snake eyes: g.i. joe origins – marketing recap

How Paramount has sold an action prequel/reboot of the G.I. Joe franchise

snake eyes theatrical poster

The first two live-action G.I. Joe feature films, released in 2009 and 2013, were not great movies. But they performed well enough – and the innate studio desire for franchises with built-in fanbases great enough – for Paramount Pictures to keep things going with this week’s Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins.

With a title that unfortunately evokes memories of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the movie stars Henry Golding as a loner going by the moniker Snake Eyes who already has substantial fighting skills but lacks direction. When he saves the life of Thomas “Tommy” Arashikage (Andrew Koji) he’s invited to join Clan Arashikage, a secretive group of ninjas with their own agenda. Though they become as close as brothers, the two have falling out. At the same time they’re drawn into the nascent battle between G.I. Joe and Cobra, personified by Scarlett (Samara Weaving) and Baroness (Úrsula Corberó) respectively.

Originally scheduled for March 2020 but pushed multiple times due to the coronavirus pandemic, the movie arrives following a campaign that has leaned into the land-standing popularity of the title character and the affection fans still have for the man who defined much of that character’s backstory and persona.

The Posters

The first poster (by marketing agency BLT Communications), also released online as a motion poster, came out in mid-May and shows Snake Eyes, sans mask, in front of a bright neon version of the Clan Arashikage symbol.

Two posters (by marketing agency Works Adv) came out in early June, both still using the Clan Arashikage symbol. One shows a sword in front of that symbol, the other a pair of dice that have come up snake eyes

Character motion posters (by BLT) for Snake Eyes, Baroness, Scarlett, Hard Master, Blind Master, Storm Shadow, Akiko and Kenta. were released exclusively to IGN in June

Another poster was released in June, this one finally showing a masked Snake Eyes looking very serious against a bright Japanese downtown.

The whole cast of characters – including both masked and unmasked Snake Eyes – is seen on the theatrical poster released in early July in a design that’s similar to most other ensemble franchises, with everyone arrayed around the main character who looms over them in the background.

An IMAX exclusive poster has Snake Eyes staring at the camera with the company logo reflected in his mask’s visor. Dolby’s poster again puts Snake against the backdrop of a city street, that view coming through a window shaped like the company’s logo.

One final poster, released just last week, illustrates the dual nature of the man who is Snake Eyes, his masked and unmasked face bifurcated by his sword.

The Trailers

The first teaser trailer (17 million views on YouTube), which debuted during the “MTV Movie & TV Awards” in May, very much positions the movie as an origin story. It focuses on how The Man Who Would Be Snake Eyes is seeking purpose in his life and so joins a ninja clan devoted to maintaining peace and justice in the world. There are glimpses of his training as well as supporting characters like Storm Shadow, Scarlett and The Baroness, but the short running time means this is a teaser first and foremost, not offering many details.

Another trailer (3.7 million views on YouTube) came out in mid-June, starting off by establishing how Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow were once friends. Their falling out isn’t shown, but we do see how Snake becomes involved with the Joes and their fight against Cobra.

One last trailer (2.5 million views on YouTube) came out just days ago. It hits many of the same notes but focuses a bit more on Snake Eyes attempting to outrun his past. Also, it ends with Tommy fully embracing his new persona as Storm Shadow, which is a nice touch.

Online and Social

Not much on the official website, which is mainly about selling tickets to local theater showings, just a basic synopsis and a few videos.

Advertising, Publicity and Promotions

A brief video in January 2020 marked the beginning of production in Japan, showing the cast and key members of the crew assembled to start getting things going.

Back in February of last year Golding offered a first look at the title character via his personal Instagram.

Unsurprisingly, in August of last year Paramount delayed the film’s release a full year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Around that time Golding made an appearance during the virtual Hasbro Pulse Con event, talking about the movie.

Golding talked briefly about the movie at the end of 2020 while promoting other projects, including showing off some footage of him training on “The Tonight Show” in November.

At CCXP in December Golding, Corbero, Weaving and others all made virtual appearances to get fans excited for the movie. Also joining them was G.I. Joe legend Larry Hama, who gave his endorsement to the movie and its cast for their portrayal of characters he was integral in laying the foundation of nearly 40 years ago.

Because of the delay in release Golding made his second appearance at Hasbro Pulse Con this past February, talking more about what fans could expect and showing off more of the toys and other products coming to store shelves.

Official first look stills came via EW in May, showing off maskless pics of Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Akiko and others along with comments on the characters and how the story developed and evolved over time from Golding and others, including producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura.

The trailer’s debut during the “MTV Movie & TV Awards” in May was teased by Golding in advance and introduced by him during the show.

A featurette released at the same time as the first trailer has Golding and others praising Hama’s work in creating the characters, teasing what the story will cover and showing a bit of behind-the-scenes footage in addition to clips from the movie.

Golding presented at the Billboard Music Awards in May.

Short videos like this were released occasionally, not adding much but calling out different aspects of the movie. Other promotional spots and commercials came out regularly in the last month or so, each hitting on various story or character points.

An interview with di Bonaventura had him talking about various parts of the film, from the questions that came about casting Golding to turning one of the great “mystery” characters of pop culture into an action hero and more.

Fandango MovieClips had an exclusive featurette that focused on the stunts and choreography that went into the movie and its ninja-tastic action.

There was a big promotional presence for the movie at ComplexLand in June, including a recreation of Snake Eyes home neighborhood. Visitors there could also get a free poster designed by Japanese-American artist Adam Fujita and register to win other exclusive merchandise.

Another featurette had Golding, Hama and Koji talking about the backstory of the friendship between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow.

The “Robot Chicken” team created a video that has Golding voicing Snake Eyes in a twisted version of the PSAs that were included in the classic cartoon series, though this includes the rest of the G.I. Joe team feeling pretty hurt that they were left out of the movie.

Snake Eyes had been added to Fortnite a while ago and recently made an appearance in the Batman: Fortnite comic series from DC. A video of Golding playing the game as Snake Eyes was released in July.

Online ads like this started running in the last few weeks, driving traffic to the official site where people could get ticket-buying information.

snake eyes online ad

An exclusive apparel line of movie-inspired products was released by Steve Akoi’s Dim Mak Collection earlier in July.

Just days before release there was a virtual cast panel as part of Comic-Con @ Home. This is one of the *very* few movies to make an appearance at SDCC, with studios apparently feeling the value wasn’t there this year.

Golding also appeared on “Kimmel” to talk about shooting the movie and more.

Overall

There are some good elements to the campaign, particularly the slick visuals seen on the posters. And Golding deserves a lot of credit for taking on a lot of heavy-lifting, using his personal social media in combination with a number of awards show and other appearances to sell the movie to his fans.

The marketing deserves special credit, though, for bringing the legendary Larry Hama so deeply into the effort. Having him as part of so many featurettes and interviews goes a long way toward making the movie attractive to those who may be wary, either because they’re concerned a Snake Eyes movie won’t be as good as they want it to be or because they still feel slightly burnt by the previous G.I. Joe franchise entries.

Gi Joe Mask GIF by Snake Eyes - Find & Share on GIPHY

A Quiet Place Part II – Marketing Recap

How Paramount is selling the aurally-fixated sequel.

We should have had this conversation a year ago.

I’m a walking’ down the street and I’m talkin’…

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.

The actor/director later surprised fans at a Cleveland screening of the movie and did likewise at a screening in New York City.

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.

Overall

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.

The Hunt For Red October – Flashback Marketing

How a touchstone Cold War thriller was sold when it was translated to the big screen 30 years ago.

Last night The Elk Grove Theater in exurban Chicagoland hosted a screening of The Hunt For Red October to celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary.

Based on the first novel from Tom Clancy – one praised by no less of a literary authority than President Ronald Reagan when it was published in 1984 – the movie follows CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) as he works to track down a new Soviet missile submarine whose commander Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) he believes wants to defect. Along the way he has to navigate not only the tricky world of international politics but also convince wary naval officers of his conclusions to complete the mission.

While the book came out at the height of U.S./Soviet tensions, the movie was released just as the Cold War was moments away from effectively ending when the Soviet Union collapsed a year and a half later. In that way the story stood on the line between being timely and serving as a historical piece.

Baldwin was a quirky actor often cast in offbeat roles in 1990, which is one reason why he’s completely missing from the theatrical poster. Instead it’s only Connery’s face that’s shown, indicating he was the bigger star at the time and the more likely to serve as a box office draw. His face looms above a submarine’s conning tower rising from a bright red field. In fact it’s the color red that serves as the primary visual element on the poster, reinforcing the branding of the movie’s name.

There’s a good amount of blank space, either black or red, on the poster, which creates a stark visual impression. (Disclosure: I had this poster on my bedroom wall for years as it’s a marvel of design work.) That blank space is used by the designers to make sure the audience is aware of the basic plot outline as well as the connection between the movie and the source book. Wedged between “The hunt is on.” and “Join the hunt.” is copy positioning the movie as “electrifying.” Even more importantly, it shares that it comes from the director of Die Hard, which John McTiernan had helmed just two years prior.

So you have a poster that ditches the hammer and sickle iconography of the original book cover but uses color to make sure everyone understands the story is still focused on the Russians. And it offers several strong hooks to bring in an audience that probably read the book and which still loves to see Connery on screen.

Ramius is introduced in the trailer as “The most brilliant commander in the Soviet fleet” with the submarine of the title being shown off after that. Other characters, including Ryan, offer more information on both so that the audience understands the potential threat being presented. That threat is shown to be an uncertain one as the trailer progresses, with some indicating Ramius intends to fire his payload at the United States and others positing he’s gone rogue in an attempt to defect. The score adds to the tension as the movie is presented as a mystery/thriller instead of a straightforward action film.

Paramount made it clear here that there would be lots of heated conversations and people trying to convince other people of the rightness of their position as opposed to an action movie. Still, McTiernan’s name is prominently used here, and the Soviet hammer and sickle reappears in the title treatment despite it being missing from the poster.

How it’s positioned by both the trailer and poster is on-brand for the book, indicating it’s a political drama whose tense situations are heightened as a result of the confined quarters of meeting rooms and submarine interiors. It uses Connery as the major attraction, an understandable choice given Baldwin’s position as a charming character actor at the time.

Most of all it shows that movies like this were, at this point in time, positioned as adult dramas, not special effects extravaganzas aimed at tweens. Even in the marketing it’s clear the movie’s pacing and story are slow and methodical, emphasizing big and bold statements over flash and clutter.

When the movie proved to be a success at the box office by grossing over $200 million, it was natural that Paramount saw it as the launch point for a franchise adapting Clancy’s other best-selling novels. Baldwin declined to reprise his role, though, and so the next two movies – 1992’s Patriot Games and 1994’s Clear and Present Danger – saw Harrison Ford stepping into Ryan’s shoes. Those two entries were much more action-oriented, a logical choice given Ford’s reputation as an action hero. And in a Bond-like move, all three movies featured James Earl Jones as Adm. James Greer, Ryan’s mentor and boss.

From there things got much more infrequent as the studio made various attempts to reboot the franchise. The Sum Of All Fears in 2005 starred Ben Affleck as Ryan and adapted the book of the same name while making some interesting story changes. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit starred Chris Pine in 2014 and featured an original story. Both sought to bring a younger, less-experienced Ryan to the screen, offering a fresh start that could spawn a new series of sequels. Neither succeeded on that front, at least in part because they discarded the geekier, more technical elements of what made the Clancy-penned novels so popular.

The studio will try one more time later this year with the release of Without Remorse. Once more based on one of Clancy’s books, this one puts Jack Ryan to the side and instead focuses on CIA operator John Clark, played by Michael B. Jordan. Marketing for that movie has yet to fully spin up, but perhaps by cutting ties with Ryan Paramount will find the key to getting parts of the universe created in the novels that launched the “techno-thriller” in a groove and find the franchise the studio has been searching for.

Sonic The Hedgehog – Marketing Recap

You can read my full recap of the marketing campaign for Sonic The Hedgehog at The Hollywood Reporter.

Online and Social

I kind of can’t believe there isn’t anything more fun on the movie’s official website, which just features basic information.

Media and Press

Sumpter talked about the movie on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” while Schwartz hit “Late Night.” Meanwhile, closer to release, Marsden appeared on “Late Night

There’s more information on the movie’s Snapchat sponsorship here and here.

Paramount shared a short featurette offering instructions on how to draw Sonic.

 

Another featurette showed how the movie’s Puma shoes were designed. And the process Carrey went through to become the movie’s villain is covered in another. Carrey also put in his time on the talk show circuit.

Overall

Picking Up The Spare

A profile of Schwartz had him talking about voicing the title character as well as lots more of his career.

Promos for the movie’s tie-ins with the Sonic Dash and Sonic Forces games were released after it was in theaters.

The Rhythm Section – Marketing Recap

How Eon and Paramount Pictures are selling a revenge drama rooted in personal tragedy.

rhythm section posterThere have been a few recent movies tackling the idea of a woman exacting revenge after her family is killed. While such stories are common with men in the lead role, those with women are still fairly rare and having been overly-successful when they do happen. One recent example is Peppermint, the 2018 film starring Jennifer Garner in the kind of role Bruce Willis has played a dozen times, which grossed only $35 million at the box office.

This week another entry comes on the field. The Rhythm Section stars Blake Lively as Stephanie Patrick, whose family is killed in a plane crash. As she learns the crash wasn’t an accident but a planned attack on specific passengers. That knowledge leads her to dive into the world of international organized crime, but only after developing the skills necessary to survive. She keeps turning over rocks not meant to be distrubed, making powerful enemies along the way.

The movie’s campaign has focused on Stephanie’s unrelenting quest to punish those responsible, regardless of what might befall her and heedless of the warnings of others. With an opening weekend estimate in the $10-15 million range, audience interest seems to still be soft for movies like this, even as early reviews have been largely positive.

The Posters

Stephanie is shown on the first poster (by marketing agency Empire Design) released in September standing in her hotel room with a gun held behind her back. There’s no copy or tagline here, but it’s clear she’s planning something that will involve that weapon given the dark shadows and the determined look on her face.

The Trailers

The first trailer (3.7 million views on YouTube) finally came out in September. Stephanie is shown enlisting the aid of Proctor in the hunt for those responsible for the plane crash that killed her family years ago. He warns her it won’t be worth it and could be dangerous for her but she’s determined, to the point she takes matters into her own hands, finding and killing them herself. Her actions have consequences, of course, as they upset some powerful and dangerous people, but she remains undeterred.

A second shorter trailer (1.6 million views on YouTube) came out just last week. It starts by showing Stephanie preparing for the mission she’s chosen to embark on and the training that entails. It goes on to show the lengths she’ll go to in her quest to exact more than a pound of flesh and the ways in which she keeps going despite the odds against her. It also makes it much more explicit that the producers of the Bond franchise are involved, hoping to lend some of that series’ appeal to this movie.

Online and Social

There’s essentially nothing on the movie’s official website, at least nothing you can’t find elsewhere. It exists largely to just sell tickets.

Advertising and Publicity

The movie was part of the studio’s presentation to exhibition executives at CineEurope in mid-July 2018.

The first clip released earlier this month offers an extended look at Stephanie engaged in a high-speed car chase with those she’s angered on her mission for vengeance. That same chase sequence was the subject of a short behind-the-scenes featurette released at about the same time. Additional clips offered more insights into Stephanie’s character and the allies she gathers along the way.

Short videos like this were used as social and online ads to drive traffic to the ticket-selling website. Other online ads used elements of the key art and other visuals to achieve the same objective.

Earlier this week the cast and crew attended the New York City red carpet premiere.

Media and Press

There were a few interviews with Lively and others in the cast, including Sterling K. Brown, but nothing of much note, at least not at this point in the cycle.

One interview with director Reed Moreno addressed the Bond connection that exists both through the story’s subject matter and Eon’s involvement in production. She was asked if she’d be interested in seeing a female Bond, something those producers recently nixed the idea of. While Moreno made a similar comment she did say seeing a Bond film with a female directorial perspective might offer a unique take on the character.

Overall

While the marketing is quite good and sells a compelling drama with a star apparently willing to push herself to physically sell the role, an increased emphasis on the inciting incident might have increased the emotional heft of the story being sold. As it stands there’s not much in the way of setup regarding the tragedy that has pushed Stephanie over the edge and into a life of violence, just an acknowledgement that something terrible has happened.

That being said, there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on here, not the least of which is simply that it’s a woman who has taken justice into her own hands after realizing the bad people are going to remain unpunished by others. There might be enough audience interest to capture people’s attention during another slow new release weekend, but if current movies keep chugging along it could also get lost in a wave of apathy during the winter doldrums.

Picking Up The Spare

Lively stopped by “The Tonight Show” to share stories from the set and engage in hijinks with the host.

A postmortem of the movie’s disappointing fate included comments on how this is just the latest action film with a complex female lead to not connect with audiences.

Like A Boss – Marketing Recap

How Paramount is selling a comedy about corporate greed and the problem of going into business with your friends.

like a boss poster 2Like A Boss stars Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne as Mia and Mel, respectively. The two women are long-time friends who have gone into business together, running a beauty company. The two partners compliment each other nicely, one more impulsive and creative the other more business-like and serious.

When their company falls on hard times an angel seems to appear in the form of high-profile CEO Claire Luna (Salma Hayek). She offers to throw the two the financial lifeline they desperately need. It quickly becomes clear that lifeline is more like a noose and Mia and Mel have to figure out how to get control back and save their livelihood.

Even if it’s not enough to win the weekend, the $15-20 million the movie is estimated to bring in over its opening weekend could make it the top grossing of this week’s new releases. That’s a testament to the campaign Paramount has run highlighting the comedic skills of the leads.

The Posters

like a boss poster“The world of beauty is about to get ugly” we’re told on the first poster (by marketing agency BLT Communications), released in September. That copy, combined with the big perfume bottle that acts as the focal point of the design, establishes what world the story takes place in and what kind of hijinks are in store. It’s a tagline that could work equally well for either a comedy or drama, though, so it remains a bit vague on the movie’s tone.

The second poster, released in December, features the same tagline but this time has all three of the main characters on it, with Mel and Mia flanking Claire, who is clearly the mature one in charge of the situation.

The Trailers

As the first trailer from September starts we’re immediately shown how close Mel and Mia are, discussing all sorts of topics and deep in each other’s lives. The independent beauty retail shop they own together, we learn, is deeply in debt. To the rescue (it appears) comes Claire, but her business-saving investment comes with strings attached and some heavy involvement from her, none of which goes over well with the longtime friends. They set out to get control of their business back, with hilarious results.

A second “NSFW” trailer debuted in early December that presents the same basic story and character attributes, just with more swearing, sexual humor and drug use.

Online and Social

There’s not a lot of material on the film’s official website, which is focused on selling tickets, including for a “Girls Night Out” early screening event being held at select theaters tonight, a few days before the official opening.

Advertising and Promotions

The stars appeared in a short “Friendsgiving” themed TV spot that debuted toward the end of November.

Fandango debuted an exclusive clip showing the scene where Mel and Mia have to fire their assistant to comedic effect.

Online ads like the one here used elements of the key art showing the three leads to drive traffic to the ticket-selling website.

Like a boss online ad

TV spots like this began running in the last couple weeks, with some short versions being used as pre-roll on YouTube and in other social ad units. They highlight the key comedic sequences from the movie, using footage from the trailers.

The stars showed up for a “pink carpet” premiere screening in New York City earlier this week.

Media and Press

There wasn’t a whole lot of pre-release press activity. Haddish and Byrne did make a handful of talk show appearances, though, with Haddish hitting “Good Morning America,” Byrne stopping by “The Late Show,” Hayek on “The Tonight Show” and more.

Overall

On its own merits, as presented here, the movie looks like a funny enough diversion at the theater. Haddish’s comedic brand of being loud and proud is fully on display throughout the campaign, as are the chops of Byrne (always underrated for her comedy roles) and Hayek.

The tracking estimates may indicate that, despite all the recent evidence to the contrary, there may still be some life left in theatrical comedies. At least that’s if they feature the right cast, and this one might fit that bill.

Picking Up the Spare

Haddish appeared on “Kimmel” and “Late Night” just as the movie was hitting theaters.

How Haddish and Byrne bonded on the set was covered here.

Gemini Man – Marketing Recap

You can read my full recap of the marketing campaign for Gemini Man at The Hollywood Reporter.

Online and Social

Just a ticket-centric website for the movie, with no additional materials or information.

Media and Press

Lee, along with members of the visual effects team, spoke about the care they put into digitally altering Smith’s face and how they wanted that to be organic in the story. Later on an interview with Smith revealed his younger iteration isn’t the result of deaging technology but is a completely CGI, motion capture performance. The technology continued to be the focus of interviews as Lee commented again on the process of experimentation with higher frame rates and more.

Clive Owen’s appearance on “The Tonight Show” had him talking about the movie and lots more. When Smith showed up on “The Late Show” he talked about working with Lee and the technical aspects of the film.

The way Smith has carefully cultivated his career and made other professional choices was covered in a profile of the actor that also discussed how he’s been careful to minimize the impact of any failures.

AMC released a featurette that, much like everything else, focused on the technical aspects of making the film. An interview with costar Mary Elizabeth Winstead had her offering her thoughts on deaging and other similar topics. Another profile of Lee and Smith focused on how the director coached the actor, using some of Smith’s earlier choices as examples of what to or not to do.

Overall

Picking Up the Spare

Smith stopped by “The Daily Show” to talk about the film and more.

Rocketman – Marketing Recap

rocketman posterThe fate of “classic rock” as a viable radio format may be up in the air, but on the big (or streaming) screen it’s alive and well. That is most recently evidenced by the fact that this week’s Rocketman, a biopic of flamboyant piano player and the man behind some of rock’s biggest hits Elton John, is tracking for a debut weekend of $25 million. That opening, should it come to pass, would only be about half of what last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody brought in, but well above some of the other non-franchise releases so far this year.

(Side note: For the purposes of maintaining focus, we’re not going to address how the movie is titled “Rocketman” but the John song it’s named after is “Rocket Man.”)

Taron Egerton takes on the role of John in a story that follows him from his beginnings as a struggling bar and club musician through the super-stardom he experienced in the 1970s and 80s. That journey includes not only his growth in the music world but also his personal life, a big part of which is his sexuality, something he kept secret from the world for years, as well as his rampant drug and alcohol abuse.

The Posters

Egerton *is* John on the first poster, showing him in one of his trademark flamboyant performance outfits and clearly having a blast singing and playing in front of a massive stadium crowd. It’s tinted purple with light shimmering all over the image, communicating clearly the bright fantastical tone of the film.

John is shown in close up, his eyes obscured by big dramatic glasses on the Dolby Cinemas poster released in early May.

rocketman poster dolby

The Trailers

The teaser trailer labels the film as being “Based on a true fantasy” and indeed is meant to create a kind of surrealistic framing for the story. That’s helped along by the good looks we get at some of John’s most iconic styles, from the glittery Yankees jersey to the feather boa to the massive cowboy hat and lots more. There are scenes of him as a young child to help make clear that we’ll be following him from his youngest days – or at least flashing back to them – and some indications the film won’t shy away from the sexuality John kept secret for decades.

The official trailer from late February offers a more complete look at the story, moving between John’s beginnings as a working pub musician named Reggie to the heights of super stardom. It presents his story as one of trying to change his reality through the creation of one fantasy after another, including the costumes and other theatrical excesses. There’s also more than a few hints at the sexuality he kept under wraps in the early years and how that contributed to his feeling there was always a block on him being who he truly was. It’s filled with John’s music, which makes for a great selling point in and of itself.

Online and Social

There’s not a lot on the movie’s official website, but what is there is at least somewhat original.

“Never Ordinary” is a photo-upload feature that allows visitors to add some sparkle to a headshot or other photo via a selection of colorful frames, John-like glasses, text with declarations of strength or uniqueness and more. The end result can then downloaded or shared on social networks.

Also shareable is the “What’s Your Song” section, which has a personality quiz asking you a series of questions to determine what Elton John song is the perfect one for you.

More standard are the “Videos” section with the trailers and more, and the “Soundtrack” section with links to stream, download or buy the album.

Only Facebook is linked to from the site but there were also Twitter and Instagram profiles as well as an official Giphy channel. You can also find an official movie playlist on Spotify along with the soundtrack.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The first TV spot debuted around the same time as the second trailer, cutting down the story of John living out a fantasy life into a shorter pitch for the audience but including many of the same key moments.

Fandango announced in early May it would give its VIP members access to screenings two weeks prior to release in an effort to jumpstart audience buzz for the movie, a partnership promoted with a new commercial spot.

A couple weeks before the movie came out, John’s music was used in a special themed episode of “American Idol” that had contestants singing some of his biggest hits. The costumes were, of course, the focus of a special movie-themed episode of “Project Runway.”

Most of the online ads – and there have been quite a few – have used key art of John in his sparkly Dodgers uniform that wasn’t from a U.S. but a U.K. poster. Pre-roll ads on YouTube included spot for both the movie in general and for the soundtrack specifically.

rocketman pic

There weren’t many promotional partnerships – at least not any that received much attention – but one involved Lucky Brand, which created a collection of t-shirts inspired by the film and featuring classic photos of John. Another exclusive collection was offered by fashion retailer Mr. Porter, but those pieces were more formal and subdued, understandable given it was a subset of its ongoing Kingsman label.

Gucci was also involved, but seemingly only in that it has long been John’s preferred outfit provider and so has occupied a significant role in the publicity of this movie just as it has on the singer’s recent and previous tours. Their status as the movie’s official crystal provider was touted by Swarovski.

Media and Publicity

The movie was part of the studio’s presentation to exhibition executives at CineEurope in mid-July 2018. Quite a bit later, in late September, Paramount released a first still of Egerton as John, showing off how he donned the singer’s unique 70s style.

Egerton spoke about the movie while promoting Robin Hood last year. He and Maddon were interviewed jointly about working together on the film.

A short featurette from mid-February had Egerton and others talking about the process of recording John’s songs for the movie and receiving the artists approval for his interpretations. John’s approval of Egerton’s performance and abilities extended to the actor singing “Tiny Dancer” with John at piano for the musician’s charity event earlier this year.

Given the club’s status as an important part of John’s rise to fame, it was a nice move to have the cast and crew show up at L.A.’s The Troubadour for a Q&A.

In mid-March Paramount held a preview event giving select attendees a first look at expanded footage from the movie, resulting in a wave of very positive buzz and word of mouth as those who saw it came away impressed by Egerton and the production as a whole. About that same time Egerton was interviewed about how his primary goal was to do John proud and remain true to the real story.

Shortly after that there was some controversy when it was reported Paramount was balking at scenes depicting a gay sexual relationship, reports Fletcher dismissed as speculation, saying his and the studio’s intent was still to release an R-rated film that dug into John’s life and behavior. Similar comments were made by Egerton when the film screened at London’s Abbey Road Studios and then again by the actor when Paramount brought him and footage from the movie to CinemaCon in early April. That footage wowed attendees, generating a lot of positive buzz in advance of release.

Reports circulated the movie would have its official premiere out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival, rumors that were later confirmed as it would screen out of competition there. It was later added as the opening night feature at the Toronto LBGT Festival.

In mid-April a short featurette had the cast and crew talking about telling a fantasy-driven story of John’s life.

A feature story profiled the production team and their efforts to recreate Los Angeles from the era the story takes place in. Another focused on the costume design team and how they dressed Egerton in facsimiles of John’s most outlandish outfits.

Continuing the emphasis on Egerton’s real-life vocal abilities, it was announced in early May that he and John would duet on a new song for the movie’s soundtrack.

rocketman pic 2

Some of the movie’s cast revealed the songs from John’s catalog that had the biggest impact on their lives.

A feature profile of Egerton had the actor talking even more about taking on the Elton John persona as well as how some of the roles he’s taken to date have lead him to this point, ready to vault into the realm of super stardom. That was also the theme of another later interview with him and became a constant element of other stories prior to release. Along those same lines, Maddon was profiled in a piece that focused on how he was ready to stop playing a “nice guy” and get a little darker, a move this movie is part of.

Scenes from the movie are mixed with footage of Egerton in the studio singing in an official video for his version of John’s classic song “Rocket Man” that lends its title to the movie. The costuming – featuring recreations of John’s outlandish wardrobe over the years – was the subject of another featurette in early May.

A profile of Fletcher covered his previous work and allowed him to talk about not only this movie but also his contributions to last year’s big musical biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. John’s real-life husband, who’s also a producer on this movie, spoke about how eerily close to reality Egerton appeared while Fletcher once more sought to assuage concerns the story would go light on the singer’s sexuality.

“The Tonight Show” hosted an appearance by Maddon. Closer to release Egerton was interviewed about his friendship with John on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” A number of interviews featured John and Egerton together, including this appearance on “Good Morning, America.” The duo of Egerton and Maddon sang along to John’s music on an episode of “Carpool Karaoke.”

The movie’s appearance at Cannes was a major event, with the entire cast as well as John, co writer Bernie Taupin and John’s husband. Everyone engaged in multiple interviews, talking about the story and how true it is or isn’t to the events that inspired it. What it also accomplished was to set aside some of the concerns that had plagued Rhapsody, assuring people it contained a frank portrayal of John’s sexuality, something that was a first for a major studio release. Fletcher even compared it to Rhapsody directly, saying this is the “R-rated version” of the story that in that movie was toned down for a PG. That comparison was one Egerton wasn’t so eager to address, wanting to let both movies be judged on their own.

Paramount hosted a special performance of both John and Egerton at the festival, something that garnered massive press attention. The singer was also interviewed about his substance abuse from decades ago and how it plays into his – and the movie’s – story.

There were also interviews with the technical crew of the movie, including the costume and set designers responsible for creating the movie’s fantasy-inspired look and feel.

Fandango hosted an exclusive clip of “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.” EW then got a clip of “Crocodile Rock.” Future clips included scenes of John meeting Taupin and more.

That fateful meeting was also covered in a piece written by Taupin about how the two were brought together and their decades-long collaboration.

Being true to the story continued to be a big topic of the press, with Maddon reiterating similar comments from Fletcher about how cutting the gay sex scenes from the movie would have been a disservice to John and everyone else. An interview with John included him saying some studios the project was shopped to over the years wanted that aspect of the story toned down, a compromise he was unwilling to make.

Fashion was the focus of an interview with Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays John’s mother in the film, one that touched on not only the styles sported in the film but also her own personal preference for styling herself and buying second hand clothing. She also appeared on a few TV talk shows and engaged in a few other interviews.

Overall

How the movie was being seen as a pivotal proving point for both Paramount – which needs a non-franchise hit – and Egerton was the subject of this story, which makes it clear the studio is taking a big bet here that could have significant upsides as well as downsides depending on how fickle the audience is. Appearing at Cannes offered a moment where the general conversation turned cautious optimism to one that included it among potential Oscar contenders. I wouldn’t be surprised, based on that late buzz, if opening weekend proves a bit stronger than the $25 million forecast.

In marketing the movie, Paramount has seized the larger-than-life nature of the story and man to position it as just as big a blockbuster event as Aladdin or other franchise entry. This is a big, oversized and dramatic story with flashy costumes, massive spectacle that should be seen on the big screen according to the studio. The message has been one of reassuring the audience that they know the music and the basics of who these people are and what happens, so come see a glitzy version that will entertain you for two hours or so.

That the project has so deeply involved the real people being portrayed has been an advantage for the marketing, especially on the press circuit, where John, Taupin and others have been available for interviews and appearances. Putting the cast and crew out there to this extent would have resulted in a bit of overload, but spreading it around the group means there are more cumulative beats generated.

Previously I had lumped this movie in with Bohemian Rhapsody and The Dirt, two other recent music biopics that had the seal of approval and heavy involvement from the subjects themselves. Those others were criticized for being too glowing in their portrayal of sometimes problematic or at least more complex artists, something that can be expected when the parties giving approval have an active interest in managing their own reputation.

The message sent by John in particular in the campaign for Rocketman is the opposite, though: Instead of shying away from aspects of the story that might be unsavory he seemingly sought to embrace them, unwilling to partner with a studio or filmmaker who didn’t want to be truthful about what happened even if it might be unusual for a major studio film. That has made a big difference in how it’s been sold.

Picking Up the Spare

John took to iHeartRadio to host a special show featuring some of his biggest hits and tell stories related to the movie. Music was also the subject of an interview with Giles Martin, the producer of the soundtrack. 

The cast and crew spoke more about production and John’s legacy at the film’s premiere. 

More attention has been paid to the production team, with features on how the film’s fantasy sequences were developed and how they recreated the famous Dodgers Stadium concert. Costar Richard Madden got another profile as well. 

Egerton showed up at a John concert in England, once more teaming up on a duet of “Your Song.” 

A couple stories in early November about how Egerton has come to have a side hustle as a John collaborator and more on how nervous he was about taking on the project.

Pet Sematary – Marketing Recap

pet semetary poster 3If this seems like the 38th feature adaptation of a Stephen King story in the last five years, you’re probably not alone. The campaigns for some have put the author more in the spotlight than others, with this week’s Pet Semetary falling in the “more” category.

The movie, the second adaptation of King’s book of the same name. This time around Jason Clarke and Amy Seimetz play Louis and Rachel, a married couple that relocates their family to rural Maine. Not long after the move their daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence) is killed in an accident. Having learned from their neighbor Jud (John Lithgow) of a mysterious graveyard in the woods that can bring the dead back to life – something they’ve already seen when their dead cat returns to the house after being buried there – Louis puts Ellie there. When she returns, though, the family finds something isn’t right and Louis may have unlocked something truly terrible.

The Posters

A lone figure walks toward the camera across a field of scattered bones and refuse on the first teaser poster, with large copy intoning “Sometimes dead is better,” which is ominous to say the least. It’s a good, monochromatic way to start off this aspect of the campaign, followed shortly by another teaser that shows a broken wooden cross with “Pet Semetary” scrawled on it.

The theatrical poster, released in February, offers a more complete look at the cast and story. A wider assortment of the characters are placed around the design, with a bedraggled looking cat looming over everyone in the background and kids wearing creepy animal face masks toward the bottom.

Regal Cinemas offered exclusive key art when users of their mobile app used that app to scan a poster in theaters. The Dolby-specific poster put the whole scene in red, with the recently-returned cat looming over everything. Human characters aren’t prominent here as it’s more about setting a spooky tone.

The Trailers

“Sometimes dead is better” the audience is told at the outset of the first trailer, which starts as the family is relocating to a new home right along the edge of the woods. They soon learn those woods have a spooky history among the locals, who tell them “the ground is bad.” It’s not long before we see lots of people crawling away from threats, going kind of crazy and more as we continue to hear about the strange nature of whatever power lurks out in the trees.

The second full trailer starts out all nice and innocent, but quickly gets to the scares as we hear about something unnatural being out there in the woods where people have been burying their pets for generations. When Louis’ daughter is killed he sees a chance to bring her back over Jud’s objections, a decision that brings back more than anyone bargained for.

Warner Bros. released a “fan reaction” video in late February showing YouTubers being shocked by what they see in that second trailer.

The final trailer, released just a week or so before the movie hit theaters, focuses on the price Jud pays to bring his daughter back to the living and just what lead him to make that choice.

Online and Social

The official website is less than exciting, just offering the ability to buy tickets alongside the trailer, synopsis and links to social profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A short promo titled “Dead is Better” offered a brief explanation of the premise while showing lots of creepy shots of creatures and people returned from the grave. A first TV spot was released around the time of SXSW showing all the creepy stuff that’s about to happen.

Online ads placed on IMDb.com used a link to the site’s “Scary Good” list of horror and thriller movies, with the promotion being “Brought to you by Pet Sematary.”

I haven’t been able to find details on it and it wasn’t promoted almost at all, but WB had a green screen photo booth at C2E2 a couple weeks ago that inserted people into the teaser poster above the “Sometimes dead is better” copy.

Media and Publicity

Entertainment Weekly offered the first look at the movie in advance of the trailer’s debut. Later on the movie’s directors explained some of the changes they had made when adapting King’s story.

In early February the movie was announced as the closing night feature of this year’s SXSW Film Festival, during which an exclusive clip was released to Twitter Movies. A short featurette had the directors and actors talking about how to get to the heart of what’s scary, you have to start with King and his stories. Paramount later published a video showing fans reacting to that SXSW screening along with the other promotional activities that were taking place in Austin.

A clip released about the time of SXSW showed the family’s daughter returning to them unexpectedly.

EW published a feature package on the film that, among other things, included King commenting on the changes that had occured from the pages of his book to this new film adaptation.

The directors of the new movie along with others from the crew and members of the cast appeared in a short promotional video for a high-quality home video release of the original film. The story of making that first movie was also covered in a couple interviews with its directory, Mary Lambert.

A Fandango-exclusive featurette focused on the supernatural burial ground that is central to the story.

Lithgow talked about the movie when he showed up on “The Late Show.”

Overall

It’s a fine campaign, but what’s missing here is any sense of what makes the movie essential or important for the audience. Being a remake of an adaptation you’d expect to find something here that spoke to something vital for people to latch on to, something that made the relatively well-known story relevant for this moment. Some of the interviews speak to that a bit, but never really digs into the “why,” just covering the “what” about this version that’s new or different from what’s come before.

That being said, the campaign is less than exciting on other fronts. The posters are all very spooky in their monochromatic nature and the trailers certainly provide a few jump scares. But it also seems completely disposable and forgettable, with nothing unique jumping out and making an impression.

Picking Up the Spare

Another interview with the directors about how they went about adapting the movie for a new audience.

Clarke appeared on “The Tonight Show” to promote the movie and tell funny stories.

Great profile here of Amy Seimetz and the unconventional choices she’s making in her career.  

Another interview with the co-directors about updating a classic on two fronts. 

Bumblebee – Marketing Recap

You can read my full recap of the marketing of Bumblebee at The Hollywood Reporter.

To sell the movie Paramount has focused not only on the story of the bond between Charlie and Bumblebee but also on how, unlike the previous movies, this one features the classic 80s looks of the Robots in Disguise. Here’s how the campaign was rolled out.

Online and Social

Aside from the usual collection of trailers, synopses and other information, the movie’s official website sports details on the promotional partner companies that signed up with Paramount. There’s also a section for “AR Coloring,” offering pages that are offered with the Quiver app, allowing people to virtually color some pictures featuring movie characters as well as a side-scrolling game to play. In the upper right there are links to the movie’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter profiles.

Media and Publicity

EW offered the first still from the film, which provided both a look at Steinfeld and the titular Transformer in a vehicle form that will seem much more familiar to those of us of a certain age.

The release of the first trailer, which offered more insights into how the movie would take us back to the 80s, prompted speculation that the jump backward could signal Paramount’s attempt to use this as a way to reboot this franchise and launch their Hasbro-based shared universe that would bring in other toy brands from the Reagan Era. Despite what it looked like in the trailer, the Decepticon jet shown briefly is *not* Starscream but Blitzwing, according to comments by the director at San Diego Comic-Con. I am disappoint.

Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura was interviewed about this movie and the future of the franchise in general, addressing how the last Transformers film necessitated shaking things up a bit, how the return to the 80s could offer a wealth of new creative potential to tap into and more.

Ahead of its SDCC appearance, a first look at two new Decepticons – Shatter and Dropkick – was offered in Entertainment Weekly’s convention-centric issue.

Screenwriter Christina Hodson was interviewed about why he wanted to tell this story and in this way, focusing on how a woman writing a major studio tentpole release like this is fairly unusual.

Cena appeared on “The Ellen Degeneres Show” to talk up the movie and then later on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and then “Late Night.” Steinfeld performed her new song for the movie on “The Tonight Show.”

Knight was interviewed about how he didn’t believe the call he received to direct the movie was serious but how he took on the job with gusto once it was his.

Overall

I will simply state that this sequence from the second trailer alone is reason enough to see the movie.

bumblebee soundwave

Picking Up the Spare

Seinfeld got a nice profile about her moving out of other genres and into action films. Screenwriter Christina Hodson was also interviewed about her role in taking on the story.