Midnight Sky – Marketing Recap

How Netflix has sold a story of isolation and desperation.

The new movie The Midnight Sky probably wasn’t intended to be as timely as it has wound up becoming. Based on the book “Good Morning, Midnight” by Lily Brooks-Dalton, the film stars George Clooney, who also directed, as Augustine, a scientist in the Arctic who has survived a global pandemic that wiped out much of the world’s population. He’s engaged in a desperate attempt to communicate with the crew of Æther, a ship returning from a mission to a potentially habitable moon of Jupiter who are unaware of the danger that awaits them back on Earth. Sending that message is difficult, though, forming much of the movie’s drama.

Also starring in the film are Caoilinn Springall as Iris, a young girl who encounters Augustine in his Arctic isolation, and Felicity Jones, Kyle Chandler, David Oyelowo, Tiffany Boone and Demián Bichir as the members of Æther.

Initial reviews were middling, calling it a bit muddled, a reception reflected in its 55% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Still, there was at least some feeling it could result in a bit of awards speculation, especially for Clooney. And Netflix has given it a campaign that not only seems Oscar-ready but is also far too relevant to today’s world.

The Posters

Augustine stares into the sky, which is also shown inside the frame of his head, on the first poster (by marketing agency P+A), released at the end of October. It’s a simple but suitably atmospheric image, especially with the copy reading “There’s a universe between all of us.”

On the final poster (by marketing agency Concept Arts), which came out earlier in December, that copy is removed and replaced with the more vague “Hope finds a way,” which isn’t quite as effective. This time, though, the main image shows both Augustine and Iris in the arctic environment they attempt to traverse. A massive planet hangs in the sky above them, hinting at the story’s connection to space travel.

The Trailers

The first trailer (2.2 million views on YouTube) – teased ahead of release and promoted during a late-October edition of “Monday Night Football” – opens by showing that communication is not happening in either direction. Augustine can’t reach the crew of the Ether and they haven’t heard from Mission Control in weeks. He’s trying to warn of a cataclysmic event that’s happened on Earth while they were in deep space. From there we see he and the young girl with him try to reach a more powerful antenna while those aboard the Ether recount what’s happened on their long journey. Time is running short for both parties, though, making the stakes higher with each passing moment.

The final trailer (1.2 million views on YouTube) came out in early December, starting off by showing Augustine explaining to Iris what all is in his lab and what he’s trying to do. Their journey on Earth is shown alongside the crew of the Æther and their attempts to reach someone – anyone – on Earth as they get closer and closer to returning. It’s all very dramatic, with snowstorms and meteor showers and more, making the film look like an enjoyable piece of drama.

Online and Social

No website about the actual movie, but Netflix, in addition to supporting the film on brand social channels, created the-midnightsky.com. On that site you can record and send a message to someone, which is then played as an AR hologram placed in the room they’re standing in.

Advertising and Promotions

Netflix celebrated the end of principle photography in February, announcing the movie was coming later in the year. In September news came that Clooney would speak about this film and more during October’s 64th BFI London Film Festival.

A recent installment of Netflix’s “Bucket of Movies” had Clooney sharing his thoughts on various classic film titles. He also reminisced about his career path and the roles that contributed to that career.

Media and Press

Clooney was interviewed about the movie and how he approached directing it in an article that also included some first look stills. Another brief interview with Clooney had a few more story details and more.

A feature profile of Jones had her talking about filming the movie, including how Clooney made adjustments to the production to accommodate her pregnancy mid-filming.

Another interview with Clooney had him talking about the story of the film and finishing the project during quarantine. He and Springall both spoke on the experience of filming in Iceland, dealing with the subsequent isolation and lots more. In additional interviews Clooney also covered the challenges of directing, especially the space sequences, working with Springall and more. With composer Alexandre Desplat he talked about creating the score, especially during the recent shutdowns, and how it adds to the emotional messages of the film.

Late night talk show appearances included Clooney and Chandler on “Kimmel,” Clooney on “The Late Show” and elsewhere.

How Clooney and the rest of his team handled both the extreme conditions during production and the challenges of the post-production situation was covered in a lengthy feature just recently.

Overall

While, as stated, the reviews haven’t been wholly positive there’s a good story being sold here, albeit one that seems to mash up a handful of movies we’ve seen before. Even more than that, what the audience is being presented here is a strong solo outing from Clooney, who have a solid track record both in front of and behind the camera.

With the focus, particularly in the press interviews, on how post-production was handled in isolation a nice hook that’s relevant to the film was offered, one that everyone seized. That helps make the story, despite those reviews, something that may benefit from the fact we’ve all felt like we’re stuck on our own in a desolate arctic outpost for months, even if we don’t live in Green Bay.

Don’t Let Go – Marketing Recap

Blumhouse and others have made sure to tie the movie to Get Out as much as possible.

dont let go posterJack (David Oyelowo) is a man haunted by tragedy in the new movie Don’t Let Go. He’s still dealing with the fact that his family was recently killed in what was believed to be a murder. There’s enough there to deal with on its own but things get even stranger when he begins getting phone calls from one of the victims – his niece Ashley (Storm Reid) – that make him wonder if she’s still alive or if he’s going crazy.

It turns out those calls are somehow coming from two weeks in the past, giving Jack the hope that somehow he can help her and everyone else escape their tragic faith. That quest gives him courage to keep going but also brings its own set of emotional complications and problems that have him questioning everything around him.

The Posters

The colored photos of Jack and Ashley blend into each other on the one-sheet with crime scene tape wrapped around the two of them. It’s an image meant to convey to the audience how one reality is bleeding into the other in ways that make reality hard to discern. It also creates a sense of confusion in that the pink and purple shades are a little off-putting, bright and eye-catching but also difficult to feel comfortable with.

The Trailers

The first trailer (55,000 views on YouTube) didn’t come out until July, the same time the movie was retitled and finally given a distribution date. It starts by showing how Jack and Ashley have a relationship all their own, frequently talking on the phone and hanging out. When she calls one day he overhears the attack that kills her and the rest of his family, an attack he’s too late to stop. While grieving he gets another call from her that seems insane, but it turns out she’s calling from the past, so he tries to warn her about what’s coming and get her to change things. That leads them both on a path that’s just as dangerous as the attack he’s trying to save her and the others from.

Online and Social

Not much of interest on the movie’s official website, just the basic materials and links to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles. The Twitter feed is particularly interesting since, in recent days, it’s been engaging in a kind of real-time walk-through of the story’s premise, asking what people would do if they found themselves in a situation like Jack’s. Not particularly engaging, but notable.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Earlier this year the movie – known at that point as Relive – debuted to mixed reviews and reactions at the Sundance Film Festival. Just last month it was renamed to its current title at the same time a distribution deal with Blumhouse Tilt (a skunkworks division of Blumhouse Productions), OTL Releasing and Briarcliff Entertainment.

Blumhouse and the others have brought the movie to various advance screenings in the last few weeks, most of which have been attended by Oyelowo and others from the cast and crew, including Ava DuVernay, who has worked with both Oyelowo and Reid and turned out to be a big supporter of the film. One event was hosted at the National Association of Black Journalists to make a specific appeal to that group and get the press on board as supporters.

Media and Publicity

A first look still from the movie was released at the same time it as the announcement of its Sundance screening. While there the cast spoke about the kinds of changes the script and project went through while in production.

Oyelowo was interviewed about how he got involved in the project and what he thought of the story. Reid made an appearance a few weeks ago on “Late Night” to talk about the movie.

Overall

There’s a lot about the campaign that’s intriguing, particularly the performances of Oyelowo and Reid as the time-separated pair working to keep the future from happening. The story may seem a bit familiar – similar ground was covered in the recent See You Yesterday – but that doesn’t mean writer/director Jacob Estes isn’t doing something original with the movie.

One constant element in the marketing is the reminder to the audience that this one comes from the producers of Get Out. It’s not the first time a new horror film has made that connection, so it seems Jordan Peele’s groundbreaking movie now serves as a key touchpoint for any new release featuring a primarily black cast in a scary story. That may not be enough to get the attention of audiences, who seem to be taking some time off before the fall season really gets underway.

Picking Up the Spare

Further interviews with Reid and Oyelowo covered the story and how things changed between Sundance and theatrical release.

Gringo – Marketing Recap

gringo posterDavid Oyelowo, who to date has primarily in dramas, gets to flex his comedic muscles in this week’s Gringo. He plays Harold, a mid-level executive at a pharmaceutical company that’s looking to corner the market with an innovation around medical marijuana. To help bring that plan to fruition he’s dispatched by Richard and Elaine (Joel Edgerton and Charlize Theron, respectively), the company’s high-powered heads, to deliver a new formula to a plant in Mexico so production can begin.

Things go badly for Harold pretty quickly. What he thought was going to be a simple business trip turns into a life-or-death situation as he finds himself playing the pawn in the games being played on one hand by Richard and Elaine and on the other by the drug cartel they’ve honked off. It takes all his luck and wit just to stay alive as everyone, it seems, is gunning for him for various reasons. The only help he finds comes from the mercenary dispatched to find him (Sharlto Copley) and Sunny (Amanda Seyfried), a young woman who he meets in the course of his adventures.

Continue reading “Gringo – Marketing Recap”