Going to the movies

At least theater owners and studios realize that they’re at least partly to blame – it can’t *all* be piracy’s fault – for the dwindling number of ticket sales over the last few years, even while price inflation has kept actual revenue up. As Anne Thompson says if everything looks like something the audience has just seen or even already owns on home video there’s little reason to head out to the theater. Even if studios do move forward with premium VOD plans, though, theaters are still the best place to see movies, even non-effects driven tentpole fetures.

Movie Marketing Madness: Super

super-movie-posterLast year movie audiences were treated to a post-modern take-down/indictment of the super hero conceit in the form of Kick-Ass. Based on the popular Mark Millar graphic novel of the same name the story there was about a high school student and other societal outcasts who decided that heroes didn’t need to just exist in the comics and didn’t require actually possessing special powers. All one needed was a costume and the determination to right some wrongs. The movie was generally well regarded among fans and was a modest hit but didn’t really break fully in to the mainstream audience.

Coming out this week with a slightly more adult take on a similar concept is Super from director James Gunn. In the wake of his wife (Liv Tyler) leaving him for a drug-dealing scumbag (Kevin Bacon), something snaps within otherwise mild-mannered Frank D’Arbo (Rainn Wilson) and he decides he’s had it up to here with crime both big and small. So he costumes up and adopts the identity of the Crimson Bolt, who takes people on sporting little more than a huge plumber’s wrench. He soon attracts the attention of young Libby (Ellen Page) who joins him as his crime-fighting sidekick Boltie. The two then confront demons both public and personal while also evading actual law enforcement.

The Posters

The movie’s first poster was pretty good. While it’s mostly red it’s supposed to be the same mask that’s worn by Wilson’s character in the movie with his mouth and eyes the only things visible beneath the mask. Coming from his mouth is a word balloon which has him saying “Shut up, crime!” which is an absolutely fantastic catch phrase and which is only slightly better than the copy at the bottom that says “He’ll totally f**king beat evil.”

All that put together means a poster that’s certainly going to get those who enjoy these sorts of tongue in cheek movies and the sense of humor clearly distinguishes it from last year’s deconstruction of the super hero genre, Kick-Ass.

A later version of the same conceit – this time with Page’s face barely visible behind a green mask and the words “Wanna go fight some crime” – was released around the same time as the movie’s appearance at SXSW 2011. The copy on this one is also different, telling us that “She’ll totally f**king beat evil.”

Four more posters were released a little bit later that kind of took the form of public service announcements, coming off as the kind of things that might be stapled to a power post along the sidewalk in a rough neighborhood. Two warned “Line-butters” and “Pedophiles” that the Crimson Bolt was in their hood and two others did the same for “Car keyers” and “Drug pushers,” only those let people know that Boltie would be patrolling the streets.


The Trailers

The first trailer for the movie was all kinds of fantastic. We open by meeting Frank and are introduced to his current situation, which is that he’s lost his wife to another man. So he heads to a comic book shop to start researching super heroes as he decides he’s going to become one. This leads to him violently beating various criminals and eventually taking on Page’s character as his sidekick. But it all comes back to him losing his wife as we see him confront Bacon’s character, who’s actually a drug dealer. In between the footage from the film there are comic-like segments that show the characters either fully animated or highlighted against pop-art backgrounds.

It’s just great, showing the movie to be a more grown up – and potentially much darker – version of last year’s Kick Ass. Wilson looks like he gives just a great performance as a man who’s obviously not dealing with things in the most constructive or socially acceptable way. We get too short a shot of Nathan Fillion here, but that’s the only thing that doesn’t absolutely work about this spot.


Unfortunately the movie’s official website is pretty basic and doesn’t have much going on. There’s a variety of videos, a photo gallery, synopsis and cast list but that’s about it. There’s been more of interest to find by following either the movie’s official Twitter account or the feeds of Rainn Wilson, Nathan Fillion, Ellen Page or anyone else.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I think I’ve seen some online advertising done on specialty film sites but that’s about it.

Media and Publicity

The movie’s publicity – really its marketing as a whole – really kicked off at Comic-Con 2010, where the convention crowd was treated to a panel presentation with the stars and filmmakers as well as a trailer preview and more looks at the style of the movie.

It was then taken go the Toronto International Film Festival to build some more buzz among the press and moviegoers there, especially as a result of its inclusion in the Midnight Madness portion of the festival, a strategy that worked considering it also came out of Toronto with a deal from IFC Films.

Shortly before release it had what amounted to a public coming out party by screening at SXSW 2011 (Filmmaker Magazine, 2/2/11), an event where Gunn also wound up leading a panel discussion about the movie along with Wilson and Page. At SXSW Gunn was also interviewed (Los Angeles Times, 3/12/11) as to who his super hero inspirations were and why he’s so interested in working outside of traditional genre definitions.

As alluded to above, there was also plenty of conversation about the movie happening on Twitter thanks to the promotion of it by the main cast members, who kept people talking about it and generally helped it stay somewhere near the top of most people’s minds.


The biggest thing this campaign has going for it is that it seems to share the same disturbed, quirky sense of humor that the movie apparently has. It seems to revel in making the audience uncomfortable. But it also presents a relatively straight-forward narrative for what appears to be a very subversive movie, so there’s the probability that some audiences who haven’t been tuned in to the buzz (and I’m not sure who they’d be since being tuned in to the buzz is the primary way people will likely know about it to begin with) there’s likely to be even more uncomfortableness in theaters.

The campaign itself works in selling what’s certainly an offbeat comedy with one of the greatest deadpan comedians in recent history. Wilson owns this campaign and it’s on his shoulders more than anything that the marketing falls. The marketing is funny, weird and certainly attractive to people who are looking offbeat laughs.

Movie Marketing Madness: Source Code

If you watch enough police or other sorts of procedural shows you’ll inevitably see a couple of folks sitting down over a computer or TV to review footage pulled from a surveillance camera at the crime scene or other place of interest. They’re looking for clues to the crime, trying to reconstruct what happened, verify someone’s alibi or garner some other sort of fact that will help in the investigation. I’m not sure how often this happens in the real world but it does make for interesting TV as people zoom in and focus on various details.

The new movie Source Code, the latest from director Duncan Jones, has a much more futuristic, science-fiction take on crime scene reconstruction. Jake Hyllenhaal stars as Colter Stevens, a soldier who is tapped to take part in the investigation into the planting of a bomb on a suburban Chicago commuter train in order to stop a larger attack that’s been threatened. To do so his mind and personality is actually placed into the body of a man who was there through some sort of elaborate process. But the man whose body he inhabits has a companion on the train, Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan). Stevens is sent back over and over again to the last eight minutes before the train explodes to find the terrorist by his superiors Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) and Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright) who run the Source Code project and who want him to focus on the mission and not so much on saving Christina, which he begins to see as just as important as his primary task.

The Posters

The first poster was quite a good one. It shows Gyllenhaal running toward the camera with gun in hand as photos and snapshots, some of which contain images of Farmiga and Monaghan, surround him. They’re either falling down around him or he’s outrunning the collapse of the ground he’s running on and those behind him are falling up. It’s not super clear which but I’d guess it’s the second option since it would play in more closely with the idea that Gyllenhaal’s character is outrunning the clock, something that’s also emphasized by the “Make every second count” copy at the top?

The poster works by selling what appears to be a simple action movie that has some sort of sci-fi premise. It also makes an appeal to arthouse and specialty film audiences by mentioning below the title that this comes from the director of Moon, which had a lot of buzz around it and attracted Jones a significant following.

A very cool piece of art was created exclusively for the movie’s premiere at SXSW 2011 that almost looks like something that would have been used for a serialized magazine thriller 60 or 70 years ago. It shows a silhouetted figure walking away from the camera along a clock that’s made out of train tracks. It’s just great in how it manages to get a couple different elements of the movie’s story in an intriguing and compelling way that’s much more interesting than just throwing the star’s face above the title.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts off by throwing the audience off its guard as Gyllenhaal wakes up on a commuter train apparently in someone else’s body just moments before the train blows up. We then see he’s part of a government project that puts his mind in someone’s body just moments before they die in an attempt to find who set off the bomb. He’s sent back into that situation time and time again, each time trying to build upon what he’s learned last time. Ultimately he decides to try and not only stop the bomber but also save the woman he’s been talking with each time he goes back. The tension ramps up as he attempts to defy his military handlers, who appear to be having their own troubles as well.

It’s a tightly paced trailer that works well to lay out the overall premise of the movie and get the audience invested in the characters by grounding them in the reality of the situation as it exists in that world even if it doesn’t work in ours.

From the trailer

(An exception to that statement, though, is in the shot of the Chicago skyline that’s seen at 1:09 into the trailer. The Sears Tower is to the left of the Hancock, meaning the train is coming in to the city from the east. The only problem here is that, as you may know, this means the train would be coming in from the middle of Lake Michigan. Based on where Sears is in this shot that’s either the Eisenhower or the Kennedy expressways, but it’s not either since I don’t think Metra trains run that close to either that close to the city. Also, the buildings have been rearranged so that the Aon Center is on the other side of the Hancock, so it’s not a perfect picture of the skyline either. Yes, I’m going to harp on this.)


Chicago from the west in real life

The second trailer that was released was only a minute long and so doesn’t have all the nuance that the first one did. We still get the gist of the setup but without some of the character shading, particularly from Gyllenhaal. We still get that he’s defying his superiors in trying to not only find the bomber but also save the woman he keeps meeting but that’s about it. It plays less like a truncated trailer and more like an extended TV spot so I’m not sure exactly what the target was for this particular spot.


The movie’s official website opens by playing the movie’s trailer, which you can close when you want.

There are three ways to find out about playing the “Source Code Mission” (more on this below) either by clicking the “Become part of the movie website” text, the “Enter the Source Code” button or the mobile code toward the bottom of the screen. In fact the site seems to be primarily focused on that game since it’s also what first greats you when you Enter the Site.

The “Story” section has a good overview of the movie’s plot. “Videos” has the trailer, three TV spots for the movie, an extended version of the first five minutes from the movie and a featurette that attempts to explain what the movie’s concept exactly is. Finally the “Gallery” has a half-dozen stills from the movie.

The Facebook page for the movie also emphasizes the Source Code Mission with an immediate prompt to enter and play. There’s also a “Buzz” tab that has some video and a stream of updates from Jones’ Twitter account or which mention that account or the movie. There are also some games, other videos, photos and Wall updates on the movie’s promotional activity.

There was also, as I mentioned above, an online game focused on the site Source Code Mission that got people working. The game was triggered when people scanned the Microsoft Tag (similar to a QR code) that appears at the bottom of the movie’s poster. The game was based loosely on the movie’s plot and had as its reward the chance to win a trip to SXSW 2012 if you were able to complete five tasks online.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV commercials started to run around the end of February like this one that did a decent job of setting up the stakes and the premise, showing Gyllenhaal being ripped out of the present and onto the train as it explodes over and over again. There’s some exposition from the Army officers who keep sending him back about what the Source Code is and what his mission is that should make at least some in the audience interested in checking it out. It’s certainly sold as an action flick more than anything, though I suspect the movie itself has more to say than just that. But this is mass marketing so it has to be presented in as accessible way as possible.

There were also online ads that used a combination of the poster key art and clips from the trailer in video units and outdoor advertising that, again, repurposed the poster design.

Media and Publicity

After the release of the first trailer, the next biggest push of publicity and buzz was when it was announced (Filmmaker Magazine, 12/16/10) that the movie had been chosen as the opening night feature for the 2011 SXSW Film Festival. Also at SXSW, Jones was picked to lead a panel discussion where he planned to talk about his upcoming movie.

At SXSW both Jones and Gyllenhaal were in attendance (Hollywood Reporter, 3/12/11) and watched the movie become one of the first buzz breakouts from the festival, which is more or less exactly what everyone expected to happen.

There was a definite appeal in the wake of SXSW and the release of the tag-based game by the studio to tech-based media. Unfortunately in some cases that didn’t turn out all that well, with the expectations of studios who are used to overly-fawning press running headlong into how outlets that usually cover start-ups and other technology companies operate. The odd thing is that there wasn’t anything negative in TechCrunch’s original story but apparently either it wasn’t positive enough or the studio staffer was just having an overly sensitive day.


I like 95% of this campaign, mostly in terms of the poster, trailer and publicity efforts. The one thing I don’t necessarily care for is the online component. While I think the “Mission” thing for Facebook and mobile was interesting and certainly a new way to engage audiences offline with something entertaining I just don’t think it has a low enough barrier to entry to participation to make it a truly mass-market effort. I may be missing the point but I think that, especially on the official website, the emphasizing of that over other information about the movie and its actors or crew is a missed opportunity.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that more and more campaigns will find ways to integrate mobile components like this into their attempts to reach the audience but this just doesn’t seem to be it. I’m certainly not knocking the ambition of Jones or whomever was behind this effort but I would have liked to have seen more traditional content on the website as opposed to the repeated appeals to play the same game, only to find more on the Facebook page than was there.

Movie Marketing Madness: Rubber

rubber_ver2Evil, in the movies, comes in all shapes and sizes. You have the cultured, polite exceptional that is Hans Gruber, the emotionless compressed-air toting Anton Chigurh, the rampaging monsters of B-movie films from the 1950s and everything inbetween. Some don’t consider themselves evil even as they continue to oppress or terrorize the people around them and some know how bad they are and revel in it.

But most of them are, at the very least, some form of living creature.

Not so in the new movie Rubber. Here the antagonist is actually a newly sentient rubber tire that springs to life for an unknown reason in the middle of a desert in the American southwest. Soon he discovers he has the power to kill any living thing with the power of his “mind” and goes on a rampage across the desert, becoming fixated on a young woman on her own trip.

It is, to say the least, odd.

The Posters

The movie’s poster sets an interesting tone for the film, coming across as a cross between Warhol-esque artwork and grindhouse exploitation flick. Working down from the top, it features a terrible, terrible pun in “Are you TIRED of the expected?,” a picture of a tire with an evil eye in the middle and then a bright red bottom-half with the title and credits. It’s more than a little surreal and alternately pretty creepy and darkly amusing. It sets up the premise that the villain of the movie is that tire with tongue firmly in cheek.

The second poster just went for the ridiculous instead of the sublime, putting the titular tire in the middle of a B-movie type one-sheet as a huge object that’s being leaned against by a beautiful woman (presumably the one we’ll see in the trailer that he’s pursuing for some reason) and being stared at by the beleaguered deputy that is in turn pursuing the homicidal bit of vulcanized rubber. All that is set against a sleazy roadside motel. The fact that this one is painted just ups the cheese factor.

The Trailer

Honestly if the trailer were all that was ever produced this would be one of the best short films of the year. We’re introduced to this villainous tire, which seemingly comes to life after being half-buried in the desert before going on a murderous rampage for reasons that remain its own. The sheriffs that encounter it don’t know what to make of it and try to track it down, including eventually using a mannequin to lure it out. But it seems fixated on hunting down young women in seedy hotel rooms and killing people seemingly by shooting them in the head.

It’s absolutely ridiculous but it’s kind of hard to tell from the trailer whether the movie as a whole plays this idea straight or if it’s winking at the audience the entire time. Either way, it’s among the craziest things I’ve seen in quite a while.

A later red-band version that was released was about 85% the same trailer, with a few new shots thrown in. The main things that made it an age-restricted release were the more graphic shots of first a rabbit and then someone’s head exploding.


The movie’s official website is rather sparse, but that’s largely because this is a small-budget movie getting limited theatrical release in addition to going on-demand. The trailer is there as is a Photo Gallery of images, Synopsis, Cast and Crew credits and information buying tickets and where the movie is playing in theaters.

There’s also a Facebook page for the film that similarly has photos and some video along with links to some of the press the movie has earned and other updates.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing here that I’ve come across.

Media and Publicity

The movie got a glitzy coming out by premiering at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, where it received almost universally negative reviews by the “serious” movie commentators there. But the buzz has improved significantly since then as more fans of genre and offbeat movies have seen it.

Publicity ramped up closer to release included profiles of Blake Robbins (Boston Herald, 3/27/11), who plays the sheriff who hunts down the homicidal tire and director Dupieux (Lost Angeles Times, 3/27/11) who talked about how and why he made such an outrageous movie.


If there’s a complaint that has no place in reviewing this campaign it’s that the marketing takes the movie too seriously. On the contrary there’s nary a frame that’s shown or any other component that isn’t actively winking at the audience about how ridiculous this whole conceit is. That’s not to say it isn’t good – especially in terms of trying to reach the people who are into movies like Scanners and other classic horror films that have crazy concepts. They’re the ones who have latched on to the movie and who may turn it into a cult classic over a period of time.

QOTD: 3/24/11

From Michael Phillips’ review of Sucker Punch:

So is the film’s rating. “Sucker Punch” got by with a PG-13. I’d like someone to see it, and then see “Win Win,” which got an R rating for a few “F” words, and then defend the Motion Picture Association of America’s Ratings and Classifications board and their priorities with a straight face.

Movie Marketing Madness: Sucker Punch

sucker punch movie posterBy now any serious aficionado of science-fiction/fantasy will acknowledge that even if they wouldn’t rank “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” as the best example of using metaphorical demons to represent real life struggles it certainly belongs near the top of that list. Even if you’re among those who feel the high-quality declined somewhat in Seasons 6 and 7 (I don’t agree, by the way. Both seasons have incredible highs and no more cringe-inducing episodes than any other one.) there’s little worth in denying that when the show was firing on all cylinders it was nigh unbeatable.

Looking to tread equally metaphorical ground is the new movie Sucker Punch from director (he’s not being referred to in this campaign as a “visionary director” since that label was widely mocked when used in the marketing for Watchmen) Zach Snyder. The movie tells the story of Babydoll (Emily Browning), who’s brought to a an all-girls detention facility following the murder of her father. The head mistress there is consistently trying to break the wills of Babydoll and the others there. But then Babydoll tries to lead them out of the drudgery of their existence there and into a fantastical realm where they battle robot soldiers, gigantic monsters and more in a quest for freedom that could have implications in the real world.

The Posters

The initial posters for the movie, which like the trailer first hit in the same time period that it was appearing at Comic-Con, were a series of six one-sheets that each showed off a different one of the lead girls. The actress’ name doesn’t appear on them but their character’s name does. All of them are obviously meant to appeal to the fanboy crowd who like their girls showing lots of skin while at the same time being heavily armed.



The series of scantily-clad females were all put together, albeit in separate images, on a promotional banner that was likely used in theaters and other out-of-home locations.


While all the girls were there it was Baby Doll that was at the front and center of the next poster. That one-sheet had all the girls with weapons out and guns a-blazing at whatever the menace they’re facing was while a huge robot thingy marched in the background and masses of soldiers came at them on the ground as well. In the sky we see a burning plane being chased by a dragon. So it comes across as a very, very trippy poster that promises a unique series of visuals to the audience, a promise that’s reinforced by the copy at the top that makes it clear this movie is coming from the same guy behind Watchmen and 300, both of which were notable for their look and feel.

Another series of five more posters, again with each one featuring one of the girls from the boarding house in the midst of some whacked-out battle, was then released. Basically these were another opportunity to show off the insane visuals that are featured in the movie but also the tight and occasionally revealing clothing these girls are wearing.



While I don’t usually cover international posters, this series of retro-designed one-sheets is just to cool not to mention. They’re a bit more sexually explicit where the U.S. posters rely more on innuendo but they are very cool.

The Trailers

The first trailer, which debuted right around the time of it’s Comic-Con 2010 appearance, rightly puts the focus on 1) girls kicking some serious hinder and 2) the outrageous visuals.

It starts off with one of the girls being taken to some sort of sanitarium and being told via voice-over that it’s safe right before she’s told she needs to begin her fight for survival.

Aside from something about escaping, there’s not much story laid out here nor is there one really called for. Instead we get lots of shots of girls with swords, girls with guns and girls fighting monsters with guns and swords. There are Nazi zeppelins, dragons chasing World War II bombers around and other such ridiculousness. The only thing that we can infer about the plot is that it’s Baby Doll’s story we’re following since she’s the one that’s being dragged into the building and whom we see doing the most damage.

The second trailer does go more into the movie’s story, which by definition it would almost have to compared to the first one. We see that Baby Doll has had a troubled life, from losing her parents at an early age to an abusive guardian while older. So she’s shipped off to some sort of penal boarding school where she meets the other characters but dreams of escaping. But then she does escape, only it’s in to some sort of dream world of flying dragons and air battles where she must find five mysterious items in order to be set free.

It’s nice that there’s more emphasis here on revealing the story even if the focus is still squarely on the ridiculous visuals that are exploding all around the characters, particularly once the action shifts to Baby Doll’s dream world. This second trailer, though, manages to find as much of a balance as we can reasonably expect it to given the film it’s tasked with selling. Also, we get to see Scott Glenn, which is cool even if he does seem to have been given the role because he kind of looks like David Carradine sometimes and audiences might draw the connection.

The final trailer eliminated all pretense that story was going to be a major factor in convincing the audience to see the movie or in making the movie cool at all. Instead it’s basically just a music video that starts off with some of the same shots of Baby Doll being abused and fighting back and being dragged off to the asylum and then fighting, along with the other girls, all sorts of crazy monsters and villains. But there’s no dialogue of any sort and instead is just all about showing off the visuals for the movie at enough of a breakneck pace that, it’s hoped, no one notices the fact that character and plot are being put completely on the back burner. It works well enough in that regard.


After the official website takes its sweet time loading up the second trailer begins loading but you can skip that and begin the next wait for more content to load. When that’s finished one of four backgrounds appears that is presented as a scrollable horizontal mural, though with some motion animation. The first shows the five girls brandishing machine guns on the war zone, one shows a samurai statue come to life and attacking Baby Doll and so on.

Activating the menu at the bottom of the page, the first section is “About the Film.” There you’ll find a decent Synopsis that gives more detail on the story than anything else I’ve seen to date as well as Cast and Filmmaker information and PDF Production Notes you can download if you want to read through them.

Surprising for how much video content was produced, the “Videos” section just has one trailer, a Featurette and the footage that was shown at Comic-Con last year. Also surprisingly for such a visual-centric movie there are only five stills in the “Gallery” to view.

The “Downloads” section is much more fully stocked, with lots of Wallpapers, a handful of Buddy Icons and almost (but not quite all) the posters available to download to your desktop. “Art” is somewhat similar but it just has what appear to be concept drawings for the main characters that can be grabbed. There are also the final batch of the originally-released character posters in the “Comic-Con Banners” section.

The tie-ins begin to get some promotion in the “Soundtrack” section, where you can listen to some samples of the tunes on that album. Then there’s “Art Book” which has information on the coffee table edition that showed off the movie’s style and design. Then “Partners” has links to the companies that helped promote the movie in some way and “Sweepstakes” has links to sites that ran some sort of promotional contest.

“Image Factory” is pretty cool, allowing you to create a customized version of one of the wallpapers for use on a desktop or mobile device. You select an image and then can zoom in, crop and so on to optimize that image for the desired device. Similarly the “Trailer Painter” allows you to get a bit creative with the trailer, adding in your own colors and art sensibilities. So some people have inserted painted frames to replace what’s there in random spots. You can then share your creation in a variety of ways.

Finally there are links to the “Sucker Punch Annihilation” game and to the “Shop” where you can buy movie-branded goods.

There’s also, of course, a Facebook page for the movie (though it doesn’t seem to be linked to from the official site) that features Wall updates and more as well as ported-over versions of many of the features from that official website.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A bit of TV advertising was done, with spots being released around the middle of February that take the same basic arc as the second trailer. They start out by showing the events that lead Baby Doll to being sent to the prison/sanitarium/boarding school and then move on to the more fantastical visual elements from the story, all the while tying the fight she’s in with robots and dragons to her emotional journey and desire to escape from where she’s being held.

There were also tons of online ads plastered around the interent, most of them variations on one or more of the character posters and thereby relying on the idea of young women clothed in shorts, high-heel boots and all sorts of leather will prove to be popular online. Other full motion video units also displayed portions of the trailers to try and entice clickers.

Zippo, Hot Topic, Buttkicker and Shuttle were all companies that signed on as promotional partners. The latter two ran sweepstakes rewarding either trips to the movie’s premiere or product of their own while Zippo seemed to be promoting their product integration within the film and Hot Topic was selling movie-branded merchandise as it often does.

Media and Publicity

The initial publicity push was definitely when the movie made an appearance at Comic-Con 2010, with cast and crew in tow. A panel appearance complete with footage being shown made sure the movie received at least a preliminary round of buzz in anticipation of it being released in early 2011. As stated above, the first rounds of marketing materials were released at the same time to continue to try and get people talking.

Later on, after some more marketing materials had been released, there was more discussion about the movie’s look and feel, specifically what influences Snyder brought with him to the production, influences that ranged from Anime to the Terry Gilliam classic Brazil.

The look and feel of the movie got not only a fair amount of press but also its own book, titled “The Art of Sucker Punch,” that went in-depth on how the unique vision of the film was achieved, including concept art, character sketches and more.


Since the campaign’s main goal seems to have been to show off the amazing visuals that Snyder and his creative team have once again put on display then you have to concede the campaign was a success at achieving what it set out to do. What remains to be seen is how much that translates to audience interest.

It’s easy to see a good portion of that audience watching the trailers with their loud, pounding music and corresponding visuals and writing it off as the likely source of a future headache. But it’s also easy to see (because I follow many of them on Twitter) a lot of people in the audience seeing scantily glad girls in amazing anime-inspired visual sequences and thinking this is the coolest thing on the planet.

Snyder’s not becoming the franchise I think many people were expecting him to. Instead he’s someone who caters mainly to the Comic-Con crowd and even then not always successfully. But if I had to guess I’d say this campaign has served primarily to reinforce the desire to see it among those who got first looks at Comic-Con and elsewhere and not expand much beyond that niche, basically becoming the next Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.


JRL is talking about how he’s begun subscribing to the print edition of The New York Times and what that means in the context of his background and such.

Very similar stuff from me on that front. I’ve subscribed to the print edition of the Chicago Tribune for a number of years now, admittedly going through phases where I do or don’t actually read the paper thoroughly.

My love of papers goes back to two things from my childhood:

1) Every Sunday after church my dad would stop for that day’s Trib, which then turned into an all day reading event. First that stop was along Taft Ave. in Berkeley, IL at a non-chain convenience store where, if we were lucky, he’d also agree to pop for some Twinkies or Snowballs or some other tasty treat. Taft is by no means a major thoroughfare but boy we’d run across that street like our tails were on fire. When we changed churches it would be the White Hen along 1st St. in Elmhurst that we’d stop in to. I was older by then so it wasn’t quite as much of a treat but it’s still memorable.

2) My brother and I would spend many of our days, especially during the summer, at our grandparent’s house not too far from our own. Our grandfather read both the Tribune and Sun-Times and would always go down to one of the two local convenience stores to pick them up. Again, when we were younger there would also be a selection of Wacky Packages stickers, baseball cards or some other treat to pick from since these were trips either we’d all make or that the two of us boys would take on our bikes for him, picking something up for ourselves while we were there. And again, the reading of the two daily papers was an all day thing as he absorbed the day’s news.

Reading something in print, with that tactile experience, is just different and more substantial than doing so online. I now respect John on a level even moreso than I already did.


Some public health watchdogs want to require that movie theaters post how many calories are in those gigantic tubs of popcorn you get there, something the theaters aren’t thrilled with since it might mean people choose not to buy them, which would significantly eat into their revenues and profits.

When I worked at the local theater in my hometown we had to buy any candy we wanted but could basically all the popcorn we could while we were on shift. I’m sure I ate my weight each week. So when I die next week…that’s why.

Will QR Codes Fare Better Than RSS?

In speaking recently with Beverly she said one memorable thing about her time at SXSW this year was the pervasiveness of QR codes. Indeed more and more marketers seem to be using them, though the audience for them still seems to be the super-wired users who know what to do with them.

The more I think about QR codes and the potential for widespread adoption and usage the more I keep coming back to RSS and its fate.

A strong case could be made for RSS being the most powerful tool of the Web 2.0 era. It’s what enabled, to a large extent, blogs to be read whether you were using a dedicated reader like Newsgator or Google Reader (a market that’s gone through significant contraction), adding feeds to your MyYahoo homepage or subscribing through Live Bookmarks in Firefox. That leveled the playing field for content distribution since it didn’t require the creation of a formatted email newsletter or other such tool. It also was a time-shifting tool, with feeds simply building up in your reader until you had the time to peruse them, which took a whole lot less time than it would to visit all those sites and check for newly published material.

But RSS never really caught on with the mainstream audience. Even those who were using it were often unaware of the fact that they were doing so, which was usually the case with portal homepage users who didn’t know it was RSS under the hood powering those headlines they were looking at. Tom Biro remarked once that the problem with getting people to use RSS was that it was the one thing on the internet that didn’t do something when you clicked on it. Which is why eventually buttons that automatically added a feed to MyYahoo, Google Reader or some other service eventually became widely seen on blog sidebars.

Unless something changes I see a similar history being written for QR codes in the next couple years. You can look at it on the page of a magazine, where it’s been placed in an ad with the promise that it unlocks exclusive content or some such. But too often there’s the additional instruction to first download a specific branded mobile app before scanning the code.

So while the developers and promoters of QR codes have learned one less from the history of RSS by explaining much more clearly what it is the user is expected to do with that little pixilated image, the fact that they’re being used in such a proprietary manner has the potential to stifle adoption. After doing it a few times to check out what’s available it’s hard to see most casual users downloading app after app for the single purpose of checking out an exclusive video or accessing a special wallpaper image.

To the extent that RSS did succeed – and it did even if it remains largely a mystery to some people – it was because it works everywhere. Some feeds may look better in some browsers or some readers, but you never ever got a “This Feed is Incompatible with Google Reader” error message or anything like it. A feed was a feed was a feed. And they were everywhere.

Similarly the success of QR codes, I think, depends on them being pervasive and universal. No special apps needed. They should work independent of any other bit of software and across all platforms. Only then will the potential of them enjoying widespread mainstream adoption be opened up.

Can Groupon move the needle on small films?

As you read last week, daily deal promotion service Groupon linked up with its first movie-based deal, offering tickets to last weekend’s big release from Lionsgate, The Lincoln Lawyer, for half off for a limited time. The studio was working with Fandango to actually sell the tickets online and was subsidizing the discount, so it was able to report the full ticket price in its box-office results. Estimates before the weekend had about 190,000 tickets being sold through the promotion.

The movie ultimately came in at #4 in last weekend’s box-office race, with something right around 90% of those coming out of the theater saying the Groupon deal was the primary reason they chose to see that movie.

The news has reinvigorated the discussion of variable ticket pricing for studio movies but that’s such a non-starter I think it’s barely worth considering.

Dana Harris’ story on Indiewire is a must-read on this topic but I want to expand on her point just a bit. She quotes a Lionsgate exec as saying the email distribution was the biggest moment for the deal since it was pure marketing, making the tens of millions of people who subscribe to the service aware of the movie and giving them a reason to see it.

So while it will be interesting to see how other studios wind up executing deal with Groupon, something that’s reported to be coming in droves, I think the real potential for this sort of promotion is when it comes to video-on-demand independent films.

Imagine an independent film that’s being distributed on-demand in one way or another. This is a movie who’s primary handicap is that it doesn’t have a huge marketing budget, resulting in lack of awareness among the general population.

So now a deal with Groupon (or any other daily deal service) means access to a broad and large potential audience. Even if something like 2% of users wind up taking advantage of a 50% discount on the VOD purchase that’s a lot more people who are spending some money on it and, more importantly, seeing the movie. That’s hopefully where word-of-mouth takes over and those people recommend the movie to their friends. And because we’re talking about VOD here it’s a lot lower barrier to people deciding to check it out.

As I said, this will be an interesting area to watch in the next several months. I think we’re going to see a lot of mid-level movies that perform a notch or two above what they otherwise would have by getting more people to turn out than were initially interested in the movie based solely on the marketing campaign. But the real potential for fundamentally changing business models lies in the independent film world, where movies that are otherwise off people’s radar can get some much-needed exposure.