How Paramount is selling the aurally-fixated sequel.
We should have had this conversation a year ago.
That’s when A Quiet Place Part II, the follow-up to 2018’s surprise hit starring Emily Blunt, John Krasinski and Millicent Simmonds, was originally scheduled for release. But thanks to delays resulting from coronavirus-related theater closures and an instance from all parties that this not debut on streaming or PVOD, it finally arrives on screens this week.
The story picks up right where the first left off, with Evelyn Abbott (Blunt) trying to keep her daughter Regan (Simmonds) and son Marcus (Noah Jupe) as well as her newborn baby safe and quiet in a world where aliens hunt based on the smallest sound someone might make. They are on the move after the destruction of their home and their quest brings them into contact with the disillusioned and paranoid Emmett (Cillian Murphy) and others who have become cynical and distrustful following the collapse of society.
Initial reactions are very positive, praising the tension and suspense of the story as well as how the world is expanded, with Rotten Tomatoes currently ranking the movie as 90% Fresh.
Additionally, Fandango has touted how ticket sales were, a week or so out from release, pacing ahead of where they were a year ago the first time we went through this. That’s made this movie a big part of the “people are ready to get back to theaters” narrative currently circulating through the industry and media, a narrative that’s been a big part of the movie’s marketing.
First Take: The 2019/2020 Campaign
The original release date for the film was March 20th, 2020, a date that wound up being roughly a week after many U.S. schools and businesses, including movie theaters, shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic that was at that point merely picking up speed. But it’s a date that was the focal point of the first half of the film’s campaign.
That was evident on the first poster (by marketing agency BLT Communications), released in December 2019. A sense of familiarity in the audience is established by using a photo of Evelyn, Regan and Marcus walking along one of the sandy paths laid down in the forest to aid in silent movement. The family are walking toward a more urban setting of power lines and highway overpasses, communicating how the story expands a bit.
A short :30 teaser was released online at the same time, though it was shown in theaters several days before that, the first indication of the theater-centric nature of the campaign.
A first look photo came out shortly after that teaser accompanied by comments from Blunt and others.
On New Year’s Day 2020 the first full trailer (30.2 million views on YouTube) came out, more clearly explaining the movie’s story. It starts with a flashback to the day the aliens invaded and the chaos they caused. We then catch up with the Abbotts immediately following the events of the first movie as they continue to move around silently to avoid the sound-hunting predators. When the family encounters another group of survivors they find their apparent saviors aren’t exactly the nicest, most understanding people but instead might be just as dangerous as the creatures who have taken over the planet.
Paid promotions began with a Super Bowl spot at the end of January that emphasizes the chase elements of the story, showing the family on the run as it seeks safety and continues, despite the insistence of others, that there are good people in the world worth saving.
A featurette was released at the same time as that commercial that had the stars and filmmakers talking about returning to the story and where their characters are as the sequel begins.
Blunt and Krasinski partnered with Omaze on a charitable campaign giving the selected winner the chance to go on a double date with the couple.
An “exclusive look” released in late February plays like an extended TV spot, showing the basic outline of the story as the remaining Abbotts seek safety as they keep moving.
In February Paramount announced a double feature of the first movie and an early screening of this sequel that was scheduled for March 18th, a couple days before general release.
Simmonds was interviewed about being a hearing-impaired actor in Hollywood and her role in these movies. Blunt and Krasinski were interviewed about their initial reluctance to extend the story with a sequel and how they changed their minds, finding ways to keep the characters going. In an interview of her own, Blunt talked about this role as well as how she’s carved out a career for herself over time.
The Abbots triggering a trap set by other survivors, a key moment of tension from the trailers, was shown off in the first clip released at the end of February. Another clip from March takes place during the first wave of the alien invasion, as the Abbots are just trying to survive the chaos around them.
TV commercials like this that continued emphasizing the movie’s drama as well as the action ran steadily beginning in mid-February and through the next few weeks.
A second poster released late in February shows the four surviving members of the Abbott family huddled in a storm sewer or other underground location, trying to remain silent to avoid the hunters.
At that point Paramount debuted a movie-themed survival room experience in New York City and Los Angeles where fans could come live in the movie’s world of being hunted for a short while.
A Dolby Cinemas poster released at the end of February enigmatically shows what seems to be Evelyn walking across a bridge away from a cross left in the middle of the path as a memorial. It’s odd in that the kids aren’t seen, so you’re left to wonder why Evelyn is on her own.
IMAX’s poster, though, shows all four of them as they race across a field in front of an abandoned factory.
The dangerous loner played by Cillian Murphy, one the Abbots encounter on their journey, is the subject of a featurette released in early March as the filmmakers and cast explain who he is and what he represents.
Similar subject matter was covered by Krasinski at the movie’s premiere, one of the last major events held before the Covid-related shutdown, with Blunt adding how much she loves the character she plays.
Both Blunt and Krasinski made the rounds of various talk shows, appearing on “The Late Show,” “Kimmel” and elsewhere. Simmonds talked about the movie on “GMA.” Djimon Hounsou also appeared on “Live with Ryan and Kelly” and other shows to talk about his costarring role.
And a Pause
On March 12, 2020, just a week before the original release date, Krasinski and Paramount announced the movie was being pulled from the release schedule because theaters across the country were shutting down as the coronavirus pandemic worsened. That brought the marketing to a standstill, though there would continue to be semi-regular updates from various parties.
While the release was on hold Paramount became one of many studios and other companies releasing movie-themed virtual backgrounds for Zoom meetings, which were quickly becoming the new normal in the white collar business world.
A few weeks later a new September release date was announced, a date that reflected optimism — felt by many — that the pandemic would wane and fizzle out in the summer heat.
Other than a few comments from the cast and studio in the intervening months, things remained quiet until February of this year. There weren’t any updates to the movie’s official website or its social media profiles. That’s when the publicity around the rebranding of the CBS All Access streaming platform as Paramount+ included the news that this movie, among others, would be available on that service a scant 45 days after their theatrical debut.
The Paramount+ news in February came with the announcement this movie and others would come to the streaming service just 45 days after theatrical release. In May that announcement resulted in reports Krasinski and Blunt were seeking financial compensation from Paramount for the shortened theatrical window, which had what they claimed would be a negative effect on their back-end deals.
Let’s Try This Again: The 2021 Campaign
In early March of this year Krasinski announced a new Memorial Day Weekend release date that took into account the reopening of theaters across the country as well as the fact that a Covid vaccine had finally been introduced and more and more people were getting the jab.
A final trailer (10.6 million views on YouTube) — teased ahead of time, of course — came out in early May. With a few brief flashbacks, it shows how Evelyn and her kids are trying to keep surviving in the world as the sound-tracking aliens continue their reign of terror. There are lots of thrills and jumps and, at the end, a note about how this is the perfect movie to experience in theaters.
After the final trailer came out a short featurette/TV spot was released with Krasinski and Blunt talking about the expanded scope of the story as well as how excited they are that people will be able to experience it in theaters.
Another batch of TV spots came in mid-May that made a strong case for the movie as one audiences wouldn’t want to miss.
As release neared there were more interviews with Krasinski about the long wait he and the others have endured for release to finally happen and how there are already some ideas floating around for a potential third installment. Joint interviews with him and Blunt also covered similar ground as the press cycle for the first movie in how they almost said “No” to a sequel.
When Kraskinsk appeared on “The Late Show” he focused on how the movie was very specifically made to be experienced by people en masse in theaters. He also showed up on “Late Night” while Blunt talked about the movie on “Kimmel.” Murphy was also interviewed about joining the sequel and what his character’s story is.
Dolby Cinemas released an exclusive Q&A with the cast. AMC Theaters also a brief chat with Krasinski. Cinemark hosted a live Q&A in select theaters with Krasinski being interviewed by superstar director/producer J.J. Abrams.
First off, you have to kind of hand it to Paramount for this Tweet that nicely references the “Friends” reunion special that landed on HBO Max earlier this week and which has been sucking up much of the oxygen in the entertainment press.
While it was present throughout the campaign, the second half that kicked off earlier this year prominently pointed out not only that the movie was “only in theaters” but more specifically and pointedly that it was “The movie experience theaters were made for.” That’s a none-too-subtle call to action for the audience that they’ll get something special out of seeing it on the big screen. And it’s a better message than what’s usually conveyed for format-specific options like IMAX or Dolby.
As for the campaign outside of that, it’s successful in largely recreating the mystique of the original film despite the audience now knowing what the threat the Abbott family faces is, the mystery of which formed the crux of the first movie’s marketing. It does that by showing that while the blind, sound-sensitive aliens are still present the real problem now are the other humans the Abbotts encounter.