Tulip Fever – Marketing Recap

We’ve had quite a few “women in corsets” type movies this year. Lady Macbeth, My Cousin Rachel, A Quiet Passion…all of them have not only featured elaborate period costuming but also to various degrees tales of forbidden passion being let loose. To both categories we now add this week’s Tulip Fever.

The story of the movie focuses on Sophia (Alicia Vikander), a young woman who’s forced to marry a powerful businessman named Cornelis Sandvoort (Christoph Waltz) to escape a life of poverty. She doesn’t love him, of course, so when he commissions a young artist named Jan Van Loos (Dane DeHaan) to paint her portrait he unknowingly lets a fox into the henhouse. The two young people start up a passionate affair set in 17h century Amsterdam, seeing the key to their escape in the thriving tulip market that dominates the city.

The movie has been finished for almost three years but has languished on the shelf of The Weinstein Co. More on this below, but it’s important to keep in mind as we move through the campaign.

The Posters

In the movie’s first – and only – poster we’re presented with a gauzy period drama that’s being sold through the beauty of Vikander. She stands alone, looking down through a window holding a flower looking very proper, an expression of longing and maybe dissatisfaction on her face. It’s not hugely revelatory but it tells us what we need to know to make at least a half-informed decision about the movie.

The Trailers

We’re told in the opening of the first trailer that Sophia is an orphan and that she’s being married off because that’s what society expects for her own good. So she’s given to Cornelis, an older man whom she obviously doesn’t love but who has been arranged by the nuns that care for her. When he arranges for their portrait to be painted she meets Jan, a painter who is not only her own age but who stirs her imagination of what could be. The two begin an affair as they conspire how to be together. There are lots of shots showing the young lovers in a passionate embrace and of the married couple being more cold and formal.

If the trailer is to be believed, there’s a strong Romeo & Juliet element to the proceedings. Outside of that, it looks a lot like other period movies that deal with these kinds of arranged marriages. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. Vikander looks like she’s doing great work, but this is a scenario we’ve seen before.

After some release date finagling, the second trailer starts out by establishing the time and setting before explaining that Cornelius has hired a painter, with whom Sophia quickly becomes involved. The love affair between the two and their plan to escape together forms the rest of the trailer, presenting it as a story of true passion that must break free from the shackles of an arranged marriage.

It gives the same sort of vibe as the first spot but focuses much more on the affair between the illicit lovers. It’s a bit stronger for that focus but makes the same basic value proposition to the audience.

After all the date changes that moved the release all around the calendar a red-band trailer was given to Vanity Fair just a week out in a last-ditch effort to get people talking. The trailer outlines much of the same story as the earlier effort but includes a lot more nudity and sexual situations to underline the passion the characters feel for one another.

Online and Social

There doesn’t appear to be an owned website for the movie. If you visit TWC’s site, the link to the movie’s official site just takes you to YouTube trailer. That means the film just has Twitter and Facebook profiles to help sell it online. There’s almost nothing on those profiles, though, both of which have less than a dozen updates that date back just to April of this year, with most of the activity happening in roughly the last month. I will say, though, this is the first usage of Facebook’s new feature allowing for videos to be used as cover photos and…I don’t like it.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There appears to have been to have been a TV spot created by the studio but it was rejected by Fox for being too inappropriate, with TWC very loudly refusing to cut anything from the commercial. This is a common tactic from the Weinstein’s, causing a big ruckus over content as a way to drum up a bit of conversation and buzz.

There was at least one TV spot the focused almost exclusively on the passion of the young lovers and their plans for escaping, despite the power and anger of Sophia’s husband.

If there was any other advertising, even online, I’m unaware of it.

Media and Publicity

Unfortunately, much of the press early on was not great. As has become commonplace for Weinstein releases it suffered from a handful of release date shifts, moving from 2016 to early 2017 to mid-2017. Even in the last few weeks, it’s changed dates from a limited release on 8/25 to a wider one on 9/1. The history of the film, including early reactions and a complete timeline of dates the movie was supposed to open on, was recounted by Vulture in a widely-discussed and shared piece.

Overall

I’m not even sure what kind of scale to put this campaign on, what to measure it against. It’s been a year-and-a-half since the first trailer was released, with the second coming almost exactly a year later. That’s a long time to sustain anyone’s interest, particularly in the face of such commentary about the movie being a mess and the apparent lack of faith the studio had in it. I’m actually kind of surprised TWC didn’t just dump it onto Amazon Prime or something and cut their losses without the expense of a theatrical release.

That lack of commitment to the movie comes through loudly in how the studio is still going all-guns with the marketing of Wind River, which came out a few weeks ago. That movie is more prominently displayed on the studio’s website and just recently got a new trailer to keep word-of-mouth going. Which horse TWC is backing is obvious.

All that aside, it’s not a bad campaign. The beats feel a bit overly familiar as we’ve seen plenty of movies about unhappy arranged marriages, the stories set in less enlightened times and almost always featuring the woman risking everything to leave an elder husband and be with her more age-appropriate young lover. Everyone looks game and TWC knows how to make this kind of movie, which makes it all the more surprising that it’s been so badly handled.

Wind River – Marketing Recap

After receiving critical and commercial acclaim for writing last year’s Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan makes his feature directorial debut with the noir thriller Wind River. A murder mystery set in the bitter winter of the Wyoming wilderness, the story is put in motion when US Fish and Wildlife Service agent Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) discovers a young girl from town has been killed.

The FBI gets involved in the investigation, sending agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) on what turns out to be her first case. She enlists the skills of Lambert not only to track and find the killer but also navigate the insular politics of the town. See residents there don’t much care for outsiders but do like their secrets. So the pair finds that uncovering the past of the murdered girl isn’t as easy as they hoped. Not only that, but some people seem to be actively working against them.

The Posters

The first poster shows Renner, with only his face and the rifle he’s holding visible as he’s wearing a white suit that camouflages him in the snowy background. Scenes of the story’s setting are visible in the transparent title treatment while at the top we’re told “Danger comes with the territory.” That’s a bit of a generic tagline, but I’m guessing they were meaning to allude to something like Native American “territory” with the terminology.

The same line “Danger comes with the territory” is used on the second poster but there’s also the copy “Nothing is harder to track than the truth,” which offers at least a bit more hints at the story. This one positions Renner and Olsen on opposite sides of the image, separated by a shot of a man walking out through the snow, gun in hand like he’s tracking someone or something. Still setting up a noir-ish thriller here, which is cool.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts out with someone, it’s not clear who, on the run across a frozen lake. Her body is discovered by Lambert and we’re told we’re in a remote area before Banner from the FBI shows up. She enlists his help because of his experience and knowledge of the area, by their efforts are frustrated by locals who aren’t eager to help. The drama and music build to the ending.

It’s a good first effort, setting up a tense drama set in a tight-knit world of secrets and survival. It reminds me of Winter’s Bone more than a little. Renner and Olsen look like they turn in tight, emotional performances.

Another trailer, labeled a “review” trailer, continues to sell this as a story of a murder mystery in a small town that tightly protects its secrets. There are a few more plot details that are shared here that weren’t in earlier trailers but the main appeal here comes from the quotes pulled from early reviews that praise the acting, direction and other aspects of the story. It’s all very tense and pulse-pounding.

Online and Social

There’s no official website I’ve been able to find, nor is there any shared in the trailers or other materials. That means the only online presence for the movie is the collection of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles where The Weinstein Co. has been sharing videos, links to news stories and photos.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A series of TV spots like this one emphasized various aspects of the story, from the remoteness of the location to the secrets of the town to the hunt for the mysterious killer. Most all of them include that it comes from the creators of Hell or High Water, though, taking advantage of that movie’s good reputation from last year.

I’m not aware of any online or social advertising that was done, nor have I seen any artwork that’s been used for outdoor billboards or other signage.

Media and Publicity

The first bit of publicity came when it was announced the movie would have its official premiere at Sundance 2017. The first look at the movie came around that same time. Just before that debut, the movie was dropped by The Weinstein Company, which had picked it up back around the time of Cannes. The screening at Sundance resulted in plenty of positive word-of-mouth, though.

It later screened at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival where Renner had nothing but praise for first-time director Sheridan and shared his enthusiasm to work with him again. That praise was echoed by Olsen at the movie’s premiere. Sheridan himself talked about how directing was something he approached only after feeling comfortable as a writer. Renner also got a profile all to himself where he talked about his personal life, his career to date and more.

Other press involving both Olsen and Renner also included hefty doses of mentions of their other movies, particularly The Avengers franchise since they’re both involved in that.

Overall

The emphasis on Sheridan is clearly meant to take advantage of the positive buzz that came out of last year’s Hell Or High Water, which gained a very good reputation with critics. That’s why all the trailers and posters reference that movie and why so much of the press coverage has focused on Sheridan. Most of the stories have either been about him directly or about the cast’s relationship to him. TWC obviously knows what’s going to get people’s attention and in this case, it’s creating ties between this movie and Sheridan’s most recent success.

Outside of that the campaign works hard to create a noir-like sense of mystery and mostly succeeds on that front. This isn’t The Maltese Falcon, of course, but does play up story elements common to the genre, including the town full of reluctant witnesses with agendas of their own and more. What the audience is being sold is a solid procedural crime story that, with the attachment of stars they like and the creative force behind a recent popular movie, will hopefully spur their interest. It may just be the alternative people who aren’t interested in the rest of this week’s new releases are looking for.

Picking Up the Spare

Early 2019 brought details of an arrangement The Weinstein Company made with the Indigenous groups depicted in the movie, a deal that was effectively discarded by the bankruptcy resulting from Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault and abuse actions.