There are a bunch of tried and true ways to market a movie. You can put out posters, trailers, or if you're making a horror film, just hint that all of this chainsaw shit MIGHT be real. However, I understand that sometimes you want to stand out in the crowd, which can lead you to do extraordinary things. Or in the case of these movie marketing stunts, extraordinarily stupid things.
To promote their upcoming releases, studios send all sorts of whimsical little collectibles to journalists, like the '80s-era View-Masters Netflix mailed ahead of Stranger Things. But how do you do cool, memorable collectibles for a somber drama about a string of horrific human tragedies? If your reply is that maybe they should consider not sending trinkets at all, you're already a step ahead of the people involved here.
A Belfast Story is a movie about an Irish detective investigating the murders of former IRA members. Given the violence that gripped the UK during the Troubles, A Belfast Story's exploration of "life after terrorism" aims to be a bit more profound than, say, The Happytime Murders. To drive home the weightiness of the subject matter, the film's press packs were designed to "represent the choices people in Northern Ireland need to make between retribution and reconciliation," according to the director.
Which is to say he sent them a glorified "my first terrorist attack" starter kit, including gaffer tape, balaclavas, and nails to place inside their very own nail bombs.
Reviewers were understandably disgusted with the kit, and if you think they were being oversensitive, please remember that some of the recipients lived through these attacks. And really, what was the point being made? That sometimes people have to choose between killing people with improvised explosives and ... not doing that? Is it possible that press kit swag is not the best medium in which to convey a nuanced point about political violence?
Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale is about a dystopian society in which an ultra-religious government has rounded up fertile women and "assigned" them to high-ranking officials, who force the women to endure ritualistic rape whenever they're ovulating. It's a brutal show that explores misogyny and religious abuse, and will generally make you feel worse about the world. So the people charged with the unenviable task of promoting The Emoji Movie knew they had to go for a tie-in:
That happy-looking emoji right there is an in-film character named Smiler. She's actually the primary villain because of how strictly she adheres to the rules of every emoji having their role and needing to stay in their place. So why is she so happy in the poster? Is the premise that she ... likes the idea of being oppressed by the state and forced to perform sexual acts for her overlords? Or have we already given it more thought than they did? Is it possible they never saw The Handmaid's Tale and were just reaching for any pop culture reference that might be familiar to people?
Because otherwise, who in the world is this poster aimed at? Tastes in pop culture can be remarkably varied, but I just don't see a lot of people watching Offred's brutal story and then seeing this poster and thinking, "Ah, the makers of the movie in which Sir Patrick Stewart voices a turd know what's up." And I feel like I'm right, since a lot of people found this poster to be quite awful. And unsurprisingly, critics found the actual movie itself to be quite awful as well. And audiences responded by, uh, buying over $200 million worth of tickets.
Modern movie marketing is all about viral internet stunts. Otherwise, you might as well just promote Fa9t And Furious by shouting about it in the middle of a field. The producers of I Love You, Beth Cooper knew this, so when it came time to promote their movie about a high school valedictorian who declares his love for a cheerleader during a commencement speech, they decided that they were going to recreate it in "real life."
So Fox hired a company to seek out a teen willing to trade away 12-plus years of hard work and scholarly dedication for a surprisingly affordable $1,800, and quickly settled on LA student Kenya Mejia. Then Fox hired another company to film the stunt in a home video style and upload it to YouTube. Because how else could they possibly be sure it would look authentic? Do it themselves? Hire any random seventh-grader? Yes. Yes, those would both work.
But anyway, Mejia played along and ended her speech with a bit about how she was inspired by the movie I Love You, Beth Cooper (which wasn't out yet and which she never ended up seeing) to confess her affection for that special boy who made her heart all aflutter. Specifically, she singled out a kid named Jake Minor, who was incredibly surprised because A) Mejia already had a boyfriend and B) he and Mejia had literally never spoken to each other. But other than that, really powerful stuff.
The video garnered a staggering 2,000 views in just two weeks before ILYBC's widely ignored release! However, if their plan was to only amass an audience that had seen the viral video and literally no one else, then this stunt was a resounding success.
If you haven't seen Disney's Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, you've probably seen one of the film industry's many, many attempts to provide a "new spin" on the classic tale. And most recently, that spin was apparently "What if Snow White was fat, and therefore repulsive?" Presumably, that's not actually the plot of the upcoming film Red Shoes & The 7 Dwarfs, but I'll be damned if that doesn't seem to be the premise of the marketing:
Locus Creative Studios
The first billboards for the film begged audiences to consider a terrifying proposition: "What if Snow White was no longer beautiful?" To ensure that readers understood what this unimaginable horror could look like, the billboard displayed a conventionally attractive Snow White juxtaposed with a short, thicc Snow White. People weren't exactly thrilled with the implication that anything less than an anatomically impossible girl was a monstrous she-beast.
Sure, the movie's website claims Snow White is on a journey of self-discovery to "not only accept herself, but to celebrate who she is, inside and out. And to let the beauty within ... shine brighter than anyone else in the land." But that's sort of negated when your billboard comes within an inch of reading "WHO COULD LOVE THIS PORKER?"
Among those annoyed was the voice of Snow White herself, Chloe Grace Moretz, who was apparently "appalled and angry." This is probably a good lesson for everyone going forward: If your movie's entire premise is based around some kind of positive message about acceptance, it's probably best to make sure the marketing team also knows that.
A Cure For Wellness is both a psychological horror film about escaping from a freaky-ass "wellness center" in the Swiss Alps and a classic Hollywood tale in which a naked woman rolls around in an eel-filled bathtub. It has absolutely nothing to do with "fake news" or the reasons accusations of "fake news" are so popular nowadays. Regardless, "fake news" is what was used to sell the movie. And not fake news about the plot of the movie, but actual "fake news."
When Fox unleashed the first promos for A Cure For Wellness, they came up with a half-dozen entirely fake websites, all with legit-sounding names like "Salt Lake City Guardian" and "NY Morning Post." Most of their stories revolved around fake Trump controversies, like banning vaccinations and refusing aid to a disaster-stricken California. Then each piece asked readers to share the stories with the hashtag #ACureForWellness. Again, none of these stories ever mentioned being a part of a movie's promotional campaign. You were just supposed to share it with the hashtag because, hey, it might be ... fun? Or something?
The public was understandably pissed that news stories about Lady Gaga's halftime show being a big shout-out to Muslims weren't real -- although if you're the kind of person to share that story, you probably don't care if it's real or not. Fox formally apologized and agreed it was a terrible idea. They never got around to thinking that the movie was a terrible idea, though, and it went on to bomb at the box office. Though its 47 percent on Metacritic does make it the second-highest-rated movie in the "Naked Woman in a Bathtub With Eels" genre.
We sincerely hope someone could grab a beginner's guide to Celtx and write a better Emoji Movie. There has to be a way.
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