I don’t even know where to start with this. The films of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez have been steadily getting more self-indulgent as the years have progressed. They’ve also been getting incrementally more fun. They’ve amped up the over-the-top violence, they’ve amped up the sexual themes and they’ve amped up just about everything else in their movies. Both are making the sorts of films that are driven more by what they’d like to see than a belief in anything that’s been focus-grouped and sanitized for public consumption.

The latest from the two directors is Grindhouse. Instead of being a single movie it’s actually a double-feature with one film from each director. Tarantino contributes Death Proof, about a psychotic driver who kills chicks and Rodriguez chips in with Planet Terror, about woman and her partner taking on a buttload of zombies. The movies are made to purposefully look like films from the “grindhouse” era, where production values were low and exhibition was often in the seediest parts of town. They’re the kind of movies they grew up appreciating and this is their homage to the movies they love.

As much press has been devoted to the faux trailers that were created by other directors as to the movie itself. The inclusion of such trailers between the two features was an effort by Tarantino and Rodriguez to truly re-created the grindhouse theater experience. Edgar Wright, Rob Zombie and Eli Roth all pitched in with trailers that are just as outrageous and over-the-top (maybe more so) than the features themselves.

The Posters

Grindhouse has gotten a number of posters, most of which play up the two individual movies more than the over-arcing feature. The first teaser posters that were released teased Planet Terror and Death Proof, with only mild branding of Grindhouse.

The final poster did include both mini-features on the same one-sheet and looks very much like one from the era of double features of cheap exploitation films. Which is exactly the point.

The Trailers

By more or less necessity, the trailers have had to promote Grindhouse as opposed to the two features that make it up. That’s because there’s less opportunity in the trailers to play up the gag that it’s two movies when they really need to sell the one. It’s also because there’s more room to promote Grindhouse as containing two movies. It can say “Grindhouse, with features from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez” in a much more understandable way than the posters can.

Before the final theatrical trailer was released the studio put a countdown to its debut on Yahoo Movies.

The Website

When you first click to open the Flash site the image looks like a shaky piece of film, which is kind of cool. When the loading is complete the film breaks and burns (something I’m familiar with after years at a theater) and reveals the entry way to the site’s main content. In one corner is a ‘Grindhouse’ theater with the names of the two movies on the marquee. In the upper left corner are listings for airings of “The Making of Grindhouse” on SpikeTV and Sci-Fi. Next to that are links to buy movie-related books online.

When you click on the theater marquee you’re ushered into a run down theater with posters for the two movies on opposite walls. If you ignore those and continue on into the lobby by clicking on the door there are a ton of interactive options. You can go down one hall to create a “Scream Machine” where you make a “kill the zombie” movie and can send it to a friend. Go down another and you can grab a machine gun and shoot up the lobby. It’s pretty cool.

Selecting one of the movies’ posters from the wall of the lobby brings you into specific content from the movies, including downloadable stuff, trailers and more.

What’s nice is that, if you opt not to completely immerse yourself in the experience, all the content and more is available via a easy to navigate menu at the bottom of the screen. There are sections for Trailers, a Photo Gallery, Characters/Crew, Synopsis, TV Spots and Downloads. There’s also a Grindhouse 101 section to bring those still wondering what these people are talking about up to speed.

There’s also interactive features in the former of a “Make Your Own Trailer” and “Make Your Own Poster” features. The former lets you choose from a whole bunch of text, video, audio and style elements to create your own trailer. Very cool. The latter is similar, providing you with templates, pictures and more, as well as the ability to upload your own photo and put it on the one-sheet. You can then download and save your finished product for passing around and sharing with friends.

The entire site retains the old, rundown movie theater look and transitions from section to section look like film transitions or filmstock problems. It’s one of the very few sites I’ve come across that actually adds something to the film brand experience instead of merely being an afterthought. Most sites seem like the marketers bought the domain and then realized they had to do *something* with it so just splashed a bit of content up there. This is part of the Grindhouse brand and it’s a strong part of the campaign.

Advertising & Cross Promotions

TV spots for Grindhouse were almost impossible to avoid if you watched TV for more than an hour or so – at least on certain cable stations. The majority of spots I saw were running on stations like Comedy Central and others that are targeted at a young, male demographic. That includes TNT, which ran a number of ads there were on the cusp of co-branding the station with the movie. One that I wrote about before presented the movie’s commercial withing the framework of the network’s “We Know Drama” copy point and position statement.

The Weinstein Co. also bought out all the commercial time within the FX Network premiere of “The Riches” to make is solely sponsored by the movie. That enabled the show to run with limited commercial breaks, all of which were Grindhouse-trailers.

The cast of the movie(s) appeared at various events around a NASCAR race a couple weeks ago as well.

Overall

While I think the marketing campaign for Grindhouse is great (especially the website) I highly doubt the movie will have any appeal outside the niche audience that follows Tarantino and Rodriguez. That’s not the fault of the campaign but of the filmmakers. And it’s not even so much that it’s their problem. They obviously made these movies for themselves and people like them so if it connects with that core audience then the movie can be considered a success. Along those same lines I’d like to point once more to Clayton’s post on MM,I about turning Grindhouse into a “Tales From the Crypt”-esque brand that can release multiple movies under a single banner.

All in all this is a very good campaign. The only hurdle to its success will be the outsized expectations of the press, which has been mixed in early reviews of the movie.

2 Comments

  1. “I highly doubt the movie will have any appeal outside the niche audience that follows Tarantino and Rodriguez.”

    Yup, I think that’s a BIG part of the reason the movie tanked this weekend. They created a very niche product and were then shocked when mainstream audiences didn’t show up.

    Duh.

    Vic

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