An Acceptable Loss – Marketing Recap

an acceptable loss posterJamie Lee Curtis, currently riding high in the wake of the recent Halloween sequel, stars this week in An Acceptable Loss. In the movie she plays Rachel Burke, a mysterious and powerful politician who, along with her partner Adrian (Jeff Hephner), set out to intimidate former security expert Elizabeth Lamm (Tika Sumpter).

Burke wants to keep Lamm from sharing what she knows about a controversial action they took years before that had the potential to end a significant part of the war on terrorism but which resulted in the deaths of thousands. Burke knows it will be the end of her and her influence if Lamm testifies, something that could have drastic repercussions for the entire country.

The Posters

“The truth is a moving target” reads the one-sheet, which shows Curtis, Sumpter and costar Ben Tavassoli in a montage of photos that’s intended to convey the tension between the three characters. So you see Curtis looking like she’s annoyed at having to testify in some manner while Sumpter, in addition to the big photo placed in the background, is shown with a gun pointed to fend off danger. It’s nicely laid out but still seems like the poster for any generic low-budget thriller.

The Trailers

You get a good sense of the story by watching the trailer. In it we see how Lamm was once the loyal second to Burke, helping to approve a controversial plan to bomb what’s viewed to be an important enemy target. Then the story cuts to years later when Lamm has left government service, disturbed by the truth behind what she’s done. When Martin (Tavassoli) tracks her down to confront her, Lamm’s conscience kicks in and she starts to think about coming clean. Burke isn’t thrilled about that and it leads to Lamm going on the run, chased by those who want her to keep her silence.

It’s a bit by the numbers, but Sumpter in particular looks like she delivers a solid performance here.

Online and Social

IFC Films offers the usual mix of basic information – the trailer, poster, synopsis and cast list – on its page for the film. It also promoted the title on its brand social channels.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’ve seen or become aware of here.

Media and Publicity

The movie was scheduled to premiere at the Chicago Film Festival, with IFC Films picking it up just as that event started and just as Curtis was white-hot with the Halloween sequel in theaters. The continued attention paid to that movie kind of overshadowed this one, with most of the limited press Curtis did being turned into opportunities for the press to ask her more about what might be coming in that franchise.

Overall

It’s a pretty by-the-numbers story that’s displayed here but it’s presented fairly well, with an emphasis on the drama of Lamm and Burke, once close colleagues, not finding themselves on opposite sides of the conversation. There’s nothing overly unique or engaging about the campaign, but it could benefit from the extra attention Curtis brings with it at the moment.

Wildlife – Marketing Recap

wildlife posterPaul Dano makes his directorial debut with Wildlife, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan. The two play Jerry and Jeanette Brinson, a couple in 1960s Montana whose marriage is falling apart all around them and right in front of their son Joe (Ed Oxenbould).

That dissolution is coming from the fact that Jerry has lost his job and abandoned the family while Jeanette is left behind with Joe. The story, co-written by Zoe Kazan, is a simple one but contains all the powerful elements of a relationship flaming out in dramatic fashion.

(Ed. note: Yes, once again I got release dates wrong as this opened in limited areas last week. Let’s just move on.)

The Posters

The movie’s poster is simple, showing Jeanette and Jerry looking at each other from opposite chairs, looking vaguely dissatisfied with the other. That photo is crowded by not only the icons of the festivals the movie has appeared at but also a number of positive quotes from early reviews.

The Trailers

Jerry is going through a rough patch, we see in the trailer, as Jeanette tries everything she can to both support him and explain his moody and erratic behavior to their son and others. Their son Joe observes all of this, upset by what’s going on but unable to really do anything about it. We see scenes of the family dynamic in various iterations and get a sense of Jeanette’s loneliness and isolation.

The visuals are enough to really hit you where it hurts, particularly all the emotions on display in Mulligan’s performance. We don’t see a lot of Gyllenhaal, but that seems to be the point. Throughout the trailer the audience is shown quotes from critics praising the movie to reinforce the idea that this one is worth seeking out.

The second trailer, released in early September, features much more dialogue and explanation of the story, showing how Jerry is reeling from a recent setback, dealing with it by having his own version of a midlife crisis. Jeanette tries to reassure Joe that everything is going to be alright while at the same time explaining to him the world isn’t as cut and dried as he’d like it to be.

A 60-second trailer from late September hit roughly the same story points, just in more condensed form.

Online and Social

There’s just the basic information found on IFC’s page for the movie, including the trailer, a synopsis and the poster.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots that debuted in early October focused on Jeanette and Jerry, showing scenes from previous trailers to sell the two aspects of the story.

Media and Publicity

With a great cast and Dano in the director’s chair, along with quality source material, it was almost immediately one of those people were most excited to see when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. The cast and crew spoke frequently about the film, with Dano and Williams talking about working together after being friends for years and Kazan and Dano talking about the collaboration they undertook as real life romantic and now screenwriting partners. It was a couple weeks after the festival ended when the movie sold to IFC Films.

It was later announced as one that would screen in a sidebar series at the Cannes Film Festival, where Dano spoke more about taking on directorial duties for the first time and what it was like working with Kazan. Around that time Mulligan was interviewed about why she signed on for the movie and also answered questions about #MeToo and other industry issues.

The movie was announced as one of those screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. It also made the list for the New York Film Festival and the Chicago Film Festival. The movie was added to the lineup of the Austin Film Festival.

Kazan and Dano were often asked what it was like to work together, eventually making it clear they weren’t likely to do so again. Dano talked more about why he decided to step behind the camera here.

Two clips were released in mid-October, one featuring Mulligan and one featuring Gyllenhaal in scenes that expanded on what we’d seen in the trailers.

The two leads were interviewed together about working with Dano and each other to create the nostalgic tone of the story.

Overall

The focus has been placed on two pairings: Dano/Kazan and Gyllenhaal/Mulligan. Those pairings have given the press – and the studio – some clear hooks on which to hang their stories about the movie. That’s good since, while the movie does look affecting and dramatic, it’s also lacking a strong hook in and of itself. So we’ve heard plenty about Dano taking up directorial duties, both from him and some mix of Kazan, Gyllenhaal and Mulligan, providing the strongest appeal for discerning audiences to turn out to theaters.

Picking Up The Spare

Mulligan appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel” to talk about the movie and tell some amusing anecdotes. Meanwhile Dano showed up on “Late Night.” She was also interviewed about the fearless, emotional performance she offers in the film.

Dano talks more about his career and what went on behind the scenes of making the movie here.

The Catcher Was a Spy – Marketing Recap

catcher was a spy posterPaul Rudd looks to continue making his appeal to be seen as a more versatile actor in this week’s new limited release The Catcher Was a Spy. Based on a true story, Rudd plays Moe Berg, a catcher who played much of his career for the Chicago White Sox in the early part of the 20th century. Berg was more than a ballplayer, though, speaking 10 languages and accumulating a number of degrees.

All that made him attractive to the Office of Strategic Services, the U.S. military’s intelligence service during World War II. The OSS recruited Berg, who served in many fields during the war. The movie focuses on one particular assignment: A mission to Europe to determine whether or not German scientists including Werner Heisenberg were close to developing their own atomic bomb.

The Posters

There’s not a whole lot going on with the movie’s one poster. A massive image of Rudd’s head dominates the design, positioned above a dark alley where two men wearing hats and trenchcoats (which work to establish that this is a period piece about spy stuff) are engaged in some shady business. There’s copy explaining this is “The true story of Moe Berg” but what are the odds that’s going to create any sense of recognition in the audience?

The Trailers

Moe, as the trailer starts, is being recruited by the military for a vaguely defined job. Eventually it’s explained that because of his unique mix of physical aptitude, education and language proficiency, they want him to go into Germany and deduce whether the Nazis have developed an atomic bomb. Ultimately he’s asked to kill the scientist he’s sent to spy on if he learns that a bomb either exists or is imminent, a prospect Berg isn’t entirely comfortable with. There are some generic shots of WWII battle and lots of drama around him leaving his girl.

It’s not a bad trailer, but it very much sells the movie as a more or less conventional war spy drama. Berg’s is an intriguing story but the trailer dispenses with what makes it unique pretty quickly to get to fairly standard spy material. None of that is necessarily bad, it’s just what’s being shown here.

Online and Social

There’s not much happening on IFC Films’ page for the movie, where you’ll just find the trailer, poster, cast/crew list and a story synopsis. It’s also received limited support on the studio’s social channels, which have focused on some other buzzier titles to date.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’ve come across here.

Media and Publicity

The movie was originally slated to screen at the Toronto Film Festival but was pulled by the filmmakers who didn’t feel it was ready for debut at that time. With an all-star cast and a great premise, it’s unsurprising the movie frequently made the lists of critics’ most-anticipated films of the Sundance Film Festival. Eventual reviews weren’t exactly in-line with those expectations. But while there Rudd talked about how his role in Ant-Man helped open the door to this film by giving him a chance to do something new in his career. It wasn’t until late April that IFC acquired the film

Overall

It’s not that surprising there hasn’t been a bigger push for the movie. Not only is it a niche release but any more substantial press activity would have necessitated Rudd’s involvement and he’s likely committed to promoting the upcoming Ant-Man sequel.

It’s an interesting story being sold, but there’s no real strong hook for the audience to latch onto. It’s not new or revelatory in any way, coming off as just a seemingly solid period drama without whole lot to offer.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

The real-life Moe Berg, played by Paul Rudd in the movie, is getting an exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
The New York Times delves into the real history of Moe Berg, played by Paul Rudd in the movie.

A Kid Like Jake – Marketing Recap

a kid like jake posterParents Alex (Claire Danes) and Greg (Jim Parsons) are just trying to do right by their son Jake (Leo James Davis) in the new movie A Kid Like Jake. The kid is just four years old but has for a while now shown more of an interest in princess movies and frilly dresses than anything else, interests they’ve indulged without concern because kids are going to be kids.

As they prepare to send him to school, though, the fact that he’s not like other young boys is about to become an issue in some way. There are some who think this isn’t just a phase he’ll eventually grow out of and may be a sign of, to use the modern parlance, gender nonconformity. Alex and Greg struggle with the responsibility of making a decision for their son that could impact his life.

The Posters

Jake’s parents are getting him ready for school or some other sort of event or outing, which in this case includes making sure his jacket fits over the dress he’s wearing. They both look happy and supportive, as do the smiling faces at the bottom of the poster. Basically this is meant to present the story’s premise and set the audience up for what they can expect, which is unconventional in many regards.

The Trailers

The dominant theme of the trailer is not just Jake’s propensity for dressing in princess dresses and skirts but also the struggle Alex and Greg are undertaking in wanting to support their child but not make a mistake in one direction or another. They’ve been dealing with this for a while but now that Jake is entering school it’s all coming to a head as they want him to be himself but also don’t want him to be singled out but also don’t want to make decisions for him at such a young age that can’t be undone later on.

It’s an interesting trailer and one that certainly is meant to position the film as one that wants to participate in and spark discussions about gender identities as well as parental choices and the pressures that come with both.

Online and Social

Just the basic information about the cast and crew along with a synopsis and the trailer on the single page on IFC Films’ website. There were Facebook and Twitter profiles IFC set up to share promotions and other material.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’m aware of, though having visited the website I’m guessing I might see some retargeted ads in the near future.

Media and Publicity

The movie debuted at Sundance, though it didn’t receive a ton of critical buzz. Still, it was acquired by IFC Films shortly after the festival wrapped.

At the movie’s premiere the stars talked about what attracted them to the story and how they hoped to bring a sensitive conversation-starter free of moral judgments to audiences. Parsons hit some of those same points, along with what hesitations about the subject matter he worked to overcome, in a feature interview of his own.

Danes also did a few interviews like this one where she talked about why she got involved in the film and how the subject matter was much different than some of her other recent projects.

Overall

IFC has certainly done what it could to position the movie as being timely and relevant as well as respectful of the people for whom this really hits home. Parsons emerged as the biggest public face in the publicity campaign, which makes a certain amount of sense. All put together it’s a good campaign that may find some success with a niche audience not necessarily because of the subject matter but just because of the release pattern.

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

PICKING UP THE SPARE

Jim Parsons spoke more here about the gender identity issues and other elements of the story. And Claire Danes hit the late-night talk show circuit to talk about the movie.
Claire Danes has continued to do press for the film and talk about the issues raised in the story.

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.

Overall

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.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

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.

Love After Love – Marketing Recap

love after love poster 1Two grown sons are dealing with the fact that not only has their father died but their mother is becoming her own person in the new movie Love After Love. Suzanne (Andie MacDowell) was married for decades but now that her husband has passed she’s looking to move on, including finding some new form of companionship. That causes tension between her and both Nicholas (Chris O’Dowd) and younger son Chris (James Adomian).

In both cases the tension has more to do with their own lives than that of their mother. Nicholas is dealing with the imminent failure of his own relationship while Chris has deeper issues that are worrying everyone in the family. Regardless, they both find the fact that their mother is now on her own troubling in some regard, providing the story’s drama.

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The Death of Stalin – Marketing Recap

death of stalin posterSatire is, in some respects, supposed to make the uncomfortable or even tragic funny. Or at least somewhat relatable. It’s meant to take the figures down several pegs, which is why the genre is usually filled with high-society types or other powerful characters. That model is being applied to this week’s The Death of Stalin, which aims to make comedy out of the era of Russian history when Josef Stalin, who had ruled the country with an iron fist, died and the political infighting and jousting that followed as everyone tried to seize power.

Written and directed by Armando Iannucci (“Veep”), the movie stars Steve Buscemi as Nikita Khrushchev, Michael Palin as Vyacheslav Molotov, Jeffrey Tambor as Georgy Malenkov and Jason Isaacs as Field Marshal Zhukov among others. Each one is fumbling over themselves, creating short-lived alliances with others just as quickly as they’re breaking the ones they’ve already made. They’re backstabbing and assassinating as fast as they can.

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The Cured – Marketing Recap

cured posterThe new movie The Cured takes place in a world that’s been ravaged by an outbreak of a disease that turned people into murderous zombies. That may sound like a familiar premise, but the twist is that it’s set after that disease has been ostensibly cured (hence the name), the surviving victims beginning to reintegrate into a society that still doesn’t fully trust them.

Ellen Page stars as Abbie, whose husband was killed during the outbreak. She takes in Senan (Sam Keeley), her brother-in-law who has been cured after being infected himself. Not everyone in the area is thrilled with having Senan back, nor are they happy with Abbie’s decision. Those fears may be well-founded as the tension between the cured and those in “normal” society seems to be growing toward a showdown.

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Rebel in the Rye – Marketing Recap

This week’s Rebel in the Rye is one of several late-summer/early-fall movies detailing the creative processes of famous authors. in this case Nicholas Hoult plays a young J.D. Salinger during his formative years, before he eventually created the book everyone had to read in Senior English, “A Catcher In The Rye.”

The movie follows Salinger as a young man who’s just returned from serving in World War II, shaking by his experiences there. He feels the impulse, the driving need, to write something that will reflect his worldview and perspective but doesn’t know what that is. Discouraged by his parents, who view writing as a less than noble career but encouraged by a professor (Kevin Spacey) who wants him to dig deeper into his soul, Salinger eventually produces the book that would define his career.

The Posters

The poster puts the floating head of Spacey behind a shot of Hoult, who’s seen looking very much the part of the rebel with his short sleeve shirt and cigarette. “Behind every masterpiece is a story” we’re told, making it clear we’re going to be watching an origin story of sorts. Typewriter-written words hover throughout the poster, establishing that we’re following a writer. The whole thing is tinged brown and orange to look like a faded photo, evoking the time period the movie is set in.

The Trailers

The first official trailer starts off showing a young Salinger when he’s just an aspiring writer looking to make a name for himself. He’s told to just keep writing until he gets it right but gets advice of different levels of quality from different people. We see some of the traumas and issues he deals with on the way to writing “Catcher” but even when he has someone in his corner he can’t quite get it over the finish line.

It’s clear that the struggle to create “Catcher” is the primary driving force of the story. We’re watching its origin story as much as, if not more, we’re watching Salinger’s. While it does present the movie as yet another variation on the “frustrated genius” theme, the dynamic between Hoult and Spacey is what really shines here. This may be most of Spacey’s screen time, but he clearly makes every moment count.

Online and Social

There’s not much on IFC Films’ page for the movie, just the trailer, a synopsis of the story, the poster and a cast list. Bloom Media’s page was similarly sparse, but it included a list of links to news stories about the movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing here that I’ve seen. There may have been some local advertising done in the limited markets the movie opened in last week, but I’m not hip to those efforts.

Media and Publicity

The first big press was a feature story in The New York Times focusing on Strong’s career as an actor, writer and now director as well as his perspective in approaching such sensitive material that’s been hard to translate to film to date. Strong also talked about taking on the story at the beginning of the movie’s production.

The premiere at Sundance in 2017 was well-received but a bit of time passed before it was picked up by IFC for release later in the year. Strong explained later how and why he went about significantly editing the movie between that Sundance premiere and its eventual release.

Overall

The campaign seems to be appealing to two groups: 1) Those who want more information about the creation of a beloved – and often controversial – touch point of American literature and 2) All writers everywhere who have struggled with the disconnect between the internal voices that drive them to create and the results of that drive, along with the reception given the end product.

It’s the story that’s the strongest appeal here. Salinger has been such an enigmatic figure that there’s always been a hunger for more background on him and how he created “Catcher.” I don’t know how much that exists in the general public anymore after the passage of so many years, but it’s something that was still around when I was reading the book and likely lives on, even if it’s mostly in creative circles. So it’s hard to know how much clamoring there might be for a new take on that story, which is part of the reason it seems to be sold as a dramatic tale of overcoming setbacks as well.

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

The Trip to Spain – Marketing Recap

It’s hard to believe that an unassuming, largely unscripted movie that started out as a BBC mini-series about two frenemies eating good food across Great Britain would spawn a legitimate comedic franchise. But that’s where we are as we look to this week’s release of The Trip To Spain.

Once more Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, both playing slightly fictionalized versions of themselves, are pairing up and heading out for a road trip. After first tackling England and then Italy, they now take their bit to Spain. Once more Coogan has been asked to review restaurants as part of the publicity for an upcoming movie and recruits Brydon into that trip. And so they set out for long drives, incredible food and conversations that include their careers, sniping at each other in a (mostly) friendly way and sharing their dueling impressions of other celebrities.

The Posters

The poster doesn’t do a whole lot, but it doesn’t need to. Coogan and Brydon are shown at a big oak table with a handful of exquisitely-crafted food dishes in front of them, Brydon pouring a bottle of wine. That’s it, that’s the entire premise and the entire message that needs to be sent to the audience. There’s a quote at the top that praises the movie and copy making it clear “The two amigos are back” but otherwise the image of the pair is all we really need.

The Trailers

The first teaser didn’t show much but it presented everything audiences might be wondering about. It’s just Brydon and Coogan in a car driving along the Spanish coast while beatboxing and freestyle singing. That’s it. There are some title cards that place this in the context of the first two movies as well as positive pull quotes from critics, but that’s about it.

The first official trailer starts off by immediately setting the premise, which is that Coogan wants Brydon to engage in a trip to Spain. We see them engaging in their usual banter, including their dueling impressions, as they eat incredible food against amazing backdrops.

What else needs to be said? It’s fantastic, promising just what we love about this series of movies only in a different section of the world. Perfect.

Online and Social

Not much on the web for the movie. IFC has a page on its site that has a synopsis, the cast and crew list and the studio gave the movie some promotion on its own social channels but that’s about it.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’ve come across. It’s likely there’s been some advertising done overseas for the BBC series, but I don’t think anything happened on the paid front in the U.S.

Media and Publicity

The studio knew exactly what it was doing, starting off the campaign by releasing a clip featuring Brydon and Coogan doing impressions, including another excuse to do their dueling Michael Caines.

The movie was one of those announced as screening at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. There doesn’t appear to have been a big round of press or anything else, though, meaning the studio is relying mostly on word of mouth and familiarity with the first two movies to get people motivated.

Overall

It’s absolutely understandable that this marketing campaign doesn’t rise to the level of other summer releases. It’s about as small-scale as a film can be, with just two stars that U.S. audiences will mostly tag as “Oh, that guy who died in the opening 10 minutes of Tropic Thunder” and “The other one.” The story revolves completely around food and conversation and, if the previous two movies are indicative, very low stakes.

But it succeeds by very specifically telling the audiences that have enjoyed those other two movies that this is more of the same, just slightly evolved. The premise is the same but the characters have changed a bit since we first met them. Not so much, though, that we’re not going to get more cracks about Coogan needing the best room and making his career seem bigger than it actually is. And Brydon will be there insisting his impressions are better and more than happy to take his friend down a peg. That’s the formula that’s worked so far, so the existing fanbase is being told it won’t be tinkered with too much here.