The Dead Don’t Die – Marketing Recap

dead dont die poster 10Zombie movies aren’t exactly uncommon in theaters. This week’s The Dead Don’t Die offers something new though as it comes from writer/director Jim Jarmusch, a filmmaker more well known for his thoughtful and occasionally quirky low-key character dramas. Add on to that a cast that includes Bill Murray, Chloë Sevigny, Adam Driver, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits and others and you have something that’s intriguing at the very least.

Murray, Sevigny and Driver play sheriff department officers in a small town that finds itself at the center of the zombie apocalypse as the dead start breaking free from their graves. Wholly untrained for this sort of thing but still responsible for the citizens in town, the officers set out to do what they can to keep the undead at bay while keeping those still alive safe.

The Posters

dead dont die posterThe first poster from early April proclaims the movie sports “The greatest zombie cast ever assembled,” the king of hyperbole that’s reminiscent of the old days of B-movie horror flicks designed to be seen in between make out sessions during a summer matinee. A single undead hand rises from the grave while the names of that impressive cast are featured on either side of the arm extending toward the night sky’s full moon.

A series of character posters came out a bit later, with each one bringing the character in question to the foreground while a zombie lurks behind them, the actor’s name highlighted in the cast list still running along both sides of the design.

 

 

The photos of Murray, Driver and Sevigny as well as costar Tilda Swinton from those posters was combined into a single image on the theatrical one-sheet, which maintains the branding and tagline seen previously.

The Trailers

The first trailer, released in early April, presents an offbeat and ridiculous zombie story. When a small town is hit by a wave of the undead it perplexes local law enforcement and just can’t be believed by anyone but eventually some of the rules are figured out and people start to take action. Overall, though, it’s a dry zombie comedy featuring great actors from a director you wouldn’t associate with such a story, which is most of the appeal here.

A restricted trailer came out a month later that had the police discussing the rules and laws of killing zombies as well as making seemingly arbitrary decisions about which residents are and aren’t informed about the dangers facing the town.

Online and Social

Focus Features’ official website opens with the second trailer. A synopsis of the story can be found once the front page loads and more photos, bios of the actors and other information is available by scrolling down the page and clicking on some of the pictures found there.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A promoted Tweet featuring the first trailer helped generate awareness and hopefully interest.

In mid-May the first TV spot was released, covering the rules for killing zombies while showing how the small town has become infested with the undead, much to the dismay of local law enforcement.

Media and Publicity

In early April it was announced the movie was selected as the opening night feature at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival. Its U.S. premiere, though, was scheduled for the New Orleans Film Festival. It also later screened at Beyond Fest, with Sevigny appearing for a Q&A with attendees.

The first clip, debuted by People, came out in mid-May showing innocent travelers asking about local hotels in exactly the way characters in horror movies usually do. A second from moviefone featured the three police officers in the town being honest about how maybe it’s not going to be OK.

While at Cannes, the cast talked about what kinds of things scare them, including Jarmusch revealing what real world topics he was dealing with using the zombie metaphor. Swinton was also interviewed about her character and working with the rest of the cast, as was Sevigney.

A feature profile of Jarmusch focused on how he got this eclectic cast – which includes some previous collaborators – together for a very unconventional project. He also talked about his love of zombie movies in another interview.

Gomez was interviewed by Jimmy Fallon about working with the other actors and what kind of shenanigans Murray played at Cannes.

Overall

While the early reviews from Cannes and elsewhere haven’t been universally positive – often because they view the film from the perspective of Jarmusch’s previous films instead of on its own merits – the zombie genre is certainly one that needs a fresh perspective. It’s one that’s morphed over the years from an allegory for assimilation and numbness to one that seems rooted in survivalist fantasies involving fear of outsiders replacing “regular” people.

The campaign doesn’t make it clear what exactly zombies are being used as a metaphor for in this movie, but that’s because it’s too busy poking fun at the genre’s conventions. The focus is on how a bunch of well-meaning but clueless law enforcement professionals are reacting – or under-reacting, as it were – to what’s unfolding around them, which is at least an original take.

Picking Up the Spare

MovieClips got an exclusive clip that featured an extended look at one of the most popular lines from the trailer. 

There’s a video for Sturgill Simpson’s title tune from the movie. Sevigny participated in a game of “This/That” for Focus. 

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation – Marketing Recap

hotel translyvania 3 poster 4I’ll be honest, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the first two installments in the Hotel Transylvania series. Where they could have been lazy toss offs that take a decent premise and deliver the least interesting take on it, director Genndy Tartakovsky and his crew have consistently delivered solidly entertaining animated comedies that are genuinely funny and original. Helping matters is that star Adam Sandler’s voice work as Dracula is his most interesting, committed performance ever, a stark contrast to his usual DGAF attitude.

Now Drac and the other monsters are back in Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation. This time around Mavis (Selena Gomez) and Johnny (Andy Samberg) have convinced Dracula and everyone else to head out on a cruise vacation. Little do they know the ship is captained by a descendant of Van Helsing, the famous vampire hunter, who’s out to complete her ancestor’s work. Things get complicated though when she and Dracula fall for each other.

The Posters

The first two posters were the first indicators (at least that i was aware of) as to what the plot was. That came not only through the subtitle that was shown but in how on one Drac is shown wearing flip flops, his cape blowing to show he’s also sporting shorts and a floral print on the inside of that cape. The other has him in full Hawaiian regalia, his suitcases around him and a scowl on his face. That one also has the copy “Family vacation. It will suck the life out of you.” A third that came later shows Drac pulling his coffin-shaped luggage with stickers from places like the Bermuda Triangle all over it.

The whole gang is buried up to their necks on the theatrical poster, Dracula looking less than thrilled though everyone else seems to be having a good enough time. “He’s going to need a vacation after this vacation” is a tagline that seems designed more to resonate with the adults in the audience than the younger crowd.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts out by familiarizing the audience with Drac and his hotel before showing that Mavis has arranged for him and all the other regulars to take a cruise specially geared for monsters. He’s not thrilled about this, particularly when his father shows up.

It’s not all that detailed but gives the audience the basic idea of what they’ll be seeing in this installment in the franchise and assuring them it’s more of what they’ve already enjoyed.

When the official trailer opens Drac is looking for a date but having zero luck with apps and technology. Mavis convinces him to take a break and so the whole gang heads out on a cruise that offers plenty to do for everyone. Drac is resistant to give into efforts to set him up with someone until he sees Erika and is smitten. She has a secret, though, and is only getting close to him to exact generations-old revenge. Mavis is suspicious but Drac’s clueless.

That storyline isn’t explored in-depth by any means, nor are any of the others. A lot of the same gags from the teaser are repeated here with just enough of the plot shared to show people there is one.

Online and Social

There’s not much of interest on the official website, just the standard information like trailer, story recap, gallery and more. A few casual games lighten things up a bit, but overall this is just a standard minimal effort site.

A custom Snapchat filter unlocked a “Dancesylvania” dual lens

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A brief TV spot was released on Valentine’s Day that showed all the different forms love can take.

Amazon, which partnered with Amazon to offer Prime members exclusive screenings two weeks before the general release, a stunt that netted the movie an early $1.3 million. That partnership also included adding a skill to Alexa that allowed users who asked about the movie to hear a bedtime story.

Media and Publicity

Sony, as it’s done for a few animated features recently, brought it to Cannes (out of competition) with a big publicity stunt meant to induce lots of social sharing. Right around that time the studio released an extended clip showing the assembled monsters on the flight they’re taking to their vacation destination. It later was part of the Annecy Animation Festival, where it received positive buzz and audience reaction and where Tartakovsky spoke about why he came back to the series.

If there was a massive press push in the final days before release, I can’t find it.

Overall

OK, cool. I like it. There’s something here for all audiences and it certainly sells the same tone and vibe as the previous two efforts. I don’t know if the love story with Drac is going to be a big incentive for younger crowds, but it also likely won’t hurt things. The main value proposition the movie has to offer, it seems, is that it’s not a super hero movie and could give people a little bit of a break while still offering a familiar property for them to enjoy relatively worry free.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

Kathryn Hahn has made a few media appearances recently, showing up on “Kimmel” to tell stories and promote the movie a bit.