How Universal has sold a romantic comedy with two mega-stars
Julia Roberts and George Clooney have been Hollywood royalty for a few decades now and have worked together before, notably on Ocean’s 11 and its sequel Ocean’s 12. Now they’re back together in this week’s Ticket To Paradise, opening in theaters from Universal Pictures.
The two play Georgia and David Cotton, a divorced couple who are brought back together when they find out their daughter Lily (Kaitlyn Dever) is about to marry Gede (Maxime Bouttier), a man she just met in Bali. Determined she’s making a mistake that will haunt her for the rest of her life, David and Georgia put their differences aside and work together to sabotage the upcoming nuptials. Of course it’s not quite that simple for anyone.
Written and directed by Ol Parker and costarring Billie Lourd and Lucas Bravo, the movie’s expected to enjoy an opening weekend of about $15m after already bringing in $75m overseas so let’s take a look at the campaign Universal put together.
announcement and casting
Universal Pictures announced the film at the end of February, 2021. Parker was attached to direct and both Clooney and Roberts were already set to star at that time.
Lourd, Dever and Bravo were added a couple months later as production ramped up.
Dever spoke briefly about the movie toward the end of 2021 while promoting other projects.
The movie’s original September 2022 release date was pushed back a month in October of last year.
Universal showed off the trailer to attendees of CinemaCon in April 2022.
the marketing recap
As the trailer (34.1m YouTube views), released at the end of June, begins, Georgia and David find themselves on the same flight and make the life of the person stuck between them miserable. We then see a brief shot of Lily falling in love in Bali. When they arrive they call a truce in their sparring in order to undermine their daughter’s plans, but those plans are soon discovered. As things progress the couple find themselves actually having a good time despite themselves, which is probably going to lead exactly where you think it’s going to.
The poster that came out at the beginning of August knows exactly what it’s selling and what the audience is looking for: Two big stars all dressed up and set against a tropical backdrop. It’s not exactly the world’s most innovative graphic design, in fact it’s quite boring visually, but the appeal here is clear and can’t really be argued with.
The first of many profiles of Clooney and Roberts that focused on how they are such great friends in real life and how much they enjoyed working together on a breezy romantic comedy like this came in The New York Times in early September.
Everyone was in attendance at the London premiere of the movie around that time as well.
Clooney and Roberts explain the premise of the film and show off their chemistry in a short video that kind of seems like it might have been used as a commercial or pre-roll, but the exact purpose isn’t clear. Another similar video featured Dever and Lourd also declaring what great friends they are and how that made working together even more fun.
When he appeared on “The Late Show” Clooney kept hitting the same topics, selling the film based largely on the chemistry between all the stars.
A promo for the film aired during an episode of “Bachelor in Paradise” in late September.
The first clip shows the moment Lily introduces Gede to her parents, who can’t stop their sniping for even a minute.
Roberts and Clooney praise their younger costars in a short featurette that keeps the fun, light vibes going.
Promotional stops on “Today,” “CBS Sunday Morning”, “Kimmel” and other shows had both of the older stars appearing together so their charm and banter could be fully displayed to the potential audience. Dever stopped by “Today” and “Late Night” to talk about what a fun set it was during filming on her own while Bravo appeared on “Kimmel” to share what it’s like to kiss Roberts on camera.
Online ads used the poster key art to drive traffic to the official website, where people could find out more and buy tickets to a showing near them.
The L.A. premiere happened just earlier this week, with the cast and crew once more turning out. On the red carpet the mutual admiration society kept going as everyone talked about how wonderful everyone else was and what a great time it was filming the movie. Clooney also commented on how “brave” Universal has been by insisting the movie open theatrically when there was pressure from a lot of angles to sell it off to one of the streaming services.
Centering the entire campaign around the chemistry and friendship of two of the most likable and bankable movie stars of the last 40 years can’t be a bad bet, right? That $15m opening weekend estimate may be the clearest message yet of how the theatrical landscape has changed in recent years than anything that’s come before.
Everyone’s mileage will vary, of course, but I’m pulled all the way in on this because, as has been made clear before, I’m a sucker for movies that actually feature two seasoned professionals playing off each other like this. And to make that the entire focus of the marketing just increases its appeal that much more.