How Warner Bros. has sold the latest movie about ancient evil and a creepy book
Lily Sullivan and Alyssa Sutherland star in Evil Dead Rise, in theaters this week from Warner Bros. Pictures. Sullivan plays Beth, who sets out to visit her estranged sister Ellie (Sutherland) and her family in Los Angeles. But that reunion takes a demented turn when a certain book is discovered in Ellie’s building and a host of demons is set loose causing all manner of deadly chaos.
The movie – technically the fifth in the long-running Evil Dead series – appears to be largely unconnected from the three Bruce Campbell-starring originals (as well as the “Ash Vs. Evil Dead” series) and 2013’s Evil Dead, itself a new take on the concept. But Campbell as well as series creator Sam Raimi are still attached as executive producers while Lee Cronin wrote and directed this movie.
So don’t worry too much about what you know or don’t about what’s come before and let’s take a look at how this one’s been sold.
announcements and casting
Plans for another Evil Dead movie have been in various stages of development for years now, with some being scrapped entirely while others have been repurposed for the “Ash Vs. Evil Dead” show or for the 2013 film.
Things seemed to be finally moving forward in mid-2020 when Campbell revealed this project – then titled Evil Dead Now – was moving forward with Cronin directing after being selected by Raimi to take the reins.
The current name was announced when New Line acquired the movie in May 2021 with a release direct to HBO Max planned. Most of the main cast was added to the project in the months following New Line’s acquisition.
Last August plans were changed and a theatrical release date set, one of a number of shifts in strategy adopted by WB’s new management as it opted to not use HBO Max as much.
the marketing campaign
A soft start to the campaign came in October of last year when a first still was released. It didn’t offer much, of course, but was enough to get the ball rolling and reassure everyone the movie was really happening.
Cronin talked about the project and what audiences could expect in an interview in December 2022 that also had a handful of additional photos.
Things really got going in January when the first trailer (1.4m YouTube plays) came out. We don’t get a lot of setup regarding the characters before getting straight to the demonic possession, which seems to impact Ellie the most as she begins acting very strangely and hunting the rest of her family. Eventually it’s just Beth and her niece Kassie that remain unaffected fighting – and in at least one case chainsawing – their way out of what’s become a very haunted house.
A poster showing an already-possessed Ellie hugging her three kids to her came out at the same time, promising that the movie comes “From the visionary producers of the original classic.” though it doesn’t name-drop Raimi or Campbell.
Shortly after the trailer came out WB released a video capturing some of the social media reactions to that trailer, especially some of the more outrageous scenes it contained.
Later in January SXSW announced the movie had been added to the film festival’s lineup, appropriate given it tends to draw genre movie fans of all kinds.
The SXSW premiere in mid-March brought very positive reviews and good word of mouth. During the festival Cronin was interviewed about how he got the directing gig and how he wanted the story to be unique and not just a new version of what’s come before in the series.
The next trailer (13.8m YouTube plays), released toward the end of March, opens with Beth talking to her sister, who she’s surprised to learn isn’t as dead as she believed. Flashback a bit to what at first is a pleasant family reunion before Ellie is possessed by a demon released after Beth and one of the kids discovers the Book of the Dead. Things only get worse for everyone from there.
In early April Sutherland posted a nice photo of her hanging out by a bus bench ad for the movie with not only her costar Sutherland but also Jane Levy, who starred in the 2013 movie.
While he doesn’t technically appear in the movie Campbell still helped promote it, including by appearing on an Evil Dead-inspired episode of “Impractical Jokers”.
At about the same time Cronin was attending the European premiere of the movie.
Fandango got an exclusive clip that offers an extended look at Beth and the kids encountering the now-possessed Ellie making eggs before she pleads with Beth to protect those kids. Another clip given to IGN shows Ellie attacking her daughter Bridget.
Sullivan was interviewed about the physical toll of shooting the movie but also how excited she was to finally get to wield the chainsaw. Cronin and Raimi also talked a bit about how the new movie pays tribute to the classics in a couple ways but how more homages were cut so as not to overwhelm what was being created here.
Special mention has to be made of something the marketing team came back to occasionally during the campaign. Specifically, they made up a bunch of faux motivational posters that take photos from the movie and add inspirational quotes that are just disturbing.
It’s a fun idea that’s well executed and certainly plays to the tongue-in-cheek nature of the series’ humor.
The only problem with those motivational posters is that their sense of humor – as well as the more fun attitude seen in a few of the TV spots and other videos – isn’t found in the core campaign elements more consistently.
That’s fine, it doesn’t need to be a straight up comedy like Army of Darkness. And perhaps the marketing was intentionally avoiding being too funny to avoid confusion with the marketing of Renfield, which just came out last week. But for the most part it then winds up looking like any of a dozen other horror movies that have come out in the last several years, not like a new chapter in one of the genre’s most beloved series. It then relies on the audience’s affection for that series to generate interest, with long-range tracking predicting an opening weekend of around $25 million.
How Warner Bros. has sold its latest super hero sequel
Shazam!: Fury of the Gods arrives in theaters this week four years after the first movie was released and as a new case study in creative title punctuation. Zachary Levi returns as the titular hero and Asher Angel as the young Billy Batson, his alter ego. This time he’s joined from the outset by the rest of the Shazam Family – Billy’s foster siblings who now have their own hero identities – in his adventures. Those powers have gotten the attention of Kalypso (Lucy Liu), Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Anthea (Rachel Zegler), the daughters of the Titan Atlas, who are out for revenge against the Council of Wizards, especially wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) who gave Billy his powers, for killing their father.
David F. Sandberg is back in the director’s chair as well, even as the movie arrives at an odd moment. Originally scheduled for release a year ago, it now finds itself a vestigial limb of the DC Extended Universe: It’s very much part of the universe focused around Man of Steel, Justice League, Aquaman and other entries (even if the connection in the first film was flimsy at best) but in the last few months James Gunn and Peter Safran have taken over the division and made it clear they’re largely cutting ties with that old continuity.
So the stakes in terms of what this story means and how it will influence future entries are extremely low because it seems there will be no impact as the old is replaced by the new. Still, the first movie was well-received for its less dark tone and Levi’s performance, which means it’s time to dive into the campaign and see how Warner Bros. has balanced all of that and more.
announcement and casting
WB announced in early 2020 that it was being pushed from April, 2022 to November of that year.
Well before the movie’s marketing started, Sanberg took the opportunity created by a bunch of reviews mysteriously being posted to Letterboxd to have a bit of fun and create a completely fake trailer for the non-existent film in August, 2020.
Later that same month Levi made a scheduled appearance at DC’s virtual Fandome event, revealing the movie’s subtitle and having a bit of fun with comedian Sinbad, the subject of one of pop culture’s greatest myths/prophecies.
A couple months later in October WB announced that the combination of the pandemic and production delays the release date was being moved from late 2022 to June, 2023.
Most of the original cast had confirmed their return by that point. Zegler was added in an undisclosed role in mid-2021, with Mirren and Liu joining around the same time.
the marketing campaign: phase one (first steps)
Sandberg offered a very brief teaser in June 2021, promising the movie was coming “soon…ish.” A few weeks later the director shared a picture of the adult cast in full costume, showing off the changes in those costumes since the first movie.
The movie was among those slated for the second edition of DC Fandome in October 2021. During that event a behind the scenes video was shared along with first looks at the villains played by Mirren and Liu.
In April 2022 exhibitors and others got a look at the movie when it was part of the studio’s presentation at CinemaCon.
the marketing campaign: phase two (basically just comic-con)
While it was still scheduled to hit theaters in December 2022 the cast and Sandberg appeared at San Diego Comic-Con in July of that year to share their excitement for the sequel with fans and talk about what they could expect of the movie. Mirren was not there in person but did weigh in via recorded segment.
That’s also where the first trailer (18m YouTube plays) was released. It starts by more clearly establishing itself as part of what at the time was the DCEU as Billy, in therapy as Shazam, talks about how he’s not as cool or unique as heroes like Flash, Aquaman and Batman. He explains his backstory a bit before we get into the vague conflict between the heroes and the Daughters of Atlas, who are upset that those children have stolen the powers of the gods. Billy still seems to be having fun as a super hero, though, and the tone is still much lighter than in other movies from this universe.
A month later in August, after having moved the film’s release to June it was then shifted again, this time up to March because it was ready before Aquaman 2, which had previously been in that calendar slot.
the marketing campaign: phase three (for real this time)
The first poster only came out in November of last year, once the final release date was established. It’s a variation on the one-sheets for the first movie, this time showing Shazam looking like he’s doing a fun little dance as smoke and sparks surround him.
In December DC unveiled the movie-themed variant covers planned for select March releases to coincide with the movie hitting theaters.
The next poster was shared exclusively by IGN in January. This one shows Shazam in a more traditional upright heroic pose, different parts of the background split up by a lightning bolt show the other characters, including the Daughters of Atlas, the Wizard and the rest of the Shazam Family.
Also hitting in January was the second trailer (26m YouTube plays). This one gets to the threat posed by the Daughters of Atlas right off the bat before sidetracking into Billy talking about everything that’s changed in the last few years, especially everyone getting powers. It then establishes the story as one of Billy choosing to stand up and do the right thing despite a series of setbacks and nagging self-doubt over his abilities. Also, it’s about massive CGI dragons attacking Philadelphia.
Around the same time DC released a preview of its “Shazam! Fury of the Gods Special #1 – Shazamily Matters”, a special prequel comic with a story that sets the stage for where the characters are as the movie starts.
Footage from the trailer was cut down into TV spots like this one that began running in early February.
Levi appeared in a PSA for pet adoption that ran, along with a dedicated TV commercial for the movie, during the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet in February.
Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook users could send their friends an AR quiz to determine their super power, with the finished results including a costume of their own overlaid on the video.
An interview with Mirren had her talking about how she agreed to be in this movie because she loved the first one so much but that the story was so convoluted she couldn’t even explain it, so just don’t worry about it.
Exclusive posters were released for Dolby and ScreenXUSA as tickets were going on sale in mid-February. To mark that event Fandango also released an exclusive interview with the cast, who all gushed about the great time they had making the movie.
Oh you didn't know SKITTLES can stop a unicorn in its tracks? Luckily, Darla in @ShazamMovie does! Get your tickets to see#ShazamMovie in theaters starting March 17… keep an eye out for SKITTLES. pic.twitter.com/9AcujO8nPi
In a bold move, a short TV spot that came out earlier this week includes an appearance by Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, a cameo that was previously unconfirmed and which again comes off as kind of odd given the future of that incarnation of the character is up in the air at the moment.
Everyone came out for the red carpet premiere in Los Angeles despite the rain in that region creating a very wet experience for everyone. While there Levi and others talked about not only this movie and what it was like to return (or join) for the sequel but also speculate about their potential involvement in future films.
A feature that focused on both Mirren and Liu had them talking about joining the story, what makes their characters unique and the bulkiness of their costumes.
Adam Brody, who plays the heroic version of Freddy, appeared on “Late Night” while both Liu and Levi appeared separately on “The Tonight Show.” Those two also showed up together on both “Today” and “Good Morning America.”
Tracking for the movie indicates a fairly underwhelming $35-40m opening weekend, but there appear to be hopes that such projections aren’t fully accounting for family audiences who may be uncertain about committing to heading to theaters amid both the continued pandemic and massive inflation.
The campaign, though, has some very nice touches that have sold the movie well despite the myriad challenges it faces.
Themed and relevant PSAs: Levi personally appears in at least three cause-related PSAs designed to raise awareness/funds for social issues, including those dealing with foster care, childhood hunger and pet adoption. The actor has spoken out in the past about his own mental health issues and how he’s overcome those, so it makes a lot of sense for them to be part of this campaign and they work well in this context as well.
Continued sense of fun: Even with the elements that show how Billy is struggling with his role as a superhero, the campaign keeps communicating a lighthearted tone that’s in-line with that established in the first movie.
How much those overcome the very real complications of potential superhero fatigue in the audience, the uncertain future of these characters in the DC film franchise and more remains to be seen, but on the whole it’s an entertaining and engaging marketing effort.
PICKING UP THE SPARE
Lots of talk following the movie’s release from Sandberg about how the post-credits cameo came about and what he thought about the film’s marketing. He also commented on how this might mark his last super hero movie, at least for a while.
How Warner Bros. has sold a love story about dancing that’s dirty
Channing Tatum returns for another outing as exotic dancer Mike Lane in Magic Mike’s Last Dance, the second sequel to 2012’s Magic Mike. Directed once again by Steven Soderbergh (who sat out the earlier Magic Mike XXL), the story finds Mike having hit rough times and needing to once more take to the stage to try and get back on his feet.
Salma Hayek Pinault costars as Maxandra Mendoza, a woman who is interested in Mike both professionally and romantically but who has an agenda of her own.
The movie arrives this weekend in theaters after initially being planned for an HBO Max-exclusive release. It also comes as the “Magic Mike Live” show has hit Las Vegas, so the brand is hot and so are the guys so let’s dive in and see how it’s been sold.
announcement and casting
Warner Bros. and Tatum announced the movie more or less out of the blue in late November 2021, catching the internet by surprise and immediately generating tons of excitement.
Thandie Newton was reported to be interested in joining the movie at the end of 2021 but stepped away and was replaced by Hayek Pinault in April 2022.
The topic of the movie came up repeatedly in the first few months of 2022 as Tatum was doing publicity and press for other projects, including his directorial debut Dog and the romantic adventure comedy The Lost City.
An interview with Soderbergh in July of last year had him talking about the planned HBO Max release and saying this is likely the final film in the series though he also kept his options open by saying there were still stories he and Tatum may want to tell in this world.
In September, 2022 the studio announced a new release date for the film and shifted that release to being theatrical instead of going directly to HBO Max. A month or so later Tatum shared a first look photo that offered exactly what the audience was expecting.
The official trailer (8.5m YouTube plays) marked the beginning of the marketing campaign when it was released in mid-November of last year. As it opens Mike and Maxandra are meeting for the first time as he shows her he’s much more than just a bartender. Soon the two are off to London where he is going to coordinate a new show that’s all about passion and, in her words, making women feel as if anything is possible. There’s drama and romance and lots of dancing in and around water, making the movie look as ridiculous and intense as anything you’ve seen.
Another exclusive image accompanied an Empire interview with Soderbergh about the epic final dance sequence of the movie and the challenges he encountered attempting to make each dance routine unique.
The two posters released at the end of December both promise this movie is “The Final Tease” as they show different photos of Mike and Maxandra in a passionate embrace.
Another interview with Soderbergh had the director explaining how the movie wasn’t planned but evolved in part out of the work he and others were doing for a now-scrapped live stage show.
Hayek Pinault talked about the physical demands of her role, specifically the scene in which she gets a private lap dance from Tatum while also joking about how tough it was to watch a bunch of hot male dancers for hours on end while filming. She hit similar topics a bit later when she appeared on “Kimmel.”
There was finally a proper profile of Tatum in mid-January that covered the development of this movie as well as lots more about his career, which has taken some notable detours over the years but which he himself has worked to get back on track.
A short featurette has the stars and others talking about the fun of returning to the world of Magic Mike as well as what audiences can expect from moving the story to London.
That was followed by a shorter trailer/extended TV spot that captures the key moments we’ve already seen but in a more concise way. Other TV spots cut that message down to the more traditional 30 seconds as well.
Everyone came out for the red carpet premiere at the end of January, an event that included a dance team and more.
Another featurette was released just a few days ago that focused on how this movie fits into the “legacy” of the series to date.
In one of the final interviews with Soderbergh he talked about some of the same things he’d already covered while also refusing to go into details about why Thandie Newton dropped out of the project. In another he explained how a full theatrical release came about after the initial plans for the movie to go to HBO Max.
Meanwhile the two lead actors appeared on “GMA” to talk about the dancing, the romance and everything else.
Look, it’s a movie about Channing Tatum and other hot guys doing sexy dances and being very confident while doing so along with Hayek Pinault getting what she wants, which includes the things just mentioned. That’s what the campaign needed to communicate and that’s what it does communicate.
Coming out on Super Bowl Weekend is one reason for the relatively modest projections of $10 million give or take, as is the fact that it’s going up against the re-release of Titanic, something Paramount is doing to mark the movie’s 25th anniversary and to capitalize on the Avatar 2-powered resurgence in James Cameron.
How Warner Bros. has sold a change in the hierarchy of power in the DC Universe
Black Adam, in theaters this weekend, is ostensibly the 11th film in the DC Extended Universe of movies that began with 2013’s Man of Steel, though you’d need a protractor and slide rule to actually make all those movies fit together into a cohesive narrative. And that’s without trying to figure in one-off projects and TV/streaming series.
The movie stars Dwayne Johnson as Teth-Adam / Black Adam, a slave boy from the city of Kahndaq five thousand years ago who, after his father is killed for angering the king, is given the power of the wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou, who played the character in 2019’s Shazam!) before being imprisoned. When he’s woken in the present day by those searching for the same mystical artifact the ancient king was after he goes on a rampage that draws the attention of the Justice Society of America, who go after Adam. Alliances shift but Adam resists the call to become a hero, even if he is not quite a villain.
As the above implies, Black Adam is connected to the hero Shazam, though Zachary Levi (who played the hero in his own 2019 movie) doesn’t appear here. Viola Davis, though, is back as Amanda Waller, who calls in the JSA composed of Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) and Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan). Sarah Shahi plays Adrianna Tomaz, the modern day researcher who awakens and eventually befriends Adam.
The movie is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and seems inspired by various elements of Black Adam’s backstory from both DC’s Post-Crisis and New 52 eras. So let’s say the magic word and take a look at how the movie’s been sold to the public.
long road to adam
Johnson has been trying to get this movie made for years, constantly talking it up on his social media profiles and saying the script is amazing and so on. He officially announced he was playing Black Adam in 2014 after speculation he may play either that character or Shazam.
His bravado was muted somewhat by the 2019 release of Shazam!, in which he wasn’t featured, but later that year it was announced director Jaume Collett-Serra had come aboard, perhaps breathing new life into things.
In October of 2019 Johnson Tweeted an announcement that production would finally begin in July of 2020 and then shared the news of an official release date. An interview from that time also had him hinting that the movie would include the Justice Society of America. Johnson confirmed in April his belief that production would begin at the end of summer, despite most things being shut down because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Centino was added to the cast as Atom Smasher in July, 2020.
dc fandome 2020 makes things instagram official
The lineup of DC’s “Fandome” virtual event in August 2020 included Johnson, fueling speculation he might offer a first glimpse at this movie. That speculation proved accurate when Johnson started sharing first looks at the design of Black Adam on social media, leading up to the Fandome panel where he and others shared more information – including that he would be butting heads with members of the Justice Society – and debuted a sizzle reel of animated concept art with Johnson narration added.
More JSA-related news came a month or so later when Hodge was cast as Hawkman. Brosnan and Mirren were added to the cast in March, 2021.
Pandemic-related production and other delays prompted WB to take the movie off its schedule in October, 2020, leaving it off the calendar at that point.
It was added back to the release calendar in March, 2021. At that time Johnson shared a video of a big outdoor display in New York City that revealed the film’s planned July, 2022 date. That announcement was also aired on TBS during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
A number of interviews like this with Collett-Serra had him teasing what he was taking away from his experience filming Jungle Cruise and applying to this film, including working with Johnson and developing cutting edge special effects. During the Jungle Cruise press cycle Johnson was also frequently asked about this movie, saying it was the hardest production he’s been a part of to date and offering other vague teases.
continuing adventures in pre-marketing
Warner Bros. gave CineEurope attendees a look at the movie in October 2021.
A year after those first official looks, fans were promised another tease of the movie during DC’s 2021 installment of Fandome. That came in the form of a video showing Adam’s first appearance in the film, though his full look still isn’t seen clearly. Garcia later commented on how the movie wouldn’t pull any punches with the character or story. An interview with Johnson had him sharing how the initial costume had too much padding for his liking.
In March 2022 the movie’s release date was moved back three months to late October, reportedly because of a VFX backlog plaguing the entire industry that meant the effect just wouldn’t be ready for the July release date.
Despite that delay, that same month DC announced a new Black Adam comics series from writer Christopher Priest and artist Rafa Sandoval scheduled to debut in June. A trailer for the series was released a bit later.
At CinemaCon in April both Centineo and Swindell were in attendance to give executives and journalists a look at the first trailer.
Some new looks at character designs were offered a little while later when the movie’s Funko POP! Figures were revealed.
marketing finally says the magic word
Things more officially got underway in early June with the release of the first poster, which shows Adam in profile with the copy “The world needed a hero. It got Black Adam.” helping to set the tone of the story.
That was followed by the first full trailer. We get a little bit of Adam’s history going back centuries. In the present, Adam has embraced the powers he has, which brings him into conflict with the heroes we then see, including Atom Smasher, Hawkman and Dr. Fate. Whether or not Adam is a hero is up to him, Dr. Fate intones.
It’s not a bad trailer, but there are several questions it generates, including whether the heroes we see here exist at the same time as those in the Justice League universe, whether Johnson is capable of playing anything other than a variation on his own persona and more.
WB made this movie a centerpiece of its Hall H presentation at San Diego Comic-Con in July. Johnson appeared there in costume to introduce a new “sneak peak” that doesn’t expand too much on the earlier trailer but does feature a few new shots. The rest of the main cast along with Collet-Serra, who had previously clarified the movie does *not* include either Shazam or Superman.
As part of its SDCC coverage, EW debuted a new image of Johnson in costume along with comments from Collet-Serra about the characters in the story and more. The cast was also interviewed at Comic-Con by AMC Theaters.
There was a massive tie-in promotion in early September with the Los Angeles Rams that included the players sporting the film’s branding, Johnson appearing in promos and other videos and the second trailer debuting during the game’s broadcast.
That trailer (22.6m YouTube views) begins with the same history lesson from the first one and shows a lot of the same bits about Adam’s journey and how he isn’t a hero. It’s primary focused on the showdown between Adam and the Justice Society, though we continue to hear how Adam isn’t necessarily a bad guy, just one who refuses to yield or bow before anyone, which brings him into conflict with the heroes.
That emphasis on the JSA is reinforced by their appearance on a new poster that came out at the same time as the trailer and by the character posters that include members of the team along with Adam himself.
The next Vanity Fair profile was of Centino, who gushed about the opportunity to work with the veteran actors in the cast.
The next one-sheet features Black Adam sitting on his throne looking somber and serious while the copy declares “The time of heroes is over.”
“There’s no one on this planet that can stop me” Black Adam declares in a TV spot from mid-September that features more of his fight with the JSA as well as dialogue making it clear Adam is willing to cross lines heroes can’t. Another extended spot hits many of the same notes but ties his story into the broader legacy of heroes and villains on Earth.
The IMAX, 4DX and Dolby Cinemas exclusive posters both feature slight variations on the JSA assembled around Adam.
A global press tour with Johnson and others from the cast and crew kicked off at the beginning of October and took them to screenings and events in New York, London, Mexico City and elsewhere.
Swindell was interviewed in October about making the movie and the process of undergoing so much physical training for the role.
Warner Bros. put street teams around New York Comic-Con giving out tickets to the world premiere screening that ended the above-mentioned press tour.
While the cast was in New York City Centino promoted the movie in an appearance on “The Tonight Show” while Hodge and Brosnan showed up on “GMA.” Brosnan also appeared on “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night”. Johnson confirmed a much-anticipated cameo by another DC character when he promoted the film on “The Tonight Show”.
An extended clip of Adam being awakened by Intergang and tearing through the over-matched mercenaries was released just before the premiere.
Repost @TheRock: A look at the Man in Black’s power, speed, brutality, rage and very dangerous calm amidst chaos. He unleashes hell and is the most powerful force on this planet. I’ve fought to make this movie for 15yrs and honored to deliver for you – the fans. #BlackAdampic.twitter.com/kALWLYYMgN
A partnership with EVgo gave those using the company’s charging stations a $5 Fandango promo code they could use when buying tickets for this movie. Circle K Stores also offered a Fandango code to those who engaged with the company on Twitter.
At the premiere Johnson weighed in on whether he would consider taking an advisory position in the development of future DC projects and talked more along with the rest of the cast about the long road involved in bringing this movie to fruition and more.
HBO Max offered an exclusive featurette about Black Adam’s moral gray area and how that impacts the other characters as well as the world the story is set in. Rotten Tomatoes also had an exclusive featurette focusing on the costumes of the characters.
DC shared an interview between Johnson and Echo Kellum, who has appeared in a few DC TV series.
Projections have the movie bringing in about $75 million in its opening weekend, which would be a good start for a title like this that has more than a few question marks around it.
The campaign is, as such things tend to be, almost completely driven by Johnson’s personality and will. What seems like half the social media updates from the official movie account are reposts or shares from Johnson’s profile and that’s on top of him spending the better part of the last two decades simply forcing this movie into existence through public statements in addition to whatever behind-the-scenes politicking he’s been doing at the studio.
A decent single brand identity has been created around Black Adam’s defining character traits, namely his willingness to go to dark places, his repeated assurances he’s not a hero and his belief he’s the new major power in the world. Those have been repeated time and again across marketing elements.
What sticks out, though, is how most of the trailers, TV spots and other clips seem to draw most of their footage from the same 15 minutes of the movie, especially Adam’s slugfest with the JSA. That’s fine in and of itself but it also indicates there’s a lot of the movie that’s still unseen by the general public. Such things aren’t uncommon with movies like this, but it seems especially prevalent here.
How Warner Bros. has sold movie that’s been as dramatic off-screen as it is on-screen
Don’t Worry Darling, new in theaters this week from Warner Bros., stars Florence Pugh and Harry Styles as Alice and Jack Chambers, a young couple whose marriage is tested by the mysteries of the town they live in, Victory, CA. Victory is a company town created by Jack’s employer, run by Frank (Chris Pine). Alice becomes obsessed with discovering the truth behind the enigmatic “Victory Project” her husband works on and her investigation leads to problems throughout the town and its citizens.
Olivia Wilde directed the movie and plays Alice’s friend Bunny, married to Bill (Nick Kroll). Kiki Layne, Kate Berlant, Gemma Chan and others also play members of the Victory community.
There’s lots going on here, some of which even has to do with selling the movie to audiences, so let’s take a stiff drink and get started.
announcement and casting
After reports there were multiple interested parties the script was finally acquired last August by New Line in a deal reported to be unusual in the high “backend” fees the creators can see if/when the movie succeeds.
Wilde shared a first look on Instagram in March but it wasn’t until September that New Line/Warner Bros. set a 2022 release date.
Warner Bros. gave CineEurope attendees a look at the movie in October 2021.
In other interviews later that year Wilde shared how the films of Adrian Lyne served as inspiration and warned audiences should expect to see more female desire and pleasure than is usually shown in films.
WB finally shared a release date in late April and made the movie part of their CinemaCon presentation to exhibitors and journalists. Things got weird, though, when Wilde was served with legal papers on stage, reportedly custody papers from her ex-husband Jason Sudekis. A back and forth over who knew what when commenced over the next few weeks.
This is no longer the weirdest off-topic anecdote about this film, as we’ll see later.
the marketing campaign
The first trailer (5m YouTube views) was released at the beginning of May. It opens showing a party with all the key characters having a good time before offering us a glimpse of how in love Alice and Jack are. Frank then explains, via voiceover, how important the wives are to the work their husbands are doing for the mysterious “Victory Project”, which the women are encouraged to not ask about. When Alice starts doing just that strange things start happening, including a couple suicides and other incidents. In the end it looks like a slightly trippy drama about the illusory nature of 1950s domestic bliss and all its confines.
A plane flies over the idyllic planned suburb of Victory on the poster released in mid-June, but a trail of smoke comes from the back of the plane. Not only that, but on the motion version of the poster the whole image flips upside down, indicating everything isn’t as it seems.
There’s even more of an overt horror vibe given off by the second trailer (2m YouTube views), which came out in July. We get the same basic premise as the first, but the strange hallucinations and other happenings begin even sooner and are even more disturbing.
Shortly after that confirmation came the film was scheduled to screen at the Venice Film Festival.
Chan was featured in a cover story for Harper’s Bazaar UK. A short while later Pugh got similar treatment on the U.S. version of Harper’s while Styles was profiled in, naturally enough, Rolling Stone.
Another motion poster takes the image of Jack and Alice in a warm embrace and mixes in a few quick glimpses of something terrifying lurking beneath the surface.
At the end of August Wilde was the subject of a Variety cover story in which she praised the other actors, talked about the film’s sexuality and lots more. It also served as the flame striking the tinder of a number of controversial issues and topics, many of which dominated as everyone prepared for Venice. They included:
Wilde’s assertion she fired Shia LaBeouf, who had originally been cast as Jack, in 2020, citing his “combative” on-set energy. LaBeouf subsequently denied he was fired but that he quit, with the truth eventually landing somewhere in the middle.
While Wilde had nothing but nice things to say about Pugh, the latter didn’t offer her own comments for that story, resulting in continued suspicion of on-set tension between the two and a general lack of enthusiasm on Pugh’s part to promote the movie.
Another interview with Wilde later on had her saying that as steamy as some of the shots in the trailers are, the MPA cut out even more explicit clips. She also shared how the lousy experiences she’s had on previous projects has informed her own directing approach and who the real-life inspiration for Pine’s character was.
As Venice approached things continued to get uncomfortable when it was reported Pugh was to be on the red carpet for the screening but not participate in the press conference with the rest of the cast.
That press conference and screening were notable for many reasons, including:
Wilde refusing to comment on her reported conflicts with Pugh
The festival moderator intercepting questions about LaBeouf so Wilde wouldn’t have to answer them again
A massive internet investigation into whether Styles spit on Pine at the screening (he didn’t)
Pine’s many fantastic facial expressions at the press conference that quickly became memes on social media
The first clip offers an extended look at the dinner scene where Alice challenges many of the other attendees, especially Frank, as she looks for deeper answers than she’s been getting about what it is the guys are working on and where everyone else is from.
Another clip shows Alice having a very odd moment in front of some dance studio mirrors, a moment glimpsed in the trailers.
Cinematographer Matthew Libatique did what he could to talk about the film’s look and feel in an interview of his own but also had to deny there was any on-set tension between the talent.
Wilde appeared on “The Late Show” to promote the film and talk about her character but also, of course, had to deny Styles spit on Pine and so on.
There’s at least some speculation that, based on tracking, the film could open to a healthy $20 million in its first weekend, either in spite of or because of all the drama and controversy that has enveloped it and seeped out into the public conversation.
The campaign itself is pretty good, dipping occasionally from being a straight drama to elements that are more in the realm of psychological thriller. Pugh is clearly the main attraction here as she’s seemingly asked to carry the burden of the story while all the other actors support her.
It’s a shame, then, that it’s been overwhelmed by all the inside-baseball rumor mills and other pettiness. The press cycle could have been about Wilde’s second directorial outing after the much-acclaimed Booksmart and other more relevant topics, but instead we’re trading gossip like we all just came out of a junior high assembly. If I were a cynically-minded person I’d say that’s been the focus because it gives the press (and public) an opportunity to once again pit one woman against another.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one taken by surprise last week when Warner Bros. announced it was producing a sequel to 2005’s Constantine, including the fact Keanu Reeves was returning to the title role and that director Francis Lawrence – who in the intervening years has directed or is planning to direct four of the five movies in the Hunger Games series – was also coming back.
The reasons the news came as such a shock were many and varied, including in no specific order:
While it was a decent success at the box-office, I didn’t think the 2005 original was particularly beloved. Surely there are some that have remained or become fans of the movie, but reaction to the original wasn’t all-that positive. A lot of folks criticized it at the time because they didn’t think the character on screen bore much aside from the name in common with the one found in the comics published by DC/Vertigo.
A lot of that came down to the fact that being from working class Liverpool is kind of key to who Constantine is and how he acts, with Reeves not conveying any of that.
There’s also the fact the movie version relies a lot more on gadgets and weapons and a lot less on sleight of hand and con artistry, which again is a big part of who the character is.
On the other hand, the character of John Constantine has been played by Matt Ryan since 2014, first in his own show (unceremoniously canceled by NBC during its first season) and then as a recurring/regular character on “Legends of Tomorrow” after an appearance on “Arrow.”
Ryan’s take on Constantine has been so popular he’s also voiced the character in a series of animated features and shorts.
I should state here that in the wake of the news I made the decision to rewatch Constantine, likely for the first time in at least 10 years. While it’s an entertaining enough Keanue Reeves supernatural thriller, the criticisms about this take on the character are absolutely well-founded. At one point Lucifer warns John about not pulling another con on him, but the line is completely unfounded as Constantine hasn’t conned anyone in the film. He *has*, though, blown up a bunch of demons with a massive grenade launcher thing.
Ryan’s take on the character, though, is much more like the original Hellblazer, and it’s a shame that 1) That series isn’t on HBO Max or Netflix, and 2) That he’s not being given a chance to keep going as Constantine as he’s clearly been having a blast for the last eight years.
[Full disclosure: I was heavily involved with promoting the TV series during its run as I was still working with DC Entertainment at the time.]
On top of all that, WB announcing a new movie based on a DC property comes at a time when the studio is…let’s just say it’s in flux, particularly when it comes to its stable of comics characters.
It just canceled the Batgirl film that was nearly complete and has shuffled the release dates for movies like Black Adam and others because it reportedly doesn’t have the available cash to support more than a couple major releases a year.
Last month Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said he was hoping to “reset” DC projects and find someone who can oversee the whole stable of characters and properties. But that search has been difficult as no one seems to be jumping at the chance to be blamed for the next disappointment after finding they don’t have as much control as they thought.
I only say that because it’s happened at least three times in the last 10 years, each time ending by the executive being forced out, quitting because the studio said he couldn’t make his five hour dystopian team movie or being made to feel extremely unwelcome when the movies he *did* develop are canned.
Whoever is eventually selected will now find themselves with a Constantine film in the works they had no hand in greenlighting and may not feel particularly excited about. And they’ll be reminded that no, it’s not part of the Justice League universe. Or maybe it is but not in an official way. Or it’s not, but some of the same characters are referenced. Or the movie is but the TV show reboot that was licensed to another company isn’t.
This new movie could be much better than the first and much more faithful to the source material, just as the live action series and some of the animated follow-ups were and have been. But the fact that it’s even happening is a big surprise, all the more so for the uncertain moment it was announced in.
If you’re familiar with the work of director Baz Luhrmann you probably know largely what can be expected from this week’s ELVIS, new in theaters. Luhrmann directs a screenplay from himself and others telling the story of rock and roll legend Elvis Presley. Austin Butler plays Presley as the action moves from his first forays into public performance through the years of super-stardom and more. Through much of that he’s managed/coached by Col. Tom Parker (Tom Hanks, under a metric ton of prosthetics and makeup).
It’s a simple enough setup, though in the hands of a unique filmmaker like Luhrmann you can be assured there will be plenty of flashy, unconventional stylistic choices being made. The movie also stars Helen Thomson, Richard Roxburgh, Olivia DeJonge and others as the people in Presley’s life, both personal and professional.
With one of the biggest names in all of popular music history as the subject matter, the marketing should be a no-brainer, so let’s take a look at some of the decisions the studio made while selling it to the public.
announcement and casting
The movie was oddly flying under the radar until March of 2020, when production in Australia was halted after Hanks tested positive for Covid-19.
Hanks talked about the movie and his character briefly while promoting other projects last year. Harrison Jr. also briefly commented on the movie in mid-2021 while on the publicity tour for Monster.
Warner Bros. gave CineEurope attendees a look at the movie in October 2021.
Luhrmann teased a bit of footage from the film in November of that year to make sure audiences knew he was still working on it and was trying to do the subject matter justice.
the marketing campaign phase one: a rock star is born
The first trailer (17.2m YouTube views) was released in February of this year following a tease by Luhrmann. Narrated by The Colonel, it opens with a young Elvis sneaking into a tent revival where he’s overtaken by the sound of the music and the feeling it creates. Fast forward several years and Elvis is on stage, making girls go crazy with the sound of his voice and the shake of his hips. From there on out it’s a montage of clips from throughout Elvis’ career, including his ups and downs and even a few acknowledgements of where he stood in the middle of racial upheaval in that time. But it’s mostly about the flashing camera lights, the music and other spectacle.
At the same time the first poster came out, similarly setting the visual tone for the campaign with what looks like a rhinestone belt buckle as the title treatment.
In early April Warner Bros. confirmed the movie would premiere at Cannes in May. Later that month exhibitors and others got a look at the movie when it was part of the studio’s presentation at CinemaCon.
Luhrmann posted a video in mid-April talking about the music of the movie and offering a brief preview of “Vegas” by Doja Cat, with plans for the single to be released in full in early May. It was also revealed Kacy Musgraves was covering “Can’t Help Falling In Love.”
Butler, Luhrmann and others from the cast and crew were joined by Priscilla Presley at the Met Gala, everyone in their highest of fashion as the event offered a perfect venue for a movie with visuals like this. Musgraves also performed “Can’t Help…” here.
Priscilla Presley debuted an exclusive clip showing Elvis getting all the women in the audience worked up with his wiggle in early May.
A profile of Luhrmann had the director explaining why he felt moved to make this project and why it is not, and was never intended to be, a traditional biopic in structure. Butler was given a similar profile a short while later that centered on this being a star-making moment for the actor.
the marketing campaign phase two: family approval
Another positive endorsement for the movie came from Riley Keough, Elvis’ granddaughter, who not only praised the filmmaking and the story but said that watching it with her mother and grandmother had them all crying at seeing their family’s story on screen. She also said she hadn’t been interested in being part of the film since it was a little too close for her comfort.
Three new posters came out in mid-May, all of them featuring Elvis in different phases of his career, from the rockabilly sideburns to the black leather jacket to the white suit.
The second trailer (9.2m YouTube views) came out at the end of May. It opens with Elvis defying police orders to not be suggestive in his movements during a concert, of course leading to a confrontation with those officers but beginning the mythologizing of his persona. The focus here is on Elvis’ rebellious nature, which is presented as coming from a place of believing (and being told by others) that his gift is one that comes from God and that he’d be wrong to deny or hide it. Aside from that it sells the usual Luhrmann glitz and spectacle, which is the real point here.
A screening at the Cannes Film Festival cemented the positive word of mouth that had already been circulating, helped by a reported 12-minute standing ovation as the film ended. Another profile of Butler published in that period had him talking about how his body started shutting down after filming finished and how a call to Luhrmann from Denzel Washington helped him secure the role. The director also spoke about the racial elements not only of the film’s story but Elvis’ life, which he tried to put in context.
Costar Alton Mason, who plays Little Richard, was profiled about how he got into character and what it was like to work with Luhrmann.
Warner Bros. and British GQhosted a special screening of the film in London where the cast and crew participated in a Q&A.
the marketing campaign phase three: the music
Warner Bros. released a tease of Musgraves singing “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” as the attention turned back to the music, including a performance by Diplo and Swae Lee of “Tupelo Shuffle” at the MTV Movie & TV Awards.
Butler and Luhrmann both talk about the challenges of taking on such lofty subject matter in a featurette that focused on the research and prep work they both did.
A red carpet premiere event was held in Australia in early June, a natural given Luhrmann and much of the cast hails from there. That was followed by a special screening of the film held at Graceland in mid-June with the director, stars and Presley family in attendance, another sign of the family’s endorsement of the film.
In an interview, Luhrmann revealed Harry Styles campaigned extensively for the title role but that the director was too worried Styles’ existing persona would overwhelm the character.
To help sell how Butler did his own singing in the movie Luhrmann released a video of pre-production test footage showing the actor singing and performing along with a small band.
Butler and Hanks both appeared on “GMA” to talk about the movie and Hanks received his own profile about working with Luhrmann and how things are going in his career and life in general. Butler later stopped by “The Tonight Show”.
Another special screening was held in New York City and once again was sponsored by Vogue.
The Presley family joined the cast and Luhrmann at the TCL Chinese Theater for a “Handprint and Footprint” ceremony.
One final trailer was released just today exclusively by Fandango MovieClips. It features a bit of new footage and a slightly different take on some story elements but fits largely with what has been seen so far. It also includes some of the praise from members of the Presley family to let audiences know this has been officially endorsed by them.
As of now the movie is projected to bring in around $35 million in its first weekend, which isn’t at the same level some other recent high profile releases have grossed. Maybe that’s because this isn’t a super hero sequel, even though it’s about an artist dubbed The King for much of his career and who’s been recognized as the best-selling solo musical artist of all time.
So maybe the campaign just can’t make up the difference in generating audience interest despite Warner Bros. hanging the marketing on a few key elements:
Making a star out of Butler: He’s been positioned as a breakout here, someone who lost himself in becoming Presley for the camera. There have been countless profiles and other accolades for Butler, who is the lynchpin of the effort here.
Translating the music for a new generation: Instead of trying to sell people the Elvis originals of his recordings, the focus here has been on the more current artists that are reinterpreting and livening up those classics in a way that’s apparently meant to be palatable for younger listeners. Many of those artists have also been in attendance at various premieres and other events to help hammer home how integral they are to the finished film.
The Presley Family seal of approval: The studio and filmmakers want everyone to know this isn’t a hit job or critical look at the star (thought it might be less kind to Parker) and so the praise from three generations of Presley women has been used extensively in the last half of the campaign.
On top of all that I have a few questions/issues:
First: What’s the connection with Vogue that seems to be laced throughout the campaign? The publication hosted multiple events and published multiple profiles of Butler and others in the cast. It’s so constant and pervasive there has to be some kind of deal in place, but it’s never called out or acknowledged.
Second: Look at most all of the posters, trailers and other material and you’ll see “TCB” emblazoned on them, a reference to the name given to Elvis’ backing band in the 1970s. But that band is almost entirely absent from the trailers and isn’t called out in any way in other promotions. Not only that, there’s nothing about the campaign that uses “Taking care of business” as a slogan or tagline, so it’s a weird stylistic choice here.
It’s an intriguing campaign that sells Luhrmann’s vision very well and repeatedly hits a few key points but has a hard time otherwise resonating.
How Warner Bros. has sold the latest Bat-tastic caper.
After all the sturm und drang over the last few years over the Snyder-verse and how the various DC Comics-based movies are or aren’t connected, this week brings the kind of film we haven’t seen in about a decade: A solo adventure for Batman.
The Batman, the title of which represents the latest example of a trend where reboots, reimaginings and retakes simply at “The” before the name of the character or team to set it apart from a previous movie without it, stars Robert Pattinson in his debut as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Directed by Matt Reeves, the story is, surprisingly, not an origin of The Dark Knight but instead picks up when the vigilante is a couple years into his career as a crime-fighter. As such, he’s already developed a working relationship with Lieutenant James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), one he will need as he investigates a crime wave perpetrated by someone referring to himself as The Riddler (Paul Dano).
Over the course of events, Batman will also come into contact with Gotham City crime boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) and Falcone’s lieutenant Oswald “Penguin” Cobblebott (Colin Farrell). He’ll also be helped – and occasionally hindered – by Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz), also known as Catwoman.
Pattinson is the third actor to play Batman in a live-action film in the last 15 years, not counting various animated incarnations, and as such represents DC Films’ recent “whatever” approach to connected universes that allows multiple versions of a character across media without being beholden to the same sort of restrictions found in the MCU and other franchises.
Arriving in theaters this weekend, let’s take a look at how this version of the 80+ year old character has been sold to the public.
announcement and casting
While it had been rumored for a while, Affleck was officially confirmed as the movie’s director at San Diego Comic-Con 2016.A tweet a few months later from Affleck showing what was reported to be test footage of the villain eventually lead to confirmation that Deathstroke was the bad guy Batman would be facing off against in the movie. Affleck later confirmed the movie’s title and talked briefly about why Deathstroke was chosen as the villain.
After months of rumors and reports, it was eventually officially announced that Affleck would *not* direct the movie but would continue on as producer and star.
Matt Reeves, who was later announced as the director, was asked repeatedly about this movie while he was promoting War For The Planet Of The Apes, remarking how he was trying to bring a noir-like feel to Batman. He talked more about it, hitting similar topics, while promoting “The Passage.”
In early 2019 WB finally gave the movie a release date while at the same time it was confirmed Affleck was not going to be the one playing the title character as it was reported the story would focus on a younger version of Bruce Wayne. Affleck commented on stepping down from the role while promoting Triple Frontier in early 2019.
A couple months later, in mid-May, reports circulated that Pattinson was the top contender for the role, news that sparked either joy or outrage among fans online depending on their overall perception of the actor. The process of casting Pattinson was unusually smooth and brought about because Reeves’ story was set early in Batman’s career, requiring a younger actor.
While the movie wasn’t part of WB/DC’s 2019 San Diego Comic-Con promotional push – the studio largely sat out the convention – a panel generally related to music in super hero films included fan exhortations directed at Reeves about not screwing up the project and character. It was somewhat surprising WB/DC didn’t make an exception to their SDCC absence given the event hosted multiple celebrations of the 80th anniversary of Batman’s debut in comics, celebrations that included costumes from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, a screening of Tim Burton’s 1989 film and Batman’s induction into the Comic-Con Hall of Fame.
Pattinson spoke briefly about the movie while he was making the festival rounds in 2019, with former Batman Christian Bale offering some costuming advice based on his own experiences.
the marketing begins
The first official promotional activity for the film came in December 2019 when Reeves sent a video message to attendees of CCXP promising he and the cast would be there in person in 2020 to show off footage and talk more about the movie they were making.
In January of 2020 Reeves announced the beginning of production while WB revealed the full cast list.
A short while later in February Reeves offered fans their first real look at Pattinson in costume, releasing a “camera test” showing Batman slowing approaching the camera and coming more into focus the closer he gets. Then in early March he shared a first official look at the new, more conventional Batmobile.
Later on, Pattinson promised to bring his same eccentric style to this role that he’s brought to others, revealing later he received the official word of his casting just as he was starting work on Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. Serkis was also interviewed during the movie’s production shutdown about how he was approaching the role of Alfred, as was Wright about playing Gordon.
While she was promoting her new Hulu show in early 2020 Kravitz dropped some hints as to what people could expect from her take on Catwoman. She kept talking about it throughout that publicity cycle.
The movie was one of many to have its production put on hiatus because of the Covid-19 outbreak. Later on WB rescheduled its release from May to October as a result. Production restarted in August of 2020, but with the change that most of the shooting would happen on a closed set instead of outdoors. That new phase didn’t last long, as only a short while later Pattinson himself was reported to have been diagnosed with Covid-19, putting a halt on any aspect of production including him.
In July 2020, Reeves announced a spinoff series for HBO Max set in the same world as the movie but focusing on the Gotham PD, with Warner Bros. promising the show would expand on the stories and ideas established in the film.
dc fandome 2020 – the marketing begins
Both Reeves and Pattinson were listed among the talent making a virtual appearance at DC’s “Fandome” event in August, 2020, fueling speculation a more substantial first look might be revealed to those following along from home. Just before that, Reeves shared a look at the movie’s title treatment. During Fandome, the director praised his cast while also revealing that the corrupt nature of Gotham City would be explored in the HBO Max series, which he clarified is set in “year one” of Batman’s career while the movie takes place in “year two.” That event is also where the first teaser trailer debuted.
In August 2020, just days before the DC Fandome virtual event, Reeves shared a Fandome-specific teaser poster designed by DC publisher Jim Lee.
The first teaser (36.9m YouTube views) trailer debuted during DC Fandome in August of last year and, considering the reports that the film was only ~25 percent complete, is surprisingly robust. It shows that things are getting very dark in Gotham, with a string of murders accompanied by riddles intended for The Batman, who is already an accepted partner of the GCPD and Commissioner Gordon. There are also looks at Catwoman, an unexplained Joker gang and lots more.
Fans online quickly worked out the answer to one of the riddles presented in the trailer, finding that the answer to “What does a liar do when he’s dead?” is “He lies still.”
That trailer’s use of “Something In The Way” by Nirvana helped that nearly-30 year old song jump back to the top of the charts on both iTunes and YouTube.
In September 2020 an exclusive bit of artwork was released to celebrate that year’s Batman Day.
“Batman: Caped Crusader”, an animated series produced by Reeves along with Bruce Timm (of “Batman: The Animated Series” fame) and J.J. Abrams was announced in May 2021, but despite Reeves’ involvement it didn’t appear the series is tied to the movie in any way.
Those and other pandemic-related production delays were cited as the reasons behind a later delay to March, 2022.
There were a few shots from the movie, along with comments from Kravitz and Reeves, in a Catwoman documentary Warner Bros. shared on YouTube in May 2021.
Farrell talked about the movie when he appeared on “Kimmel” in July of last year.
A profile of Affleck included his comments on how the advice of a friend helped convince him to drop out of this project.
the marketing returns: dc fandome 2021 and more
In August 2021 this was among the movies WB showed off to exhibitors and others attending CinemaCon. A new trailer was promised for that year’s installment of DC Fandome, followed by the announcement another HBO Max series, this one focused on The Penguin, was in early development.
Kravitz was interviewed about how she approached her audition with Reeves and how it ultimately led to her getting the role of Catwoman.
Ahead of Fandome 2021 Reeves shared a photo of Batman looking out over Gotham and another of Kravitz as Catwoman. Two posters – one featuring Batman and one with Riddler – also came out just before Fandome.
As the trailer (42.6m YouTube views) released during Fandome opens, the Gotham PD is storming a diner to arrest Riddler. From there we see Batman as he goes about trying to track down the villain and figure out his plans, a process that involves lots of punching of henchmen and other violence. There’s quite a bit of screentime devoted to Catwoman along with introductory shots of Alfred, Comm. Gordon and Penguin, the latter of whom is, at the end of the trailer, surprised at the resilience of the very muscle-car looking Batmobile.
A cutdown version of that trailer was released right after the virtual event as the first TV spot in the campaign.
News came in December that Farrell was slated to continue playing Penguin in an HBO Max spinoff series focusing on his character’s rise to power before the events of the movie.
Rumors circulated for a while that Warner Bros. was testing two different versions of the movie, one with an ending that includes Joker and which would setup a sequel.
Another interview with Kravitz had her talking more about the training she engaged in to play Catwoman. At the same time, Pattinson talked about how he had an idea of where Bruce/Batman would go over two additional movies and that he’s open to making it a trilogy. Reeves also made it clear this movie was not set in the loosely-defined DC Extended Universe but was a standalone story not connected to the Multiverse being established in other projects. All those were part of an Empire Magazine cover story devoted to the film.
A new trailer came out at the end of December. Titled “The Bat and The Cat”,(26.2m YouTube views) it opens by juxtaposing Bruce Wayne being chastised for not continuing his family’s philanthropy with shots of him as Batman chasing villains through the city. From there it focuses on how Catwoman and Batman have to navigate their…complicated…dynamic to team up and try and save Gotham from the scourge of The Riddler and other threats.
the marketing forever: into 2022
Twitter Movies debuted two exclusive posters in mid-January. One shows an extreme closeup of Batman’s face with the words “Unmask the truth” at the top while the other has Batman and Catwoman standing on top of a building looking out over Gotham City.
We can’t decide who we want to get our claws into more.
Another poster came out a couple weeks later that sports the same tagline but features most of the main characters, both good and bad guys.
In an interview with Reeves, the director talked about the stories – both Batman and otherwise – that inspired the story and the visuals of the movie, while members of the cast praised Reeves’ exacting nature and his approach to filming. Another profile of Reeves had him offering all kinds of details about the production, including Pattinson’s makeup, the original script from Affleck and lots more.
Little Caesars Pizza teased their tie-in food offering, the Batman Calzony, at the end of January.
TV spots picked up around that time, including this commercial that distills the recent trailer down to its core elements, showing the conflict between Bruce Wayne and Batman along with hinting at some of the other elements of the story.
After a scene from the movie leaked online Reeves released it himself, followed shortly by WB. It shows Bruce arriving at a funeral and alternatively being berated for his lack of public philanthropy, eavesdropping on a police conversation before Riddler interrupts the service with a message to the Batman.
Riddler, Penguin and Catwoman are all featured on a series of character posters released at the beginning of February.
Batman-branded Oreos packaging, unveiled at that time, contained cookies that were stamped with the hero’s image. That packaging also featured a QR code that, when scanned, entered someone for a chance to win a trip to London for an immersive Batman experience.
DC announced all of the Batman titles released in March would sport movie-inspired variant covers.
Tickets for early IMAX screenings of the movie, scheduled for March 1st, went on sale around the same time.
Pattinson got the feature profile treatment, with the story focusing on how his career has evolved over the years to the point where he’s taking on more complex roles as he tries to shed the emo-heartthrob image he was pegged with for a while. Kravitz got a similar profile that also touched on how she fits into the legacy of the other actors who have portrayed Catwoman on screen.
IMAX and Dolby-exclusive posters used profiles of Batman as their central feature, varying in how close the camera is to the figure.
Both Pattinson and Kravitz were featured on the cover of EW in a package that had them talking about working with each other, becoming part of the Batman history and more. There were also interviews with Dano about creating a truly creepy version of Riddler and more.
An exclusive behind-the-scenes featurette was released by Little Caesars that had Pattinson and others talking about the story as well as the scope of the story.
Reeves joined Kravitz and Pattinson in Paris for a promotional stop over there. More of the cast joined them for a special screening in London a bit later.
Wright promoted the movie when he appeared on “GMA,” having previously stopped by “The Late Show.” Serkis also talked about becoming Alfred on “GMA” while Pattinson shared the tips he’d gotten from other super hero actors on “Kimmel.” Dano later talked about the movie on “The Tonight Show.”
Google introduced a special feature where people searching for “bruce wayne” were delivered results for “batman” and shown an animated Batsignal highlighting those results.
There’s been a plethora of coverage of the various branded consumer products that have been released recently to tie in with the movie, but this is really only a slight uptick when put in the context of the usual massive amounts of Batman merchandise that’s readily available.
Another profile of Reeves focused on how the director worked to find a personal and emotional connection to the character before agreeing to take on the project. Meanwhile an interview with Kravitz had her saying she approached the character as bisexual, something that may or may not be explicity in the movie but which definitely got people’s attention. A THR cover story of Dano had him talking more about joining the super hero world and how that does or doesn’t fit in with his career to date.
Most of the cast and crew came out for the red carpet world premiere in New York City earlier this week. Unfortunately Reeves had to sit the event out due to being diagnosed with Covid-19.
AMC Theaters offered an exclusive interview with Reeves. That came days after AMC revealed this movie would be subject to “variable pricing” wherein tickets to this film will be priced higher than those for other movies showing at the same time. This is a major departure for U.S. theaters and it remains to be seen how audiences will react to those tickets being $1.50 more expensive than they’re used to.
It needs to be pointed out that nowhere in the marketing is the movie’s nearly 3-hour runtime explicitly mentioned, despite this being important information for the audience to have.
One has to wonder whether the reality of that will have any impact on the $100 million opening weekend that’s projected for the movie.
The 86% Fresh rating The Batman has on Rotten Tomatoes, though, indicates mostly positive reception for the film so far, and it may be that audiences are willing to hold it for three hours in order to get back to the theater again and reinforce the narrative that only super hero and other franchises can actually survive at the box office.
Aside from that…this certainly looks like a Batman movie. It hits slightly different beats than have been seen in the campaigns for the other Batman movies that have come out but also seems utterly familiar, which is the whole point of IP franchises like this. There’s some good stuff in here, especially when the focus is on Kravitz and Pattinson, but mostly it comes down to whether you enjoy the character or not.
At least, according to Reeves, the movie does *not* feature those damn pearls falling. That’s a win and might be the strongest point of differentiation between this and previous incarnations.
How Warner Bros. has sold a drama about whistleblowing and isolation.
Director Steven Soderbergh is back with another in his career-long experiment with style, structure and genre. This time around it’s Kimi.
Zoe Kravitz stars as Angela Childs, an agoraphobic woman who works from home for a tech company. One day she finds what she believes to be evidence of a violent crime in the data she’s reviewing, but her higher ups don’t seem to be interested in acting on it. So Childs has to confront her fears and venture outside her apartment to find others who will take it seriously.
The movie also stars Rita Wilson, Byron Bowers, India de Beaufort and others as the people Childs has to deal with in her efforts to find someone who will believe her story. Let’s take a look at how it’s been sold.
announcements and casting
HBO Max announced the film in late February, 2021 with Kravitz starring and Soderbergh directing. Bowers, Erika Christensen, Devin Ratray and the rest of the cast joined a couple months later in advance of filming taking place in the middle of last year.
the marketing campaign
The trailer (120,000 YouTube views) was the first bit of marketing that was released, hitting in mid-January. After some juxtaposition of Childs’ automated home/work life and her running from something dangerous, we settle in to see how she has arranged her life so she never needs to leave her apartment. When she hears what she believes to be a murder on an audio file she’s transcribing she finds her superiors want her to forget it. Others are also skeptical, but despite attempts to make her feel she’s the crazy one her fears seem to be justified as she’s targeted by some powerful people who want her to go away.
Childs peers nervously around a corner, hoodie up to keep her as hidden as possible, on the first and only poster, released at the end of January. As if her positioning weren’t enough, the “She’s not the only one listening” copy hints strongly that there’s something sinister about the story.
Outside of those elements there wasn’t much to the marketing of the movie. Kravitz has been in the press quite a bit lately, but that’s mostly for The Batman, coming out next month.
Just now a 30-second cutdown of the trailer was released that hits the major points of Childs being on the run after hearing something she wasn’t supposed to and navigating the various parties who at best don’t believe her and at worst want to eliminate her.
What I’m most surprised at is that this isn’t getting a bigger push from Warner Bros. and HBO Max. Not that everything Steven Soderbergh does needs to be treated like the biggest release of the year, but it feels like this is an afterthought for the studio/platform as they focus on not only major features like The Batman but also buzzier titles like “Euphoria” and others that have captured the public’s attention.
That being said, Soderbergh has rarely (if ever) turned in something boring and this doesn’t seem to deviate from that. He doesn’t turn genres upside down like the Coen Brothers, but instead offers examples of what the best of a genre can look like, a talent that’s on display fully in this trailer.
On top of that, more than other similar recent movies, it creates a sense of dread around what are now largely considered everyday conveniences and devices. Every time the KIMI says “I’m here,” you’re reminded of how the one-sheet copy hints at everything being monitored, with the vague threat that those sessions will be used against us in some way.
1999’s The Matrix was, of course, a massive success and a groundbreaking shift in the idea of what science fiction on film could look like and, even more importantly, *be* like. After two subsequent sequels (which are better than conventional wisdom in the early 00s held them to be) the series seemed to be done, with The Wachowski Sisters moving on to other projects.
Now it’s back with The Matrix Resurrections. Lana Wachowski directs, with Keanu Reeves returning as Neo and Carrie-Anne Moss back as Trinity.
The story picks up 20 years after The Matrix Revolutions, with Neo living in what seems to be the real world under the name Thomas Anderson, working a job and occasionally seeing things he thinks are odd or unusual. He also meets Tiffany, the “real world” version of Trinity, someone he can’t help but think he has some kind of connection to. Eventually Thomas meets a new version of Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who gives him a red pill that once more opens his mind to the reality that is a new, more aggressive Matrix, with Neo and Trinity again going to war against the machines.
Neil Patrick Harris, Jessica Henwick, Jonathan Groff, Jada Pinkett Smith and others also star as those either fighting against or with the pair.
announcement and casting
The announcement of the fourth movie in August, 2019 came after a year or so of conversation about what plans Warner Bros. might have for the property. Speculation had included prequels or sequels that would go beyond the story of Neo, Trinity and the others and often didn’t include the involvement of the original creators. So when WB let it drop that most, if not all, the excitement was palpable.
The movie was one of many to have its production put on hiatus because of the Covid-19 outbreak, with the release date pushed from its original March, 2020 to April of 2021. It was later moved back to December, 2021.
In mid-2020 Ross and others were interviewed about their reactions to the project happening, what they were most looking forward to about the film and more. Harris and Reeves both commented on the story over the course of the year, as did Moss and others.
One of the first, albeit very brief, looks at the movie came via an HBO Max promo touting the same day theatrical/streaming availability of WB’s 2021 lineup.
Abdul-Mateen II talked about joining the franchise and what it was like to film the movie in an interview that covered a number of projects the actor is involved in.
down the rabbit hole: the marketing campaign begins
This past August marked the first steps toward a formal marketing campaign when Warner Bros. brought footage from the film to exhibitors and other attendees of CinemaCon.
That really kicked off in early September when a video teasing the arrival of the first trailer was released. Also in that video was the https://www.whatisthematrix.com URL where visitors could get a brief look at the first footage from the new film, with different experiences for those selecting red or blue pills.
When the first trailer (41m YouTube views) finally did come out it hinted at a very different continuation of the series than people might have imagined. Neo – now living in The Matrix under the name Thomas and with no memory of what’s come before – is having dreams of things he knows couldn’t have happened but is otherwise living his life. Even meeting Trinity, also suffering amnesia, doesn’t trigger anything in his mind. Things start to change when he goes off his meds (which just happen to be blue pills) and is then offered a red pill by Morpheus. So Neo has to go through the process of discovery all over again, followed by lots of visually impressive fights and other challenges he and the others have to navigate and overcome.
Later that month it was announced the movie’s premiere would take place in San Francisco.
A featurette released in early October had this movie’s cast and crew reminiscing about the first movie in particular and its legacy on their lives specifically and the overall culture more generally.
The first poster came out in late October and, like the teaser videos and other images released earlier, it focuses exclusively on the red and blue pills sitting side by side, waiting for someone to choose one or the other. Intriguingly the copy at the top reads “Now, based on real events.”
In an interview later that month Abdul-Mateen II confirmed he was playing Morpheus, albeit a different version of the character than what we’ve seen before.
United Masters launched a contest where songwriters could submit their original compositions for the chance to win $15,000 and a chance to have that song featured in the movie’s promotional and marketing campaign.
The five primary characters are arranged on the theatrical poster, released in mid-November. Neo and Trinity are dressed in familiar outfits while the other characters each get something that fits with the story as well as their role and personality, all in front of the green code that symbolizes the Matrix.
Some of the biggest moments from the trailer and more are pulled into the first of several TV spots that kicked off that part of the campaign.
Warner Bros. partnered with Niftys.com to create 100,000 NFTs inspired by the movie people could buy with the option later to keep the NFTs as they are or choose to have them transformed, with more such opportunities coming later as well.
Each of the main characters got their own poster as part of a series of one sheets that came out in late November.
One of many profiles of Reeves focused on his zen, chill approach to the acting gig he’s been in for decades as well as this movie in particular.
IMAX announced that, for the first time ever, the original film would be screened in the large format for two nights in early December, part of a move to not only bring audiences back to theaters but also of course set the stage and build anticipation for this new installment.
Short videos continued to come out regularly offering recut versions of what we’d already seen along with tantalizing glimpses of new footage that usually generated more questions than were answered.
A few new photos and comments from Henwick, Wachowski and others were included in an EW cover story focusing on the reunion of Moss and Reeves and how they quickly fell back into the easy connection and chemistry they’d developed over the filming of the first three movies.
your mind makes it real: the marketing campaign continues
Moving into December there was another interview with/profile of Abdul-Mateen II where he talked about putting his own spin on the character of Morpheus.
The “glitch in The Matrix” concept introduced in the first movie is used in an extended TV spot as a way to highlight how things have changed but are still familiar over the years.
The American Red Cross ran a sweepstakes offering the chance to win a private hometown screening of the movie to those who came in to donate blood in advance of the holiday season.
“I remember this,” Neo says in the opening moments of the second trailer (12.8m YouTube views). From there we see what’s new through the lens of what’s come before, whether it’s Neo and Trinity’s relationship, a new look for the Smith agents that safeguard the Matrix or anything else. But we’re also told “Maybe this isn’t the story we think it is,” a line reminiscent of Luke Skywalker intoning “This is not going to go the way you think” in the trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
The IMAX exclusive poster puts Neo and Trinity at the center of The Matrix. There was also an IMAX-specific TV spot that shows Neo reluctant to get back into the fight.
A MovieClips featurette focused on the relationship between Neo and Trinity and how those characters are informed by the chemistry between the actors playing them
Abdul-Mateen II talked more about becoming Morpheus and working on the film when he appeared on “The Tonight Show.”
The first official clip debuted during the “Game Awards” earlier this month. It shows Anderson being led by Bugs through a series of portals until they finally arrive at Morpheus. In a sly twist, and a hint of the movie’s overall tone, he seeks to reassure Anderson by including scenes of his previous life, saying that nostalgia can be soothing and comforting.
That show was also where Unreal Engine debuted a demo of the company’s 3D technology set in the world of the movie and featuring many of its characters, including an introduction by Reeves.
Reeves talked about the movie and more on “The Late Show” as did Groff in his appearance a few days later. Priyanka Chopra Jonas showed up on “Late Night” to talk about keeping the story’s secrets. Harris then appeared on “Kimmel.”
Another featurette was about the place the original movie now holds in our culture and how this installment builds on what’s come before. The action and stuntwork was covered in another featurette.
Nvidia ran a promotional campaign where it had creators design movie-inspired custom PC mods, which fans could win by entering a sweepstakes by Retweeting one of the posts.
Users of Snapchat and other apps could add themselves to the Matrix via an AR app. A movie-inspired effect was also added to Instagram and Facebook that could be used during video calls.
The United Masters contest mentioned above paid off recently with a new spot that featured “Back To Life” by Quantrelle.
The green carpet premiere was held earlier this week in San Francisco, just making it in under the wire given a number of other premieres and events have been canceled because of the current Covid-19 case surge in the U.S. At the premiere Wachowski talked about making the movie without her sister while the rest of the cast was just amazed the movie was made at all.
Another clip was released via IGN, this one showing the moment leading up to the scene in the earlier clip as Thomas is confronted for the first time by Bugs, agreeing to go with her to learn the truth of what’s seemed so unusual about his life.
Moss was interviewed again about how this movie is part of and was influenced by what had come before in her career and what’s come after her first outing as Trinity. She and Reeves then spoke more about the strength of their on-screen relationship and how that informs the story this time around.
The initial reactions that came out after the premiere were mostly positive, calling out the “metatextual” nature of the story and how strong the stars are in returning to their roles. The full reviews published since then have been a bit more mixed, focusing on action sequences and other components that don’t quite live up to the promise of what was featured in the first movie and the two earlier sequels.
But the campaign itself has been *very* strong, mostly because it leans early and often on the personalities of Reeves and Moss. They may not be Bogart and Bacall, but it’s clear they have a deep friendship that helps them play off each other professionally and were both committed to only returning to this franchise if it rang true with what had come before.
It also benefits from more than a little self-awareness, with characters commenting on how expectations may be upended and things may turn out differently than anticipated. That’s a good way to set the stage for a sequel that seems to have a clear message, even if it’s not the message people might assume based on the earlier films.