From writer Amanda Idoko and director Tate Taylor comes this week’s comedy Breaking News In Yuba County. Allison Janney stars as Sue Buttons, a suburban housewife who becomes something of a local celebrity after her husband Karl (Matthew Modine) goes “missing” and she embarks on a search to find him. Entranced by her newfound fame, Buttons keeps the charade going through a series of increasingly desperate actions that bring her into contact with local crime figures, persistent police officers and other colorful characters.
The movie also stars Mila Kunis, Wanda Sykes, Awkwafina, Regina Hall and others.
You definitely get a sense of the movie’s sense of humor on the poster (by marketing agency Art Machine), released just a couple weeks ago. That comes through not only in the wild artistic design of the primary images, which place the supporting cast around a wide-eyed Sue while offering glimpses of the locations of the story’s action, but also in the copy reading “Sue Buttons has one killer story.”
The trailer (1.2 million views on YouTube), also released in mid-January, follows the rough flow of the story itself, from Sue’s panic over what to do about her dead husband through the notoriety she gains when it seems like he’s been kidnapped and into how it all starts to fall apart when it becomes clear she made much of it up. Along the way we meet some of the unusual local personalities that get involved in some manner and really see the dark sense of humor the film is selling, one conveyed well by the cast, especially Janney.
Online and Social
There is a website listed at the end of the trailer, but repeated attempts to load it were unsuccessful, so it’s not clear what’s on the site. MGM did give the movie some support on its social channels, including running regular little “daily affirmations” featuring brief clips from the film.
Advertising and Promotions
MGM, through its relaunched American International Pictures, acquired the project in October of last year, announcing a January release date at that time.
Some shorter versions of the trailer were run as pre-roll on YouTube, but that’s all the paid advertising I’m aware of.
Media and Press
Janney stopped by “Kimmel” recently to talk about the movie and lots more.
That is, surprisingly, about the end of the press efforts.
A good poster and strong trailer make me want to like this campaign a lot more than I actually do. The disconnect is caused in large part by the lackluster effort elsewhere, including the site that won’t load, the mostly non-existent press push and so on. Such a showcase for Janney in particular needs more support, not provided here.
It’s such a small campaign, it actually makes me wonder if the theatrical-only release plan for the film caused MGM to scale back the marketing because what’s the point of going big when your maximum box-office take is around $5 million?
Picking Up The Spare
Bridget Everett appeared on “The Tonight Show” to promote the film.
I’m pretty sure this week’s new action comedy The Spy Who Dumped Me could be sold simply on the fact that it stars Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon. The two play long-time best friends who get caught up in games of international intrigue when Audrey’s (Kunis) ex-boyfriend reveals he’s a government spy on the run from enemies who want to kill him.
With the help of Morgan (McKinnon), the pair do their best to survive as they’re chased across through cities around the world, the bad guys believing they have secrets and items they’re after. The premise provides plenty of opportunity for Kunis and McKinnon to riff off each other, something we’ll see has been a prominent message of the campaign.
A pair of posters lead things off, one with McKinnon and one with Kunis, both looking tough and ready for anything as they stand behind a transparent heart-shaped target. That’s a cool way to show that not only are these women going to stand up for themselves but that the story is what the title would imply.
A couple character posters went a bit further in explaining each character’s basic personality and the split nature of the story. The one with McKinnon labeled her as going “From unemployed to undercover” while the one featuring Kunis said she was going “From damaged to dangerous.” The same purple/blue split was used on a one-sheet that put the pair back-to-back in typical spy movie style, reassuring the audience “They got this.”
The final theatrical poster has the two ladies back-to-back assuming standard spy positions, though the gun McKinnon is holding is just her fingers. They’re looming over Paris, with supporting characters below them as well.
Lionsgate also commissioned and released a whole series of artistic posters were commissioned by Lionsgate that offer fun, colorful takes on the characters and premise. Some were just bright and vibrant, others took a more retro approach, showing the characters in very Bond-like poses and settings. Those are all viewable on the website.
Free of any context or setup, Audrey and Morgan are shown as the trailer opens on the run from an apparently dangerous situation. Their attempts to commandeer a car to escape are less than successful, though. Jumping back a bit, we find out Audrey’s ex-boyfriend, who recently dumped her, is CIA and is being sought by some nasty people. What follows are a lot of spy movie cliches, but with two innocent civilians in place of seasoned professionals, all leading up to the two being tortured by someone who gets more answers than she bargained for.
I’m on board. These two look hilarious together and I’m all for more subverting of the spy genre.
The second trailer is even stronger, showing both more of the story and more of the dynamic between Aubrey and Morgan. There’s an expanded explanation as to why the two find themselves in the situation they do and what sort of trouble they get into, all while relying on each other for mental as well as physical survival. I feel like this is a strong example of how the action comedy genre can be made more for the female audience since it’s about support, not constant little quips and jokes to get through rough situations. Also…Gillian Anderson.
Moving along the top content menu, “Videos” has all (or most) the trailers, clips and TV spots. There’s just a simple synopsis in the “Story” section while “Cast” just has photos of the actors, not any additional information. The “Gallery” has a bunch of photos and then there’s sections for “Posters” as well as one for the “Artist Series” posters that adds information, including Twitter handles, for the individuals that created them.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV advertising started in mid-July, with spots that focused on the action of the story or the ridiculous nature of that story. Additional commercials kept hitting those and other themes, with some close to release emphasizing its positive early reviews and the “dream team” of Kunis and McKinnon. Online ads used the key art to drive ticket sales.
There was a partnership with dating app Bumble that offered people the chance to win a trip to the movie’s LA premiere and members of the cast sharing their advice on creating dating profiles.
Media and Publicity
Director Susan Fogel talked about tackling the project and how she worked to make it happen when the trailer debuted at EW. The movie was part of Lionsgate’s CinemaCon showcase, designed to get exhibition execs and press excited about it.
A clip that came out a couple weeks prior to release showed Aubrey and Morgan evaluating their options after having been approached by terrorists. It was meant to showcase the dynamic between Kunis and McKinnon, the primary value proposition of the entire campaign.
Kunis got a nice Cosmopolitanprofile and a bit later both she and McKinnon talked about how they’d fare as spies at the movie’s premiere. The two did a video for Marie Claire about embarrassing moments from their younger days and a joint USA Today interview had them both talking about motherhood, friendship, the movie and more.
Both stars made the media rounds, with Kunis offering the “Kimmel” audience a good synopsis of the movie’s story and McKinnon generally being herself among other appearances.
It’s obvious Lionsgate has wisely decided the premise of the movie is secondary to the core selling point: The comedic interplay of McKinnon and Kunis. That’s a strong bet to make.
What’s a bit surprising is that the studio didn’t adopt more tactics similar to what’s been done for movies like Bad Moms and a few others, specifically make a strong appeal to women to see this with a group of friends. There was one promotion in conjunction with Atom Tickets to celebrate National Girlfriends Day recently, but that’s it.
Still, with lots of nods to other spy movies and an emphasis on the way the lead characters adapt and survive whatever is thrown at them, it’s still a strong campaign.
PICKING UP THE SPARE
Lots of new interviews from late last week with director Susanna Fogel, who talked about casting the film and telling a story about a strong female friendship, the (slightly) increased willingness by the studios to tell heretofore underrepresented stories, the sometimes choppy waters of her career to date, how filming action sequences helped her embrace her “inner badass” and more.
I missed a couple press hits in my recap.
First, an interview with director Susanna Fogel where she talks about trying to craft a story that was funny and feminist but which also an “authentic” spy movie that adheres to that genre’s tropes. Second, a feature piece that includes Fogel along with Kunis and McKinnon where they talk about bonding on set, how they wanted to sell the comedy, the importance of showing female friendships on-screen and more.
Having made a bigger-than-expected splash when they reclaimed the everyday, the three harried women at the heart of last year’s Bad Moms are back with A Bad Moms Christmas. Kiki (Kristen Bell), Amy (Mila Kunis) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) are throwing off the shackles of society’s expectations around mounting the perfect family holiday and taking it easy, enjoying it themselves for a change.
There’s one big monkey wrench that’s been thrown in these plans: The unexpected arrival of their own mothers. Kiki’s mom (Cheryl Hines), Carla’s mom (Susan Sarandon) and Amy’s mom (Christine Baranski) all show up with their own expectations and complicate things for their daughters in one way or another. Hilarity ensues.
The first poster was very similar to one for the first movie, but this one has the three ladies grinding on and dancing all around a department store Santa.
A series of three posters paired each of the moms we already know alongside their own moms, most of the younger ones looking less than thrilled with this arrangement.
That was followed by another version that adds the moms of the moms.
Oy, with this trailer. It seems no one learned any big, long-lasting lessons from the first movie since the moms are back and feeling just as unappreciated as ever as Christmas gets closer. There’s more kvetching about the stress everyone is feeling and how badly they’re treated by their families. So they decide to “take Christmas back” which involves sitting out on a lot of the expected activities and traditions. Things are complicated by the arrival of *their* moms.
Alright, fine. Since the first one seemed to work for so many people it’s safe to assume that wrapping this one in tinsel will achieve roughly the same effect. Why not.
Another trailer shows just how miserable the moms are during Christmas, frustrated by their kids and the hectic schedules. Then things get worse when their mothers show up and begin the judging and the uncomfortable closeness and more. So the three rebel and go off on their own wacky, drunken adventures. There’s an extended scene involving an anal waxing and that’s all she wrote.
Green-band versions of both trailers were also released to appeal to more general audiences.
Online and Social
The first trailer plays when the official website loads up if you’re interested in watching that. The key art of the girls giving Santa a lap dance is featured on the front page. While there’s a traditional “Get Tickets” button on the page there’s also “Plan Your Night” prompt that encourages you to make this a group event. That section includes not just the option to buy tickets but to send themed invitations to all your friends as well as cocktail recipes and event planning guides.
At the top of the page is where most of the site’s content lives. That starts with links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest profiles, the latter of which features tips on delegating holiday work, taking time for yourself and more that’s in-line with the point of the movie.
“Videos” has all of the trailers. “About” has a quick synopsis and the cast and crew list. “Gallery” has about a half-dozen production stills. Finally, “Partners” has information on the companies who have signed up for promotional support.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV advertising kicked off in earnest a couple weeks out from release, with some focusing on outrageousness, some on the family relationships and some just on the cast that’s been brought together. Regardless of the specifics, all make it clear that there’s plenty of bad behavior on display as the moms go all out to enjoy some time to themselves. Digital spots like this one hit the same themes as have been seen before.
Online ads used short video clips to drive ticket sales and the release of each trailer was accompanied by paid promotion on social networks.
Promotional partners for the movie included the following companies:
Febreeze, though I couldn’t find any connection or campaign aside from the fact that Kathryn Hahn did an ad for the brand that aired during this past Super Bowl.
Yoplait, which ran a sweepstakes on Facebook and Instagram awarding movie tickets.
Stroke of Beauty, which created a movie-themed makeup kit that was available through evine (another listed partner) and given away through a sweeps.
Old Navy, which ran a sweeps awarding a private group screening of the movie and more.
Amazon Alexa, though I can’t find details on that partnership.
UrbanSitter, which ran a sweeps awarding not only movie tickets but gift cards for babysitting services.
Media and Publicity
The directors talked about they wanted to create mothers that would clash but still appear appropriate for each of the moms and the drama and humor that results from putting all these characters together.
Around the same time the TV advertising began STX released a few videos like this that had an expert mixologist sharing movie-themed cocktail recipes to make to help you get through the holidays.
Acknowledging that the original shouldn’t have been as much of a hit as it was, an interview with all three leads covered how quickly the sequel came together, how excited they all were to jump back and more.
The actresses playing the moms of the moms all sat down for a group interview where they talked about working with their on-screen daughters, their experience in general and more.
If you found the campaign for the first one funny or charming or relatable, odds are good you’ll be on board for this sequel as well. There’s nothing all that new or innovative going on, all the characters are the same and dealing with the same issues they were in the first movie, only with the additional stress of living up to a mother’s expectations. Not a single one of the actresses here isn’t extremely talented and likable, so it comes down to whether you’re interested in the story and tone, which is more a question of individual taste.
The main call to action is to come out as a group for something holiday-themed. The campaign is using Christmas as a chance to amp-up the emotional stakes for everyone and hopefully create something that’s just as relatable, if not more so, for the audience. There’s a nice effort to create some movie-themed experiences like the cocktail recipes and party tips that may or may not be widely useful but they certainly are appropriate to the story.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.