How Netflix has sold a high-octane and star-studded Western.
Regina King, Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Lakeith Stanfield, Zazie Beetz and Delroy Lindo are just a few of the big names in this week’s new Netflix feature The Harder They Fall.
In the film, labeled as based on a true story, Majors plays Nat Love, a former enslaved person who, once free, moved from Tennessee to Kansas to find work as a cowboy. One day he finds out his nemesis Rufus Buck (Elba) has escaped imprisonment he gathers those loyal to him to set out and find Buck and bring him back to justice, or exact revenge himself. But Buck has his own gang and the two groups are fated to face off against each other.
With a solid cast and the promise of a new-fangled Western, Netflix’s campaign has been slick and action-packed, even if it hasn’t been particularly sizable.
announcement and casting
The movie was announced in mid-2019 with Majors and first-time director Jeymes Samuel attached at that time. Elba joined later that year with others added over the course of 2019 and into 2020.
Production started in mid-2020 but, like many other films, had to be suspended because of a Covid case in October.
The first footage came in January, part of Netflix’s announcement of its ambitious 2021 feature film slate.
the marketing campaign
The first trailer (3.1m YouTube views) came out in late June, starting off with the outlaws robbing a train to free one of their number. But there are those who preferred Buck remain in jail, leading to a good old-fashioned showdown in a small town. It looks like a great, stylized Western with lots of action and humor and a fantastic cast.
Two posters that show the two different sides of the law that are presented in the story also came out in June.
Netflix announced in August that the movie would open the London Film Festival.
It was August when the official trailer (1.1m YouTube views) was released. There’s more footage than was included in the first one but the same message is being sent here: That the film is violent and funny, with a story about warring outlaw gangs each determined to get what they feel is theirs. Most of all it looks like a lot of fun, with some great actors playing Old West for a while.
Short promos like this also began appearing at this time that play up the splashy visuals and high-energy tone of the film.
Another poster came out in September that combines elements from the previous two, bringing the main four characters into a single one-sheet.
At the London Film Festival there were a number of interviews with the cast and crew where they talked about discarding stereotypes of the Western genre, how this film broadens the scope of the kinds of stories that can be told of that era and more.
Similar themes were covered in an interview with Samuel.
Majors stopped by “Kimmel” recently to talk about this movie as well as other upcoming projects.
At the movie’s L.A. premiere event Majors again pointed out that this isn’t an alternative history of the Old West so much as it was an additional chapter of that era that hasn’t been widely told.
The 83% Fresh rating the film currently has on Rotten Tomatoes represents it’s been received more positively than some of the other recent Netflix titles, and even more positively than many other recent releases regardless of platform.
Aside from that, the marketing has been solidly consistent through what is admittedly its short life span. It sells the movie as being a Western, yes, but one with a more modern sensibility and tone despite the frequent assertions by Samuel and others that this isn’t an alternate history or revisionist take on the genre.
It also puts its all-star cast right at the front with an especially strong focus on Majors, who could use this and a couple other high-profile roles to break out into the big-time.
How Netflix is selling a story of grief, love and Metaphor Birds.
The Starling, streaming now on Netflix, stars Melissa McCarthy and Chris O’Dowd as Lilly and Jack, a married couple who are in the midst of a rough patch in their relationship. Jack is in an institution working to come to terms with the grief he feels following the death of their child (it’s unclear if it was a miscarriage or came later) while Lilly has to continue on through life without him. Helping her on the outside is Dr. Larry Fine (Kevin Kline), a former counselor now working as a veterinarian.
announcement and casting
McCarthy and O’Dowd were cast as the leads in mid-2019, reuniting them with their St. Vincent director. Others were added to the lineup later that year.
While the movie was still in post-production Netflix reportedly acquired distribution rights.
In June news came that the film would screen at the Toronto Film Festival ahead of a limited theatrical release followed by wide availability on Netflix.
The trailer (1.8m views on YouTube) was finally released in late August. As it starts we see Lilly is working to adjust to life with Jack in a facility to deal with his issues. Lilly has her own problems, though, and is referred to Dr. Fine despite him no longer being a counselor. The couple are working through their problems and, with Fine’s help, trying to find new ways to be a couple after experiencing a common loss.
Shortly after that the planned TIFF premiere took place, but the reviews and word of mouth that came out were decidedly mixed if not outright negative.
The poster came out in mid-September, just a week or so before the movie was available. The focus here is on Lilly as she lays in her garden, the starling of the title perched on her shoulder. Everything about the design is meant to convey heartfelt emotions, right down to the serif-heavy font and the soft colors of the sky in the background.
McCarthy appeared on “The Late Show” to talk about the movie, including the technical difficulties involved in acting against an invisible bird and more. A later interview with her had her sharing her own experiences as a mom and with wild animals along with more.
An interview with Melfi had him talking about shooting parts of the movie with the actors in different locations due to the conflicting schedules as well as how he worked to change the perspective of the original script to focus more on McCarthy’s character.
Just prior to release Netflix put out a clip expanding on a scene between Lilly and Dr. Fine talking about the grieving process.
The campaign’s major obstacle to overcome are the aforementioned negative reviews, which have just continued since Toronto and currently give the film a paltry 22% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Whether it achieves that goal is questionable. McCarthy and O’Dowd are two incredibly likeable, charismatic actors and having Kline batting clean up is never a bad thing. Everything in the marketing makes it clear that the characters are all dealing with big emotions and having difficult conversations, so your reaction to the trailer et al will likely depend on how attractive that all seems.
How Netflix has sold another movie about an assassin with nothing left to lose.
There have been a number of movies in the last several years that have, essentially, taken different approaches to the John Wick model, that being a story about an assassin or hired killer who goes off the reservation for one reason or another. This week’s new Netflix release Kate, directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, follows in that sub-genre.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Kate, a highly proficient hitwoman working for the yakuza. When an assignment goes wrong, her employers decide to end their arrangement, poisoning Kate with an agent that will slowly kill her over 24 hours. With that much time to live, she decides to make the most of it by seeking out and killing those who have doomed her.
announcements and casting
After acquiring the project in script form in 2017, Winstead was cast in 2019, as was Harrelson.
Netflix announced in May that the movie would be coming to the streaming service later in the year. A September date was then set in mid-June.
the marketing campaign proper
Kate already suspects she’s been setup as the trailer (1.2m views onYouTube), released in early August, opens. She tells Varrick (Harrelson) as much, including that she believes she was poisoned before the botched hit, which was on the head of the yakuza. With her new friend Ani (Miku Martineau) in tow, and as her body slowly fails, she sets out to find the person responsible for setting her up, working through Tokyo’s underbelly one henchman and mid-level lackey at a time.
The brightly-colored poster came out at the same time. It shows Kate (looking very much the worse for wear as she holds her gun at the ready), Ani and Varrick in a neon frame that, along with the signs seen in the background, establishes the Tokyo setting. Above the title is the copy “There’s no time for mercy” that hints at the ticking clock nature of the story.
A more distilled version of the story was included in short promo spots like this that were published and run at the end of August and into early September.
An interview with Winstead had her talking about the refreshing lack of overtly gendered costumes and other elements along with how her stunt training for this film was able to build on what she was already doing for Birds of Prey.
There were a couple other interviews with the star, but most of them only briefly touched on this movie, instead focusing on her thoughts around returning as Huntress in another BoP entry.
Reviews haven’t been overly positive, as the movie only has a 34% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And yes, there have been at least two or three other movies about a female assassin out for revenge on the employers who have turned on her recently. But the same can be said for movies about men seeking revenge on those who killed their family, so I’m not sure that’s a valid criticism in and of itself.
The campaign Netflix ran has a lot of nice elements, but what comes across most to me is that it shows how versatile and yet tragically underused Mary Elizabeth Winstead is. That alone should generate some level of interest, with others vaguely aware of the movie until it turns up as a recommendation on Netflix and it’s deemed “good enough” on a Thursday afternoon.
How Netflix has sold a drama of conspiracy and intrigue.
John David Washington stars in the title role of this week’s new Netflix release Beckett. Beckett and his girlfriend April (Alicia Vikander) are vacationing in Greece when the two are involved in a terrible car accident that kills April and leaves Beckett alive but injured. He finds answers about what happened surprisingly hard to come by, with officials reluctant to mount any sort of investigation. Soon Beckett finds himself on the run as he tries to reach the U.S. embassy in Athens before those on his trail kill him.
The 64% Fresh rating the movie has on Rotten Tomatoes indicates middle reviews in advance of it hitting Netflix this week. Let’s take a look at how it’s been sold to date.
announcement and casting
Washington and Vikander, along with costars Boyd Holbrook and Vicky Krieps, were all included in the cast list when the movie was announced in early 2019. At that time the film was titled Born To Be Murdered, which is simultaneously both more interesting than its current moniker and more vague and confusing.
Netflix acquired the title in October of 2020, retaining the original title (for the moment) but not immediately setting a release date. The new, current title was announced in April of this year.
BECKETT. On the run. This summer.
John David Washington Alicia Vikander Boyd Holbrook & Vicky Krieps
star in the dramatic thriller from director Ferdinando Cito Filomarino & producer Luca Guadagnino, following a man ensnared in a violent conspiracy while vacationing in Greece. pic.twitter.com/bUjHrhXt5w
The first poster (by marketing agency Concept Arts) came out in late June, marking the first element in the official marketing campaign. It’s a bit vague in how it shows Beckett walking across the roof with a gun in his hand, but it still helps to set a tone for the film. Still, it isn’t an overly-engaging design and without any kind of copy to help out there’s little to explain the story or plot to the audience.
In BECKETT, John David Washington is a man on the run. The dramatic thriller from director Ferdinando Cito Filomarino & producer Luca Guadagnino will premiere as the opening film at the Locarno Film Festival. Coming to Netflix August 13. pic.twitter.com/LtcfiMxGUd
That poster release also served as an announcement the movie’s premiere would happen at the Locarno International Film Festival in August, just days before its planned release.
Beckett and April are enjoying their secluded Greek vacation as the trailer (1.5m views on YouTube), released at the beginning of July, opens. After a car accident kills April and leaves him injured, Beckett finds no one will believe there may be witnesses to the accident. When he investigates on his own he winds up being hunted and chased by those who want him silenced. Even the American embassy isn’t of much help, leaving Beckett on his own to find out what he’s stumbled into the middle of and try to survive.
The second poster came out in mid-July and shows a closeup of Beckett, obviously a bit confused, or at least on high alert. Again, this isn’t the most engaging or informative poster, despite the inclusion of copy reading “Survival lies within.” But it does show the movie is focused on Washington, who might be on the run in some manner.
During the Locarno Film Festival Washington and director Ferdinando Cito Filomarino were interviewed, the former talking about this being a different kind of role for him compared to some of his other recent work and the latter about why he wanted Washington and what kind of influences he pulled from while making it. The actor also spoke at the festival about the importance of the theatrical experience
Netflix’s campaign has some good things going for it, especially the charisma that Washington seems to bring to all his roles. The posters are unfortunately a bit lackluster, however, and don’t adequately convey key elements of the story in an efficient and easily-comprehended manner. And it didn’t receive a whole lot of social media support from the brand in the lead-up to release.
The greatest sin, though, has nothing to do with the marketing and everything to do with a story that a) casts Alicia Vikander as “generic girlfriend” and b) kills “generic girlfriend” in order to set the plot in motion. It’s notable that she’s nowhere to be seen in the publicity for this movie, though whether that’s because her role appears to be thankless or because she was just out there for Green Knight is unclear.
How Netflix has sold its animated feature based on a hit series.
The three seasons of “Trollhunters” have been popular on Netflix. Created by Guillermo del Toro and produced by DreamWorks Animation, the series follows a group of teenage friends who find they must protect the world from all manner of mystical monsters and other threats.
Now the story concludes in the feature-length Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans. In the movie, the group of teenage protectors, led by James “Jim” Lake Jr., (voiced by Emile Hirsch) and Aja (voiced by Tatiana Maslany) must stop the threat posed by the Arcane Order and their massive Titans and keep the world safe.
Netflix’s campaign has relied heavily on the popularity of the three previous series, selling the film as a culmination of everything that’s come before.
The first poster, released in mid-June, shows the assembled team of heroes – human or otherwise – as they are prepared to face some unseen threat. There’s not a whole lot of information about the story, but those familiar with the series will be able to identify who’s who and make some conclusions about what to expect.
The same characters are shown on the second poster, released earlier this week. This time they’re posed on a building rooftop, the massive Titans they are facing off against looming in the background.
Finally the first trailer (800,000 views on YouTube) came out in mid-June. A war between mankind and magic is coming, we’re told, as we see the teen heroes told about the emergence of ancient titans determined to destroy civilization. There’s a lot of humor and a lot of action, both of which are familiar to anyone who’s seen the series, and overall it looks like a lot of fun.
Online and Social
Advertising, Publicity and Promotions
Netflix announced in August, 2020 that the movie would be coming some time in 2021, acting as a conclusion to the popular series.
A short teaser from late April finally made the movie’s release date official.
This was one of a few features Dreamworks promoted at the 2021 Annecy Animation Festival in June.
The cast appeared in a video released at the beginning of July warning people of the dangers of cyberbullying and telling anyone who’s been the victim of it to not fight back but to report the harassment.
Netflix put out the first few minutes of the video to help get people excited and show what they could look forward to.
Can’t wait for July 21? Here are the first few nail-biting minutes of TROLLHUNTERS: RISE OF THE TITANS—arriving next week on Netflix! pic.twitter.com/wDlD0TGmeO
Netflix hasn’t made as big a deal about this movie as it has for other recent releases, particularly the Fear Street trilogy, but the smaller campaign has played well to the elements that have made the original series successful. There’s a good deal of humor as well as the promise of plenty of supernatural action and adventure, which is exactly what fans are likely to expect. There could have been more done to pull in some new fans and explain how it concludes the three series already available, but that’s a relatively minor quibble in an otherwise solid push.
How Netflix has sold a female-led action thriller.
Karen Gillan plays Sam in Gunpowder Milkshake, this week’s new release from Netflix. Sam is an assassin who finds herself on the run following a job gone wrong. That winds up bringing her back in contact with Scarlet (Lena Headey), Sam’s mother who also happens to be an assassin. Scarlet herself had to disappear years ago, leaving a young Sam alone, and so the two have some issues to work through. Helping them both are former associates of Scarlet’s; Madeline, Florence and Anna May (Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh and Angela Bassett, respectively).
The movie, which has a middling 69% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, has been sold by Netflix as a bright, female-driven take on the action/revenge genre, with Gillan at the forefront, though the rest of the cast isn’t far behind. Let’s take a look.
The first poster (by marketing agency BOND), released in May, offers a very literal visual interpretation of the movie’s title, with a bullet taking off the top of a diner milkshake. It’s the title treatment at the top that stands out, though, immediately establishing an identity for the movie with its bright neon lights.
The main poster came out in mid-June, showing most all of the lead cast as they stand in front of a diner with the title as its brightly-lit sign. All five characters are armed in some manner, the variety of their weapons hinting at how many ways they collectively know to kill someone.
The trailer (317,000 views on YouTube) came out in mid-June and opens with Sam seeking out the help of the librarians who are actually assassins. She needs that help because an assignment has gone sideways and she’s now responsible for protecting eight-year old Emily (Chloe Coleman). That’s just the setup, as the rest of the trailer is solely concerned with selling the over-the-top action of the movie, showing just the kind of butt-kicking audiences can expect.
Online and Social
No website, as is standard for Netflix releases, but StudioCanal, which produced the film, did run some social media accounts like this Twitter profile that helped with promotion, including sharing some promo spots. Netflix did give it some support on its own brand channels, but the focus there has been on its recent Fear Street anthology.
Advertising and Promotions
Distribution rights were picked up by STXFilms in February, 2020, about two years after it was announced during the American Film Market in 2018. A batch of first-look stills came out in mid-November.
Things were quiet until April 2021 when STX sold the movie to Netflix, one of many such sales as studios cleared out some titles as the coronavirus pandemic wound down.
The cast and director assembled via video chat to talk about how they got involved in the project and what the story entails. That video, released as part of Netflix’s “Geeked Week” campaign, also included the first publicly-released footage from the film.
Gillan and writer/director Navot Papushado attended a screening/Q&A at the New Beverly Cinema earlier this week.
A video with Bassett sharing some of her favorite lines from throughout her career, up to and including this movie, was released just the other day.
when you're as talented as GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE star Angela Bassett, the only lines you have to remember are your own. pic.twitter.com/WSaADR4sQQ
Gillan, who had shared a handful of videos from the set, put out what she called the first episode of her new talk show with Headey – kind of – as her guest.
Papushado talked about how and why he cast Gillan, who herself commented on what attracted her to the movie (including the title itself) and more.
Unlike some other recent releases this campaign has done a solid job of establishing a visual identity for itself, thanks in large part to not only the bright title treatment but also the enthusiasm of Gillan and the rest of the cast.
That’s not to say the movie looks great in and of itself, but it sure is sold to the public as being a lot of fun, and that’s really just fine. The same can be said of many similar movies like John Wick or Nobody, so clearing that bar is really all the campaign needs to do.
Based on the book Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love by Matthew Logelin, Fatherhood stars Kevin Hart as Logelin himself, a recently-widowed man whose wife dies and leaves him to raise their infant daughter Maddy (played as a slightly older child by Melody Hurd). Matthew struggles being the only one responsible for his daughter’s emotional, physical and mental well-being, seeking advice and help when it’s needed but determined to be the primary caregiver in her life.
The movie, hitting Netflix this week in time for Father’s Day, has been sold with a campaign emphasizing how unusual it is for a story to focus on a man being a single parent. As we’ll see, that resonates to varying degrees.
Designed by marketing agency P+A, the poster from May shows Matthew asleep with Maddy snuggled beside him, the two fitting in the crib in which she still sleeps. The image is clearly meant to be a mix of sweet, showing how close the two are, and a little funny, playing off how Hart can fit in the crib by only bending his knees slightly.
How the copy “In it, together” uses the comma is also very specific. Without the comma the phrase reads as if the two are partners through life’s journey. With the comma, though, it separates the clauses more definitely, so it reads “They are in it. And they are together.” So you lose the “partners” meaning a bit. Interesting choice.
Matt is overwhelmed and looking for help as the first trailer (1 million views on YouTube), released in May, opens. He’s struggling to raise his newborn baby daughter following the death of his wife shortly after the baby was born. Friends and family offer various levels of support and advice, but Matt is determined to do it himself and while there are plenty of mistakes it’s clear he and his daughter are each other’s support system through the ups and downs.
Online and Social
Nope, but Netflix gave the movie some support on its brand social media profiles.
Advertising, Press and Publicity
Sony sold the movie to Netflix in conjunction with Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions in March, with the streamer setting a June release date.
A set of stills was released by Netflix in late April.
When Hart appeared on “The Tonight Show” in May he talked about the movie and how he wanted to depict a positive representation of black parenting.
A behind-the-scenes featurette from early June had the cast and crew talking about the story, the importance of seeing family movies centered around the emotional journey of fathers and more.
Matthew is dropping Maddy off at daycare in a short promo/TV spot released last week.
What we’re sold here is a Kevin Hart movie we’ve seen variations of before — albeit more on the emotional side and not so much on the overt comedy end of the spectrum — wrapped in a parenting drama. If the movie is truly more dramatic than other entries in Hart’s career, it might have been a better choice to not include so much of his usual self-deprecating mugging. I enjoy the schtick, but it’s out of place here if the message is intended to be different than his other movies.
Also, given there are plenty of movies about how single fatherhood is distinct from single motherhood (Sleepless in Seattle, Pursuit of Happyness, Gifted, The Descendants, Jersey Girl and others all come to mind), the message that this is a unicorn of a film that audiences may not have seen or considered before doesn’t ring entirely accurate. It’s still a nice little campaign, but the two core messages don’t land as solidly as they need to.
How Netflix is selling a zombie-tastic romp through Sin City.
Imagine Ocean’s 11 but instead of Andy Garcia’s security apparatus, the thieves had to get through a horde of zombies to get to the casino safe full of cash.
That’s the basic premise of Army of the Dead from director Zack Snyder, taking a break from encouraging his most toxic fans to attack Warner Bros. for..reasons. In the movie’s story, a zombie outbreak has overtaken Las Vegas, leading casino owner Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) to hire a group of mercenaries lead by Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) to battle their way through the undead and retrieve $200 million from vault of the casino. Time is tight on the mission because the U.S. government, fearful the quarantine of Vegas won’t hold, plans on nuking the city to wipe out the threat. But everyone has their own hidden agendas.
The movie, which also stars Garret Dillahunt, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Tig Notaro and others, has a solid 72% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with early reviews calling it a fun, action-filled caper film.
The first poster (by marketing agency P+A) came out in February, showing a massive bank vault with various playing cards and currency flying around in front of it to help establish the Las Vegas setting of the story. To convey the presence of the zombies, a number of hands can be seen reaching out from the closed door, obviously not human and obviously not doing well.
Ward and his team stand atop a bright neon-lit slots bar on the second poster (by marketing agency BOND), released in April. With more neon in the background, there are a couple of skulls, a handful of poker chips and lots of weaponry on display to help sell the elements of the story. Two additional posters came out a bit later, one showing a zombie hand holding up a playing card and one showing a human hand holding a pike with a zombie head mounted on it. The bright pop-art colors keep the visual identity of the campaign going.
A series of brightly colored posters featuring each individual character were released in late April, each featuring a different tagline along with lots of neon decorations in the background in an attempt to convey the story’s Las Vegas setting.
Three more posters came out in the weeks leading up to release. One on, the focus is back on Ward’s team as they stand in the middle of the bright lights of Vegas, a group of undead hands reaching from the bottom. The other two look like comic book covers, with Ward on one walking through the flotsam of a ruined Vegas while carrying his packs. The other looks more like some kind of Mexican or similar artwork, with The Bride — a more intelligent, advanced zombie the team encounters — standing amid a collection of flowers and skulls.
The first trailer (3.7 million views on YouTube) came out at the end of February, immediately establishing a harsh post-apocalyptic landscape before flashing back to Vegas prior to the outbreak. Without offering much in the way of details, we get that a small armed unit is trying to break into a casino vault, fighting their way through the zombie hordes to do so.
We get a little more context for the story in the second trailer (11.1 million views on YouTube) from early April. Ward is approached by Tanaka to see if he’s interested in breaking into Tanaka’s old casino, now surrounded by zombies, before Las Vegas is nuked by the government. But things get complicated when they realize the zombies now roaming the streets have evolved and are smarter than the ones they faced in the war years ago.
Online and Social
As is common, Netflix supported the movie on brand social channels — including creating a bunch of GIFs on Giphy — but didn’t launch any new profiles or sites for the campaign. But it *did* create a publicly-accessible Dropbox where, in a feature it called #DeadDrop, the company put new posters, GIFs, videos and other assets.
In August of last year news broke that, despite the movie being fully shot and in post-production, Netflix announced original star Chris D’Elia was being replaced and Notaro brought in. Those reshoots were said to be scheduled for as soon as pandemic conditions would allow, and have Notaro acting largely against a green screen and stand-ins.
Netflix was apparently so entranced by the project it announced a prequel film and anime series later in August.
The first footage came in January, part of Netflix’s announcement of its ambitious 2021 feature film slate. An official release date was set in February.
Snyder was interviewed about the film as part of EW’s 2021 Movie Preview, with some first-look stills also provided. He also spoke about the more in a Vanity Fairpiece that was focused on his new version of Justice League, putting the development of this film in the context of his return to directing after taking a couple years off in the wake of his daughter’s death.
A few weeks after the second trailer came out Netflix shared a video of Snyder watching and reacting to a low-budget fan remake of that spot. Maybe this is meant to humanize the director or show how in-tune with his fans he is.
How the VFX team created the zombies – including the tiger – and more topics were covered in an interview with producer Deborah Snyder.
In a surprise move, news broke at the beginning of May that Cinemark planned to screen the movie at many of its locations nationwide ahead of its debut on Netflix. That’s a major concession by a large chain and one that shows how the calculus may have changed over the last year and a half.
Why Bautista chose this project instead of joining the cast of The Suicide Squad was the subject of this interview, with the star saying he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to work with Snyder.
The process of replacing D’Elia with Notaro was covered in-depth in an interview with her and Snyder, including how they had to make a number of adjustments simply because of the difference in size between her and the other actor.
Netflix released the first 15 minutes of the movie online to give audiences a taste of what they could expect when they watched the whole thing.
Cut down versions of the trailer along with other promos offered additional glimpses at the movie, mostly focusing on the mix of humor and violence it’s presumed will be most attractive to the audience.
A number of banners, some used as ads, some used just as organic promos, were created. Most simply repurposed some of the key art, but others like the one below attempt to recreate the look of classic zombie movie title treatments.
One review of Army of the Dead simply said something along the lines of “Well, it definitely is a movie” and that sums things up nicely.
With a bunch of solid actors in the lineup, there’s so little emphasis in the campaign on the human characters the message becomes they really don’t matter. Instead the primary selling point of the marketing here is the work put in by the VFX team to create a CGI tiger.
At least it hasn’t been preceded by months and months of kowtowing to online trolls, making them feel as if they have power they don’t. But, that being said, Snyder has spent a decent chunk of this movie’s publicity cycle litigating his past super hero work, which shows he’s not as interested in selling this movie as maintaining his status as Hollywood’s most persecuted director.
How Netflix is selling a claustrophobic, paranoid drama.
After a number of delays, reschedulings and other issues The Woman In The Window, directed by Joe Wright and starring Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anthony Mackie and others, finally comes to audiences on Netflix this week. Based on the book of the same name (but not related to the 1944 Fritz Lang movie), the story focuses on Dr. Anna Fox (Adams), a psychologist whose agoraphobia keeps her largely confined to her New York City condo. Fox befriends the woman who lives next door, but when that woman disappears Fox finds herself increasingly disoriented as the reality of what she did or didn’t see is called into question.
The movie was originally scheduled for release in late 2019. First delayed when Disney acquired Fox, which originally produced it, and requested reshoots, it then was bounced around during the Covid-19 pandemic. As it finally sees the light of day this week it’s been preceded by a campaign that has played up the psychological thriller elements of the story. Let’s take a look.
Fox is looking out the window of her condo on the first poster (by marketing agency BLT Communications), released all the way back in December 2019. A bloody hand reaching up across the street can be seen in the reflection, giving audiences the message that there will be some sort of Rear Window-esque story.
Netflix released its own poster this past April. We still get the basic idea of Fox looking out a window, but this time the photo of her is less obscured and the presence of a window is hinted at through some artfully-arranged black and white shapes. It’s not bad, but feels less like the poster for a high-profile release than the low-rent DVD cover a high-profile release would receive after a successful theatrical run.
The first trailer (4.1 million views on YouTube), finally released in December of 2019, starts out by showing Emma is an agoraphobe, scared of leaving her apartment to the point of not being able to do so. That perimeter starts to crack when she befriends Jane, the woman who lives across the hall. When it looks like Jane has mysteriously disappeared, Emma has her sanity questioned as reality becomes a bit blurry, with Jane’s husband seeming to lie about what happened and who Emma actually met. Things get stranger and stranger and the danger greater as Emma insists on her version of events despite the prostrations of seemingly powerful people with no qualms about using her condition against her.
Netflix released another trailer (1 million views on YouTube) in April that sells the same basic story but positions it more strongly as a psychological thriller filled with twists and turns. It’s focused less on Emma’s insistence that she’s right in what she saw and more on how she navigates the situations that develop because of those events.
Online and Social
Not surprising to find there’s no official website for this Netflix exclusive, but the company did give the movie some support on its brand social channels.
Unfortunately some of the first news about the movie came in mid-July of last year when it was announced it was being pulled from the release schedule. Reports were Disney – which acquired it in the Fox deal – was unhappy with the results of initial test screenings and had ordered extensive reshoots and other changes.
Disney pulled the movie from its release schedule again in mid-March in response to the Covid-19 outbreak that was closing theaters and more. News came in early August that Netflix was considering buying the movie. Those reports were eventually confirmed, with a release date finally announced in March.
While she was promoting other things last year Adams spoke briefly about the movie.
Wright was interviewed as part of EW’s 2021 Movie Preview, speaking about the unusual production, the reshoots that were done and the fact that the film has shifted from a theatrical to streaming release.
Netflix announced a Q&A with the cast for early April that would include exclusive footage.
In the last week or so Adams has made a handful of press appearances, including on “Late Night.”
A short video with Adams explaining the plot came out just before the movie’s release.
There was also a featurette with Adams and Wright talking about the long process the movie has taken from when it was developed and originally shot to when it’s finally being sent out into the world.
It has to be hard for Adams, Wright and others to go out there and make the pitch for the movie at this moment given they’re two years removed from it in most senses. That has an impact in creating – or not creating – a sense of urgency that’s conveyed to the audience as they’re out there making the pitch.
While Netflix’s campaign for the movie has been alright, making the movie seem a bit broader than it originally did, it also hasn’t done much to capitalize on the anticipation that seemed to be felt back in late-2019 and early-2020. As the marketing wraps up, then, it looks like a decent movie to watch on a Saturday afternoon when it’s recommended on the Netflix landing page.
How Netflix has sold The Mitchells vs. the Machines
Produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the currently reigning champions of animated storytelling outside the Pixar banner, The Mitchells vs. the Machines has a great premise. In the story, Katie Mitchell (voiced by Abbi Jacobson) is an oddball teen that frequently clashes with the family she’s never quite fit in with. When she’s accepted into film school her dad Rick (Danny McBride) and mom (Maya Rudolph) insist on driving her to college. What starts out as your average awkward family road trip gets intense quickly when the family finds itself in the middle of the robot uprising, with every machine both large and small coming to life and looking to destroy humanity.
The movie, which has an impressive 97% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, is out this week on Netflix, more than a year after it was originally scheduled to be released from Sony, which sold this past January. Netflix’s marketing has played up the fun, colorful aspects of the story while also reminding people how much they liked previous Lord & Miller productions, especially Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.
The first thing you need to know is that THE MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES is Certified Fresh on @RottenTomatoes.
Just one poster (by marketing agency BLT Communications), which was released at the end of March. It’s a bright and zany poster, showing the Mitchells driving through what is clearly a robot apocalypse of some kind, with lots of little machines chasing after them. Lord & Miller’s previous productions are named at the top, but it’s the little drawings that come in from the edges of the poster that really make this charming and interesting.
It’s telling that the opening sales pitch made in last March’s first trailer (6.8 million views on YouTube) from Sony is that the movie comes from the filmmakers behind Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the studio obviously wanting to draft off that movie’s popularity. Once the story kicks in we see Rick is having a hard time as his daughter Katie is about to leave for college. He’s frustrated by everyone’s obsession with screens and technology, and cancels her flight to school so they can spend more time together on a road trip. Rick’s technophobia proves prescient when a new robot released to the public immediately turns evil, so it’s up to the family to stop the takeover and save the world.
A slightly different message is conveyed in the second trailer (25 million views on YouTube), released in late March after Netflix announced a new release date. After setting up the robot apocalypse setting, Katie introduces us to her family and explains they’ve never all been on the same page for one reason or another. But when the end of the world is nigh they come together in ways they haven’t before to save humanity.
Online and Social
Netflix inherited Twitter and other social profiles from Sony when it acquired the movie and has kept them going over the last few months while also giving it substantial support – which seems to have grown in proportion to the positivity of early reviews – on its brand channels.
Advertising, Press and Publicity
A video presentation involving Rianda, Lord and Miller was announced for the virtual version of the annual Annecy International Animation Festival in 2019. It was there that the filmmakers revealed some of the first details of the movie, still titled Connected at that time.
— Ask a Dumb Robot from #TheMitchellsVsTheMachines (@MitchellsMovie) February 20, 2020
During the virtual Annecy festival, Rianda was interviewed about the making of the film and working with the Lord/Miller team. He also mentioned how the technical tools used by that pair in making Into The Spider-Verse were utilized on this film.
Stills were shared via Entertainment Weekly along with comments from director Mike Rianda in early 2020 about the origins of the story and characters.
The movie was part of the virtual Light Box Expo in September of last year. It was around that event that Sony launched a website for Pal Labs, the company that creates many of the machines that go haywire in the story. Later on there was a faux commercial for the Pal Max, one of those devices.
— Ask a Dumb Robot from #TheMitchellsVsTheMachines (@MitchellsMovie) October 13, 2020
The movie, like many others, was moved off of the release schedule in September. Originally slated for mid-October, Sony gave it a vague “early 2021” date at that point. In January Netflix announced it had acquired the film, now renamed from Connected back to what had actually been its original name.
⚡️THE MITCHELLS VS. THE MACHINES is logging onto Netflix!⚡️
Danny McBride, Abbi Jacobson, Maya Rudolph & more star in director Mike Rianda's comedy—produced by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller—about a family’s struggle to relate as technology rises around the world. pic.twitter.com/sPQoWgfwcH
Rianda and Head of Story Guillermo Martinez were in attendance at New York International Children’s Film Festival in March, where they participated in a Q&A while offering a first look at footage from the movie.
A final release date was revealed toward the end of March.
Netflix promoted the BTS song that’s heard in the trailer, though it isn’t in the film itself.
Rianda and others, including co-director Jeff Rowe were interviewed about the making of the movie, the origins of the characters and more.
A handful of activity sheets were created that people could download and enjoy while anticipating the movie’s eventual release.
Rudolph appeared on “Today” to discuss her role in the movie.
In a pretty cool move, Netflix took over a Santa Monica gas station just prior to release and turned it into a PAL location with lots of movie branding and photo opportunities.
This way to fun:
📍 PAL Gas Station Grand Opening 10389 Santa Monica Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90025
— Ask a Dumb Robot from #TheMitchellsVsTheMachines (@MitchellsMovie) April 29, 2021
It’s also worth mentioning that internet-famous dog Doug The Pug became an integral part of the publicity campaign by virtue of his being chosen to “voice” Monchi, the Mitchells’ family dog. Doug gave the movie lots of shout outs and mentions on his social media profiles, tapping into that audience to get them excited for the film.