Happiest Season – Marketing Recap

How Hulu has sold an updated take on the Christmas movie genre.

In The Happiest Season, out now on Hulu, Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis play girlfriends Harper and Abby respectively, a happy couple who are about to put their relationship through a significant test: the holiday season. Specifically, they plan to visit Abby’s family for Christmas. Taking advantage of the celebration, Harper plans to propose to Abby while there.

Writer/director Clea DuVall’s story, though, adds the complication that unbeknownst to Harper, Abby’s family doesn’t know she’s gay. They believe instead that Abby is bringing her orphaned friend with nowhere else to go. Harper then begins to question much of their relationship, often with the support of her friend John (Dan Levy). The movie also stars Victor Garber, Mary Steenburgen, Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza and others.

Originally planned for a theatrical release by Sony Pictures, in October Hulu announced it had picked up the movie and would release it to streaming in late November. To date, the film has received largely positive reviews, giving it a solid 92% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Posters

Just one poster, which was released barely over a week prior to the film becoming available. The major cast, with Stewart and Davis in the forefront, are assembled in a picture as if they’re all part of the same photograph. How that photo is hanging cockeyed over the fireplace indicates how off-kilter the family – and story – is while festive holiday decorations visible around the frame make the setting of the action clear to the audience. It’s a fine, if innocuous, image but for the fact that all the faces save those of Stewart and Davis are clearly Photoshopped into place.

The Trailers

Released in mid-November, the trailer (6 million views on YouTube) starts by showing how much Abby is looking forward to meeting Harper’s family over Christmas. As they’re on their way, Harper breaks the news that her parents don’t know she’s gay, much less that she’s bringing her girlfriend with her. Instead, she’s told them Abby is an orphan with nowhere to go. Hilarity and awkwardness ensues, especially when Abby’s friend John gets involved.

Online and Social

Advertising and Promotions

The buzz-heavy cast was announced in January as the movie was heading into production. That filming was finished in late February, just before Covid-19-related shutdowns went into effect.

Earlier this month a drive-in premiere for the film was held. The artists contributing to the movie’s soundtrack were also announced.

In the days leading up to release online ads like the one below were placed around the web, using the key art to encourage people to click over to the movie’s page on Hulu.

Short videos like this were produced and used both as organic promotions as well as paid ads.

Media and Press

First look stills accompanied by comments from Stewart, Levy and others were included in EW’s Fall Movie Preview.

Following the release of the trailer there were features on how Duvall worked to offer a twist on the holiday rom-com genre tropes as well as on Steenburgen feels about being a Christmas movie go-to player.

Meanwhile, Levy appeared on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the movie and lots more. Brie did likewise on “Kimmel” as did Stewart. Levy and Stewart showed up together on “The Today Show.”

Themed gift packages of promotional items were sent to select members of the press.

Teegan & Sara appeared on “The Kelly Clarkson” to perform their new song on the film’s soundtrack, with DuVall and much of the cast also appearing on that show.

Appropriately, there was significant coverage of the film in the LGBTQ press, including a cover story with multiple features in The Advocate as well as stories like this in Pride, all of which covered how DuVall and the cast worked to bring something new to the genre.

That same theme was carried over into much of the press, including additional interviews with DuVall as well as Stewart and the rest of the cast. There were also breakout profiles of Stewart, Davis and Brie along with more general holiday hijinks with the cast.


It’s hard not to be completely charmed by the campaign Hulu has put together in the space of less than a month. Some of the material was likely brought over from whatever Sony had already produced, but generating such significant buzz in so short a period is a testament to not only the strength of what’s presented here but also to the obvious passion of the audience that has been drawn to it in that time.

It benefits greatly from having such talented and outspoken talent like Stewart, DuVall, Davis and others involved, all of whom have reiterated the movie’s core value proposition – that it’s part of the “awkward family Christmas” genre while offering an updated variation on what’s come before – throughout their press activities. That it’s coming to streaming and not theaters allows it to reach more of the audience immediately, which will likely help its prospects for success.

Picking Up The Spare

Another interview with Stewart had her talking about what made her sign on to this project. 

Costar Mary Holland also got a profile all her own. There have also been a number of interviews like this with DuVall about reaction to the ending, the potential for a sequel and more. That ending was also covered by Plaza when she appeared on “The Late Show.” 

Nice little behind-the-scenes featurette from Hulu.

Details here on a new partnership between the movie and GLAAD and Outfest for a holiday season PSA. 

A couple new featurettes have come out along with a lyric video for Tegan And Sara’s “Make You Mine This Season.” There was also a short blooper reel that’s just great.

Terminator: Dark Fate – Marketing Recap

You can read my entire recap of the marketing campaign for Terminator: Dark Fate at The Hollywood Reporter.

Online and Social

The lack of content on the movie’s official site exemplifies how little attention studios are paying to owned web properties in recent years. There are ample opportunities afforded by the Terminator franchise to offer interactive timelines, recaps of the story so far that include clips from (and links to purchase) the first two movies and much more. Only including a “Synopsis” and “Videos” section – there aren’t even stills – indicates no one cares about putting any effort into movie sites, despite their long-term advantages.

Media and Press

A bit later, while promoting other smaller movies, Davis spoke briefly about how this was the biggest production she’d worked on to date.

Just before SDCC kicked off, Miller was interviewed about how he approached making the movie and how he felt audiences would react to the characters and story. EW’s annual Comic-Con issue included comments from Hamilton about why she chose now to return to the character and what it was like to reunite with Schwarzenegger, Miller introducing the requisite new Terminator models,

At the same time the official trailer was released, a feature profile of Hamilton ran telling the story of how she abandoned Hollywood years ago, shortly after Hollywood abandoned her. Miller’s work in recruiting her to return to the series involved him making the case she would be alright getting back into the business. The biggest takeaway from the story is that the actress gives zero cares about what anyone else thinks and is unwilling to do anything by half measures.

Hamilton and Davis sat down for a joint interview where they talked about their admiration for each other and what it was like to work together. Schwarzenegger appeared on “Kimmel” to talk about the movie and returning once more to one of his most familiar characters. Hamilton also appeared on that show to talk about her long-awaited return to the series.


Picking Up the Spare

Lots more talk show appearances by the cast, with Hamilton, Davis and Reyes all showing up on “Kimmel.”

Additional profiles also popped of Hamilton, Davis, Reyes and Luna, while AMC was given an exclusive interview with Hamilton and Schwarzenegger.

Paramount’s extensive mural campaign was the subject of a featurette that showed where they were appearing and who the artists behind them were.

Dave & Buster’s launched “Terminator: Guardian of Fate,” a new VR experience featuring the voice of Hamilton and a story tying into the film.

Miller addressed the movie’s failure at the box office as well as the creative conflicts he had with Cameron and others during production and editing.