Fantasy Island – Marketing Recap

How Columbia Pictures and Blumhouse are selling a dark take on a television classic.

fantasy island poster 2Blumhouse has made a name for itself over the last few years as the go-to production house for thrilling low-budget horror that offers something fresh for audiences. That reputation has been diminished somewhat as Jordan Peele has created something new and socially relevant to the genre.

The producer’s latest release is this week’s Fantasy Island, an update of the classic TV series fo the same name. That series focused on a magical island where guests arrived to live out their fantasies, which often provided some kind of insight into their true personalities, sometimes uncomfortably so.

While the new movie retains the same essential premise, it takes it into a much darker direction. Michael Peña plays Mr. Roarke, the island’s host. The guests that arrive include Elena (Maggie Q) and Melanie (Lucy Hale) among others, all of whom think they’ve come for a bit of a romp. It turns out the fantasies they’re offered are not only dark but potentially dangerous to everyone. It’s up to them, then, to navigate the island and save themselves.

The $12-17 million opening weekend estimated by early tracking would appear to be a disappointing number, even measured by Blumhouse’s niche standards. While Columbia’s marketing has tried to leverage the movie’s brand appeal, that hasn’t turned into meaningful interest.

The Posters

fantasy island posterIn early November the first poster (by marketing agency Cold Open) came out offering an ariel look at the island, the shoreline of which upon further inspection forms the shape of a face screaming. The dread is further conveyed by the inclusion of “#NeverComingHome.”

Lurking danger is also the key message on the next poster (by marketing agency BOND), released later in the month. This time that’s conveyed by showing the relatively benign top of the island above the waterline while the bottom completes the form of a screaming skull. “Anything you desire. Everything you fear.”

The Trailers

At first everything seems idyllic and wonderful in the first trailer (8.2 million views on YouTube), released in November. We see Melanie and a group of others arrive on a paradise island, where Mr. Roarke welcomes them and tells them their every desire will come true during their stay. As those fantasies begin to come true, she and the others are surprised at how visceral they are. When things become even more dark they come to the realization there are more sinister motives at play on the island and they may be in danger.

The second trailer (326,000 views on YouTube) from late January opens with Melanie recording a video after having arrived on Fantasy Island. After the same basic setup that the characters have been assembled to live out their fantasies, but it seems there are powers that have twisted those fantasies into something much darker that may be a threat to all those on the island.

Online and Social

For such a potentially rich environment like a creepy, mystery-filled island, the movie’s official website uses none of that in its design or navigation. The standard content is there, but nothing else. It doesn’t even have a good interactive image or anything.

Advertising and Promotions

Videos like this cut down the trailer to its basic elements to introduce the concept along with some of the characters and establish, or try to, a sense of mystery and dread as a way to create intrigue in the audience. Those videos were used on TV as well as social media, on video sites as pre-roll ads and elsewhere.

Online ads – and presumably outdoor billboards – used the key art of the screaming island to build brand recognition.

Media and Press

The stars – particularly Pena, Hale and Maggie Q – made the talk show rounds, but that appears to be about it in terms of press activity.


It feels like there should be a lot more here. For a movie with presumably significant brand recognition – it’s likely a big reason why it was greenlit and moved into production – there’s not much being done to take advantage of that.

While the trailers and posters work well in showing the audience what to expect, including that this isn’t the kind of Fantasy Island their parents watched in reruns, the campaign also doesn’t play with the material at hand at all, which is disappointing. There’s a lot of potential here to deepen audience engagement with the brand through “What’s Your Fantasy” quizzes and interactive features, navigation of the different parts of the island and more.

Picking Up The Spare

Hale appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to hype the film even as it was getting very negative reviews.

An interview with Pena had him talking about filming and what it was like to take on such a well known role. More of the filmmakers involved talked here about turning the TV drama into a horror story.

Bear McCreary’s score for the movie got the spotlight in a featurette from Sony following release.

The Mule – Marketing Recap

Recapping Warner Bros.’ marketing campaign for The Mule.

the mule posterDirector Clint Eastwood is back in theaters with the new movie The Mule. Based on a true story originally published as a story in The New York Times, the focus is on Earl Stone (Eastwood), a retired WWII vet who becomes involved with a Mexican drug cartel, transporting their merchandise into and through the U.S.

His activities put him on the radar of the DEA, who seek to not only arrest him but use him as a way to bring down the cartel as a whole. But he’s not doing it because he’s a hardened drug dealer, just because he wants to leave something behind for the family he wasn’t there for in the past.

The Posters

Eastwood’s face dominates the movie’s only poster, hovering over the highway where we see his truck cruising down the road. Other than the note that it’s “Inspired by a true story” there’s no copy here that explains what the movie is about or what that story is, so Warner Bros. is obviously hoping the face of the actor/director will be enough to inspire people to check the movie out. Either that or it couldn’t figure out anything new to say.

The Trailers

The first trailer, which came out shortly after the announcement of a release date, introduces us to Earl as he’s in the middle of a potentially dangerous encounter with a police officer while in the middle of a drug run. As we shift into a montage of clips that come largely without dialogue, Earl narrates an explanation of how he wanted to do something that would in some way make up for the failure he was to his family, even if it is dangerous work he’s doing. Amidst that we see a group of what are presumably federal agents who seem to be closing in on him and those he works for. It ends by setting up a conclusion that may not work out well for Earl and those he cares about.

Online and Social

Not much on the movie’s official website, just the trailer and a story synopsis along with information on release dates and links to the Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’ve come across, though it may be that WB has run some targeted ads in the markets getting the movie early.

Media and Publicity

Speculation had run rampant for a while about whether or not the movie would make it in time to be considered for the 2018 awards season. That was put to rest in late September when Warner Bros. announced its mid-December release date.

His role in the movie was part of a short interview with Pena about his tendency to play drug enforcement characters.

The New York Times journalist whose story inspired the movie wrote a remembrance of how he discovered the story and how it feels to see it on the big screen.

A video for an original song from Toby Keith was released just a couple weeks ago that featured scenes from the movie.

At the movie’s premiere the cast spoke about the process of working with Eastwood while the director shared what it was that drew him into the project. He was also interviewed about the unusual nature of the story and how it got on his radar.


I mean…alright. This seems to fit in with Eastwood’s late career theme of playing cranky old guys who won’t let go of the past while at the same time seeking to make amends with the family they’ve neglected over the years.

What’s kind of surprising is that this is all there is. It may be, especially given the late date at which the movie was finally put on the release calendar, that WB is looking to make as small a deal about it as possible. That’s reinforced by the lack of early reviews and the overall small publicity push it received.

Picking Up the Spare

Eastwood’s daughter Alison spoke about her decision to return to acting, particularly with her father.

Warner Bros. released a featurette including Eastwood talking about the story and his long-lived career.

There was an interview with jazz musician Arturo Sandoval, who created the score for the movie.

Extinction – Marketing Recap

extinction posterNew to Netflix this week is the science fiction action drama Extinction. The movie stars Michael Pena as Peter and Lizzy Caplan as his wife Alice. She’s been very understanding recently as he has a series of episodes where he insists he sees mass carnage and destruction but can’t put a finger on what’s causing these visions or what they mean.

Their life – as well as the lives of everyone on the planet – are thrown into disarray when what appears to be an invading alien force arrives on Earth and begins wiping out the human population. Alice and Peter have to lead their daughter and others to whatever safety might exist, a goal that Peter may be uniquely suited to achieve.

The Posters

A small girl stands all by herself on an abandoned city street on the movie’s poster. Shown in the sky is an alien ship descending toward the ground which, when combined with the “We were not here first” copy, makes it clear we’re dealing with an alien invasion story of some sort.

The Trailers

Peter is a good guy who works hard for his family in the trailer but as we see he has recurring visions of destruction and violence he can’t shake and can’t explain. He’s convinced something bad is coming but no one believes him until they actually start coming. At that point he finds he can use his memories of those visions to help his family survive, navigating the worst parts of what’s happening by remembering what he’s already seen.

It’s a decent spot, though I call foul on the underuse of both Pena and Caplan. They both seem to turn in fine performances – they’re incapable of doing otherwise – but are also capable of much more than this.

Online and Social

I don’t see any official web or social presence for the movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

No advertising has been done that I’ve seen or am aware of. Netflix will occasionally run retargeted ads, though, and the company has offered at least a couple prompts for me to add it to my list, either through email or when I’m logged into the site.

Media and Publicity

While the movie had sort of been floating in the background for a while the news Netflix had picked it up from Universal, who had recently pulled it from their release schedule, got lots of people talking. That’s largely because it came just days after the whole Cloverfield Paradox surprise release, so the narrative of Netflix purchasing difficult sci-fi movies was ripe in everyone’s mind.


Here’s hoping there’s more to the movie than what’s on display in the campaign. It’s fine and looks like a perfectly decent mid-tier science fiction movie, which is why Universal abandoned it (no singularly identifiable hook) and Netflix picked it up. It’s likely made its way into the lists of quite a few subscribers, who will eventually check it out while doing other things.


Star Michael Pena stopped by “Colbert” but only got a plug for the movie in briefly at the end of the interview.  

12 Strong – Marketing Recap

12 strong poster 2While the mission has become somewhat fuzzier and more ambiguous over the years, our initial goal in sending military to Afghanistan was to quickly and definitively rain hell down on the Taliban in the wake of the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks. That story, of when everything was righteous and pure, is being told in this week’s new release 12 Strong, based on the book “Horse Soldiers” by Doug Stanton, which tells the non-fiction version of these events.

Chris Hemsworth, Trevante Rhodes, Michael Shannon, Michael Pena and others all star as members of an elite squad who went overseas as the pointy end of the knife, a small force that could be flexible and lethal, acting as America’s strong right hand. Once in-country they find the situation is even more unexpected than planned. Operating without support or infrastructure, the group finds themselves needing to work with a tribal warlord whose allegiance is questionable and facing opposition sporting significantly more firepower than the horses and rifles they’re using.

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