The Kitchen – Marketing Recap

the kitchen poster“The Kitchen” started life as a comics series from the now-defunct Vertigo imprint of DC Entertainment. Written by Ollie Masters with art by Ming Doyle, the story followed a trio of women whose husbands – all leaders in the local crime scene – are in prison. Promises by others to keep them afloat are abandoned, leading all three women to take matters into their own hands and get into the family business themselves.

This week’s big screen adaptation The Kitchen retains that much of that story. Tiffany Haddish, Melissa McCarthy and Elizabeth Moss star as Ruby, Kathy and Claire, respectively. The three are determined to survive Hell’s Kitchen of the 1970s. What surprises each one of them is that not only do they find they’re adept at the kind of violence and intimidation necessary to control their territory, they kind of enjoy it. Specifically, they enjoy the freedom that comes from no longer being dependent on anyone else for their survival and wellbeing.

[Disclosure: DC Entertainment was a client of mine in 2014 when the series launched at Vertigo and I was involved in promotion for it during the eight months it ran. That, and my enjoyment of that series, has absolutely influenced how I’ve viewed the movie’s marketing campaign.]

The Posters

There’s a strong 70s vibe on the first and only poster, released at the end of May. All three women are shown in their own section of the design, which uses vertical color-coded stripes to break them up.

The Trailers

The premise of the story is laid out in the first trailer, showing the problems the Kathy, Claire and Ruby are having in making enough money to keep their families afloat while their husbands are in prison. With all other options off the table and no one stepping up to help, they begin to carve out their own criminal operations. That brings them into conflict with other established gangs and syndicates, but they’re determined to answer to no one and do what everyone else has been unable or unwilling to do.

The second trailer was released in mid-July and starts with the trio of women having already gained a reputation that brings them to the attention of a competing crime boss. It jumps back a bit to show why they have undertaken their own enterprise and why, including how they refuse to go back to how things were. At the end we’re once back to their meeting with the crime boss as they face a pivotal moment that ends on an uncertain note.

Online and Social

As is now standard, there’s almost nothing beyond an assemblage of marketing materials available on the movie’s official website. Nice use of the key art to maintain some brand consistency, but that’s about all that can be said in favor of the site.

Advertising and Publicity

Exhibitors got a taste of the dramatic work by the often-comedic cast when WB showed off footage during its CinemaCon 2019 presentation.

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

Haddish, McCarthy and Moss all appeared as a group at the MTV Movie & TV Awards in June.

Featurettes have come out in the last couple weeks including one exclusive to MovieClips that focused on the history of Hell’s Kitchen in the era depicted. Another that was exclusive to DC included nods to the original comic and talked about how the story depicted three women refusing to be beaten down by circumstance. How Berloff assembled a largely female crew was covered in another.

Some TV advertising was surely done but those spots aren’t available on YouTube and don’t seem to have been shared on social platforms.

Media and Press

While this movie’s release was still a ways out at the time, a THR cover story on Haddish included mention of it as one of the in-demand actor’s upcoming projects. Outside of casting announcements, that constituted one of the first publicity beats for the film.

A first look still was released in late October.

A few months later director Andrea Berloff was profiled in a piece that covered how and why she got involved in the project and how she went about tackling the story.

The release of the second trailer was accompanied by stories about The Highwaywomen, the country supergroup whose cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” is featured in that trailer.

McCarthy appeared on “The Late Show” in July to chat about the movie and more. A couple weeks later Moss talked with Kimmel.

The three leads were interviewed together about how they got involved in the project and what attracted them to the story. Similar comments were made by them at the movie’s recent premiere.

Berloff talked about the pressure she was under helming a female-led movie in an industry that gives lip service to expanding the range of stories being told but which puts them under a lot more scrutiny than it does the movies with men in leading roles.

Overall

The movie’s comics origins aren’t a major part of the campaign, which is too bad since it’s just these sorts of non-super hero stories that have proven so popular in the larger mainstream entertainment world. Think of how The Walking Dead, Saga and other titles have not only become comics bestsellers but raised the profile of the entire industry, before even getting to adaptations in other media.

What is being sold here is a movie about women doing it for themselves. The three lead characters are turning to desperate measures in the desperate times they face and are making no apologies for it. In fact they are embracing the power they’ve seized and finding it provides the kind of security that relying on their husbands never could.

That message is pervasive, accompanied by visuals that reinforce the vibe of 1970s New York and the crime-ridden environment it was. The work Berloff put into both elements – the female power of the story and the recreation of the period setting of the story – is on display everywhere here, making it a compelling pitch even for those unfamiliar with the original material.

Picking Up the Spare

Warner Bros. released an official video for The Highwomen’s cover of “The Chain” that includes not only footage but dialogue from the movie.

Haddish showed up on “The Late Show” to talk about the movie and more. Common later was interviewed on “The Tonight Show.”

The production team was the focus of this profile looking at how they recreated 70s-era fashion and design.

Lots more interviews with Berloff about how and why she made the movie, including what challenges she faced along the way.

Game Night – Marketing Recap

game night poster 3Game night in the suburbs, particularly amongst adults, is usually a pretty boring affair unless someone has a bit too much wine. In the new movie Game Night that’s usually the case as a group of friends regularly gets together to have a bit of fun. One night Brooks (Kyle Chandler) says he’s put together a whole mystery for people to solve that will seem super-real. So when he’s actually abducted, is it part of the game or something more sinister?

That’s what the rest of the crew has to figure out. Annie (Rachel McAdams) and her husband Max (Jason Bateman) along with Kevin (Lamorne Morris), Michelle (Kylie Bunbury) and others find themselves pulled increasingly out of their depth as they wind up having to navigate the criminal underworld to get their friend back and avoid getting into trouble themselves.

Continue reading “Game Night – Marketing Recap”

It – Marketing Recap

Some form of ancient and pervasive evil stalks the town of Derry in It, the new theatrical adaptation of the book of the same name from author Stephen King. Local kids disappear at a rate that would put Sunnydale to shame, but no one knows what causes it or how to stop it.

Eventually, a group of kids have had enough and decide to investigate following the disappearance of one of their younger brothers. What they find is that this evil is embodied in the form of a clown that lures kids to their doom. Incidents involving this clown date back centuries. The kids will have to dig deep in their effort to put an end to this terror.

The Posters

The first poster will creep you out and contains some key iconography from the story. Pennywise reaches out from the foggy darkness as he hands a small child dressed in a yellow raincoat a big red balloon, the clown’s face seen only through the film of the balloon. “You’ll float too” is the promise of the copy that’s just above the title. The whole negative space design here is meant to emphasize the terror of the characters that appear, making them a very small part of a bigger space and showing just how isolated they are.

A special Comic-Con-exclusive poster shows the group of kids walking through the fog toward the camera. In the back at the center of the group is Pennywise, his balloon drifting above him.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts with George sailing his homemade boat in the rain gutter before it goes down the sewer grate, which is where he meets Pennywise. After the credits, we hear that this is a dangerous town to live in, with a murder and disappearance rate that far exceeds norms. A group of friends meets to talk about the creepy clown they’ve all seen and theorize it lives in the sewers. It gets creepier from there as the danger starts to close in around them and George reappears to his brother.

Yikes. It’s a pretty effective horror trailer as far as these things go. Pennywise is shown quite a bit but is always obscured, adding to the terror of his character. The kids, though, don’t really make an impression other than being likely fodder for the murderous clown. Also, the line about how the town has such a high murder rate reminds of the couple times they nodded to such things in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

The full official trailer starts out with Bill explaining that everything does not revolve around you, a realization that is sometimes very harsh. Talk of how the monsters see individuals as weak but that groups can provide strength comes just before we meet Pennywise and hear about how some think the town is cursed by something evil. Bill sees the vision of his dead brother George and things start ramping up as he rails against how everyone in town just pretends like there’s nothing strange going on. The kids fight back against Pennywise, hoping a group effort will mean fewer of them die.

More creepy than I can handle. It shows just enough of Pennywise to freak audiences out but not so much that he overstays his welcome.

Online and Social

The Tumblr-based official website opens by playing the full trailer before giving way to an image of Pennywise luring Georgie with a bright red balloon. On the front page is a big prompt to “Discover the VR Experience” and to get tickets. There are links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles in the other corner.

That VR experience, titled “It Floats,” allows you to jump into the world of the story and brings you face to face with Pennywise.

Moving over to the left there’s a drop-down menu where the first option is “About” which gives you a brief story synopsis along with lots of information about producers and others involved in the movie’s making. After that is a “Gallery” with lots of shots of the kids but only a handful of Pennywise. Both trailers and a First Look spot are in the “Videos” section.

There are no less than three links here related to tickets; one just for yourself, one for groups and one that takes you into a whole experience involving searching the sewers to find a theater near you.

“Fan Art” contains a bunch of submissions that show just how creepy people can represent a clown, an effort that was tied to a contest. There’s another link here for the VR experience as well.

Unexpectedly there are a bunch of games and other more entertainment-oriented activities for you to play on the site. “Enter the Sewer Game” has you controlling a paper boat down the sewer like you’re playing Enduro. “The Loser’s Club” is a slideshow that provides some backstory on the kids and their town. Finally “Escape Derry” is an interactive feature that has you scrolling deeper and deeper into the sewers to learn more about the story.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one began running about a month out from the release that upped the tension and the danger. There wasn’t a whole lot that hadn’t already been seen in the trailers, but it works harder because of the condensed running time to pack in the jump cuts and scares.

Online and social ads used the videos and key art, respectively. The trailers were also used for pre-roll spots on YouTube.

Media and Publicity

The movie’s publicity campaign kicked off with a first look at Pennywise that didn’t add much detail but certainly made it clear a creepy clown would be involved. An even fuller – and creepier – look at the clown’s full costume followed a bit later.

A clip debuted during the MTV Movie and TV Awards that starts off by showing the good times this group of friends is having. Things quickly turn ominous, though, as they explore a drainage tunnel and find the shoe of someone who went missing.

Skarsgard was interviewed by his older brother Alex about the movie, his experiences as the creepy clown he plays and more.

New Line gave it some promotion at San Diego Comic-Con, making it part of an overall horror-themed event and using that to show off some exclusive footage to hopefully get people talking. Two new images, including a creepy look at Pennywise, were released in EW’s fall movie preview issue.

WB recreated the house that’s featured in the story as a haunted house that people in Los Angeles could visit.

The movie’s common name caused some issues with the marketing since “it” isn’t exactly easy to search for. Still, that didn’t seem to be a problem, with the movie still scoring substantial awareness and engagement before release. Also on the business-oriented front was a story about how this fits into New Line’s overall support for horror films and nurturing of talent on that front.

Skarsgard talked more here about how he got into the mind of the terrifying character he plays and how he didn’t want to be too mannered in his performance and risk comparisons with Heath Ledger’s depiction of The Joker.

Overall

I kind of like that New Line decided to go for broke and not worry about keeping Pennywise concealed until the last possible minute. First looks at the character were among the first images released and he appeared early in the other marketing assets, a stark departure from the marketing of other movies where new takes on old characters are kept out of sight as long as possible. That’s enabled the campaign to fully utilize the clown’s terrifying image and persona, which has only increased the creepiness of the whole effort.

What also stands out here is New Line’s commitment to experiential marketing, which makes sense given the tactile nature of the threat in the story. From Comic-Con events to the VR execution to the haunted house in L.A., the studio obviously felt immersing the audience in the story was a good way to get them excited for the movie. That’s paid off with decent tracking ahead of release, but we’ll see if people can get over the fear of clowns they already have (or the fact that they’re still traumatized from the 1990 TV miniseries version starring Tim Curry) to actually turn out to theaters.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.