Movie Marketing Madness: Room

room_ver2Most parents will admit – gladly – that their kids make them better people. Or at least having kids makes us *want* to be better people. There’s nothing most parents won’t do for their kids. We strive to provide for, teach and mold those kids into people who can function and thrive in the world around them. Without our kids around most of us would fall victim to extreme narcissism since we would have no one around who we were afraid was going to pick up our worst habits or tendencies.

Room, the new movie starring Brie Larson, seems to be about just that. Joy (Larson) has been held captive by a man for seven years after he kidnapped her. In that time she gave birth to Jack and “room,” a small shed-type structure occupied solely by he and his mother is the only world he’s ever known. But then one they Jack is able to escape and the two are free in a world she’s out of touch with and which he has never known or seen.

The Posters

For all intents and purposes there’s only been one poster created, but with two versions.

The first shows Joy holding Jack, the two of them smiling at each other the way a million moms and sons have smiled at each other while enjoying some time out. They’re both dressed like it’s fall – she in a sweater or poncho, he in a jacket and hat – and the blue sky is in back of them. But when you look at the sky you can see it has corners and lines, meant to indicate walls and a ceiling like you find in a room. So the confinement the story finds them in is hinted at nicely here. At the top we’re told that “Love knows no boundaries,” again speaking to their limited view of the world. At the bottom we’re reminded that this is based on a best-selling novel.

The second version of this poster is the same image, but this time there are all sorts of accolades and pull quotes from critics and reviewers praising the film plugged into all the empty space on the previous one-sheet.

It’s an effective image but I would have expected it to more clearly emphasize the setting of the titular room as opposed to Joy and Jack’s post-escape life and looks. Perhaps the marketing team wanted to make it clear to the audience that the character’s *did* escape and that it was a story of hope and survival as opposed to continuing to highlight what may have been seen as a depressing story of life while being held captive.

The Trailers

The first trailer shows Larson and Tremblay as they’re trapped in the room and get a glimpse of what they do to pass the time with it just being the two of them in very tight quarters. That ranges from shadow puppets when the sun hits just right to screaming in the vain hope that someone hears them. While it’s certainly present in the movie itself there’s no sense of dread or terror here, no glimpse of the person who’s imprisoned them or explanation as to why. They’re just there, until they aren’t. But even after they escape we see the two together, as though they’re continuing to interact even after they’re free.

The trailer is spooky as heck, even without the implied violence of the unseen captor. It’s clear here that both Larson and Tremblay turn in gut-wrenching performances as two people who have been kept underground for a long period of time and are, no matter how well they’ve coped with that, going to have resultant issues.

The second trailer shakes up the format quite a bit, focusing immediately on the escape from the room where the two are trapped and then on their adjustment back into the real world. We see more of how they deal with Jack’s grandparents and get more of a look into what the two did in order to survive their five years in captivity.

This one is just as affecting and emotional, but for different reasons. Instead of creating the tension by staying almost solely within the room we get all sorts of emotions, from joy and relief to paranoia to anger and everything else, that result from being out and having to deal with the rest of the world again or, in Jack’s case, for the first time.

One final trailer was released just about a week out from release. It’s short and focuses on the post-escape story and so it closer to the second one than the first. It’s full of critic quotes praising the performances by Allen, Larsen and others.

Online and Social

The design of the background for the official website’s splash page is the same as the “blue sky with corners” look of the one-sheet, which makes for a nice bit of consistency. It also features some of the same critic pull quotes from the second version of the poster.

Once you “Enter the Site” and open the menu the first section available is “About the Film.” There you’ll find a one-paragraph Synopsis and a Filmmakers section that features biographies on both the director and the woman who both wrote the source novel and the screenplay for the film. The “Cast” section that’s next features similar write-ups about the movie’s main players.

room pic 1

The two trailers are, appropriately, in the “Trailers” section while “Acclaim” features more critic quotes, unfortunately without links to their full reviews.

“Emma’s Room” is a production diary blog from Emma Donoghue, the woman who wrote both the book and the film’s screenplay. In the entries there she talks about the process of bringing watching her story brought to life, working with the cast and crew and more. It’s a nice touch and I’m sure those who have been following it felt they gained some insights for having done so.

Going back to the Home page of the site there’s a like to “Discover Your Strong.” The campaign encourages people to share a photo on Twitter or Instagram of something that inspires them or gives them strength in the hope that it will do likewise for others. So you can either Give Strong if you want to pass your strength along or Get Strong if you feel like you need to pull strength from what others have shared. It’s a nice component that tries to put one of the movie’s central themes into action.

The Facebook page for the movie has links to news stories and cast interviews as well as nice big shareable images with stills from the movie overlaid with inspirational quotes or more mini-reviews from critics. The Twitter profile is full of similar material, but with more Retweets from fans and stars and so on.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I believe there was minimal advertising done, mostly online. Though there was at least one TV spot run that features narration that’s a bit heavy-handed and is there mostly to read off critic quotes praising the film’s performances and talking about how emotional it is. It’s fine, but without the additional space to breathe that the first two trailers do it suffers by comparison.

Media and Publicity

Press for the movie picked up particularly after a successful Telluride screening (Variety, 9/5/15) which resulted in awards speculation not only for Larson, which is to be somewhat expected, but also Tremblay(Variety, 9/5/15), who it seems gives an outstanding performance. It would later win the Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival (IndieWire, 9/20/15), something that bode well for its later awards chances. That awards buzz would continue right up to the movie’s release.

room pic 2


There seem to be two points of emphasis in the campaign:

First, there’s the performances. The trailers make it clear that Larson and Tremblay in particular give outstanding performances in the main roles and form the emotional heart of the movie. And there’s even some attention given to supporting turns from Allen and Macy.

Second, there are the positive critical reviews that, it’s hoped, will encourage people who still rely on such things to turn out because hey, if the love for the movie is this universal then it *must* be something worth seeing.

room pic 3

That all being said, while I liked the continued emphasis on those two components, I felt like there was a bit of inconsistency in the tone and feel of the actual campaign elements. The poster and website strike a very different tone than the trailers and I’m not sure why. The former are hopeful and rejoicing, the latter is a bit more gritty and emotional. Not depressing, but certainly a few shades darker, mostly the result of needing or choosing to focus much of the attention on the room itself.

It’s not a bad campaign. But I do feel like the differing tones from one element to the other could create some audience confusion.

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