How Netflix has sold a star-studded action comedy.
Red Notice, out this week on Netflix after a brief theatrical run, features the kind of cast that is any producer’s dream. Dwayne Johnson stars as FBI profiler John Hartley, who is on the trail of two high-profile thieves: Sarah Black (Gal Gadot) and Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds). When Hartley is wrongfully accused of being a criminal himself he has to team up with Booth to bring in Black and prove his innocence.
Written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, the movie has been sold as a big extravaganza with major star power. Let’s take a look.
announcement and casting
Universal Pictures won a bidding war for the project in early 2018, beating out several other studios for a movie that was seen as a sure thing with Johnson attached. Gadot was added later that year.
The first bit of news about the movie was kind of unusual in that it was a revelation that Johnson had asked for $1 million to promote the film to his social media followers in the lead up to release. That’s…not that big a deal? You could argue this kind of promotion would be in the talent’s own self-interest anyway, but if someone’s willing to pay you to do it as well, go for it.
In July 2019 it was revealed Universal had let the project go, with Netflix picking it up while at the same time dismissing Universal’s previously-announced release date and adding Reynolds to the cast. Right after that it was reported the movie’s budget was somewhere around $200 million, a substantial figure for an original property.
The movie was one of many to have its production put on hiatus because of the Covid-19 outbreak. Even so, Reynolds mentioned it briefly when virtually appearing on “The Tonight Show” earlier this year.
the marketing campaign
The first footage came in January, part of Netflix’s announcement of its ambitious 2021 feature film slate.
A release date was finally announced by Netflix – via the social media profiles of the cast – in July.
The first trailer (4.1m YouTube views) was released in September. It sells the basic story of Hartley having to team up with Booth to take down Black but like the rest of the campaign it’s primary goal is to convey the chemistry between the three leads and the action-packed humor of the story.
Later that month the movie was part of Netflix’s TUDUM virtual fan event, where an extended clip of the fight between the three main characters in a museum display room was released.
A substantial profile of Johnson touched on all the usual topics, from his early days in wrestling to his political ambitions to his daily training routine and so on.
Posters started coming out in mid- to late-October. Those included a theatrical one-sheet showing all three leads who are labeled “Pros and Cons” as well as character posters for Hartley, Black and Booth. Those character posters came out to count down the last three weeks before the movie’s release.
The second trailer came out at that time also, opening with the scene of Hartley recruiting Booth to try and find Black. That plan is complicated when Black frames Hartley for a crime he didn’t commit, meaning he and Booth now need to work together to both bring her in and clear his name. That’s all in service of what’s really being sold here, which is Reynolds and Johnson quipping at each other while Gadot looks lovely and dangerous and outsmarts both of them time and again.
Netflix put out one of their “watch this before…” videos that explains the story and characters while also offering some other recommendations on what to watch with the three stars.
The movie’s red carpet premiere, held earlier this month, was livestreamed, with the stars and others in attendance. At that event they boasted of the size of the premiere while also talking about how much fun they had making the movie, how they hope the audience enjoys it and more.
Of course because they both star in their own DC super hero franchises, a joint interview with Gadot and Johnson included asking them how those characters would have acted in the events of this film. Those two also appeared together on “Kimmel”.
An interview with Thurber had him talking about both the process of working with the cast and the technical aspects of production, including how he and others kept many of the effects practical instead of adding them later.
Just before the movie came to Netflix Johnson announced a new promotion where he would choose Tweets people shared about someone who’s done you wrong and put them on the Times Square digital billboard promoting the film. Netflix boosted that message with a paid promoted trend on Twitter.
If you’re a fan of the three leads, you’ll likely be on board with this campaign.
If you’re a fan of big, silly action comedies, you’ll likely be on board with this campaign.
If you’re a fan of movies that are going to be completely enjoyable even if you only three-quarters watch them while doing other things, you’ll likely be on board with this campaign.
Basically there’s a lot of good stuff here but none of it should be mistaken for fine art. This is a popcorn flick meant to be enjoyed for what it is, not what it could be or what other movies have been.