs we can just barely see at the bottom of the photo. “Strength defines us” we’re told at the top while below the title we’re reminded this is based on the “inspiring” true story.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts out as Jeff Bauman encourages everyone at a bar to donate and support Erin’s upcoming run in the Boston Marathon. From there we see that their relationship isn’t always rosy before an explosion goes off in the crowd watching the race. We see Jeff wake up to find he’s missing his legs and everyone is trying to support and help him. He’s struggling, though, for obvious reasons. Eventually he begins to accept the new reality, including how everyone wants to view him as some sort of inspirational figure.

Well, it’s better than the trailers for last year’s Patriots Day, that’s for sure. It’s still all about hitting as many easy emotional chords as possible in an attempt to make the audience feel something, but at least it’s telling a personal, and therefore slightly more compelling, story. All the actors, from Gyllenhaal to Maslany, look fine as they’re asked to emote in various ways.

Online and Social

There doesn’t appear to be an official website for the movie, just a Facebook page and Twitter profile where the studio has been sharing updates on the marketing and publicity.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one show what happened to Bauman as well as the way the public expected something out of him that he struggled to deliver, namely the personification of hope and survival. We also see his rehabilitation and the work he does to eventually make peace with life and get better. Others like this were more concerned with focusing on the relationship between Bauman and Erin and how that changed over time.

The trailer was used later on as an ad not only on social media but on YouTube, where it ran as pre-roll. There were banner and other ads run elsewhere online that used the image of Gyllenhaal in the midst of physical therapy to help sell the movie as an emotional and triumphant story.

Media and Publicity

It was announced the movie would have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it received a good amount of praise for the performances by Gyllenhaal and Maslany.

The real Jeff Bauman was interviewed here about not only the events he lived through but the experience of seeing a version of himself on screen.

Gyllenhaal carried most of the publicity load, though. He was interviewed here about his production company which was created specifically as a place to shepherd smaller films that deserve a bigger audience like this one. While at Toronto he also commented that after years of being asked if he’d play a superhero, this role allowed him to feel as if he’d done so. He made appearances on various morning and late night talk shows as well to talk about the movie and the real-life story that inspired it.

Overall

Usually my tolerance for these kinds of campaigns is pretty low. I don’t handle “inspirational” that well and tend to get tripped up in the attempts to blatantly appeal to my basest emotions.

This one hit me in a different way, though. There’s plenty of sentimentality on display, of course. The sweeping music, the nicely-lit shots showing someone overcoming the odds and enduring despite all the setbacks. But it was presented as much more of an individual than a spiritual story, which is a very different thing. Maybe that’s the influence of director David Gordon Green or someone else who more interested in not underlining the universal truths but keeping the focus on a more relatable subject.

Whatever the case, the campaign comes together very nicely as a cohesive whole. There are strong consistent elements throughout the push that create a single feeling in the audience and which could help the movie when it hits theaters this weekend.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.