Twitter updates coming to theater pre-shows

Trending and interesting entertainment content from Twitter and Vine are about to start showing up on movie theater screens thanks to a deal between Twitter and National CineMedia, according to Variety.

The deal will add a segment to NCM’s “First Look” pre-movie programming that will include curated material from Twitter and Vine, the latter being owned by the former.

While I have issues with the NCM side of this – I don’t know why mainstream media outlets like this, MSNBC or others think pulling in social media will somehow help them be more relevant – it makes a ton of sense for Twitter. For that company this marks a big stake in the ground in the fight against Facebook (and so some extent Tumblr) as they battle for supremacy in the media conversation circle. Each one wants to be *the* place people talk about movies, TV shows and more. If Twitter can get the content people are publishing there in front of a big audience it goes along way toward that goal, as well as the more fundamental “What is Twitter?” issue that has hampered mainstream adoption.

Quick Takes: 6/5/13

20130604-newconstellation-x600-1370358957Toad the Wet Sprocket, Sting and U2 all have new albums coming out later this year and I’m very excited about all of them, but especially Toad.

An interesting look at free speech and how social network companies are trying to regulate “hate” and other distasteful speech by people while not infringing on stuff that might be caught by an algorithm.

The Onion’s AV Club has a full appreciation of The Kids in the Hall along with what they think are the 10 best episodes of the show. But aside from that it’s worth reading just for the breakdown of what sort of overall role each member of the troupe played in shaping its direction.

Adweek looks at the windowing issues that are going to increasingly crop up for consumers as more and more studios sign exclusive distribution contracts with various online video streaming and on-demand services. We’re basically entering a world that’s the equivalent of the VHS/Betamax wars of the 70s/80s.

By not engaging in the price discount mutually-assured-destruction game Ambercrombie & Fitch has managed to retain the sense among its target audience that it’s hip, relevant and still hot.

Quick Takes: 5/31/13

This piece about why niche media is important is not only spot-on but also more than a little distressing as it evaluates some recent mainstream foul-ups. But aside from that I think it exemplifies why newspapers in particular missed an opportunity back in 2003 or so to reach out to the emerging independent blogger field and work with subject matter experts, bringing them into the fold in a way that was mutually beneficial instead of playing around with paywalls and so on.

An interesting perspective on why Marissa Mayer is making the moves at Yahoo she is.

Poynter has a great rebuttal of Buzzfeed’s much-discussed “The Social Media Editor is Dead” piece. In my opinion there’s still a strong need for there to be one – two is actually better – who act not just in a traditional editorial capacity but who also are kind of the heart and soul of the program, who keep it true to itself, who know what the goals are, who knows the nuances of the fan base and more. This is’t a dead role, it’s one that is vital and necessary if if the responsibilities are and will continue to evolve over time.

I think this hand-wringing story about the demise of high school newspapers falls victim to the trap of getting hung up on form-factor. So what if a high school is producing a Tumblr blog instead of a print paper if the content is similar? It’s not about the printing press (or the blog platform or anything else) it’s about training kids to be writers, photographers, coders and more in a way that gets them excited about the process, not the distribution form.

This article shouldn’t be necessary as everyone should already be in complete agreement that The Monkess are and always have been cool.

Medium is a platform that I’m super-intrigued about. The closed beta that it’s been in for an extended period has allowed it to highlight and curate some high-quality material from some great folks. But when it does open up and it loses the mystique of being a high-end, prestige magazine of sorts it will have to use it’s cool set of tools and functionality to compete with WordPress, Tumblr and everything else in the platform market.

Movie theater chains want to force studios to make trailers shorter by 30 seconds, or about 1/5 of their current running time. The hilarity starts when the theater owners start talking about shorter trailers creating a better movie-going experience when they’ve done everything in their power to make that experience almost excruciating while grabbing every ad dollar they can.

Long story short: We’re not going to Mars any time soon, though it will be super cool when we do.

No, we don’t want Facebook – or any other company – deciding what is hate speech. That’s largely because at any scale it needs to be algorithm-driven and that leads to an incredibly faulty system that will penalize a lot of innocent people while still letting lots slip through.

NCM encroaches on the TV upfront

Add one more digital media company that will be looking to take advertising share away from the TV business this spring with a glitzy upfront presentation to Madison Avenue. NCM Media Networks, which digitally programs ads across 18,300 movie-theater screens in the U.S., will be aiming to sell about 60 percent of its annual inventory based on its presentation to advertisers at the May event in New York.

In-Theater Programmer NCM Seeks Piece Of Upfront TV Ad Dollars | paidContent.

As the article says the in-theater advertising world has grown a lot in the last several years and this is a big example of that.

Movie Marketing Madness: Sherlock Holmes – A Game of Shadows

2009’s reimagination of Sherlock Holmes via a big-screen adaptation starring Robert Downey Jr. in the title role was something of a mixed bag for me. While I enjoyed the performance and the chemistry and banter between him and Jude Law as Dr. Watson this was certainly something far different than the Basil Rathbone classics I’d grown up with. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself but I think it took a little while for me to acclimate to this far different portrayal of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective and accept it for what it was: Something that required little of the audience but sought to entertain by any means necessary for two hours or so.

Now Downey Jr. and Law – as well as director Guy Ritchie – are back in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Picking up shortly after the first movie left off this entry pits Holmes against his most formidable adversary, Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris). Holmes is on Moriarty’s trail, believing him to be at the center of a vast web of conspiracy and criminal activity but to find him he enlists the aid of a young woman (Noomi Rapace) who has secrets of her own.

The PostersThe first bit of official marketing for the movie came in the form of two teaser posters, one with an up-close picture of Downey Jr. with Harris as Moriarty in the background and the other with Law being the focus and Rapace off to the side. They effectively showed that there would be a consistency in the look and feel of both movies as well as in the marketing efforts.

The next two posters had Downey Jr. on one and Law on the other, both of them clutching weapons and in profile to the camera with France and London, respectively, in the backgrounds. They continued the brand consistent blueish gray look from all the rest of the marketing and certainly showed some expanded settings but that’s about it.

Then a series of six action-shot type of character posters were released, with one each for Downey and Law and two each for Rapace and Harris, with everyone brandishing a gun or other weapon or in some other kind of action shot.
The final theatrical poster has Holmes and Watson in a dark Paris alley, fog behind them and the imposing shadow of what we can presume to be Moriarty against the wall to the side. It continues to sell the atmosphere of the movie and what’s hoped to be the wide appeal of the two lead actors.

The Trailers

The first trailer promises those who enjoyed the first movie more of the same here. We open with Holmes getting a tarot card reading, which of course becomes more complicated. From there we see what appears to be Holmes and Watson reuniting after some time apart, with Holmes intoning that he’s on the most important case of his career as he investigates Moriarty. From there on out we’ve done away with most exposition or plot setup as we move to straight action. There are train shoot-outs, huge cannons firing and chases through the woods. We get glimpses of the same slow-motion special effects that were used in the first movie as well as lots of inventions and tools that give the movies a distinct steampunk vibe.

The second was more of the same, though with a good amount of different footage. There’s lots of explosions and gun play and lots of time devoted to the run through the forest the main characters engage in that has lots of exploding trees and bullets whizzing by. Not much more than the barest of plot outlines is given here, though, other than some menacing glances and a bit of exposition about Moriarty being Holmes’ biggest case and the most dangerous criminal mind of their time. It’s all about selling some gothic action here and not about anything resembling a plot.

The next trailer starts off with two people playing chess, which serves as a metaphor for the struggle between Holmes and Moriarty. We see a bit of the same footage we’ve seen in other trailers but with occasional short interview snippets with Ritchie, Law and Downey talking about the conflict of the characters and the story and why people will be interested in seeing it.


The official website opens by playing a nearly full-screen version of the second trailer.

Once that’s done playing the first section of content is “About” which has a short but mostly decent Synopsis, Cast and Filmmaker bios and Production Notes to download.

The “Photos” section has over three dozen (at which point it became difficult to count” stills from the movie. “Videos” has both Trailers, a couple of TV spots and two behind the scenes looks at the recording of the film’s soundtrack score.

“Downloads” has Wallpapers, IM Icons, Posters and specialized wallpapers for iPhones and iPads. You can listen to samples from the score in the “Soundtrack section.

The companies that helped to promote the film are listed under “Partners” while “Sweepstakes” has information on a contest run by the Carl’s Jr. fast-food chain.

“Special Features” has a couple games for you to play as well as a Facebook app that lets you find out who from among your friends there is a your nemesis.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A number of TV spots were run that continued to sell the movie to the general public as a known quantity, with lots of action and humor. It’s clear this is in the same style and tone as the first movie, which was popular so the hope is this one will be likewise. Interestingly some of these spots are where we get our first look that Rachel McAdams is back but to what extent isn’t as clear.

Plenty of online and outdoor advertising was also done, mostly using the film’s key poster art and images of Downey and Law and usually also involving a picture of the train that figures into one of the movie’s key action set pieces.

Among the film’s promotional partner companies were French Connection (which displayed fashion “inspired by” the movie in store windows), Shuttle Computers, English Tea Store, Delta Airlines (which offered a contest to win tickets to the movie’s premiere), Hershey’s (which promoted theater snacks as being perfect while enjoying the film) and Hardee’s, whose Carl’s Jr. franchises have already been mentioned.

Media and Publicity

The one constant theme of the early press about the movie was “confusion.” While casting details were leaked out and reported no one involved in the production was spilling any information about the film’s story or plot (Los Angeles Times, 1/13/11), which apparently was part of the plan to keep people guessing and ramp up expectations in the audience that way. One detail that later got released was the movie’s subtitle.

Outside of that there wasn’t a whole lot that happened in the press as release day grew closer. The cast, Downey in particular, made the talk-show rounds and gave plenty of other interviews so it’s not as if there wasn’t a lot of activity happening. But there weren’t many, if any, sort of big industry stories that pegged it as an “important” picture in any regard. Or if there were they never got on my radar, which is also completely plausible.


This is one of the most clear cut cases of “If you liked the first one here’s more of the same” sequel marketing that I’ve seen. It might even beat efforts for the second Transformers movie and a couple other blatant offenders. Everything here (except the odd way Rachel McAdams barely makes an appearance…does something untoward happen to her character in this one?) is designed to make sure that the audience is completely sold on the notion that very little original will happen here. Instead it’s made clear that this is, while not recycled, certainly very familiar material that covers well-worn ground.

So if you liked the first one – and I did overall while at the same time recongnizing it was completely disposable entertainment that I barely remembered a half-hour after watching it – you should be sold on this one and will make your way to the theater. Which is fine.

Movie Marketing Madness: The Muppets

If you ask me it doesn’t get much better than good old fashioned Vaudeville. Marx Brothers, Hope and Crosby, Burns and Allen…even one of my favorite Billy Crystal movies is Mr. Saturday Night, an homage to that era of comedy. It’s all about the writing and the timing with this sort of comedy and that’s what works for me. Talented performers delivering superbly crafted word-play is just about as good as it gets. It’s why I always preferred Looney Tunes to just about every other sort of animated short – it was just a cartoon version of a Vaudeville routing, with the funniest bits coming from Bugs and Daffy’s verbal sparring as opposed to any sort of elaborately setup situation.One of the clear spiritual descendants of the Vaudeville tradition, at least in their original incarnations, was Jim Henson’s Muppets. Especially on “The Muppet Show” but also in what are considered the three canonical films – The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppets Take Manhattan – these characters were always at their best when it was simply about a zinger of a joke or a bit of deft word-play.

Now these characters are back after decades of secondary status in a new movie The Muppets. Written by and starring Jason Segal, best known from his role on “How I Met Your Mother” and an avowed fan of the characters, the movie seeks to revitalize the franchise for a new generation. To do that Segal and his collaborators have created a story that has Kermit, Fozzy, Gonzo, Piggy and the others having gone their separate ways years ago after some rough times. But now Walter (a new Muppet character created for the film), the roommate of Segal’s character and the world’s biggest fan of the Muppets is trying to get the group back together to save the historic theater where they first became famous. In the best tradition of those classic films this new one features lots of star cameos and more and, quite frankly, looks awesome. Let’s see how this reintroduction of some beloved characters is being sold to the families of 2011.
The Posters

The first teaser poster wasn’t all that revealing, with the image being just that of Kermit, Piggy and a few others walking (their entire bodies are shown, not just their torsos and heads) toward the camera in a very determined fashion with the copy “They’re closer than you think” at the top reading just a tad ominously.

After that a couple fun posters that were along the same lines as some of the early trailers appeared, with Kermit decked out like Green Lantern just before that movie came out, Sam the Eagle dressed as Captain America just before that movie was released.

The next poster was a more theatrical-esque version that showed Segal and Adams in front of the mob of Muppets like they’re trying to hold the crowd back. Again it’s not all that much but it does show to the audience that the entire cast of characters will be featured, something that should have lots of appeal to those who enjoyed the earlier movies as kids and have been looking for a quality newer movie to use as an introduction for their own children. It’s quite good on that front and makes the movie look like a lot of fun.

Four more posters were later released, three of which showed extreme close-ups of the eyeballs of Kermit, Animal and Piggy with the fourth pulling the camera out a bit and showing those three along with Beaker and Gonzo.

The parody aspect of the campaign that had primarily been confined to trailers (see below) spilled over into the posters toward the end with a series of one-sheets featuring Kermit, Piggy and Rolf as characters from the Twilight movies.

The Trailers

The first teaser trailer debuted in front of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean earlier this year but both the real-life and online versions of it took a very fun approach.

The trailer starts out like it’s selling a romantic comedy starring Segal and Adams. The two are very much in love but he messes up and has to try and make it up to her and so on. It’s only when the voice over guy starts introducing the cast and gets to Kermit and Piggy that we realize this is a Muppet movie. The studio went all in with the conceit, initially releasing the trailer under the name “Green With Envy,” which is how it appeared on Apple’s trailer’s page – complete with poster – and was used for the YouTube channel and Facebook page as well.

Outside of that bit of good natured bait-and-switch, the trailer doesn’t show very much. We get that there is a romantic story in here and that there will be lots of singing and big production numbers, which should be fun, but not much else. That’s alright since this is just about announcing the movie and not much else. So it works very well.

Another one followed shortly thereafter that played kind of like a parody of The Hangover, with scenes of chaos and fake quotes from fake publication about how funny these movies occasionally are.

The next one would use the just-about-to-come-out Green Lantern as its source material, with Kermit reciting a variation on that character’s iconic oath, before there were actually a couple of plot points revealed, the first such indicators in the campaign to date. There was also a winking at the audience about how long the creators are going to milk this parody hook before they get to the real marketing. As with the others this is kind of great.

Finally the trailer marketing began in earnest with a spot that outlines what the plot of the movie is, at least in general. Kermit is working to get the whole gang back together again after some hard times have fallen on the franchise. While we see plenty of Walter, the new character that’s introduced in the movie, we don’t get a proper introduction to him here. There are challenges put in the groups way that lead to hijinks and all in all it looks very clever, funny and charming. While it does indeed play more straight than the previous trailers in that it’s not an outright parody of something else that doesn’t mean it’s any less meta, with lots of inside jokes and winks to the audience, but that’s all good since it comes off as being very funny. The only fear here is that all those jokes are in the trailer here so when they’re put into the context of the movie as a whole they could land more flatly than they really should.

After that there was another parody trailer created that, in my opinion, was the best one yet. This one took on the trailer for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, featured an awesome song and lots of winking at the audience via on-screen text.

Then there was a “Fan-a-Thon” trailer released that had Piggy making a personal appeal for people to Like the movie’s Facebook page in order to get an early advanced look at the movie. Fozzy, Kermit and Gonzo would also appear in similar videos.

The next trailer – not a parody or spoof – gets even more into the story by introducing Segal, Adams and their little friend – as the troop’s biggest fans. We see that they’re not exactly welcome in Hollywood anymore and that their name recognition isn’t what it used to be. So they have to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and prove themselves all over again. We get lots of scenes from the show they eventually put on and everything else and it continues to look like it’s just a lot of fun all around.

The meta circle was complete with one that started out by having a little bit of fun by creating a parody of their own trailers while also working in some nods to Paranormal Activity, Happy Feet, Twilight and more. It was more or less exactly what was needed to put a bow on this effort, especially since this one included a “Thank you, internet” note as well as one at the end saying this completed that part of the campaign. Good stuff.


The official website for the movie opens by playing one of the later, non-parody trailers.

After that finishes or you choose to skip it the first thing you can do either by clicking the “Characters” menu item or just by selecting one of the images that’s presented on screen is dive into the characters of the movie. Each one of those sections has information about the character as well as Wallpapers, Buddy Icons, games and film clips that are specific to them.

The next section, “About the Movie” has a Story synopsis that goes into the adversity the Muppets have to overcome to regain success as well as a Cast section that’s still more about the characters and a Crew section that is still labeled as “Coming Soon.”

“Video Clips” has most of the trailers, both parody and non-parody as well as other videos, some of which are the great Muppet song covers from the last couple years, some of which are Disney channel coverage and then a bunch of other stuff.

There are about 14 stills in the “Gallery.” “Products” has information on the stuff you can buy, from the soundtrack to a mobile game to various toys and more.

There’s then a link to the “Fan-A-Thon” that’s been mentioned before. “Games has some fun casual games featuring different characters.

There are plenty of Wallpapers, Buddy Icons and a Screensaver in the “Downloads” section. “Activities” stuff to make that ranges from a theater playset to instructions on making candy with the faces of Kermit and the others.

Finally there’s a link to the “never-ending  manna manna phenomena” that asks you to make your own video with those famous lyrics, which will then be inserted in a never-ending stream of clips, which is kind of a fun idea.

That last feature is the first thing you see when you hit the movie’s Facebook page, though there are of course lots of tabs with links to the various trailers and more along with plenty of updates on the Wall that track the movie’s publicity activity.

The @muppetstudio has been been taken over by Statler and Waldorf, who use it to sling their usual barbs at the the other Muppets and discourage people from seeing the movie. The Muppet Studio YouTube page, which has been the hub of Muppet activity for the last couple years, has all the trailers and clips and other video snippets.

The Muppets were also one of the first brands to get a Google+ Page, which has been used to share videos and other updates.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A new Marvel-published comic was announced that would act as a reintroduction to the characters who, in the story, trying to revitalize their careers.

The return to the big screen also came with some promotional partners, including Wonderful Pistachios, which produced a commercial with Kermit promoting the naturally green snack.

The Muppets would also appear in a promotional video that also served as a message to not talk or text while at the theater. The spot was produced specifically for AMC Theaters and presumably ran during their pre-show entertainment blocks.

In addition to that there was a campaign that partnered the characters with Underwriters Labortories for a household safety based effort. There was also a cool partnership with Threadless that offered some nice custom designed t-shirts featuring the characters.

Media and Publicity

The film certainly got a dramatic launch. After rumors and reports had been circulating for a few months that Segal and others, avowed fans of the Muppets and such (see the inclusion of the puppet vampire musical in Forgetting Sarah Marshall) were circling a Muppets project and may have even been signed to create a new movie. Then at Disney’s D23 fan conference in September of 2009 the movie was officially announced and a title revealed, officially kicking off the buzz campaign for it.

It then continued to solidify its hipster credentials with the announcement the film would be directed by James Bobin, one of the co-creators of “Flight of the Conchords,” which also served the purpose of giving the film some musical bonafides to fall back on. That was followed by news that not only was Segal helping to write the script but that he would star in the film as well.

A steady amount of buzz around the Muppets in general was created through the release of a steady stream of videos featuring the characters singing songs such as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Dust in the Wind” and plenty of others. The idea behind these – all of which were fun and many of which bordered on brilliant – was to get the Muppets back at the top of people’s minds well in advance of the movie’s release so that when that time came the audience was large, multi-generational and comfortable with the idea of once again spending time with these characters.

Much like the Tron sequel, the movie benefited from some insights from the Pixar crew, with reports the script was taken to Pixar HQ for a table read (Hollywood Reporter, 7/21/10) that was intended to solicit feedback from the Pixar “Brain Trust” and get their thoughts before filming started.

After a period of silence, a new round of publicity started with an Entertainment Weekly spread that featured Segal surrounded by the characters, including Walter, the new Muppet that is the audience’s main point of entry into the story. This contained not only a good look at the characters but also the clearest and most official synopsis of the plot to date.

Later on there was news that Disney was putting a Toy Story short, the second or third that’s been produced, in front of the movie, something that got everyone talking once again about the Muppets and also made going to see the film even more attractive.

The movie was one of several that Disney brought to the CinemaCon exhibition trade show, where footage from the film was shown to attendees and Segal and Adams appeared (THR, 3/29/11) and talked about the film, including the challenges Segal faced in writing the movie(Los Angeles Times, 3/29/11) as he tried to stay true to the spirit of the franchise, the financial restraints he was operating in and just the logistics of shooting, all of which forced him to come up with inventive solutions to various problems.

There were also feature stories (New York Times, 4/11/11) about how this was the franchise’s big bet on a revival and how previous efforts in the last 10 years or so have all hit some sort of roadbump that’s killed them. So Disney is betting on a big, star-studded motion picture to finally kick things off in a manner befitting the characters and finally see some value to owning the characters.

Two years after its first appearance there the movie returned to Disney’s D23 fan convention (LAT, 8/17/11). There the studio put on a brief presentation with Segal and Kermit showing some clips from the movie that, much to her dismay, did not involve Miss Piggy.

Unfortunately the next bit of press would not be completely positive, as many of the “old hands” that were involved with the Muppets in years past and other “purists” started to question whether the movie was a worthy entry into the canon or something that distorted the characters they loved or were involved with (THR, 10/20/11). Odds are good, though that those fears are overblown and that while maybe not the movie *they* would have made it’s still respectful of the characters while also bringing them into a new generation that’s only been exposed to the lackluster straight-to-DVD entries of the last few years.

Closer to release things turned around with profiles of Segal (Wired, 11/1/11) and assurances from him that there would be lots of zany antics (LAT, 11/4/11) and how the mood on the set was generally upbeat (LAT, 11/6/11) with everyone having lots of fun. Further positive press stories would be scored that talked about how hands-off Disney was during the creative process (NYT, 11/20/11) despite the risks and potential rewards there were to be had by bringing the characters – and the franchise – to a new generation of moviegoers. There was also plenty of general stories about reviving the franchise (Fast Company, Nov 2011) and so on.

The Muppets also joined Segal in the opening of “Saturday Night Live” when he was hosting just before release.


Hey, what’s not to like here? This is a big campaign, that’s for certain but there’s something here for everyone, from those of us who grew up with “The Muppet Show” on TV every week and saw all the three original movies in theaters to those who are the kids of folks my age.

The main thing, at least the component that has garnered the most press attention, is the part of the campaign made up with the parody trailers. And while those were fun and all I’m more excited about the other stuff, the parts that sold the film more directly since they showed a movie that seems to be very much in line with the spirit of the original incarnations of this franchise. So the posters, trailers and website are what have me anticipating the film.

But it certainly isn’t a small effort. Disney is obviously hoping this is the kind of relaunch that it can capitalize on for several years on a number of fronts and has given it a campaign of suitable size. But again it’s the talent of those involved and the promise of a good-natured time at the theater that has most broadest appeal here and that comes through loud and clear.

Movie Marketing Madness: Tower Heist

The last several years have left more than a few folks feeling like they’ve been willing participants in their own robberies. Money that we were assured would be available to us dried up and disappeared because of the greed and subsequent shady dealings of certain individuals who are in the financial system. Not that things need to be no more complex than the dimmest person can understand but some of the ways that money was moved around – and eventually lost – are confusing even to the most logical of laymen.

The new movie Tower Heist is about a group who decides to do what many of us have wanted to do: Get even with those who lost our money. The residents and employees of a high-end apartment building, including Josh (Ben Stiller), Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick) and Charlie (Casey Affleck) among others all trusted a wealthy resident (Alan Alda) with substantial amounts of their money But one day they find he’s embezzled it and it’s all gone. So they enlist Slide (Eddie Murphy), a thief who once hit the building, to help them steal their money back. Wackiness, of course, ensues.

The Posters

The movie’s first poster is primarily concerned with selling the movie as an ensemble film. So Stiller, Murphy, Broderick and the rest of the crew are shown leaning against a building and looking very cocky. The copy “It’s not a robbery, it’s payback” does a decent job of setting up the story without actually telling the audience very much. But honestly the campaign is probably designed just to convince people that they should just sit back and not worry about plot holes because the cast is so charming. So the lack of any story points here beyond what are obvious is likely by design and not something that’s keeping anyone up at night.

The second one-sheet cut out everyone aside from Stiller and Murphy and, oddly, took out any and all copy aside from their names and the rest of the credits. The idea here, obviously, is that the audience should be attracted to the film by the presence of these two stars and little else. No plot description is necessary apparently and the fact that these two are in the film should in and of itself be enough to fill seats.

The Trailers

The first trailer is all about laying out the basic premise of the movie’s story. We meet the gang that works at a posh New York City high rise apartment and one of its residents, a high-profile Wall Street type. Everything is going fine until he’s arrested for fraud and the workers in the building find out the pensions he’s been managing for them are now completely gone. Stiller and a few others determine to get what they can back, though, and set out to steal whatever cash that might be laying around in order to exact some revenge and get their losses back. Being novices, though, the need and expert and so recruit Murphy’s character, a professional thief. But of course things don’t go very smoothly and lots of wackiness ensues as they run into all sorts of problems.

The trailer shows that the movie hits all the notes you’d expect such a story to but the most surprising thing about is that Eddie Murphy actually looks like he’s legitimately funny. That’s something that hasn’t happened in 10+ years and, honestly, his interplay with Stiller looks like it might be worth checking out in and of itself. It reminds me of some of Murphy’s best work in the 80’s and hopefully marks a return to form for him.

Unfortunately not everyone was thrilled with the trailer, as actor Greg Grunberg reacted very badly to the line about Stiller’s character being a “seizure boy.” That outrage was the result of Grunberg having an epileptic son, something that’s sure to change your perspective on things.

A second trailer hit many of the same notes though slightly rearranged. We still get the setup that Alda’s banker has lost money from all of the employees of the building he lives in and that a select few are determined to rob form him to get it back. We get a few different scenes, particularly of Murphy teaching the group how to be criminals but that’s about it that separates it from the first one.


The official website loads and the first thing I notice (aside from the recreation of the poster key art that makes up the primary image) is how devoted to social sharing the top of the site is. There’s a scroll of updates from people on Twitter who have used the hashtag #towerheist or who have otherwise mentioned the movie. It’s a curated feed, of course.

Outside of that the front page allows you to get some ringtones, download a song from iTunes from the movie’s soundtrack and play the “Heist it Back” game that is mentioned more below. There’s also prompts to check in on GetGlue to unlock character stickers and more and an invitation to play an 8-bit game version of the movie.

Moving beyond all that end Entering the Site the first thing there are images of the main characters that, when you mouse over them, give you a one-sentence description of the character and their motivations.

Accessing the Menu, which is arranged like the schematics of a building, the first section is “Video” and there you’ll find just the two Trailers. “Downloads” has some Wallpapers, Buddy Icons and Ringtones.

Hitting “The Film” section you’ll be able to read a halfway decent Story synopsis but the Cast and Crew information along with the Production Notes are all only available as PDF downloads. That’s odd for Cast/Crew.

The “Gallery” has just five stills from the movie, though the way they’re arranged in a nice endless scroll gives the initial impression that there are many more.

Finally the “Features” just has links to play the same games that are listed on the front page.

The movie’s Facebook page ports over or links to a lot of the games and other features from the official site and, of course, hosts the games that use Facebook as part of their mechanisms. There are also lots of videos – including tons of 30-second TV commercials – and photos along with the regular updates on press and marketing activities. There was also a Twitter profile that contained many of those updates.

There was a kind of cool online scavenger hunt run, with clues hidden across Facebook that, when found, gave people Facebook Credits that could be used for playing the “Heist it Back” game that brought them into the movie’s story and allowed them to interact with characters.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots began running in late September that certainly sold the movie as an ensemble comedy, setting up the basic plot of a group of people working together to exact a pound of flesh from the corrupt finance guy who stole from all of them and lost their money. A whole bunch of spots were eventually produced though they all, for the most part, hit the same three or four notes though in different ways and in different orders.

Outdoor advertising was done as well, with posters that sold the movie primarily as a Stiller/Murphy partnership, which is hardly surprising.

Media and Publicity

There was a lot of publicity for the film when Ratner, the director here, announced that he had chosen Murphy to host the 2012 Academy Awards ceremony (Hollywood Reporter, 9/6/11), which he was also directing.

Other than that the biggest news around the movie came when it was announced Universal would make it available for video on demand just three weeks after its initial theatrical release (Los Angeles Times, 10/5/11) for $60, though only in a couple markets and only through Comcast. That led to as much outrage from theater owners as it did interest from the press and industry pundits, who will then be watching closely whether its promised availability has an impact in those markets on box-office receipts.

Cinemark and other theater chains later announced they would refuse to book the movie (LAT, 10/10/11), saying they wouldn’t support the studio’s plan to go VOD so soon, something that ultimately led Universal to back down and cancel the experiment (THR, 10/12/11).


There’s a lot I like about this campaign. As I said before it’s single biggest accomplishment may be that I’m somewhat interested in a new movie starring Eddie Murphy, something that hasn’t happened for upwards of 15 years or so. Aside from that this is selling a movie that appears to be entertaining and light weight for the most part, something that’s professionally put together and, unlike many of Brett Ratner’s movies, may not make me actively want to jam a pointed stick into my thorax. Which is a win, really.

More than that the movie is arriving at the time of the Occupy Wall Street movement that’s gripping the nation. I’m sure the studio has at least flirted with the idea of tying this in with that more overtly through the press but the fact that hasn’t happened tells me the idea was rejected. But the coincidental timing may still wind up benefiting the film as people look to it as a fictionalization of the rage they feel and enjoy seeing a group of people act out the kind of personal revenge they’d like to see exacted themselves.