Rebecca – Marketing Recap

How Netflix has sold the latest adaptation of a gothic romance classic.

Rebecca, out this week on Netflix, is the latest in a series of adaptations of Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel of the same name. This version, written by Jane Goldman and directed by Ben Wheatly, stars Armie Hammer as Maxim de Winter and Lily James as Mrs. de Winter. The couple, married after only a brief courtship, soon move back to the huge seaside estate of his to begin their life together.

It’s at that point trouble begins. The new Mrs. de Winter is haunted by Rebecca, the first to carry that name. Sometimes that haunting is literal in how she still seems to be inhabiting the home, with bits of her life and possessions around and about. More figuratively, the young bride is constantly being reminded of she who came before by the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas).

Mixed reviews for the film started emerging last week, giving it a lackluster 55% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, though most at least called out the fantastic production values. Netflix’s marketing has played up the atmospheric aspects of the story and the psychological trauma being visited on the young woman.

The Posters

The newly-married couple are the prime elements on the first poster (by marketing agency Empire Design), released in early September. They’re embracing but he, at least, appears somewhat distracted, which hints at some of the drama to come.

A series of additional posters came out in early October that each take a slightly different atmospheric take on the story. All, though, visually play with the ideas of the new couple being close but somehow separated in some manner, often by Mrs. Danvers herself. They’re some very interesting designs that do more to present the tone of the film than the primary version.

The Trailers

The first trailer (1.25 million views on YouTube) came out in early September, starting with the meeting of Maxim and the young woman followed by the evolution of their romance. They are soon married, but when she joins him at his home at Manderlay things become dark quickly. The new Mrs. de Winter, as she’s becoming acclimated to her surroundings, finds the memory of Maxim’s first wife is still very much alive in the house, with physical evidence all around her. Not only is Maxim acting strangely when it comes to Rebecca but so is Mrs. Danvers, who keeps introducing the specter of the late wife into every situation and emotion. It’s an increasingly tense story being sold here, one filled with atmosphere and huge rooms containing layers of mystery.

Online and Social

Nope, but Netflix did provide some support on its brand social channels. It wasn’t much, though, as the company seemed focused on other recent releases over the last few weeks.

Advertising and Promotions

Netflix released the first official stills in early August, announcing the October debut date at the same time.

After the first trailer came out a short explainer video offering an overview of the story and introducing the cast was released. Hammer and James appeared in a featurette on how the book was adapted in this latest version.

A couple clips showing Mrs. Danvers being passive aggressive and part of the new lovers’ courtship came out earlier in the month.

James starred in a featurette focused on movie trivia and more.

Media and Press

In an interview from early September, Wheatley clarified that he wasn’t attempting to remake Hitchcock’s film but was instead offering his own adaptation of the source material.

Hammer appeared on “Kimmel” earlier this month to talk about the movie and did a few other interviews. James’ participation in the final publicity push seems to have been stifled by rumors regarding her personal life.


Outside of the book, the most famous version of this story is likely Alfred Hitchcock’s film adaptation. Compared to the marketing of that film, this one very much comes off as a kind of goth-lite, one that’s more concerned with shots of massive hallways and such than in effectively creating a sense of dread or terror akin to what the new Mrs. de Winter is supposed to be feeling.

But there is still a consistent visual brand that’s been established by the campaign. It’s just that this time around it’s a bit brighter and slicker than what’s come before. Hammer and James glide through that and look good doing it, but it remains to be seen if that’s a strong enough hook to get audiences interested.

Picking Up The Spare

Netflix released a number of extended clips in the days following the movie’s debut. 

James was interviewed on “The Tonight Show” about the film and other projects she’s involved in. She and Hammer were interviewed together about how this version is based on the original book and not meant to be a remake of Hitchcock’s classic film. 

Speaking of the source novel, a new featurette had Hammer reading select passages from the book. There was also a new behind-the-scenes video released. 

There were also two profile of the film’s costume designer about creating the look of the characters and how it plays into the style of the movie as a whole. Using a specific scene as an example, the filmmakers drilled into creating that production style. That was followed by a story about 

Wheatly was the subject of a couple additional interviews

Rebecca – Flashback Marketing

The title character of Rebecca is a major presence throughout Alfred Hitchcock’s gothic romance but is never seen on-screen. At least not alive. She haunts everything, though, particularly the life of the woman (Joan Fontaine) who has married her former husband Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier). The two met by chance but married quickly, her moving into the huge seaside house Maxim shared with Rebecca before her untimely death. The new wife (her first name is never given) is unwelcome by the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), who was close with Rebecca. What follows is a story of psychological manipulation, a mystery dealing with the true circumstances of Rebecca’s death and an exploration of how far you can go to earn someone’s love.

With the 1940 film, one of the best in a long list of great films from the director, being added to the Criterion Collection this week it’s a good time to jump back and revisit its marketing campaign.

You have to love the artwork used on the movie’s theatrical poster, a richly-painted piece of art that conveys a classic feeling and hits some key selling points for the audience. At the top are the faces of Fontaine and Olivier, positioned as a couple and both looking very stoic and proper. At the bottom is the lavish estate she will move into as his new wife, an anonymous and unidentifiable woman standing over it like a statue. The movie’s title treatment is splashed across the cover of a book, a reference to the fact that it was based on a popular novel, something that’s stated outright in the credits. That appears below the names of Hitchcock as well as David O. Selznick, referenced here as the producer not only as the producer of this film but also the previous year’s Gone With the Wind.

The poster doesn’t go into the nature of the story, but you get the message that it’s a high-society drama pretty clearly from the tone of the art and the looks of the actors. That was a common genre in this era of Hollywood so there was likely some instant connection with audiences created through what’s conveyed here.

The best trailer I could find that isn’t fan-made or of questionable provenance is this one, which seems to be for the 1949 rerelease of the movie. It starts out by hailing the picture as one of the most beloved in American cinema, “one of the most glamorous” ever made and returning to theaters as the result of a national poll. The movie is identified as based on a popular novel and the two main characters, Maxim and his new wife, are introduced. Narration makes it clear that Rebecca’s spirit is still present in the house. Scenes from the romance are shown as we’re told the movie is still hailed as a classic of suspense. The names of both Hitchcock and Selznick are used generously throughout the trailer, showing the power and influence they wielded in Hollywood at the time as well as their continued name recognition and subsequent assumed appeal with the audience.

I’d love to be able to scour the archives of Variety and other trade publications from the era to see how much of the behind-the-scenes machinations made it into the press at a time when the studios wielded great influence over coverage. Hitchcock and Selznick reportedly clashed over various story points and visions, with the producer exercising his right over final cut to make the movie his own to a great extent and reshooting a number of scenes.

Whatever happened between production and post, the movie remains a classic of the era, a standout in Hitchcock’s filmography and a go-to example of the gothic romance genre.

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