Zombieland: Double Tap – Marketing Recap

You can read my full recap of the marketing campaign for Zombieland: Double Tap at The Hollywood Reporter.

Online and Social

There’s not a whole lot going on over at the movie’s official website, just the standard marketing materials along with lots of calls to action to buy tickets.

Sony created the usual social profiles for the movie, but took notably different approaches to them. The Facebook page has all the expected updates about promotional activities and new marketing assets being released. The Twitter profile has more updates and a more casual vibe, which isn’t unusual. What is worth calling out is that the Facebook uses “the Royal We” in framing how those updates are shared while on Twitter the updates come from an unnamed “I,” giving the profile a much more personal touch. That tactic is designed to create a stronger connection with followers by making it clear there’s a real person behind the posts, one that is just as excited about this new movie as they hope others are. So

Media and Press

It was over two years before any further update was offered. That’s when co-writer Paul Wernick made comments about how the movie was actually pretty close at hand, aiming toward a 2019 release.

Harrelson commented on the fun he had during production while promoting The Highwaymen earlier this year.

After the trailer debuted, Fleischer talked about why the sequel took so long to come together while also sharing comments from Stone that she wants to do one of these every decade to check in on the characters.

The cast made the late night and morning talk show rounds, with Deutsch and Zuckerberg appearing on “The Tonight Show” while the whole cast appeared on “The Tonight Show” to engage in a bit. Harrelson hosted “Saturday Night Live” a couple weeks ago.

AMC Theaters offered an exclusive featurette and interview with three of the leads. They commented on the same array of topics as before at the movie’s premiere.

Fleischer talked about how he revived old instincts to return to the decade-old stories and characters. He and others were interviewed again about the potential for another sequel in a decade.


Picking Up the Spare

More from the movie’s screenwriters here about their ideas for a third installment. The return of a certain celebrity in a cameo role was also covered, as was the unease felt by Stone and others in the cast. Deutch also talked about her addition to the story.

A blooper reel came out just after the movie was in theaters.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – Marketing Recap

The fairy tale sequel is tracking for a $50 million opening weekend.

maleficent 2 poster 4Angelina Jolie returns in the title role of this week’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. The Disney release is a sequel to the 2014 original that had her playing the Sleeping Beauty villain in her early, more sympathetic years.

The new movie picks up five years after the events of the first movie. Maleficent has been acting as the protector of Aurora (Elle Fanning) as well as the kingdom her family rules over. An uneasy truce between humans and fairies, which Maleficent leads, is tested when Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) proposes marriage to Aurora and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfieffer) sees it as an opportunity to cause further division.

It’s part of Disney’s trend of breathing new life into classic animated characters by adapting them into live-action, albeit with the twist here that the focus is on the antagonist. That’s something the studio will revisit with next year’s Cruella.

For now, though, the popularity of the original film necessitated a sequel and Disney was happy to oblige. The marketing for the second installment has been full-throated, but the message has been shallow, hoping that sheer spectacle will make up for what seem to be crudely-constructed characters whose motivations remain unclear.

The Posters

The teaser poster (by marketing agency BOND) released in early March offered the first real good look at the movie, showing Jolie as the title character bathed in darkness and looking more than a little evil.

Two months later a triptych was released with Maleficent in the middle while Queen Ingrith and Princess Aurora flank her, each set against a background that’s in keeping with the character. Individual posters breaking out each character were released shortly thereafter.

maleficent 2 poster 2

Another widescreen promotional image was released when the movie was being touted at D23 in August.

maleficent 2 poster 3

In August the theatrical poster was released showing Maleficent looming in the background while all the other characters are off to the side. More character posters (by marketing agency eclipse) followed later in the month offering closer looks at Aurora, Ingrith and Conall.

It’s a very dark, fairy tale image used on the IMAX poster, with Maleficent spreading her wings to their full terrifying breadth as thorny vines spread all around her, a green ring’s glow providing the only source of light. Similarly, the RealD 3D poster has her hovering in the sky as feathers fly from her wings. The Dolby Cinemas poster looks almost like a Rorschach drawing, with Maleficent’s face and headdress appearing as light, feathery, detailed brushstrokes.

The Trailers

The first teaser (6.1 million views on YouTube)from mid-March promises “this is no fairy tale” as we see Maleficent threatening royalty and causing all sorts of other chaos. Her motivations are unclear and not much of the story is offered to viewers as this is all about promising the character is returning and looks fabulous in her various costumes.

There’s more of the story in the second trailer (11.8 million views on YouTube) from early July as we see Aurora has grown and is engaged to be married. That news is going to ruin Maleficent’s morning. Even worse, Queen Ingrith has decided this is the moment to reclaim motherhood of Aurora, prompting Maleficent to declare the wedding will not happen. So begins a battle between the two women for Aurora’s soul and future, one filled with all the creatures and settings you’d expect to find in a fairy tale land.

Online and Social

In addition to trailers and a story synopsis, Disney’s official website for the film has some character descriptions but not much else. I’m surprised to find there aren’t a number of promotional partners listed here.

A movie-themed collection of stickers could be accessed by iMessage users to add some zing to their messages.

Users of the site/app PicsArt could add their own photo and enhance it with Maleficent’s headdress and other paraphernalia, the finished product then available to share with others.

Advertising and Publicity

The first waves for the movie were made when the expanded cast list was confirmed by the cast themselves via social media. Months later in April Disney shared footage from the movie as part of its CinemaCon pitch to exhibitors, promising a spooky story for audiences to enjoy.

A more audience-centric appeal was taken at Essence Fest in early July as a photo booth featuring images from the movie was part of the studio’s presence at that convention.

Early August brought the first TV spot, which shows the kind of fairy tale action and drama audiences can expect from the film.

Later that month the movie was part of Disney’s D23 Fan Expo, with Jolie appearing on stage along with the rest of the cast to promote the film to attendees. Costumes from the movie were on display on the show floor.

Disneyland hosted a sneak preview of the film for guests at the part, with Fanning stopping by to give fans a treat in late September.

Jolie was praised by her costars in a short featurette released in early September that emphasized how incredibly she inhabits the role. Another featurette focused on how time had passed in the story and where all the characters are when we see them again.

Disney released a “Back in Black” time lapse video of Jolie having her makeup applied. The event of advance tickets going on sale was marked with a new TV spot promising the return of everyone’s favorite villain. That was followed by a longer commercial that showed off more of the characters and conflict from the movie. Additional commercials hit similar themes, showing the dark nature of the story and the fantasy-based action it contains.

A new song for the film’s soundtrack was released by Bebe Rexha in mid-September. The official video came out a month or so later.

Promotional partners for the movie include:

  • Kohler, which ran co-branded commercials promoting its high-tech mirrors that come equipped with voice controls, something that’s very on-brand for the movie’s subject matter.

The first clip was released by Disney in late December showing Maleficent confronting the King and Queen about problems in the woods.

Disney shared footage from the movie’s premiere in early October that showed all the cast and others in attendance. That came along with a brief video showing Jolie getting ready for that premiere.

Beginning earlier this month Disney released videos from the movie’s worldwide premiere events, including Japan, Rome, Tokyo and London. There was also a stop in Moscow. A short sizzle reel recapping all those and other global stops came out days before release.

Additional TV and online video spots hit various aspects of the story, always coming back to the visuals of Maleficent exercising her full power to threaten the humans she’s been betrayed by. An extended “Special Look” came out just days before the movie came to theaters that promised audiences a story that may not have a happy ending for all involved.

An LA building wall was transformed into a movie mural thanks to a local artist.

The three leads sat down for a conversation about the story and characters, agreeing that Maleficent isn’t actually evil, just wild and a little misunderstood.

A partnership with YouTube influencer Promise Phan promoted the availability of an augmented reality tool allowing people to add effects that transformed themselves into the title character.

Media and Promotions

In August Jolie wrote an essay on the issue of women’s rights and gender equality that was part of a cover story she was featured in.

A feature on Fanning focused on her fashion choices and how she’s become more comfortable with expressing herself through clothes and more.

The members of the cast showed up on various morning and late night talk shows to promote the film.


Jolie is being positioned here as an almost Beyonce-like figure, someone who immediately dominates any room she enters by virtue of her strange, otherworldly energy. That’s the message conveyed by the videos shared from D23 and the global premieres, including all those spots showing her putting on makeup and preparing for those events. It’s one that’s in line with the character she plays, someone who literally descends from the heavens to inspire or terrify those around her.

But that’s the only message the campaign really has for audiences. The story itself is never more than hinted at or alluded to in the trailers or TV spots. And the interviews with the cast include lots of discussion about how Maleficent isn’t bad, she’s just acting within the confines of her nature when she threatens humanity, making it clear it was humanity that betrayed her first.

In that regard it’s much like many of the other recent campaigns from Disney for their various franchises. It knows the story isn’t what will convince people to pop for IMAX tickets, so it just shows larger-than-life characters in large-scale set pieces to act as the primary value proposition.

Picking Up the Spare

The movie’s costuming and makeup work was the subject of this profile. Meanwhile, the film’s director talked about specific inspirational sources he drew from.

Another fun little video with Pfeiffer and Fanning answering fan questions.

Teen Spirit – Marketing Recap

teen spirit posterTeen Spirit is the latest movie in the last several months about a woman making her way in the music industry. Written and directed by Max Minghella, this one stars Elle Fanning as Violet, a young woman who dreams of being a super star and so auditions for a TV singing competition show.

Violet gets the attention of the producers and others who think she has something special and want to take her beyond what the show might offer and farther than what her family, who’s guided her so far, is capable of. Entranced by the idea of making it big, Violet sets off but finds that fame comes with a trade off she didn’t anticipate.

The Posters

Just one poster for the movie showing Violet in close up as she leans in toward the mic, a bright purple light drenching her face. It shows the music industry setting of the story and that the focus is on the performance, though the slightly vacant look in Violet’s eyes show she’s not fully processing what’s happening to and around her, or is having a hard time dealing with it.

The Trailers

The first teaser, released at the time the movie was screening in Toronto, paints an enigmatic picture as we see Violet at all stages of her career, from auditioning to commanding the stage at a massive audience. We also see the rough, hedonistic lifestyle that comes with that fame and recognition.

Later on an official trailer starts out by showing Violet’s life before hitting it big, following her from farm through the preparation for appearing on a singing competition to becoming more famous than she imagined. It ends with a list of the artists appearing in or lending their music to the movie.

The second trailer expands on the background shown in the first, explaining where she starts out and the kinds of obstacles she has in front of her. Violet is constantly being torn between told music is a business or a passion, leading to conflict and turmoil with everyone around her. Other than that this is the same message sent before, about the dangers of getting what you wished for.

Online and Social

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A TV spot from March played like a short version of the second trailer, showing the path Violet is lead down in the hopes of becoming famous.

Media and Publicity

In one of its first big publicity pops, the movie was slated to premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in early September, with Fanning talking around that time about how the role allowed her to be a pop star for a bit. Distribution rights were picked up during Toronto by Mickey Liddell, though what sort of release that meant remained unclear at the time.

While at Toronto, Fanning spoke about what she admired about her character and how she overall identified with her.

A bit later an exclusive clip was shared with EW. Another clip offered a full version of Violet performing “Dancing On My Own” as we see footage of her singing or other scenes from the film.

Fanning was interviewed about the story as well as the training she underwent to prepare to play a singer in the movie. For Vogue she talked music and created a playlist of her favorite songs at the moment. She also showed up on “The Tonight Show” to sing and dance with Jimmy Fallon and continued to talk about how music has always been a big part of her life. Minghella also weighed in on the inspiration for the story.

The focus on the music continued when Interscope Records released an official video for “Wildflowers,” performed by Fanning on the movie’s soundtrack.


Fanning is the real star here in much the same way she was in the campaign for The Neon Demon, another movie that cast her as an ambitious ingenue seeking stardom in a glamourous industry. Like that movie – as well as the campaigns for others about women in the music industry – we see her rise to stardom and the costs of achieving the success she’s dreamt of.

It’s also similar to some of those other campaigns in that it uses stark lighting as a way to communicate the character’s moods and actions, this time with singular bright lights on Violet to show her performing and reacting to her new trappings. The movie is sold as a character arc from naive amateur to overwhelmed celebrity, but also hints at the downside of fame when it comes from going against who you really are.

Picking Up the Spare

There’s a new video for Fanning’s version of “Dancing On My Own” that was released by the studio. Also a featurette that focused on the story of the movie. while another focused on the music. 

Director Max Minghella was profiled about his move behind the camera and why he decided to make the switch. 

I Think We’re Alone Now – Marketing Recap

Here’s how Momemtum Pictures sold the end of the world drama I THINK WE’RE ALONE NOW with Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning.

i think were alone now posterIt’s the end of the world in I Think We’re Alone Now and Del (Peter Dinklage) is feeling fine. Well…maybe not fine, but he’s certainly made his peace with his status as seemingly the only survivor of a mysterious apocalypse that has wiped out almost all the world’s population. He is living alone and filling his days with cleaning up the town and whatever diversions he can manage.

His solitude is interrupted by the appearance of Grace (Elle Fanning), a fellow survivor who has mysteriously arrived in his town and would like his attention. Del is unwilling to accept this, though, and pushes her away.

The Posters

A lot’s happening on the first poster, which takes an artistic approach showing Del and Grace at the top of the image, him looking slightly annoyed while she’s screaming into the sky. Goldfish float around them while at the bottom we see cars left abandoned on the highway, the road flanked by fields that are covered in fresh graves. “In the end…chaos will find you” the copy reads, filled with meaning about the story.

The Trailers

There’s not much happening in the first trailer, nor is there much of the story that’s explained. We hear some of the dialogue between Del and Grace, but all we see is him walking down an empty street toward a crashed car with its alarm going off. A second teaser hits some of the same beats, but has Del stating more explicitly that he just wants to be left alone amidst all this chaos.

The first full trailer, released in late August, offers a bit more of the story. It starts by presenting a nearly empty town that Del is systematically cleaning of bodies and other refuse. When he meets Grace he’s suspicious of where she came from and how she survived and indeed there does seem to be some kind of mystery to her background, though it’s not explained here. It ends with Del going off by himself, an off-screen voice assuring him it’s alright and that it’s time to come home now.

Online and Social

There doesn’t appear to have been an official website created by Momentum, but there were Instagram, Facebook and Twitter profiles created to give the movie some online presence.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I haven’t seen or heard about any paid promotions for the movie.

Media and Publicity

The premise of the story and a popular cast helped the movie make the “most-anticipated” lists of films screening at the Sundance Film Festival. While there Dinklage, Fanning and the rest of the cast and crew talked about what it was that attracted them to the story, it’s themes of solitude and companionship and more. Momentum Pictures picked it up a few weeks after the festival ended.

Fanning made an appearance on “Late Night” to talk about the movie. Morano was profiled in a piece that allowed her to talk about not only the story and characters but her unique position as both director and cinematographer.


It’s really the festival buzz that makes an impression in the campaign. There’s some good stuff in the trailers and teasers and the poster certainly makes an impression, but it’s such a high concept story that the word of mouth element, where the concept can be explained a bit more thoroughly, that makes the strongest case.

That high concept will likely turn off some people along with the fact that it isn’t scheduled for wide release any time soon. What strikes me most, though, is that this is the kind of movie that Netflix has turned into a cottage industry, so it would seem to make more sense there, where it can be explored at people’s leisure.


Peter Dinklage shares how he got involved with the movie and what he finds most interesting about how it was produced.
Editor Madeleine Gavin speaks here about how she worked to keep creating tension in the story. And director Reed Moreno offers additional thoughts on the movie, its themes ands what it means for her career so far.

Mary Shelley – Marketing Recap

mary shelley posterThe second of two Elle Fanning movies coming out this week has her starring as Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin in Mary Shelley. She plays the author as she’s on the cusp of writing her best known work, Frankenstein, something society at the time isn’t ready to fully accept came from a female writer.

Not only that but she’s involved in a tumultuous love affair with the poet Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth). Her experience with that romance as well as her fascination with the world around her and her determination to make an impression on the world drive her to do something different and memorable with her life, much to the chagrin of her lover, parents and others.

The Posters

The movie is billed here as “The life that inspired Frankenstein,” making the parallels between the personal and the literary part of the audience’s expectations for the movie. A close up of half of Fanning’s face is the only graphic element here, though the entire thing is doused in a drab, brownish-grey color palette that lends a somber Victorian air to the brand.

The Trailers

Immediately the trailer establishes Mary as someone filled with ambition but stifled by the expectations and norms of the society she lives in. She meets Percy, her future husband, and the two begin a romance while she’s only 16. The relationship isn’t a hit with her friends and family. Her imagination is sparked when she sees a demonstration claiming the dead can be returned to life. Cut to her at the fateful meeting with other writers where each is challenged to write a ghost story and while those around her love it, some question whether she is indeed the author.

What comes through clearly here is how Mary’s life of struggle with love and the rigors of society all informed the book she’s most famous for. At every turn the trailer draws a connection between her personal life and the work of fiction she creates. Fanning looks wonderful as the title character, infusing her with deep sadness and an iron will.

Online and Social

There’s just a single page of basic information that IFC Films created for the movie at the same time it provided a bit of support on social channels.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nope, nothing here.

Media and Publicity

A first-look still provided an early glimpse at Fanning as the title character. The movie was announced as one of those that would screen at the Toronto International Film Festival, a screening that resulted in relatively positive buzz and word-of-mouth. While there the star and director talked about how they wanted to reclaim the story for Shelley after it’s become so associated over the years with male stars, directors and others involved in various adaptations.

The movie was eventually picked up for distribution by IFC. Later on it kept going on the festival circuit, including a stop at the Tribeca Film Festival. While there weren’t any (apparent) corporate ties that facilitated it, an installment of Nat Geo’s “Genius” series focused on Shelley seemed timed to ride the wave of conversation about the author and had the side benefit of also contributing to awareness of that resurgence.

Fanning and the rest of the cast admitted that they didn’t know much about the author before they started filming, opening their eyes to just how radical and innovative she was.


It’s a nice, moody campaign IFC put together here but it’s not going to amount to much, I don’t think. There have been a number of these gothic-tinged movies about female writers struggling to overcome the norms of the society they’re shackled to recently but none have caught any fire. Fanning is about the strongest draw in the whole thing.

That being said, it’s good that these stories keep being told and weren’t completely shut down by the entire industry just because one didn’t connect with audiences. It’s still important that more people here and see he story behind the story and learn how independent, unconventional women have been breaking societal boundaries for a long, long time now.


Director Haifaa al-Mansour finally got a profile of her own where she talks about getting involved in the story and how she broke into the industry.

How To Talk To Girls At Parties – Marketing Recap

how to talk to girls at parties poster 2Alien invasion movies are pretty common, but most of them tend to involve lots of running about and trying to stop them before they progress too far. This week’s How To Talk to Girls At Parties is the story not so much of aliens invading the plane but instead about a group just visiting and the trouble one of their number gets into while trying to blend in.

Elle Fanning plans Zan, one of a group of interstellar visitors stopping by Earth while on a tour of the galaxy. She meets Enn (Alex Sharp), a young man who’s trying to embrace his nascent rebellious side by attending punk concerts and so on. The two form a connection and she’s allowed to accompany him out into the world, in this case the London suburb of Croydon. He’s not aware she’s an alien but thinks she’s just a really neat chick who’s a bit unusual, which he likes. Her social cluelessness and his tendency to forego social niceties add up to an interesting time on the town.

The Posters

how to talk to girls at parties posterThe first poster shows a psychedelic image, with an explosion of colorful stars bursting from the center of the image, with a couple of people in the white middle of that event. The movie’s Cannes credentials are at the top, just above copy that reads “Some girls are out of this world.”

It was quite a while before the next poster came out. This one used the same burst of light in the background but put Sharp and Fanning closer to the camera, her resting her head on his chest. She looks stiff and plastic and he’s doing his best to appear punk. Flanking each are their respective crews, his looking appropriately antisocial and hers looking just as strange and unusual as you’d expect. The stakes of the relationship being teased are laid out in the copy reading “Talk to the girl, save the world.”

The Trailers

Enn and his friends are out for a wild night of clubbing in the trailer (at least the first official trailer…there were a couple rough ones early on that I’m not including here) when they decide to pop into a house inhabited by nothing but lovely young ladies wearing plastic dresses. He meets Zan and the two connect but is pulled out of the house when things get really weird and his friends freak out. Zan leaves the house and tells Enn she has 48 hours for him to show her everything there is. So they get into all sorts of trouble as she’s very awkward (being an alien and all) and eventually there’s some kind of confrontation for Zan’s future and more.

It’s brightly-colored and weird and has a vibe all its own but I kind of dig it. Considering the credentials of those involved, which are displayed prominently in the trailer, it’s hard to imagine it being a complete disaster but it certainly doesn’t look like it’s going to appeal to everyone. It’s also possible this is a sequel to Neon Demons and Fanning is playing the same character, who simply wasn’t revealed as an alien in that movie, but that’s just speculation.

Online and Social

As is pretty common with these smaller releases from A24 the movie got just a single page on the production company’s website that had the basic details on it. There was also minimal support provided on the brand’s core social media profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’ve been exposed to.

Media and Publicity

A set of first-look photos coincided with the movie’s debut at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival that showed off the punk stylings of the lead actresses. Around that same time a few teaser clips were released by the cast. The movie was one of a few Kidman appeared in at the festival, leading to a narrative in the press about the actress’s resurgence and her work ethic.

Things went largely dark for a while until closer to release, when Neil Gaiman – on whose short story the movie is based – talked about its autobiographical nature and how he intended it as a love story accessible to anyone regardless of age or gender. Director John Cameron Mitchell was also interviewed about what he wanted to do with the story and how this fits into his small but notable body of work to date.


I very much feel like this is a subculture movie. That’s not a knock, but given the film’s pedigree, the general audience awareness of the talent involved behind the camera, the lack of big-name stars in front of the camera and an unusual and hard-to-explain story, it’s hard to imagine it breaking out into the mainstream.

That being said, it’s a good campaign. The right kind of audience, the ones predisposed to like this kind of movie, are going to find it and may latch on to it, turning it into whatever the new term for “cult classic” these days is. Fanning continues to be one of the most intriguing young actors around and Sharp gave a great performance in the Netflix series “The End of the F***cking World.” There’s also a nice, consistent attitude that pervades the campaign, meaning if someone sees it, they’ll know pretty quickly what kind of movie is being sold and how.

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