Breaking News In Yuba County – Marketing Recap

How MGM has sold a dark comedy.

From writer Amanda Idoko and director Tate Taylor comes this week’s comedy Breaking News In Yuba County. Allison Janney stars as Sue Buttons, a suburban housewife who becomes something of a local celebrity after her husband Karl (Matthew Modine) goes “missing” and she embarks on a search to find him. Entranced by her newfound fame, Buttons keeps the charade going through a series of increasingly desperate actions that bring her into contact with local crime figures, persistent police officers and other colorful characters.

The movie also stars Mila Kunis, Wanda Sykes, Awkwafina, Regina Hall and others.

The Posters

You definitely get a sense of the movie’s sense of humor on the poster (by marketing agency Art Machine), released just a couple weeks ago. That comes through not only in the wild artistic design of the primary images, which place the supporting cast around a wide-eyed Sue while offering glimpses of the locations of the story’s action, but also in the copy reading “Sue Buttons has one killer story.”

The Trailers

The trailer (1.2 million views on YouTube), also released in mid-January, follows the rough flow of the story itself, from Sue’s panic over what to do about her dead husband through the notoriety she gains when it seems like he’s been kidnapped and into how it all starts to fall apart when it becomes clear she made much of it up. Along the way we meet some of the unusual local personalities that get involved in some manner and really see the dark sense of humor the film is selling, one conveyed well by the cast, especially Janney.

Online and Social

There is a website listed at the end of the trailer, but repeated attempts to load it were unsuccessful, so it’s not clear what’s on the site. MGM did give the movie some support on its social channels, including running regular little “daily affirmations” featuring brief clips from the film.

Advertising and Promotions

MGM, through its relaunched American International Pictures, acquired the project in October of last year, announcing a January release date at that time.

Some shorter versions of the trailer were run as pre-roll on YouTube, but that’s all the paid advertising I’m aware of.

Media and Press

Janney stopped by “Kimmel” recently to talk about the movie and lots more.

That is, surprisingly, about the end of the press efforts.


A good poster and strong trailer make me want to like this campaign a lot more than I actually do. The disconnect is caused in large part by the lackluster effort elsewhere, including the site that won’t load, the mostly non-existent press push and so on. Such a showcase for Janney in particular needs more support, not provided here.

It’s such a small campaign, it actually makes me wonder if the theatrical-only release plan for the film caused MGM to scale back the marketing because what’s the point of going big when your maximum box-office take is around $5 million?

Picking Up The Spare

Bridget Everett appeared on “The Tonight Show” to promote the film.

Shaft (2019) – Marketing Recap

shaft posterYou’d be in good company if the release of Shaft this week was leaving you a bit confused. After all, it’s a sequel to Shaft (2000) and the fifth film in the series that started in 1971 with Shaft.

This time around Samuel L. Jackson returns from the 2000 entry as John Shaft, nephew of the first John Shaft, played throughout the series by Richard Roundtree and the source of even more confusion. Added to the mix is Jessie T. Usher as JJ Shaft, the son of Jackson’s character and an FBI cybersecurity expert who gets mixed up in a mystery when his best friend dies unexpectedly. To figure out what happened he enlists the help of his father as well as his great uncle while also crossing paths with his mother Maya (Regina Hall).

The Posters

For all the talk about how Jackson was de-aged for Captain Marvel, the first poster seems just as dramatic in how much younger it makes the 71-year old actor appear. He’s in the lead of a group that includes all three generations of Shaft men as well as Hall’s Maya. The “More Shaft than you can handle” tagline is an exercise in running away from subtlety.

The Trailers

Early February saw the release of the first trailer, which debuted when Roundtree, Jackson and Usher interrupted Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue one night, offers a general overview of the story without going into too much detail. It’s clear Jr. is in need of the kind of help only his father can provide, but the younger Shaft isn’t quite as hardass as his old man. Just what the problem is isn’t quite clear, but the investigation winds up bringing them into contact with Jr.’s mother as well as his grandfather, who can still hold his own in a tight situation.

Just a week or so ago a new restricted trailer was released that starts out with the mid-elder Shaft acting a bit surprised and incredulous that his son has sought out his help. There’s plenty of foul language here to set the tone and we get the “black James Bond” joke again here. We see more of Maya, who’s conflicted about seeing her ex again, which is a funny bit that makes it clear we need more Hall in every movie. From there on out we get lots of violence and language and it ends with a joke about how the older Shaft looks like Morpheus from The Matrix, another comparison he takes issue with.

Online and Social

Warner Bros. didn’t put much effort at all into the single page about the movie, a page that includes the trailer, a synopsis, a small gallery of stills and not much else. There aren’t even links on the page to the Twitter or other social media profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The first TV commercial from mid-May emphasized the same sort of intergenerational and inter-family dynamics on display in the trailer, ignoring most everything about the actual story.

Sponsored movie-themed stickers were created that could be added to Instagram Stories.

Media and Publicity

News about the movie had been floating around for a while but late December brought the first official look at three generations of the Shaft family.

In early February it was announced that the movie would open this year’s American Black Film Festival. Jackson talked a bit about the film and how the script evolved while promoting Captain Marvel a few months ago.

Some of the cast appeared along with footage from the film when WB presented it to CinemaCon attendees in April.

The whole cast was the subject of a cover story in Ebony that had all of them talking about the new movie as well as what’s come before and how they want to continue the traditions established while also offering audiences something new.

Hall spoke briefly about her role in the buildup to her gig as the host of this year’s “BET Awards.”

AMC Theaters featured an exclusive video with Jackson encouraging people to come see the movie. Another video was offered by The Shadow League.

All that happened about the same time a featurette was released that focused on the legacy of the Shaft character in all its incarnations over the years.

Isaac Hayes III, the son of the late composer and funk legend, penned an op-ed for Billboard that recounted how he’d been approached by WB to participate in creating the soundtrack for this movie but was eventually left out of the process. While he praises the movie itself he makes the (valid) point that for a movie so focused on legacy to discount a presence that’s been part of the franchise since the beginning is a disservice and oversight.

Jackson made one more appearance on “The Late Show” to talk about the movie and returning to the character after almost 20 years.


The marketing team has obviously decided giving anything more than the slightest level of attention to the movie’s story is a waste of time, that what will hook the audience more is the promise of lots of bluster and banter between the three generations of Shaft men. That’s the focus of the trailers, while the press and publicity has been more about the legacy of the character and how that’s being translated into 2019.

In some ways it’s a campaign that’s very self aware of its own ridiculous nature and the areas that will have audiences scratching their heads. The jokes about Shaft being the black James Bond or looking like Morpheus nod nicely to it existing in a world with its own pop culture while also being an important element of our own. And Roundtree’s line about Jackson, who plays his character’s nephew, looking older than he does is funny in that the former is only six years older than the latter.

With almost 20 years since the last movie the fact both use the same title probably doesn’t mean much at all. With a new generation on board it’s as much a reboot of the 2000 sequel as that movie was of the original series. The branding is what’s important and the gap means they don’t really need to worry about subtitles.

Picking Up the Spare

All three actors playing the different generations of Shaft got together for a joint interview about translating the character and themes for a time almost 50 years after the first one debuted. 

A solo interview with Roundtree had him discussing the impact the first movie had on his career, including how it didn’t shield him from casual racism, and what it’s been like coming back to the role every now and again. 

A series of five character posters, each with a single letter of the movie’s title, came out shortly after it hit theaters. 

Little – Marketing Recap

little posterLittle offers a new spin on a familiar tale. Regina Hall stars as Jordan Sanders, a high-powered executive who has achieved her success by taking a cuthroat, no-nonsense approach to everything in her life. Her assistant April (Issa Rae) bears the brunt of Jordan’s assault as her personal assistant.

Jordan’s unapologetic personality leads to an altercation with a little girl resulting in the girl wishing Jordan were little again. The next day that’s exactly what happens. Jordan, now pint-sized (and played by Marsai Martin), seeks out April’s help to try and fix or at least manage the situation. Hilarity ensues.

The Posters

All three characters are shown on the one-sheet, with April standing between the different versions of Jordan. The copy – “She woke up like this.” – uses arrows to make the direction of the sentence clear, with “She ←” pointing toward adult Jordan and “this →” pointing toward the childish one. For her own part, April looks nothing but confused by the situation she’s been presented with.

The Trailers

Jordan, we see in the first trailer, is a pretty unreasonable boss, making outrageous demands on April’s time and patience. In fact she’s an abusive boss to everyone. One day a little girl wishes Jordan was a kid again, which comes to pass the next day. April winds up responsible for the new pint-sized version of Jordan, who continues to be obnoxious and abrasive even in a kid’s body. The two have to navigate all kinds of unusual situations from work to school and more.

We know Hall is funny, but Rae is the real winner here.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website offers the usual mix of content, including the trailer, a story synopsis and a “Partners” section. There were also profiles created on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

An edited version of the first trailer was used as a Promoted Tweet.

Postmates, the one promotional partner for the film, offered $.99 delivery fees for a limited time leading up to the release date.

A Snapchat filter shrunk your headshot down to kid-sized proportions.

The movie got some paid promotion during a recent episode of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

Media and Publicity

A clip from late March has April trying to figure out what happened to Jordan, who shows up in a kid’s body with no idea how she got there. Another clip featured Hartley’s teacher being ogled by the women while a third showed the first moment April meeting the newly young Jordan.

Rae was profiled in a piece focusing on how she got the job, what connection she found with the story and the path her career has taken to date. Another interview with her used the hook of her character being an assistant to ask her how she manages her life.

Complex premiered a new song by Chloe X Halle that appears on the film’s soundtrack.

An interview with Martin covered how she got involved with the project and more.

There were a handful of other interviews with the cast as well as appearances on various talk shows. All three leads appeared at BeautyCon to talk about the film and its story.

Late in the cycle there were a couple profiles of superstar producer Will Packer where he talked about the movie and his success in the industry. There was also more on Martin and the fame she’s achieved at a young age.


It’s easy to write this off as a retread of Big, and indeed it seems the project may have started off like that. But that’s not how it’s being sold and labeling it as such discounts what the campaign shows to be a unique approach to the idea of suddenly finding yourself in a body you’re not familiar with while your personality and mind remain intact.

Specifically, the campaign has repeatedly invoked the phrase/hashtag “#BlackGirlMagic,” a concept rooted in celebrating the power and drive of black women in all aspects of life and society. The co opting of that idea into the marketing embraces a more literal interpretation of that idea, but still represents the original meaning.

As a white man I’m not fully qualified (or even a little bit qualified) to weigh in further on that particular point, but I will say the marketing presents a funny movie that is working hard to be judged on its own merits. On that front the campaign succeeds.

Picking Up the Spare

Good point here, that “tech company CEO” isn’t usually a job assigned to women, much less women of color, in films. 

The dominant theme of the coverage after release was that Marin is incredible as a producer and someone who’s tired of “firsts” and wants things to be normalized. 

There was also an interview with screenwriter Tracy Oliver about the movie and her career aspirations and another with the production team about creating the visual style of the movie. 

Support The Girls – Marketing Recap

support the girls posterJust last week a story made the rounds about how Millennials had mounted their latest corporate head to the wall of businesses and industries they’ve killed, in this case Hooters. The chain was shutting down, the story went, that generation just isn’t that into boobs, the connection provided by some sketchy numbers from Pornhub. Never mind that Hooters and restaurants like it are vestiges of gender norms firmly rooted in Boomer mentality that younger people have largely rejected.

While the restaurant featured in Support The Girls isn’t Hooters, it’s a similar establishment, one that promises sub-par food served to a leering clientele by women in short shorts and tight shirts. The movie stars Regina Hall as Lisa, the manager of Double Whammies, who plays the role of mother hen to the girls who work there, keeping them safe and helping in whatever they need. One day her relentless optimism is tried as a series of events make her life and job more challenging than it’s been.

The Posters

Regina Hall is front and center on the poster, standing in front of the bar two of her waitresses are standing on. She looks serious but fun while the other girls are playing it up like they’re flirting in the middle of dancing. Bold copy placed over that photo is pulled from early reviews and establishes it as a comedy and praises Hall’s performance.

The Trailers

Lisa is the focal point of the trailer as we see her trying to maintain a positive attitude amidst all sorts of chaos swirling around her. There are rude customers, supervisors with unrealistic expectations, girls who are barely mature enough to keep their own issues together and so much more.

The trailer doesn’t lay out any single conflict or issue Lisa is fighting against, it’s just sold as her trying to make it through each day with everything still running as well as possible despite so many obstacles.

Online and Social

The official website has elements like “Trailer” and “Story” along with links to Magnolia’s site where you can download a press kit as well as official versions of the poster and trailer. There are also links to the Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’ve seen, though I wouldn’t be surprised if there had been some social advertising I’d missed.

Media and Publicity

The movie had been scheduled to appear at the SXSW Film Festival and was acquired by Magnolia just before that screening. Still, it picked up some pretty good word of mouth, especially for Hall, from that screening. Both Hall and writer/director Andrew Bujalski spoke about the movie, the latter going into what made him write about such a topic, while in Austin.

Hall was interviewed later about what attracted her to the story, how she’s enjoying a hot period of her career and more. She did likewise on “Late Night,” “Good Morning America” and in a visit to BUILD as well as a few other interviews.


The focus is squarely on Regina Hall and that’s very much a good thing. She’s obviously the character the audience is being asked to invest in most heavily and so it makes sense to put her front and center.

It looks like a sweet, funny movie about women owning their sexuality in a powerful way. I kind of wish there had been a bit more attention paid to the waitresses at the restaurant – even if it was just a few little video bios or something – to add more context there, but that’s a small issue.


Director Andrew Bujalski was interviewed about how the story of the movie is indeed timely but it wasn’t intended to be so as well as what inspired him to hit this particular topic. More on that as well as what lead him to cast Regina Hall in the lead here.

Given the movie’s working class themes, it’s refreshing to see director Andrew Bujalski talk about how in reality not everyone who he’d like to see the movie can afford to go to the movies.

Hall has some thoughts about how men can meaningful support women, including a handful of substantive changes in how society is structured. And more here from her on her previous roles, what this movie means and how she approaches the work overall.

Buzzfeed’s new profile of Regina Hall emphasizes how she has, to date, been underrated and under appreciated as an artist but that needs to change.

The arrival of awards season brought with it a new round of profiles and interviews of and with Hall.