Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) – Marketing Recap

You can read my full recap of the marketing campaign for Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) at The Hollywood Reporter.

Online and Social

The key art from the theatrical poster is used on the splash page of the movie’s official website, which otherwise features mostly just the standard marketing content.

Media and Press

While there had been plenty of chatter from Robbie in particular ahead of this, the first major beat for the movie came when the cast of characters was revealed. That news was largely well-received, particularly in that it included Montoya, an openly-gay character. It was followed a bit later by the news Black Mask would be the villain of the story.

Winstead spoke about the training she was about to undergo to get in shape for the role shortly after news of her casting was announced, which landed as she was promoting All About Nina last year. A bit later Robbie revealed the movie’s full title, which was quite cumbersome but also pretty great, on Instagram. While promoting Mary Queen of Scots, Robbie spoke to how that title was meant to lighten up what otherwise might be more serious material.

Screenwriter Christina Hodson offered occasional updates as she was being interviewed while Bumblebee was in theaters.

Late January saw Robbie release first looks of Harley’s new look for the movie both as a photo and a video.

During the promotion for a new Netflix show, Winstead offered more thoughts on the tone of the film and its story. A profile of Robbie had her saying this movie’s version of Harley Quinn would be a bit toned down, with the male gaze removed from the director’s chair.

Her approach to playing Huntress and more was covered by Winstead while she was promoting Gemini Man.

In December Yan commented on the unexpected array of films she pulled inspiration from for this movie.

During the press cycle for Bombshell, Robbie was also interviewed about how she fell in love with the role of Harley Quinn while shooting the first Suicide Squad and how she wanted this movie to show a different side of the character.

That topic was central to a Variety cover story featuring the actor where she spoke about how she wanted Harley to evolve from that movie, especially with the addition of an all-female crew around her. She also spoke in her role as a producer on the film and how she teamed up with Yan and more.

An interview with Yan and Hodson had them talking about how they wanted to subvert many of the usual comic book tropes and take advantage of having a group of all-female anti-hero protagonists, all of whom had issues and messier personalities than might be commonly found in such movies. Yan also discussed how she got involved in the project to begin with and how she turned to director Patty Jenkins for advice on how to steer such a massive ship.

At the #Harleywood premiere late last month, the stars talked about how excited they were for people to see the movie, why the over-the-top violence was appropriate for the story and how the two main bad guys probably have some romantic feelings for each other. Recording artist Saweetioe was there too and talked about getting involved in the movie’s soundtrack.

The cast, often as a group, appeared on shows like “Good Morning America,” “The View” and others in the days before the movie hit theaters. McGregor also appeared on “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night.” Robbie also stopped by “The Tonight Show,” as did Winstead.

They also were featured on a Glamour cover story, while Smollett-Bell was interviewed on her own about what it was like to bring Black Canary to the big screen. Other interviews included Yah, Hodson and the cast talking about Harley’s journey and how they wanted to make the character work on her own. Winstead commented on the fun of having a mostly-female cast and crew as well and more.

Players of Fortnight could unlock an exclusive Harley Quinn skin.

More details on the new Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey comic from Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti here.

The movie’s costume designer was interviewed on pulling from various sources of inspiration from cartoons to movies in creating Harley’s costumes. How the story depicts violence against women and what the bad guy’s motivations are were part of this discussion with the cast.

What future there might be for a Harley/Poison Ivy partnership movie – one of the projects in development at one point – was speculated on by Yan. Winstead also commented on how she never questioned the idea that a comic action movie would have wide audience appeal.

Overall

Picking Up The Spare

Hodson spoke about the movie in general but that viral moment featuring a hair tie in a new interview.

Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti talk about their new “Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey” comic.

The curating of the movie’s soundtrack to match the movie’s theme of women seizing their moment is covered here.

AMC shared an exclusive conversation with some of the stars while IMAX had Yan encouraging audiences to check the movie out on the big big screen.

How that advance screening for DC Universe members went down was shared by DC.

Another interview with Yan had her commenting on how she wanted to make Harley more authentic and not as male-gaze-driven. She also went in-depth on a key action sequence from the film.

What training she did for the role of Cass Cain was the subject of an interview with Basco.

A new video promo for the movie’s star-studded soundtrack was released.

Bombshell – Marketing Recap

How Lionsgate is selling its take on one of the biggest sexual harassment scandals in the media world.

bombshell posterWhether or not Roger Ailes’ ouster from Fox News marks a key moment of accountability in the recent movement to remove serial perpetrators of sexual abuse from power remains to be seen in many ways. But it certainly was a big deal given the cable channel and the political party it’s an official outlet for don’t usually take the rights of women to be as, much less more, valuable than the men exercising their God-given privilege.

That’s part of why those events have been dramatized in the new movie Bombshell. Charlize Theron plays Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly while Nicole Kidman plays Gretchen Carlson, both of them women integral to the demise of Ailes amidst allegations he repeatedly assaulted and harassed them as well as other female staffers. Margot Robbie plays Kayla Pospisil, a fictional new member of the news staff who encounters those same behaviors and acts as the audience’s surrogate to the story.

Lionsgate’s campaign has relied heavily on the physical transformations of Theron and Kidman into the women they play as well as the schadenfreude not a few people felt at the removal of a man responsible for making many of society’s current ills worse. Unfortunately a solid campaign has run into lackluster early buzz as the movie entered limited release, with wider distribution coming soon.

The Posters

All three women central to the story are shown on the first poster (by marketing agency BOND), released in October. The similarities in their looks is apparent as they’re side by side like this, while copy toward the bottom makes it clear the movie is “Based on a real scandal.”

The Trailers

There’s almost no dialogue in the teaser trailer (8.6 million views on YouTube), released in August. Instead the situation is conveyed to the audience in a number of Meaningful Glances as first Pospisil, then Kelly, then Carlson get on an elevator heading down. When it stops, Carlson and then Pospisil get off and both head into the Fox News offices for unstated reasons.

The first official trailer (13.7 million views on YouTube) was released in early October as part of an event hosted by Lionsgate in Los Angeles and starts with Kayla being given an introduction to how she needs to approach news gathering at Fox News, basically by finding any story that “would scare your grandmother.” That cuts to Gretchen explaining to a room full of attorneys how bad the sexism and harassment at the company was, both on-screen and off, and Megyn’s high-profile run-in with a certain presidential contender. When Kayla wants a promotion, Ailes makes her an unseemly offer to prove her loyalty. Gretchen’s accusations against Ailes make the environment even more hostile and lead to a boiling point for everyone involved.

Online and Social

Nothing of real note on the movie’s official website, which just as the basic information. Social profiles have offered more frequent updates, but that’s about it.

Advertising and Promotions

Roach and the cast attended a press screening of the movie in early October where they all talked about how they approached telling the story, their own experiences with the kind of behavior shown in the story and more. That screening kicked off substantial awards season speculation for the cast in particular. Another screening event was held in New York a couple weeks later.

The organizers of the Hollywood Film Awards announced in October they would be giving Theron a career achievement award. Similarly, she was slated for International Star Award at the Palm Springs Film Festival.

Lionsgate announced in late October it was moving the limited release of the film up one week in an attempt to gain word of mouth before the wide release the week of 12/20, when it competes against Star Wars.

That same month it took the stars and filmmakers on a brief “Conversation Tour” to discuss the film and the topics it touches on.

Theron was honored by American Cinematheque in November.

Roach was joined by writer Charles Randolph at an Arclight Hollywood Q&A where they screened and then discussed the movie.

Two clips came out in the last few weeks, one focusing on Kayla worrying she’s about to be fired, apparently after being ranted at by Ailes and another with Carlson making it clear the official channels for reporting sexual harassment within Fox are utterly meaningless.

Commercials like this cut down the story to manageable chunks, positioning the events depicted in it as the starting point for a national conversation, though on what is left unsaid.

The cast and crew all came out to the movie’s Los Angeles premiere last week and the New York premiere earlier this week.

While it may not make a huge difference in box office results, the cast has been nominated for multiple Golden Globes, SAG and other awards recently.

Media and Press

Initial press about the movie – from before it even went into production – included that it was among the films being dropped by Annapurna Pictures, reportedly due to budget issues that couldn’t be handled by the studio as it struggled to get its financial house in order.

Following the press screening, interviews popped up regularly, including one with Roach where he explained the decision to create the character of Kayla and how he got people to violate NDAs to share details of life inside Fox with him. One person who didn’t participate in that research was Carlson, who was frustrated by the constraints on her voice. The subject of how within and without Fox was or wasn’t willing to break their NDAs to talk with the filmmakers was also covered here.

Additional interviews focused on the challenges of playing real people, including Theron discussing her physical transformation into Kelly and Lithgow’s look for playing Ailes. Theron also admitted to the nervousness she felt taking on the role.

Lithgow talked about the movie when he appeared on “The Late Show” in October. He was also the subject of another profile focusing on his transformation into Ailes and spoke about it more on “The Daily Show” recently.

How the production team recreated the Fox News offices and sets were covered in an interview with Roach. The costume design team talked themselves about getting the look of the Fox News staff right. Roach later shared how he felt the movie followed in the tradition of cinematic social commentary while the whole cast was included in a feature on how they went about making a movie about such a recent and still delicate topic.

There were later profiles of Theron allowing her to talk about her own transformation into Kelly and more, something she continued talking about when she appeared on “Good Morning, America.”

Additional interviews with Roach on why he watches Fox News for research and insights, costar Richard Kind on playing Rudy Gulliani, Robbie on the social media research she conducted, Theron on why she didn’t want to meet Kelly in advance, costar Alanna Ubach on playing Fox personality Jeanine Pirro and more have all popped recently. There were also a few profiles like this on the movie’s wardrobe design.

Overall

There’s nothing wrong with the marketing as it stands. The campaign sells a dramatic retelling of recent history in a much more compelling way than some other movies (cough, Richard Jewell, cough) and seems much more vital and important. How powerful men create cultures friendly to the abuse they visit on those around them is a topic we need to see more of in order to break those systems down.

What’s surprising – and a little disappointing – is that the social justice message seems secondary here to how the performances, especially by Theron, have been put in the spotlight. Her transformation into Kelly is absolutely notable and worth discussing, but what would have been more heartening is to see how that work went to furthering a crucial societal story. Instead of just focusing on what happened at Fox News, the reality that what happened there is happening all over corporate America could have been underlined a bit more strongly.

Other than that, selling movie with incredibly performances by some of the best actors working today isn’t a hard message to put forward.

Picking Up the Spare

Lithgow continued appearing on late night to talk about how he was transformed through makeup and costumes into Ailes. Theron made another stop on “The Late Show.”

Roach spoke about why he cast McKinnon as a new, fictional character here. He also admitted that sensitive men who get defensive easily are not likely to be the target audience for the film.

A clip of a scene glimpsed in the trailers, an explanation of what makes a story perfect for Fox audiences, was released after the movie was in theaters.

McKinnon made a few late night appearances to hype the film, as did Robbie.

The cast and crew spoke about the facts and fictions of the movie at its premiere.  Robbie was interviewed later about her role.

Additional interviews with the movie’s makeup artist, score composer and writer.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Marketing Recap

You can read my full recap of the marketing campaign for Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood at The Hollywood Reporter.

Online and Social

Aside from one element (mentioned in my THR recap), the website for the movie is the standard now used these days where the focus is more on selling tickets while offering just basic marketing content like trailers and stills.

Media and Press

Robbie shared a first look at herself as Tate in early August, a few weeks after the first promotional still featuring Pitt and DiCaprio was released, a still that unsurprisingly was later shown to be slightly edited.

Tarantino originally cast Burt Reynolds in an undisclosed role, but when the star passed away last year Bruce Dern was brought in to take up the mantle. The movie was also the last feature role for Luke Perry, something costar Olyphant spoke about.

A batch of first-look photos was released in late January with another set coming a couple months later.

How the production team recreated old Los Angeles was the subject of a feature profile. Around the same time, Tarantino revealed more information on some of the characters in the movie and what their motivations and backgrounds were and are. The movie’s producers offered similar information on the characters, noting this wasn’t really a movie about Charles Manson. They and others spoke about how important the role was for the late Luke Perry. Later on another feature was run that talked again about the production’s work to recreate the Hollywood of the past.

The interviews with the cast and crew while at Cannes included a profile of Tarantino, Pitt and DiCaprio as well as a panel conversation with the director and cast where they addressed questions about the film’s depiction of women (and Tarantino’s attitudes toward female characters as a whole), the amount of screen time allotted to Robbie and more. On that latter point, Tarantino seemed to turn a bit testy, rejecting the idea out of hand. He also hinted there could be a longer cut of the movie he might edit before it hits theaters.

That conversation may have been at least partly behind Robbie being the subject of a Vogue cover story in June that touched on this movie and more aspects of her career.

A bit later Tarantino was interviewed on the Pure Cinema podcast and talked about the inspiration for this movie and what it is he wanted to do with the story. He also admitted to not contacting director Roman Polanski about Tate, to whom he was married at the time the movie’s story is set, justifying his decision by saying he did the research and didn’t need anyone’s permission. He also said Robbie was his first and only choice to pay Tate while “everyone” wanted to play Cliff, the role that eventually went to Pitt, and reminisced on working with Perry in his final filmed role.

The cast and director stopped by “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on their way to the premiere Monday night to engage in some hijinks and promote the film to that audience.

Toward the end of the press cycle a narrative emerged that DiCaprio appearing in this movie is apt given he’s a throwback to a different kind of movie star. While I question the premise, it was helpful for Sony to have this come around as it made his involvement more special and notable, helping to raise its cache among entertainment journalists and those who follow them.

Details emerged just before release about the role filmed by James Marsden but cut from the final film.

Qualley talked about the movie when she appeared on “The Tonight Show” earlier this week.

Overall

Picking Up the Spare

An L.A. billboard for the movie was defiled by someone looking to make a point about some high profile sex offenders. That strong position is understandable given they say they were abused themselves. 

Kurt Russell was interviewed about how he not only appeared on-screen but also helped Tarantino keep the period feel of the story real. And Tarantino admitted to being a little nervous directing Pacino. Qualley spoke about the experience of shooting with Tarantino and the rest of the cast. 

There were quite a few additional stories like this that covered the production design work in recreating the Hollywood of decades past. And that’s not even mentioning the dozens of features that have explored the reality of the actual actors portrayed in the movie. And there’s been plenty of coverage of Sony’s efforts to woo Tarantino who was without his usual patron. 

No surprise, but New Beverly Cinema in L.A. – owned by Tarantino – featured a whole experience related to the movie that includes props, costumes and more. 

Qualley has become a big part of the post-release press campaign with feature interview like this.

IMAX released another promotional video encouraging audiences to see it in that format.

Butters, one of the cast’s younger members, was profiled about her experiences working on a set with so many major stars.

A new featurette was released focusing on the movie’s costume designs. Additional featurettes focused on Pitt, Tarantino’s love of Hollywood and more. Extended clips of DiCaprio dancing and the first several minutes of the film came out around the same time. There were later spotlights on DiCaprio discussing his character and the movie’s production design.

Mary Queen of Scots – Marketing Recap

mary queen of scots poster 4Mary Queen of Scots is the second movie, following Outlaw King on Netflix, to bring audiences a story of Scottish history and nobility. And once more the focus of the story is on the conflict that’s part of that history, particularly the tension between Scotland and England and the former’s desire to be free and independent from its larger cousin.

In this case that’s very literally the case. Saoirse Ronan plays Mary Stuart, who became queen of Scotland when she was just six days old. Forced to abdicate the throne, Mary eventually winds up seeking the protection of her cousin, Queen Victoria I (Margot Robbie), in England. The two are divided on many fronts, though, including Mary’s claim that she is the rightful English monarch, leading to backstabbing, confrontations and rivalry between the two.

The Posters

Two character posters, one with each of the lead characters, lead things off at the same time the first trailer was released. As many people pointed out, though, the placement of “Born to power” on Elizabeth’s poster and “Born to fight” on Mary’s was kind of backwards when you consider their actual circumstances. This seems like the studio ignoring history in order to position the characters more squarely as rivals, with Elizabeth the one grasping to the throne and Mary the one willing to take up arms to claim what she feels is hers.

The next two posters show the two women in various poses in relation to each other, each highlighting both the friendship and the conflict between the two.

The Trailers

As the trailer opens Mary has returned home to England from Scotland. She wants to make sure she and her cousin Elizabeth rule side-by-side as equals, not competitors or with one subservient to the other. Things quickly become competitive though as Elizabeth’s advisors position them against each other, something Mary keeps trying to avoid but which eventually leads to a clash of armies.

A second short trailer was released just earlier this week that positioned the story as “the epic clash of queens,” showing the two women maneuvering against each other while including blurbs and quotes from some of the positive reviews the movie has already accumulated.

Online and Social

The second trailer opens Focus Features’ official website for the movie, which seems to just offer visitors the two trailers and a brief “About” synopsis. There were also Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles for people to connect with.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I’m not aware of any TV spots, but online ads have used some of the key art to show off the glamour of the costumes as well as the actors involved.

Media and Publicity

First look photos of Robbie and Ronan in character appeared in EW along with brief details on the story. Ronan was part of Focus’ CinemaCon presentation, where she talked about working with Robbie and what story they were trying to tell while the studio showed off a bit of footage. The movie was also part of the later CineEurope presentation from the studio.

A new interview with Ronan and another new still were part of EW’s Fall Movie Preview issue. It was later announced as the closing night feature at the AFI Film Fest. Later on Ronan, Robbie and director Josie Rourke were interviewed together about the production, the nature of the characters and more. Another later feature focused on the same material, including how the two costars worked to stay apart on set to better get in the mood of being rivals.

Robbie appeared on “The Tonight Show” to joke around and show off the look of the movie, with Ronan showing up just a couple days later to talk about the movie, her costra and more. Robbie also stopped in to “Good Morning America” and other shows.

Ronan was also interviewed about the characters and story and again about working with Robbie and more. The two were also jointly interviewed about the production and the political relevance of a story that pits two powerful women against each other, something Robbie also touched on here.

Chateau Marmont in Hollywood hosted a display of costumes from the movie presented by both Vanity Fair and Focus. Those costumes, and the work put into creating them, were the focus of a few stories and interviews with the designers while the sets also got some attention.

Costar Gemma Chan got a bit of attention later on in the campaign, including a short interview and a few TV appearances where she talked about being part of the cast and more.

Overall

What strikes me most strongly about the campaign is that on most every front, particularly in the publicity, it acknowledges that a lot of the rivalry and fighting between the two women is the fault of them needing to prove themselves in what is otherwise a man’s world. They’ve been controlled by advisors and regents and so are paranoid when they see any threat to their position, even if it comes from someone who should otherwise be a friend and ally.

That aside, the marketing has focused strongly on the two costars, which isn’t surprising. The story is there, of course, but it’s all about seeing these two actors go up against each other on screen in a period drama. That’s been the topic of the interviews they’ve done while the rest of the media push has played up the design of the set and costumes, offering audiences a spectacle along with the story.

Picking Up The Spare

Robbie spoke more here about the nerves she had in taking on the role of Queen Elizabeth.

The process of developing the story was covered in a profile of screenwriter Beau Willimon and historian Jon Guy.

Ronan made another appearance on “Late Night” to talk about the costumes and story of the movie.

Another featurette on the royal story of the movie as well as a clip showing some of the planning going on.

Terminal – Marketing Recap

terminal posterIt’s almost impossible, based on the marketing materials that have been released, to figure out what exactly is happening in the new movie Terminal, starring Margot Robbie. So, because deciphering all the convoluted points offered in the trailers and minimal help offered by the rest of the campaign is super-difficult, here’s the synopsis offered by IMDb:

In the dark heart of a sprawling, anonymous city, TERMINAL follows the twisting tales of two assassins carrying out a sinister mission, a teacher battling a fatal illness, an enigmatic janitor and a curious waitress leading a dangerous double life. Murderous consequences unravel in the dead of night as their lives all intertwine at the hands of a mysterious criminal mastermind hell-bent on revenge.

Got it? Alright, let’s dive in.

The Posters

“Revenge never looked so good” we’re told on the first poster, which shows Robbie looking fabulous while standing in front of a wall of TV screens. Presumably she’s the one exacting revenge on those shown behind her given she’s the one holding the gun.

The Trailers

All we see in the teaser trailer is Robbie walking down a dark hallway of some kind while narrating how she’s just the kind of crazy it takes to survive in this world. Other characters are shown only in profile as they walk down other alleyways and corridors. So we’re not given any kind of clues about the story other than how she seems to be at the center of some conspiracy that has collected other individuals for one last payoff. Instead it’s about selling the look and feel of the movie, which is shown as a slick crime drama.

The theatrical trailer offers only slightly more details about the story and characters but very clearly sells the movie as a violent black comedy. A collection of bad men has been brought together by Annie, who has manipulated and seduced each one into just the position she wants them in so, it seems, she can enact some form of revenge. There’s little to no explanation as to why she’s doing this and there’s someone named Mr. Franklin who also seems to be pulling some strings, but everyone eventually finds themselves on the wrong side of Annie’s knife.

It’s less concerned with story than style and it has plenty of that, with neon lights and bright makeup and rain-drenched alleyways. It’s neon noir and looks like it might be a lot of fun if the movie itself retains this kind of attitude and approach.

Online and Social

There really doesn’t seem to have been any web presence at all created specifically for the movie. No website, Twitter or Facebook have been found through search.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Similarly, no advertising appears to have been done.

Media and Publicity

A picture of a very glamorous-looking Robbie in character served as the first look from the movie while it was at the Toronto Film Festival looking for a buyer, which it found just as the festival was wrapping up.

Closer to release Robbie talked about her character’s ability to adopt one of any number of disguises to take care of what needs to be taken care of. There was also a breakdown of the various characters that get caught up in the story.

Overall

The lackluster effort shown here to sell what might be a slick, fun and stylish noir betrays a lack of faith that the movie could even find an interested audience, much less motivate them to action. It’s disappointing because these are just the kind of creative risks more filmmakers should be making. While the marketing materials in particular have resulted in a bit of conversation about the movie it’s largely flying under most everyone’s radar.

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

 

I, Tonya – Marketing Recap

i tonya posterIt’s worth noting that when news broke of skater Tonya Harding having had rival skater Nancy Kerrigan attacked after a practice in 1994, America was two years into the nascent reality television phenomenon. It’s by no means a recent development, but the audience was primed for stories of real life drama involving villains we could root against, sweethearts to root for and sympathize with and so on. Coverage of the story extended well beyond the world of sports and became a reality narrative the whole country followed for a while.

Now that story is coming to the big screen over 20 years later in I, Tonya. Margot Robbie stars as Harding in a story that follows her from her earliest days in the world of competitive figure skating, a career that’s driven by her hard-nosed mother (Allison Janney). Sebastian Stan plays Jeff Gillooly, Harding’s ex-husband and co-conspirator, the one who actually makes overtures to shady types who might be able to elongate Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver) from the equation.

The Posters

The first and only poster features Robbie as Harding standing against the cinderblock wall common to arenas as she holds her skates in her hands and sports a defiant scowl. It certainly seems familiar, largely because those of us who lived through these events will kinda sorta recognize the outfit she’s sporting. And it definitely conveys to the audience that we’re not getting a sugar-coated version of events but one that comes loaded with plenty of attitude

The Trailers

A short teaser trailer sets up Tonya as embracing the role of someone willing to be the bad guy as we see a few shots from the movie, including her skating, Harding being clubbed and more. There’s not much there, it’s just a taste to get something out there and get people talking.

The first full trailer is kind of insane. We see Tonya’s story, including how she was pushed by her mother to succeed in every way, mostly through criticisms and violence. All that made her defiant and tough and unwilling to play by the nice rules that are in place. We see her husband begin looking into having someone take out the competition and keep working, all while dealing with the emotional fallout of being raised like she was.

It’s coarse and vulgar and funny and yeah, it looks pretty darn entertaining. Robbie completely owns the role and Janney looks fantastic as the caustic mother who prods her daughter in the only way she knows how. There are a couple moments that seem to indicate the movie breaks the fourth wall regularly, offering commentary on what’s happening and the reality of the situation, pointing out moments of artistic license being taken. That only makes it look more insane.

Online and Social

The main page of the official website opens with full-screen video pulled from the trailer with the title and a “Get Tickets” prompt at the bottom of the page. That tickets call-to-action is also the first element in the menu at the top of the page.

After that is the “Trailer” section, which has both the teaser and the full trailer, the latter in both red-band and all-ages versions. The “Synopsis” after that offers both a story overview and the cast and crew list. There are several stills in the “Gallery.” Other than the “Share” buttons to post the site to social media the last section is the “Press Kit” that offers a PDF to download where you can get all sorts of relevant information.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

If there’s been a ton of advertising for the movie I haven’t seen it. Nothing has been found in terms of TV spots and I haven’t seen any online or social media paid promotion.

Media and Publicity

The movie had its big coming out at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it was pretty well received. A big feature interview with Robbie appeared around that time where she talked about the technical and physical challenges in making the movie and admitted she didn’t realize this wasn’t a fictional story until they were filming. NEON quickly picked up distribution rights after that Toronto screening and it was later scheduled as one of the closing night features at AFI Fest. Robbie continued talking about the research she did into the woman she’s playing.

i tonya harding headlines

Robbie did a few press interviews in the last couple weeks but most of the coverage wound up revolving around questions about her future as Harley Quinn in various DC Cinematic Universe films. Either that or the stories focused on her fashion and glamour, not really talking about the movie itself. Just look at the headlines to the right, a screenshot pulled from Google News.

She also showed up on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” just last night, interviewed by guest host Chris Pratt.

Overall

I think my favorite part of this campaign is that there’s no attempt to make a feel-good Lifetime story out of it. There’s attitude and swagger to spare throughout the marketing, which matches the public persona many of us associate with the real-life Harding. It’s clear the filmmakers aren’t glossing over anything. While they may present a slightly more relatable picture of Harding than was evident 20+ years ago, she’s still not a warm, fuzzy personality. And Robbie sells all that with conviction, a testament to her acting chops.

The marketing probably won’t make that much of a dent in audience desire to see the film, though. This is very much the kind of film that will skate under most people’s radar until it’s available on Amazon Prime or Netflix in eight months, at which point they’ll kind of remember seeing a trailer for it and decide it’s worth checking out. That’s not the fault of the campaign itself, which sizzles and pops and makes a strong impression, just the reality of the current theatrical marketplace.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

The movie has come under an increasing amount of criticism since it was released, both for its depiction of domestic abuse and for how it plays fast and loose with the truth, the latter centered around an account from a sports writer who covered the events of the film in real-time.

 

A bit more advertising has been done in response to the movie’s early awards season wins, including 15-second pre-roll spots on YouTube that call out how insane this true story is.
While it’s not directly tied to this movie, the interest and attention it received presumably lead NEON to acquire the old documentary “Sharp Edges” about Tonya Harding prior to her gaining national notoriety. Still, it’s somewhat surprising given the backlash to the movie centered around the questionable decision to make the villain in the story sympathetic while almost completely ignoring the victim.

Goodbye Christopher Robin – Marketing Recap

One of several biopics recounting the lives of famous authors, this week sees the release of Goodbye Christopher Robin. As you might guess from the title, the story focuses on A.A. Milne and his creation of Winnie The Pooh and the rest of the inhabitants of the 100-Acre Wood and the adventures they take part in.

Domhnall Gleeson plays Milne, who’s recently returned from serving his country in the military during World War I. No longer content to be entertaining in his work, he strives to inspire peace and love. Escaping London with his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) and son Christopher Robin (Will Tilston), Milne is inspired by Christopher’s affection for a stuffed bear and the imagination he displays. Eventually the success of Winnie the Pooh turns the whole family into celebrities, willingly or not.

The Posters

The first poster is made to look like a storybook as it shows A.A. and his son Christopher walking hand-in-hand through the woods, Christopher’s other hand clutching his beloved teddy bear. The woods are illustrated just as they are in the stories Milne would write. No additional copy here, surprisingly.

The Trailers

Christopher is saying his prayers alongside Olive as the first trailer opens. The focus then shifts to A.A., who’s being introduced as a bright upcoming writer before the stage lights give him flashbacks to the horrors he experienced in WWI. He’s in need of a change to figure out what he wants to do that could really impact the world. So he moves his family to a small village and, thanks to Christopher’s innocent inspiration, begins to get the ideas that would eventually become his best-known work. Through all of this A.A. tries to balance his work and family duties.

It’s a nicely touching trailer that shows us we’re going to get the story behind the story we all know. It uses the juxtaposition of walks in the woods with his son and his experiences in the war to decent dramatic effect. In the end it might come off a bit schmaltzy, but it seems its heart is in the right place.

Online and Social

The domestic U.S. trailer plays when you load Fox Searchlight’s official website for the movie. Close that and you get a version of the key art showing all three members of the Milne family alongside some four-star reviews from various publications. At the bottom is a prompt to watch the trailer and to the social profiles for Fox Searchlight, while the Twitter and Facebook feeds set up for this specific movie don’t appear to be listed anywhere on the site.

“Cast” gets things started at the top of the page, allowing you to select each person’s name and taking you to a page with a picture of them and a quote about how they reacted to the script and story. “Filmmakers” does the same thing for director Simon Curtis.

There’s a short synopsis in the “Story” section. “Photos” has about 10 production stills and “Videos” just has the one trailer.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The first TV spot gets into the motivations that drove Milne, particularly his desire to write something uplifting for both the world and his son, but strips away the elements seen in the trailer that shows the family dealing with sudden and unexpected fame.

Media and Publicity

Gleeson was interviewed for Entertainment Weekly’s fall movie preview issue about how he got the part, how he prepared for it and other related topics. Gleeson was, according to this interview, apprehensive about the part due to the sensitive nature of the story and the real-life character he plays. This interview with Gleeson also nodded to how he’s basically in half the movies hitting theaters this fall.

The star also appeared on TV to talk about the movie and share jokes with the hosts, but the conversation also included plenty of diversions into talk of Star Wars. Robbie joined him in some appearances as well. Kelly Macdonald, who plays the nanny who cares for Christopher while his parents are busy, also did the rounds with various interviews.

There was also a feature interview that focused on both actors who play Christopher Robin – Tilston and Alex Lawther, who plays him as a teenager – and allowed them to talk about their different approaches to the character.

Overall

As I mentioned in the opening, this is one more entry in this fall’s “Behind the Story: True Author Stories” movie trend. By focusing on the inspiration Christopher Robin provided, the campaign hopes to move beyond selling it as a straight biopic, something that has decidedly mixed results. Instead, the goal is to present it as a kind of childhood fantasy, albeit one that also involves the trauma of a former soldier and frustrated writer.

In all, the campaign presents a consistent brand identity, with repeated use of the soft pastels and muted browns that are shown on the poster, the website and elsewhere. It’s all meant to be very serene and peaceful, attitudes that are in keeping with the book Milne wound up writing. It’s also slightly evocative of the editions of Winnie The Pooh that have graced bookstore shelves for years.

It’s not clear how much of the movie’s running time will be devoted to flashbacks to Milne’s experiences in the war, but their inclusion makes me wonder who the target audience here is. Adults are more likely to find interest in the story of how PTSD inspires someone to create something pure and good, but those scenes may be a bit intense for kids who are more interested in the fantasy world on display. At least the campaign doesn’t emphasize one or the other, setting at least one potential audience pool up for disappointment.

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