Malcolm & Marie – Marketing Recap

How Netflix has sold a shot story of love and all the messiness that entails.

Malcolm & Marie gained notoriety early in 2020 for being one of the first films to be shot after pandemic-related closures and other restrictions went into place. Appropriately, the movie features a small cast of just two and takes place in a single location.

Zendaya and John David Washington play Marie and Malcolm, respectively. The couple live together in Los Angeles, with the story opening as they return from the premiere of a film directed by Malcolm. As they wait for reactions and reviews to come in, the two engage in a number of conversations that alternately solidify and call into question their relationship, with each speaking their real feelings – both good and bad – about the other.

Written and directed by Sam Levinson, the movie currently has a poor 58% on Rotten Tomatoes, having been sold as a stark drama anchored by the performances of the two leads.

The Posters

“Madly in love” is a nice way for the copy on the poster (by marketing agency P+A), released in January. That communicates some of the range of emotions in the story, while the black and white photo of the two reinforces that with its image of the two in a passionate embrace. The retro title treatment also acts as a nice hint to the slightly throwback nature of the drama being sold.

The Trailers

Netflix released the first trailer (2.8 million views on YouTube) in early January. “This is not a love story. This is love.” is the message displayed on title cards halfway through the trailer, and that’s certainly the message that’s sent. We see the couple laughing and loving and fighting and running, all seemingly over the course of a short period of time. The performances really come through here, which is good since those are the central selling point of the film.

Online and Social

The movie did have its own social media accounts, including a Twitter profile where promos and other updates were shared. Netflix also created a Giphy collection of GIFs from the film.

John David Washington Dancing GIF by NETFLIX - Find & Share on GIPHY

Advertising and Promotions

Zendaya released a still from the film in early July, effectively announcing the film was coming. Details emerged after that about how the film was shot in secret and during the Covid-19 pandemic’s quarantine period, with multiple safety protocols in place for everyone involved.

Netflix acquired worldwide distribution rights to the film in mid-September, later setting a February release date.

A clip released late last month shows just one of the heated conversations the couple has over the course of the night.

Media and Press

A feature profile of Zendaya had the actress offering lots of insights into the origins of the story and how she and Washington worked in the early pandemic conditions. For his part, Washington talked about similar topics, and addressed the decade-plus age difference between the leads, in an interview later on.

Zendaya was interviewed by Carey Mulligan about making the movie. She also appeared on “The Late Show” to promote the film and had a feature profile that covered her career to date as well as what’s next for her.

Couple Love GIF by NETFLIX - Find & Share on GIPHY

Both Washington and Zendaya spoke about how they used their real life relationships to influence their performances.

Overall

While sure there’s a certain cloyness to some of what’s presented here, it comes off even more like a stage play than some of the actual filmed stage plays that have come out recently. That’s a positive thing, since it brings with it connotations of it being an actor’s showcase, kind of like a play being produced in a black box theater in order to strip away some of the distracting artifice in order to focus on the story.

We can take issue with the age difference between Washington and Zendaya, but it’s not so great – and neither so young – that it becomes overly creepy in a Woody Allen kind of way. And purely from an acting perspective, it’s clear Zendaya can hold her own against her older costar. So it’s a solid campaign that sells a throwback, performance-centric drama that, if nothing else, will serve as one of the first artifacts of how very weird 2020 was for film productions.

John David Washington Love GIF by NETFLIX - Find & Share on GIPHY

Spider-Man: Far From Home – Marketing Recap

You can read my full recap of the marketing campaign for Spider-Man: Far From Home at The Hollywood Reporter.

Online and Social

Surprisingly, the movie’s official website is actually pretty basic and a little boring. It just has the standard marketing content along with a “Fan Art” section that’s a nice touch. There are also links to the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles.

Media and Publicity

Before any other formal publicity had started, Holland showed up in a skit on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to retrieve his mask and let people know the movie was coming out in the summer of 2019. In early December, Gyllenhaal joined Instagram with a post teasing his role as the movie’s big bad.

Gyllenhaal talked about how this was the right time for him to make the move into big productions while he was promoting Velvet Buzzsaw earlier this year and how he was obsessed with his costar Holland.

During the Avengers: Endgame press cycle, Marvel’s Kevin Feige revealed that this, not Endgame, was actually the final entry in Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though he was still vague on when the story actually takes place. How that movie impacted this one was the subject of an interview with the creative team. Holland also teased what’s in store for Peter Parker as he tries to be a super hero outside his native New York City.

After the second trailer came out and created all sorts of post-Endgame questions Watts addressed some of them, including how the time jump from that movie might impact the characters in this one.

Much of the primary cast appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to talk about shooting the film and what they thought of it in relation to Endgame. They also made a surprise appearance at Disneyland to the delight of visitors to a stunt show featuring Spider-Man.

An extended bit on a later episode of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” was billed as an “exclusive clip” but was really just a fake scene with Kimmel playing a dry cleaning employee interacting awkwardly with Peter Parker.

Holland appeared on “The Late Show” to share stories of filming the movie and more. He later teased there were rough plans for him to make a brief cameo in Into the Spider-Verse that were spiked early on in the process. Zendaya stopped by “The Late Show” to talk about filming and stunts and more.

Watts talked more about how he worked over the last couple years with the Russo Brothers to make sure his movie worked in connection with theirs and what surprises he’s planted for fans. He also later explained that scenes included in the trailer that were cut in the final film would reappear in a new short on the home video release.

The cast made an appearance in costume at a Los Angeles children’s hospital to visit patients there.

The Gyllenhaal/Holland pairing on the publicity circuit isn’t quite at Gyllenhaal/Reynolds, but it’s close, reinforced by the results of the photo shoot for another EW cover story.

Overall

One more point I didn’t fully make in my THR column was that, upon further review, there were almost no story stakes presented the campaign for the movie. Sure, Spidey seems to team up with Mysterio at the behest of Fury, but beyond stopping a handful of ill-defined creatures, what does it matter? Neither that showdown nor Peter’s crush on MJ are shown in any way that the outcomes matters in a tangible way.

That’s remarkable and shows that with these massive event movies you don’t need to make the audience care about the characters or story, just show them that they’re there.

Picking Up the Spare

There have been a lot of conversations with the movie’s writers and directors, including one where the writers discussed *that* Nick Fury line from the trailer. The costume designers also talked about the looks sported by Spidey and Mysterio. 

EW offered lots more on the movie, including reports from an earlier set visit and an exclusive custom Snapchat lens.

The movie reportedly received $288 million worth in media promotions from Sony and its partners.

Gyllenhaal’s appearance on “The Late Show” continued the love fest between him and Holland.  

The Greatest Showman – Marketing Recap

greatest showman poster 4It’s interesting timing that a movie telling the story of how P.T. Barnum began his famous (and sometimes infamous) American Museum comes the same year the circus that for 146 years bore his name shut down. The Greatest Showman sees Hugh Jackman starring as Barnum, beginning at a low point in his life and career, suffering one setback after another. He soon devises the idea to collect oddities and people of interest and fascination under one roof, then charge admission for the public to see them.

Descriptions of the movie have been careful to use the word “inspired by” when alluding to how much of the story should be taken with a generous helping of salt. That story includes Barnum’s wife Charity (Michelle Williams) and Philip, the production assistant who joins him in his quest for show business fame (Zac Efron) as well as Anne, the young performer who catches Phillip’s eye.

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