How Sony has its latest sci-fi action flick
Adam Driver stars in this week’s new theatrical release 65. The title refers to how many million years back in Earth’s history a pilot named Mills (Driver) finds himself after his craft crashes on what at first appears to be an unfamiliar planet along with fellow survivor Koa (Ariana Greenblatt). The two then have to survive an environment filled with a multitude of dangers, including the massive dinosaurs that dominated the planet at the time and make their way to the one point that offers them a chance to return to their own time safely.
Directed and written by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods – who previously wrote A Quiet Place – the movie costars Chloe Coleman and Nika King. Sony Pictures’ campaign hasn’t been all that extensive, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
announcement and casting
Driver was the first of the cast to sign on in September, 2020 with the others joining between then and the end of that year.
The directing pair marked the first day of production in December, 2020 and the last day of filming a couple months later.
the marketing campaign
Without much preamble the campaign kicked off in December of last year with the first trailer (24m YouTube plays). After it establishes itself as coming from the writers of A Quiet Place we see the premise, that Mills’ transport ship has crashed and can’t communicate with his base. He believes he’s on an alien planet, albeit one with breathable air and potable water. The truth of the situation becomes apparent, though, when he and Koa start encountering what are clearly dinosaurs on ancient Earth, but that doesn’t make things less dangerous as they try to find a way home.
The poster that came out at the same time sets things up by not only making the same pitch about the story’s origins but by showing Mills with his rifle at the ready while a dinosaur lurks behind him.
In keeping with how the movie has been heavily branded as coming from the writers of A Quiet Place, there’s no dialogue in the TV spot Sony aired during February’s Super Bowl broadcast. But there are plenty of jumps and scares and big dinos terrorizing the human characters.
Additional commercials began running shortly after that both on TV and as online pre-roll spots. They offer more explanation of the movie’s story, but still rely heavily on promising the audience a lot of thrills.
Sony again went to make an appeal to sports audiences with a commercial that aired during an NBA game broadcast in late February and which features basketball star Anthony Edwards, who’s digitally inserted into the action to react to what’s happening and make fun of what Mills is doing.
Another poster came out earlier in March that shows both Mills and Koa making their way through a cave, with the T-Rex stalking them through the waterfall they’ve already passed.
Driver appeared on “The Tonight Show” to promote the film and talk about a handful of other things. Earlier in the month Greenblatt responded to fan questions in an Instagram AMA session and later on the directing duo along with producer Sam Raimi participated in a Reddit AMA.
The cast and crew turned out for the premiere screening in New York City earlier this week
Both Driver and Greenblatt were interviewed about their experience making the movie, including working with all the special effects, the physical demands of their roles and Greenblatt’s attempts at making the famously focused Driver break up a little on set.
The weak sub-$10 million opening weekend projected for the film shouldn’t, I don’t think, reflect on the quality of the campaign. While this certainly can’t be said to be a massive or all-encompassing effort, it’s well put together and knows what’s being sold.
Its biggest hurdle is one faced by a lot of movies these days that aren’t already part of a franchise, series or established IP. Specifically, that while the campaign may have generated sufficient awareness it wasn’t able to convert that into interest.
That’s why at every opportunity the marketing reminded audiences that the movie involved the writers of A Quiet Place. Without a brand of its own to rely on, this was the next best thing.