Rent – Marketing Recap

rent posterWhen Rent opened off-Broadway in 1996, it was pretty cutting edge. After all, there weren’t many musicals out there using rock (or pop) music. The big-budget Disney stuff was just beginning and nobody at the time thought a musical based on the songs of ABBA was something anyone sober would think seriously about. It’s taken ten years to get a big-screen adaptation made and the world has changed, both in terms of society (AIDS isn’t the hot-button issue it once was in the U.S.) and artistically (Chicago and Moulin Rouge have skewed everyone’s opinion of what a movie musical should look like).

So it likely has been difficult for the Sony marketing team to figure out how to sell the movie. The best bet – and one they seem to have gone with – is to play to the fans of the stage show. Play up the musical numbers, highlight the original cast members who returned for the movie and keep the pace going. Don’t focus on AIDS. Also, try to keep people’s minds off the fact that the cast is ten years older than the characters are supposed to be and that hack director Chris Columbus is behind the camera.

The Posters

The best thing the design department did was keep the same – I mean the exact same – look and layout of the stage show’s poster. The main characters are shown in a style that evokes signs pasted onto plywood. It creates an immediate connection between the audience and the movie by bringing back memories of the show. Good call on this one.There are also a series of eight character-centric posters. These are in the same style as the main poster and indeed most are just blow-ups of that character’s portion. They’re all very colorful and serve wonderfully as computer desktop wallpaper. Very cool stuff.

The Trailers

There’s not much to say about these trailers other than they sent chills down my spine. The teaser, at about 2:30, sets scenes from the movie against the iconic song from the show “Seasons of Love.” The theatrical version, which interestingly is a minute shorter than the teaser, uses “No Day But Today” and actually features a bit of dialogue from the movie. Both are extremely effective at selling the movie to existing fans though I’m not sure about attracting a new audience. The second one also features a bit of annoying voiceover that informs us the musical “defined a generation.” Really? Cause no one told me about that. Other than that these rock.

The Website

Most of the site contains the usual material about the film, it’s production and the cast and filmmakers, along with the normal array of downloadable material such as wallpapers and AIM icons. Let’s focus on the section labeled “Blog.”I’ve already opined (here and here) on the shortcomings and limitation of the official Rent blog so I won’t rehash those complaints, though they’re still valid. No RSS, only video and much of it just clips from the movie are the basic problems I have. But there is something in this section that Sony is doing right.

When you open the “Blog” section you not only have access to the official blog but they also give you a quick tutorial on what a blog is and how to create and use them. They even link to some of the more popular blogging platforms out there. Additionaly, you can download templates to use in either Blogger or LiveJournal that are Rent-themed.

That is a fantastic way to empower fans of the movie. By creating easy-to-use mechanisms to spread the word and facilitating that effort Sony really has taken a giant leap toward embracing the power of the blogosphere. Good on them.

Overall

Well I’m going to see it. If they can convince everyone who saw the stage production to see the movie they’ll have a hit on their hands, especially with a little penetration into the other group not already familiar with it. The song-centric approach to the trailers is especially great as is the repurposing of the original poster design for the movie’s one-sheet. The more they can do to increase the emotional ties between the original show and the movie the better the odds they’ll get a large number of people to come see it in the theater.

You can read two reviews of the movie – which opens today – at FilmThreat by Pete Vonder Haar or at Cinematical by Karina Longworth.