licorice pizza – marketing recap

How MGM sold the latest in a long series of celebrations of the City of Angels

Licorice Pizza movie poster
Licorice Pizza poster

Describing Licorice Pizza, the latest from writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, as a “love letter to Los Angeles” is to put it in the same company as scores of other movies. It’s similar to how just as many movies have been described as allowing “the city of New York to really be a character in the story.” By that I mean it’s a common way for writers and directors to attach a vibe or feel to a movie without actually having to do the work.

The story is centered around Alana Kane (Alana Haim) and Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman). Valentine, just 15, is an aspiring actor who falls for the older Kane as they embark on a series of low-key adventures that include a trip to New York, a stint in waterbed sales and more, all set against the gas crisis of the 1970s.

As with many of Anderson’s movies, the specifics of the plot are secondary to the drifting, aimless nature of the characters who aren’t moved along by traditional story beats but more the gentle waves of life.

announcement and casting

The movie, at the time unnamed and with few if any details known, was said to be in production in mid-2019. It was originally setup at Focus Features but MGM acquired it in July, 2020. Cast members, including Haim, Hoffman, Bradley Cooper and others, were added over the next few months.

the marketing campaign

Up until the end of this past September the movie had remained nameless, with Anderson keeping the title under wraps to maintain some mystery. Finally the title was revealed with the release of the first poster, which shows Kane and Valentine hanging in a carport and giving off some *very* 1970s vibes.

The first trailer (6.1m YouTube views) came out at the same time. It shows some of the ups and downs of the relationship between Kane and Valentine as well as many of the big name cameos that have been lined up for the movie. But most of the story points are still very vague, obscured in the service of maintaining the loose, hazy aesthetic Anderson is creating and the apparent aimlessness of many of the characters.

Initial screenings generated lots of positive buzz among critics, especially for Haim’s first screen performance. How that debut came about, and the coincidental personal connection between Anderson and the Haim family, were covered in an interview with the musician/actress and John C. Reilly, who has a small role in the film.

Anderson was interviewed about the inspiration behind the movie, the meaning behind the title, how he handled the age discrepancy between the two main characters and more.

The movie’s hit-driven soundtrack was announced in mid-November. Ads announcing the availability of tickets started running around that time as well. That included TV spots/video promos that took a very 70s approach with the voiceover and title cards.

There were additional interviews with Anderson where he talked about similar topics he had earlier, including casting Haim, his love of L.A. in the 70s and more.

MGM recreated a pinball parlor from the movie as a location people could come visit in Los Angeles.

The next poster is even more visually inspired by the era the story is set in, with a cartoonishly-drawn Kane holding Valentine in her outstretched hand, with the other characters shown around her. The feathered hair, the tight t-shirt, it all looks like she should be sporting roller skates and discussing “Charlie’s Angels.”


The movie actually opened in a handful of select locations last weekend, scoring an impressive opening for such a small platform release. That performance was no doubt helped by the positive reviews and other word of mouth that have given it a 92% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

As for the campaign, it’s hard to see it attracting an audience outside of a core group of PTA enthusiasts and other cinephiles. Not that it’s not solid, but it’s extremely inaccessible to anyone who hasn’t already bought into the vision and style of the director and those like him. There’s been a small effort to get fans of HAIM interested but I’d be surprised if those efforts resulted in any serious return.

That’s in part because this movie is getting such a traditional small-scale release, meaning it will simply be unavailable to vast swaths of the potential audience even if their interest is piqued.

Wrath of Man – Marketing Recap

How MGM has sold the latest from director Guy Ritchie.

Jason Statham reteams with director Guy Ritchie for this week’s new release Wrath of Man. In the movie Statham plays the mysteriously-named H, who as the story begins gets a new job at an armored truck security firm. When his truck is targeted by would-be thieves H out of nowhere displays highly-specialized skills to neutralize the attackers, much to the surprise of his coworkers. It turns out H has an agenda all his own as he seeks revenge for a personal tragedy.

Like many of Ritchie’s movies (not counting his…umm…side quest directing Aladdin), this one comes preceded by a marketing push that’s been slick and violent, both hallmarks of his work for decades now. Mostly positive reviews have earned the movie a solid 75% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, so let’s take a look at how it’s been sold.

The Posters

On what seems to be the movie’s only poster (by marketing agency AV Print), released in late March, H is seen looking dapper but serious, his finely-tailored suit contrasting with the bloody, bruised knuckles of his hands and the wounds on his face. There’s no copy, but that visual does a decent job of communicating the basic ideas of the movie to the audience. Helping that is how Ritchie’s name is the same size as Statham’s, showing just how much of a brand the director is himself and how important a role that name recognition plays in capturing an audience.

The Trailers

The first trailer (18.5 million views on YouTube) came out in late March, opening with H being introduced as the newest member of the team and being instructed on how dangerous the job of guarding cash trucks is. A hold-up shows the rest of the team how precise and deadly H really is, and it turns out he has a personal grudge he brings to the job. But which side of the law he’s working on is up in the air, as he seems to be using everyone to exact his long-festering revenge.

Online and Social

It’s not a bad website MGM/United Artists Releasing put up for the movie. There you’ll find a pretty good synopsis as well as a photo gallery and some of the videos, including the trailer, along with information on where you can buy tickets for theatrical showings where they’re available.

There were also social profiles on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram that have helped promote the movie online. Short clips shared on social channels offered additional looks at the movie, many of which featured footage not previously seen in the trailers or presenting expanded looks at some of those scenes.

Advertising, Press and Promotions

News and rumors about the film began circulating in 2019, noting that this would reteam Ritchie and Statham for the first time in about 20 years.

We get a little bit more of H’s backstory and motivations in a TV spot released a little after the first trailer came out in March.

A featurette released in April has Ritchie and others talking about the story, including how it might be more violent and bloody and any of the director’s previous films.

Two clips from later in April show H enjoying a night out with the rest of his new team, who are perplexed by his standoffish solitude and talking amongst themselves about their concerns over H’s behavior during the first confrontation with the thieves.

Both AMC and IMAX shared short featurettes that included the cast and crew discussing the story and making the case for seeing the movie on the big screen where they could.

Last week the movie was promoted to gamers when MGM sponsored the Twitch stream of a Call of Duty: Warzone tournament, with actual athletes representing the movie’s branded team.

One final clip features a cameo from musical artist Post Malone, with the footage once more taken from H’s first encounter with the thieves robbing his truck.


From the majority of the campaign it’s almost impossible to make out what the story is actually about or determine what H’s motives might be. That’s alright, though, since selling a story of any kind isn’t what the marketing is about.

Instead the goal is to position it as a violent escapist revenge fantasy from a director and star known for such things. Ritchie’s name being prominent on all the material – including the stills and other images shared on social media – indicates how much of a draw he’s perceived to be.

But other than his unique visual flair, the campaign offers no indication of whether there’s anything original in what generally seems like the 12,000th variation on Death Wish, not to mention that “deal with your feelings by grabbing a gun” seems like a message out of sync with literally everything right now.

The Addams Family – Marketing Recap

What started in the 1930s as a simple comic strip about an unusual and slightly ghoulish family gets an animated update from MGM.

addams family posterThe Addams Family, this week’s major animated release, is just the latest in a long string of adaptations of Charles Addams’ single-panel comics that originally ran in The New Yorker. This version features the voice talents of Oscar Isaac as Gomez, Charlize Theron as Morticia, Chloë Grace Moretz as Wednesday and Finn Wolfhard as Pugsley, among many other notable names.

In the movie, the Addams clan picks up and moves to New Jersey. Once there, the family finds they have trouble fitting in, largely because of the intrusion of smarmy TV host Margaux Needler (Allison Janney). She whips up neighborhood sentiment against the Addamses, something they react to in their usual twisted – but never actually evil – way. The story, then, is about accepting people for who they are and not being afraid of differences.

MGM’s campaign has presented a movie offering something new for a new generation while also paying homage to the 80 years of history the property has. Tracking estimates predict an opening weekend of around $25 million, which could be enough to beat out Gemini Man if that movie underperforms.

The Posters

The first teaser poster (by marketing agency Proof), released in late March, offers a good look at the Addams household and family members, asking the audience to reconsider whether they really think their own family is weird.

A series of posters came out in late July that featured each character along with a short little modern catchphrase that’s appropriate to them. So Uncle Fester, for instance, is shown with a light bulb in his mouth and the phrase “It’s gonna be lit” next to him.

The Trailers

All families are average and unique, the first trailer (9.5 million views on YouTube) starts out by explaining, but some – like the Addams – are more unique than others. There’s no story to speak of that’s offered by the footage on display, just a series of violent and mysterious events that are both creepy and funny in their own way to show how deranged – and dangerous – every member family truly is.

There’s more story offered in the official trailer (11.7 million views on YouTube), released in early August. It starts with Morticia using her unconventional methods to wake Wednesday and Pugsley along with other displays of how odd the family is, including a joke about Wednesday finding the red balloon usually held by IT’s murderous clown Pennywise. The Addams are moving to the New Jersey suburbs, where their unusual tendencies and behavior soon becomes cause for concern among the “normal” families already living there.

A third trailer came out in early September that’s short, basically a cut down version of the earlier spot. It focuses on the reaction of the Addams’ new neighbors to the family’s unusual behavior and habits but doesn’t get into much of the rest of the story.

Online and Social

The official website for the movie is rather well-stocked and engaging. There’s the usual array of marketing materials, and the “About” synopsis is underwritten and vague, but there’s plenty to capture visitor’s attention in the “Activities” section, which includes additional How To videos to watch (more on this below) and printouts to help reinforce the connection with the brand.

There’s also a Giphy channel where the studio has shared GIFs from the trailers and other videos.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The first trailer was used in a Promoted Tweet shortly after it came out.

A short lyric video for “My Family,” a collaboration between Migos, Karol G, Snoop Dogg and Rock Mafia was released that contained footage from the film, with a Spanish language version coming out later. At the beginning of October a video for Christina Aguilera’s “Haunted Heart” was released.

Fandango MovieClips was given an exclusive featurette that had the cast and crew talking about how this movie pays homage to the original comic strips.

The first clip, released at the beginning of October, featured an extended look at the dinner scene glimpsed in the trailers. A bit later EW debuted an exclusive clip that has Lurch and It playing the organ, eventually dabbling with the classic theme song from the show.

A whole series of videos was released beginning about a week prior to the movie hitting theaters offering spooky Halloween recipes and decorating tips. That included:

It wasn’t part of the series, but Wednesday tried to become a beauty influencer by offering makeup tips that guaranteed to “make it look like you haven’t slept in years.” The video completely seems like a legit influencer post, including a reminder to subscribe and follow her on Instagram.

MGM lined up a number of brand promotional partners ranging from Hershey’s to IHOP to Cost Plus World Market and more, most all of which are included in my latest article for Adweek. Additionally, Ring allowed customers to add the Addams’ theme to their doorbell and T-Mobile ran a scavenger hunt where people could win $1,000 in movie tickets from Atom Tickets for finding clues scattered throughout the trailers.

addams family online adOnline ads used the key art and other visual/video elements to drive traffic to the website where people could buy tickets.

Interviews with members of the cast were shared by AMC Theaters in an exclusive featurette while RealD3D interviewed Moretz.

Media and Publicity

A first look at the visual style of the movie accompanied the announcement of the talented voice cast.

Universal included unfinished footage from the film in its CineEurope presentation to exhibitors in mid-June.

As release approached, Theron made an appearance on “Kimmel,” Moretz showed up on “Ellen” and more, including the leads talking about the movie on “Good Morning America.”


At the movie’s premiere, the cast talked about updating the Addams Family for modern times, and that’s the central focus of the movie’s campaign. The characters have always in some way reflected the era, from the eccentricity of the wealthy in the 1930s to the kinds of neighbors you might find in the expanding suburbs of the 60s to the goth culture of the 90s. So it’s only natural that now, in an age where we are debating immigration, cultural assimilation and similar topics, they’ve become a metaphor for the theoretical “other” that intrudes upon “normal” society.

That aside, the campaign as a whole is just a lot of fun. It plays with the characters in new and interesting ways while also making it clear it’s just the latest in a string of interpretations. Everything, even down to the brand partnerships, is on-brand, presenting a coherent and consistent message to the audience no matter where it might be encountered.

Often, campaigns for reboots or new versions of long-running properties only pay lip service to what’s come before. MGM’s campaign here, though, makes it clear it’s enthusiastically embracing all previous incarnations, especially the 60s TV show. Products at Cost Plus featured photos of John Astin, Carolyn Jones and the other actors and the studio also put a handful of full episodes from the show up on YouTube for free streaming.

While it may not reach the dark, twisted heights of the 1991 live-action film, comparing anything to Raul Julia and Angelica Huston being directed by Barry Sonnenfeld is unfair on its face. Still, it’s a great way to keep the characters fresh and introduce them to a whole new audience in a way that feels organic for 2019.

Picking Up the Spare

Theron spoke about the themes the story touches on and how important they are to the current time at the film’s premiere.

More DIY videos have been released, including for Wednesday’s Halloween Lemonade, Fester’s Pumpkin and Pugsley’s Rocket Ship.

Keep Your Damn Hands Off Back To School

There have been plenty of older movies – some classic, some not – that have been revived in various ways, whether straight up remake, a reboot that starts things over with a fresh start or even a sequel. MGM is taking a slightly different approach, taking the 1986 Rodney Dangerfield comedy Back to School and turning it into a reality series.

The movie follows self-made retail millionaire Thornton Melon (Dangerfield) as he decides the best way to spend more time with his son Jason (Keith Gordon) is to go to college with him. The laughs come from the elder Melon, in his 60s and more comfortable in rough and tumble negotiations with vendors than in a classroom, failing to fit in on campus while also using his money to cut through various forms of academic red tape.

It is silly. It is wonderful. And the news that such a perfect, pristine thing is being sullied feels like a very personal attack against me.

Back in high school, a friend would invite a few of us up to her family’s cottage in Wisconsin a couple times each summer. We’d go out on her dad’s boat, eat her family’s food and otherwise hang out. That included watching a bunch of movies, and since this was before home video ownership was a mainstream thing most of those came from a local independent video rental store, the town being too remote for Blockbuster, which was still expanding at the time.

Back to School was one that was almost a mortal lock to be rented over these weekends, along with Real Genius. We knew all the best lines, laughed at all the familiar bits and repeatedly reveled in Dangerfield’s antics. Then we’d make sure the tape was rewound and bring it back to the video store.

So you’ll forgive me if the idea of doing anything other than celebrating the original, featuring an early Robert Downey Jr. performance and wonderful turns from Sally Kellerman, Burt Young, Ned Beatty and of course Sam Kinison, is slightly disappointing. Back to School is such a specific favorite, one that carries with it memories of a time that carries with it a lot of emotional baggage. The only thing that could be worse is if Paramount touched Real Genius.

One problem is that an unscripted show about a parent surprising their kid by showing up as a classmate at their college focuses just on that relationship. It’s key, sure, but it removes the character types played by those supporting actors. Part of Jason’s relationship with his father includes his relationship with Lou (Young), Thornton’s driver and body man. And part of Thornton’s experience in learning to relate to his son as an independent adult is the romance he develops with Dr. Turner (Kellerman).

Without all that, it’s just about clueless parents and embarrassed teenagers. It’s the least interesting part of the story. Which means, as is the case with most remakes or reimaginings, there’s no real reason to bring the Back to School name into this. It could have stood on its own and not lost anything while also not killing a part of my soul.

Interesting follow-up to the story of regular rentals: Several years ago I was in Tahoe with the rest of my Voce Communications colleagues on the agency’s annual Retreat. Staff was always placed in a bunch of rented houses, five or six to a residence. This one year after we arrived we were looking around and saw the house had a VCR and a bunch of old tapes, one of which was Back to School. With a few hours to kill before dinner, I declared “This is happening, you can either join me or leave,” a rare show of forceful and unquestionable intent. No one else I was staying with had seen it, so for the next 96 minutes we all enjoyed some classic Dangerfield, from his arguments with wife Vanessa (Adrienne Barbeau) right through Melon’s successful execution of The Triple Lindy.

It was a magical moment.

Back off, MGM. This one is personal.

The Sun Is Also A Star – Marketing Recap

the sun is also a star posterDirector Ry Russo-Young helms this week’s new release The Sun Is Also A Star, a movie that that takes the “meet cute” portion of most romantic comedies and extends what’s usually a short sequence to feature length.

Yara Shahidi stars as Natasha, a young woman just hours away from being deported along with the rest of her family. She meets Daniel (Charles Melton), a brash young man who lives under the weight of his family’s expectations. He thinks they were destined to meet but she sees the situation as a distraction. Still, she agrees to spend a bit of time with him just to see what happens, a decision that has ramifications for both of them.

The Posters

The first poster, released in February, shows the two young lovers sitting close to each other while gazing vaguely into the middle distance, a decorative wall covered in drawings of constellations behind them in keeping with the star-based theme.

The Trailers

Natasha is a dreamer, we see in the first trailer, but one who’s about to be expelled from her home. She meets Daniel when he saves her from walking into traffic. He’s immediately taken with her and promises he can get her to fall in love with him in less than an afternoon. So they set out together on a series of outings, all of which are complicated by the fact that she and her family are leaving the next day. So they embrace what time they have.

Online and Social

The only official web presence for the movie appears to be a site containing the trailer, a synopsis and other basic information about the movie. Social profiles are linked to as well.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

An extended TV spot introduces Natasha and Daniel and explains the situation they find themselves in as well as how the single day they spend together defies their expectations. Online ads used elements from the key art.

For a small romantic comedy the movie had quite a few promotional partners:

  • NYCgo, which took advantage of the movie’s premise of two people walking around New York City to encourage tourism, including commissioning a movie-themed mural.
  • Barnes & Noble, which used the movie to promote its selection of YA books and more.
  • Forever 21, which hosted an event with Melton in New York City as a way to get people in stores.
  • LuMee, which presumably has its product – a special camera lighting tool for mobile devices – featured in the movie given Natasha is an artist and photographer.
  • Scholly, which offered a chance to win a year’s worth of student debt payments, a promotion that says more about the state of society than we have time to delve in to here.

Media and Publicity

The original song “Paradise” by Bazzi was teased in a short video.

An interview with the cast covered the themes Russo-Young was trying to cover in the story.

A brief featurette focused on the very different backgrounds of the characters and the role fate plays in the development of their relationship.

Both Melton and Shahidi made the media rounds, with interviews where they talked about the story and the unconventional nature of the movie. They also appeared at Barnes & Noble and other retail locations around the country on a publicity tour to try and get audiences excited for the movie.

Russo-Young talked about how much she enjoyed working with the young cast, her second foray into the YA genre and what might be next.

The stars spoke at the movie’s premiere on the importance of romance and other stories focused on immigrants given the massive role they play in society on multiple levels, especially at a time when immigration is under fire by so many. That such stories are still the exception was part of why the “#GoldOpen” crowd that turned out for Crazy Rich Asians and other recent movies adopted this one as well, turning it into “#BlackandGoldOpen,” buying out theaters and encouraging young fans on platforms like Twitch to support the movie for its inclusiveness.

An interview with Melton hit on similar topics as well as what it was like to film in New York, something Russo-Young weighed in on as well.

The Root hosted an exclusive clip from the movie along with an interview with Shahidi where she spoke about romance, her bi-racial identity and more. She and Melton played a fun game to show how well they’d really gotten to know each other.


What strikes me most about the campaign is that instead of acting like the movie will just naturally attract an audience of young people because of its cast and source material, it actually works to reach them and make the movie relevant. That’s especially evident in the appeal to non-white audiences, with Shahidi and Melton doing interviews and appearances in outlets that target black and other audiences. Those efforts have paid off in the support it’s received from those communities, who want movies like this to succeed so there are more of them, offering additional opportunities to see people who look like themselves and stories they can relate to on screen.

The movie’s inclusive cast is a core part of the marketing message. Natasha and Daniel’s identities are central to the characters and the story, not simply something that is tacked on after the fact to a generic story. That’s important since, while making race a non-issue is good by showing it’s not a huge factor for most characters, telling stories that couldn’t or wouldn’t happen to anyone else is even more critical. It’s dressed up as a conventional romantic comedy of sorts, but the message being sent is more deeper than that.

Picking Up the Spare

More from Melton here, specifically in how his character in the movie is and isn’t similar to the one he plays on “Riverdale.” The actor also gets an expanded interview here and talks about how the story offers a new, important look at immigration. 

The Hustle – Marketing Recap

the hustle posterAnne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson stars in this week’s comedy The Hustle. Hathaway is Josephine, a high-end con artist living in luxury because she sets her sights high, targeting wealthy men and playing them like a fiddle. Wilson’s Lonnie is also a con artist but on the other end of the spectrum, taking marks for $50 here and $100 there.

When Lonnie meets Josephine she’s in awe of what the more successful woman has accomplished, convincing Josephine to take her under her wing. So Josephine begins to train Lonnie to up her game a bit, using more skills to get more money than she could ever dream of. That leads to lots of comedy as their styles clash.

The Posters

There’s just the one poster that shows Lonnie and Josephine posing in front of a solid gold luxury car looking fabulous and ready for action. The movie’s status as a loose remake of an earlier story is hinted at in the copy “They’re giving dirty rotten men a run for their money.” It’s not a bad effort, presenting a gold-hued blank slate for the audience to project all kinds of hijinks on to.

The Trailers

Lonnie is working her magic on an unsuspecting mark as the first trailer opens, taking him for an extravagant meal while feeding him a story about a missing sister. That gets the attention of Josephine, who sees unrealized potential and so takes Lonnie under her wing to teach her the finer aspects of the con. Lonnie’s rough nature makes that education rough sledding and we see the trouble Josephine has teaching her student subtlety and sophistication.

Most of the scenes shown in the trailer are recognizable as variations on those from the 1988 film, but that’s alright. The dynamic between Hathaway and Wilson is solid, the two playing off each other well as they each vie for a position of power. It looks fresh and original despite its status as a third-generation remake, thanks largely to the talent involved.

The second trailer, released at the end of April, is pretty short and starts out by mimicking the trailers for Avengers: Endgame, using black and white shots featuring just a single stand-out color, in this case yellow. After asking “Who will take a stand?” for the centuries of injustice endured by women, it presents Josephine and Lonnie as “The Revengers” before showing the two of them engaging in their cons and only begrudgingly getting along.

Online and Social

In addition to the usual marketing materials, the movie’s official website features a video for the Avril Lavigne song from the film but as a downloadable file that people are then encouraged to upload to their own social network profiles. The theory seems to be that getting more people to share original video will help it trend and rank higher in search and news feed algorithms than if people share a post from the movie’s page or profile.

In addition to the usual networks the website also links to a Giphy profile filled with GIFs pulled from the trailers that you can share on your own.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

AMC and other theater chains helped to build buzz with advance “Girls Night Out” screenings the week prior to wide release.

Some TV advertising was done but none were shared on MGM’s YouTube channel.

Media and Publicity

Wilson and Hathaway were interviewed about the costumes they wore and how this movie does or doesn’t diverge from the original film.

The first clip from early May showed Lonnie begging Josephine to take her under her wing and teach her to be a high-end con artist, threatening a call to Interpol if she refuses. Another has Josephine showing Lonnie how to cry on demand in order to manipulate the men they’ve targeted. Later on there were additional clips showing the scene at the casino table and more.

An interview with the pair on the BBC’s “Graham Norton Show” was repurposed as a featurette focusing on Wilson’s efforts in her role as producer to address the sexist double standard that originally slapped the movie with an R rating.

Hathaway showed up on “Good Morning America” to promote the movie and share how nervous she was to take on a British accent given the backlash she’s faced when doing so in the past. Wilson appeared on “The Today Show” to talk about the story as well.


The studio isn’t trying too hard to play down the movie’s status as a remake of an earlier film, nodding in that direction with copy and taglines and more. It’s not a bad approach to take, especially since it’s such a safe bet in an age where remakes, reboots and other revisitings of known material are easy sells to investors even if audiences aren’t always on board.

That approach does a disservice to the actors in this version, though, playing down what they can do and are doing by needing to fit them into a neat little box. By focusing so intently on using scenes that are reenactings of those made famous by Michael Caine and Steve Martin it casts Hathaway and Wilson in the role of imposters as opposed to giving them something original to do.

Picking Up the Spare

More Promoted Tweets like this ran in the days following the movie’s release. 

A clip was released that focused on the black dress Wilson sports in a key sequence from the movie. 

Wilson did more TV appearances as did Hathaway. The latter also spoke more about the movie during her Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony. 

Another TV commercial released after the movie was in theaters touted its position as “The #1 comedy” in the country, a nice way to snatch victory. 

Creed II – Marketing Recap

creed 2 poster 52015’s Creed was better than it really had any right to be, taking the continued story of Rocky Balboa and providing a fresh perspective by introducing us to Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the son of the late Apollo Creed. Apollo (Carl Weathers), of course was killed in the ring by the Russian propaganda machine Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) in an exhibition bout back in the 80s.

This week’s Creed II hopes to build off that good will and tie this new chapter even more closely to the Rocky legacy. After Adonis, in the first movie, worked so hard to live up to his late father’s name now he faces an even more stark reminder of the past. That comes in the person of Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), the son of the man who killed his father all those years ago. Adonis is called out by Viktor and, with the support of his girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thompson), sets out to do what he needs to.

The Posters

Adonis stands defiantly and stubbornly on the first poster, a giant Roman numeral II in the background. It’s stark and powerful and does its job, which is tell the audience the character is coming back this Thanksgiving. A second poster put Rocky in the same position. Another set showed Adonis in a moment of angst as he kneels on the canvas and Rocky looking on from the other side of the ropes.

Finally all the characters, including both Dragos, are included on the next poster, each set looking defiantly at their counterpart.

The Trailers

Rocky narrates the opening of the first trailer as we see Adonis dealing with the effects of his fight from the last movie. The older fighter is warning him that the unnamed challenger coming after Adonis is dangerous and not to be taken lightly. That’s not stopping the young man, who’s still driven to live up to the name of his father and so we see him training hard to right the wrong done all those years ago. It’s not until the very end that we see the challenger come into frame, the name “Drago” on the back of his robe.

Adonis is ready for the next challenge in the first full trailer, even if that includes getting in the ring with the son of the man who killed his father. That’s something Rocky wants to discourage him from for personal reasons. The main theme of the trailer, though, is that Adonis is stepping back into the ring to help and and support the people he loves and can only do so because of that love and support.

Online and Social

Not much of interest on the movie’s official website, just the skimpiest of information.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The first TV spot, released in mid-October, cut the story down to the basic elements by showing how Drago was calling out Creed, who can’t resist rising to it. Promoted Tweets like this were run in the days leading up to release to drive last-minute ticket sales. Online ads used key art and other images of Jordan to drive traffic to the official site so people can buy tickets.

The website didn’t offer much background on any promotional partners, so the only one that popped up was Nke, which launched the “Adonis Creed Collection” of apparel and gear inspired by the movie and character.

Media and Publicity

The press portion of the campaign kicked off in early August with some stills showing Adonis and Rocky back in action.

In mid-August a video was released showing Jordan surprising a super-fan with a special experience. The actor later spoke about how Stallone pushed for there to be a more specific antagonist in the sequel and how one with ties to the Creed character was seen as a natural fit in that role.

Around the time of the second trailer, Caple spoke about how he was encouraged to take on directorial duties for this movie and the advice he got from both Coogler and Stallone.

A featurette had Jordan talking about how this was his first sequel and how everyone involved wanted to make the story more intense and personal, while everyone praised Caple and his directorial efforts. Another connects this story to the first movie, emphasizing the themes of the past coming back to haunt Rocky and Adonis while a third had the cast and crew talking about the evolution of the characters and how the story focuses on family connections and responsibilities.

A series of featurettes was released in the early part of November, each exploring the background of the main characters in the movie. There were videos for Viktor Drago, his father Ivan, Adonis and Bianca.

Thompson showed up on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to talk about the movie a couple weeks before release. At about the same time Lundgren appeared on “The Late Show” in character to have some fun with Russian stereotypes.

An interview with Jordan, Thompson and Caple allowed them to continue talking about how the story focused on the importance of family but also explain how it shows a young professional black couple, something not often seen on screen. Caple was interviewed on his own again, mentioning how he almost passed on the film until Coogler, Stallone and others made him feel comfortable he’d be able to make it his own. He also spoke about the inspirations behind Thompson’s character’s music and performance.

Lundgren was interviewed about how he went about returning to the character after so many years and what went into updating the elder Drago. Jordan and Thompson then spoke about the story and how they enjoyed working together once again, all while Jordan was named GQ’s Man of the Year.

A video for “Shea Butter Baby” from Ari Lennox, one of the news songs on the film’s soundtrack, was released just a few days ago.


After a bit of a shaky start things really kicked into gear when the cast, as well as Caple, got more fully involved and started speaking about the characters and the story. Their personalities and their passion for the project all started coming through more clearly.

That was an even more powerful message than the connections of the story to the rest of the Rocky history. Those elements were still on display, but allowing Jordan, Thompson and the others to get out there and apply their personalities to the publicity campaign.

Picking Up The Spare

Jordan hit “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and Thompson “The Daily Show” to talk about making the sequel.

Cable Jr. also spoke more about how he and the cast wanted to more than just create a nod to nostalgia for the original Rocky movies.

A Dobly-specific poster was finally released shortly after the movie hit theaters.

Operation Finale – Marketing Recap

The story of bringing a notorious Nazi leader to justice forms the core of the marketing for OPERATION FINALE.

operation finale poster 1I don’t go into it too deeply in my THR-hosted recap of the movie’s marketing, but if Operation Finale were to open up a whole new wave of “let’s hunt Nazi” movies, books, TV shows and other media to show how repugnant this movement and its perpetrators were – and are – I’d be down with that.

Online and Social

The best part of the otherwise-paltry official website is the collection of videos on the site, many of which seem to be unlisted on MGM’s YouTube channel. So in addition to the trailers and featurettes you’ll be able to watch all kinds of TV and other commercials. There are also links to the movie’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter profiles.

Media and Publicity

Director Chris Weitz and members of the cast spoke at the movie’s premiere about the timeliness of the story and other aspects of the film.

Isaac was interviewed about the film and spoke about how it was a learning process for him, how he collaborated with Weitz in his role as a producer and how he’s disturbed by how some unpleasant philosophies similar to what’s shown in the movie are on the rise again.

Costar Joe Alwyn spoke about why he agreed to play Eichmann’s son.


Yep, let’s do this. I’m all for “bring Nazis to justice” movies since it’s something we could use a steady dose of to remind us just how hard so many people fought to settle this debate generations ago.

More seriously, with such a casual approach to the way Nazi-adjacent philosophies and rhetoric are thrown around by some these days, there’s a lesson to be learned here about how not that long ago heaven and earth were moved to bring those responsible for the terrors of the Holocaust to justice. If this movie can serve as that lesson, so much the better.


Isaac and Kingsley both share their thoughts on making the film here, including Kingsley remembering a conversation he had years ago with famed Nazi hunter Elie Wiesel. He also spoke about the way he approached such a difficult role and how his work on Schindler’s List helped in many ways.

Isaac and director Chris Weitz spoke more about the movie and its story and the challenges of making the movie here.

A new poster continues the “picture within a picture” theme with a photo of the planning of Eichmann’s capture within a photo of Kingsley as Eichmann.

Death Wish – Marketing Recap

death wish poster 3It’s always angry white guys we’re told to lionize as heroes for when they take the law into their own hands. They – and only they – are allowed to process tragedy through revenge, vigilantism and other violent means. If a white woman or person of color takes this path, there’s suddenly an overwhelming amount of hand-wringing and talk about how it’s more useful to work within the system and be polite toward those in power (usually older white men).

If you look at Wikipedia’s page of vigilante films you’re hard-pressed to find more than a couple that feature anyone other than a white protagonist. These characters are held up as doing what’s necessary to avenge their loved ones and work outside a system that’s failed them. That message, though, isn’t received well by even our current society when, say, it’s a black father looking for answers as to why his child was killed and the police department seems uninterested in finding answers.

Unquestioningly falling into that tradition is this week’s Death Wish, an update of the 1972 film of the same name with Charles Bronson. This time around Bruce Willis takes the lead as a man whose family is murdered during an armed robbery and, frustrated by the inability of the police to find the perpetrators, sets out to dole out justice on his own through whatever means are needed.

Before we get even further, the question has to be asked: Is this message anywhere near as relevant today as it was 46 years ago?

As I write this, the students who survived yet another mass shooter in Parkland, FL are leading a quiet revolution. Well…not quiet, but certainly not armed. They are using their natural skills with social media to dunk on conservative talking heads and reluctant lawmakers who have dragged their feet on gun control laws. They’re encouraging companies who have done business with the National Rifle Association to rethink those relationships. They are, in a tragic turn of events, the ones inspiring more adults to speak up and apply pressure while all too many people can do is blithely fantasize about how *they* certainly would have rushed in to face danger on their own, even as others wouldn’t. That mindset has been instilled in many by the kinds of movies that glorify the lone action hero, standing up to protect the innocent. Those are just movies, though.

So as we have what seems to be a national debate as to whether our schools need to be filled with armed teachers (no), guarded by a squad of highly-trained marksmen (no), and turned into permanently locked-down prison camps (no), MGM wants us to go see a movie with the core message of “violence is always the answer.”

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