Penguin Bloom – Marketing Recap

How Netflix has sold a story about grief and coming to terms with a new situation.

In Penguin Bloom, based on the book of the same name from writer Cameron Bloom, the story focuses on how a family adjusts to a new and very different dynamic and situation. Sam Bloom (Naomi Watts) is paralyzed after an accident, throwing the vibe of the family household completely out of whack. Her husband Cameron (Andrew Lincoln) is put in the position of having to help their three young kids adapt to their new reality, finding inspiration to do so in the form of a young magpie whom they name Penguin unexpectedly enters the house. Jackie Weaver also stars as Sam’s mother.

Netflix’s campaign for the film has been relatively brief, but highlights the emotional nature of the story, inspired by true events. It sports a middling 60% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, but let’s take a look at how it’s been sold.

The Posters

Sam and Penguin are, of course, the primary elements on the first and only poster (by marketing agency The Refinery), released in early January. The latter is perched on the former’s shoulder as they both look longingly out the window, in which the rest of Sam’s family is reflected. So it conveys the “inside looking out” nature of the story, how Sam is isolated from those around her in a relatively simple but effective manner.

The Trailers

The trailer (147,000 views on YouTube) starts by showing the Bloom family on vacation in happier times. When she has an accident on that vacation things get understandably tense, though the kids try to make the best of it. Still, Cameron and Sam are struggling, but the appearance of Penguin provides something for everyone – even Sam – to rally around and be inspired by, showing there’s a better way forward.

Online and Social

Nothing here. Netflix didn’t even give it that much support on social channels, with other movies taking precedence apparently.

Advertising and Promotions

The movie’s premiere was held at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival, with positive reviews calling out Watts’ performance in particular.

Netflix acquired the film in November of last year and set a quick January release date.

Media and Press

Watts was interviewed in early October of 2019 about the movie and its story as well as what drew her to the project and how she feels it reflects a modern audience.

During TIFF 2020, Watts and others in the cast were interviewed about the unique nature of working with live animals, how they bonded during production and more.

Oddly, given there are major stars in the film, there doesn’t appear to have been much press activity in the weeks leading up to release.


I’m a little surprised at how understated the campaign seems to be. The lack of press activity in particular comes off as a missed opportunity to get some more buzz about the film going after a long break since festival season. And it’s disappointing how little attention the film got from Netflix in terms of social promotion.

On the more positive side, the trailer is great, selling a movie that might be a bit emotional – especially since it’s based on a true story – but also looks funny and charming. More than anything, the campaign knows what it’s presenting; a story about the isolation that can come from an accident and how that creates tension in a family, but also how through hard work those impacted can find a way to survive together.

Picking Up The Spare

Watts appeared on “Kimmel” to talk about the movie and more. 
The filmmakers talked here about using a handful of trained birds in order to get the perfect performance.

Luce – Marketing Recap

luce posterAmy and Peter Edgar (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth) are a well-meaning and respectable suburban couple who, years ago, adopted the boy they named Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) from the troubled country of Eritrea in the new movie Luce. They’ve raised him to be a good person and, as he’s gotten older, he’s become an independent thinker who wants to raise awareness of important issues.

One day the bright future Luce seems to have as he prepares for the end of high school and the transition to college is threatened when one of his teachers, Mrs. Wilson (Octavia Spencer), raises some concerns about a paper he’s written, one in which he argues that violence on a national level is good for population control. She’s worried that kind of thinking is dangerous and that he’s taking advantage of his situation, while Luce and his parents are worried she is targeting him because of his position. A conflict ensues that brings a variety of issues out into the open.

The Posters

All four main players are shown on the one-sheet, their pictures cascading across the bottom half of the real estate with a concerned and anxious look on their faces. It’s a simple design meant to provide a blank white canvas for the emotions and issues raised by the story, which is hinted at in the copy “The truth has many faces.”

The Trailers

Luce is giving an inspiring speech about his family as the first trailer opens. He’s the model student and athlete, a young man who was adopted from another country by a couple that thinks the best of him. That image is threatened when a paper he writes is flagged by a teacher as being troubling. She becomes the enemy of Luce and Amy, who don’t want his future risked. The conflict escalates from the philosophical to the physical, with the teacher finding herself harassed and burglarized as Luce’s reputation becomes more and more precarious.


Online and Social

NEON’s official website for the movie doesn’t feature a lot of information beyond the marketing materials, but the design of the front page is well done in how it uses the poster key art to create some brand consistency. I also continue to appreciate how the studio provides a Box folder of photos and other media that can easily be downloaded right there instead of putting it behind some sort of press-restricted wall.

Advertising and Publicity

A first look still from the movie was released at the same time it was announced it would be screening at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, where it garnered a good amount of positive word of mouth and buzz. NEON picked up distribution rights while the festival was still happening. It later screened at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The movie was among those announced by AMC Theaters as part of the first curated under its Artisan Films program to highlight smaller films.

The conflict between Luce and his teacher is the focus of the first TV spot released in mid-July, which uses fast cuts and high drama to convey the story of the film.

An exclusive clip was provided to The Playlist showing a key moment of debate between Luce and his teacher. Another clip showed Mrs. Wilson confronting Luce’s adopted mother with her concerns.

Media and Press

The cast and crew were on hand at Sundance to talk about the themes of the movie and its story.

Spencer appeared on “Kimmel” earlier this week to talk about the movie while Watts showed up on “The Tonight Show.” Those two were also interviewed about the dramatic twists of the movie’s story and what audiences could expect.


This is exactly the kind of emotional drama that seems so important these days. The story, as it’s presented in the campaign is one that touches on themes of privilege, trauma and social responsibility, all topics that are in conversation in the news on a daily basis.

The marketing itself is good, all aimed at delivering the maximum emotional punch through short bits of the story being shared in a way to create cliffhanger moments to get the audience intrigued and feeling tense. Spencer and Watts being the focus of those clips and the press efforts show where the real standoff in the story going to be, making the movie seem all the more interesting.

Picking Up the Spare

A series of short spots focusing on the mother, father and son in the story came out shortly after the movie hit theaters. So too a clip of the prep for a key debate moment in the story.

Director Julius Onah and playwright J.C. Lee – whose work the movie is adapted from – speak here about the characters and themes of the story.

Spencer and Watts were jointly interviewed about the movie while Watts revealed it was Spencer’s involvement that got her to join the project.

Ophelia – Marketing Recap

ophelia posterFor as much of a masterpiece as Hamlet is, the female characters in the play are more than a little underwritten. Gertrude has little to do but watch her son descend into madness while being positioned as the disloyal wife now sleeping with her husband’s killer. Then there’s the subject of this week’s new movie Ophelia, which seeks to change the perspective of the events depicted in the play from her perspective.

Daisy Ridley stars as the title character, who is taken in as a young child by Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts). That brings her into the life of young Hamlet (George MacKay) as well, a fateful pairing that will have repercussions for both after Hamlet’s father is killed. It’s then up to Ophelia to walk the line between her responsibilities in the court and what her heart is calling her to do.

The Posters

The title character is shown from behind on the first and only poster, her blue dress blending nicely with the wall covering behind her. Copy makes it clear the story will be telling “Hamlet through her eyes,” a nice way of communicating to the audience what they should expect.

The Trailers

IFC debuted the first trailer in late April. It shows Ophelia’s life before the events depicted in the play, including her relationship with the young prince Hamlet. When his father is killed and uncle assumes the throne we continue to get her perspective on events, seeing how her world is thrown upside down. She wants to help Hamlet, including encouraging him to run away with her, but no one seems to take her seriously and she gets caught up in the madness infecting the whole kingdom.

Online and Social

IFC Films’ official website for the movie has a good synopsis, the trailer and a cast list, but that’s about it. There are no social profiles, but the studio did promote it on its brand channels.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’ve been exposed to.

Media and Publicity

A first look photo showing Ridley as the title character appeared in EW’s Fall Movie Preview issue. More stills were released later on providing more looks at the film alongside comments from Watts just before its scheduled debut at the Sundance Film Festival in 2018, a debut many critics were anxiously looking forward to. While there McCarthy and Watts talked about the film and how telling the story from a woman’s point of view is super-timely and relevant.

IFC finally picked up distribution almost a year after that Sundance premiere.

The first clip was released in early June showing Ophelia having a pointed conversation with the Queen about their respective status in the castle. Another shows a flirtatious moment between Ophelia and Hamlet.

There was an interview with Watts about the movie but, surprisingly, nothing with Ridley, at least not to date. Most of the recent stories about her have been about Star Wars or her personal life.


More so than many other movies, this really does seem like a reimagining of a familiar story that may add something new and interesting to the original. As I mentioned, Ophelia’s role in Hamlet isn’t exactly a portrait of an empowered young woman, but there’s nothing in the marketing for the movie that suggests it detracts from the classic Shakespeare play so much as it adds shading and coloring, bringing out aspects not previously given full attention.

Ridley’s absence from the publicity circuit is disappointing given her place in the title role, but it may also be a symptom of being part of other, bigger productions. If that had been a bit more pronounced the campaign as a whole might have been a bit more engaging, but there hasn’t been anyone out there in the time leading up to release playing the story up as vital and important for contemporary audiences. That’s a shame.

Picking Up the Spare

Ridley finally started doing a little press for the movie, including an appearance on “The Tonight Show.” 

There have been a few more clips released by IFC Films. 

How the filmmakers sought to expand the story of the character was covered in this feature interview with the crew. 

The Glass Castle – Marketing Recap

Based on Jeanette Walls’ memoir of the same name, The Glass Castle hits theaters this weekend. The movie follows Walls beginning in early childhood as she and her sisters are constantly being moved around from one unusual environment to the next by their unconventional parents Rex (Woody Harrelson) and Rose Mary (Naomi Watts). The two believe they are giving their children something unique, teaching them to be self-reliant and not lead conventional lives.

Adult Jeanette (Brie Larson) doesn’t remember those years quite as fondly. Now settled into a successful career and comfortable life in New York, she once more has to deal with the emotional baggage heaped on her by her parents and the scars they’ve left behind. It’s not all negative, though, as she also realizes they did what they could and if nothing else gave her and her sisters a passion for life.

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