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Movie Marketing Madness: Operation Avalanche

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A favorite thread of conspiracy theorists – that NASA never actually made it to the moon but instead faked the landing with help from director Stanley Kubrick – is getting a new twist in this week’s Operation Avalanche. The movie is told like found-footage documentary, coming from the point of view of a couple of FBI agents who in 1967 have been sent to NASA posing as filmmakers as a means to smoke out a suspected Russian spy.

The film, then, is meant to be their footage that’s been lost up until now. It purports to show that what they found was not Russian spycraft but NASA trickery as they employ all sorts of tactics to make it look like they actually are going to the moon, something they’ve discovered can’t be done before the deadline the late President Kennedy imposed. The government doesn’t want the truth leaking out, though, and so the undercover filmmakers find they have targets on their back, with any of a number of agencies on their tail and trying to keep what they’ve found silent.

The Posters

The one and only poster does a decent job of setting up the premise of the movie, if not the actual story. The main element is a familiar picture of an astronaut standing on the surface of the moon with the earth behind him. But there’s a giant hand holding a pair of tweezers and placing that image of the earth on the photo, like someone adding a photo that’s been cut out of a magazine to a collage. It’s clearly meant to show that things are being manipulated and that no, there never was anyone on the moon, it was all a trick of effects and other shenanigans.  “It’s not a lie if you believe it”, the copy at the top tells us, a line that’s cribbed from “Seinfeld.”

The Trailers

When the trailer was finally released it starts off with Pres. Kennedy’s famous speech inspiring the nation to go to the moon before the end of the 60s. After that we see a group of men plant phone and other bugs in an office, later realizing as they listen to the tapes that they’ve tapped NASA’s phones and have learned that there’s no chance the organization will meet Kennedy’s deadline. So they take matters into their own hands, opting to make a movie to fake the moon landing. They engage in all sorts of shady tactics to fake footage, pictures and more, seeming at times like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Toward the end, though, it appears as though they’re chased by another party that’s not a fan of their work.

It’s funny and tense and presents a decent overview of that people can expect in the movie. The tone is kind of all over the place here, which isn’t that unexpected, and there’s no real good look and feel. That’s in part a byproduct of the nature of the movie, which is a fake documentary, but it also might be indicative of actual tonal issues. At the very least this looks intriguing and like an original story.

Online and Social

Near as I can tell this page on the XYZ Films website is the only owned online presence for the movie. All that’s there is a Story synopsis, a cast and crew list and a single production still, so it’s not much of an impact that’s being made.

There’s also a Facebook page but not much is happening there. It just shares links to clips that have been seeded to media and the occasional video or photo, but that’s about it.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’m aware of.

Media and Publicity

The movie’s debut at Sundance garnered pretty positive reviews and good word of mouth.

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Unfortunately since then word of mouth seems to have dried up pretty drastically. Outside of the release of clips and a few other things there hasn’t been much buzz or press about the movie at all.

Overall

It’s kind of an uneven and choppy campaign here. The premise itself seems intriguing and potentially amusing, but the marketing never really conveys that. The poster is probably the best in that category, but the trailer just doesn’t work. That’s understandable to some extent since this is a high concept notion that has to be sold, so trying to cut a standard trailer may just be too difficult. But it means that a movie that’s been well-praised doesn’t get a decent hook for the mass audience.

That’s just reinforced by the lack of publicity efforts in the home stretch before release. No, there aren’t big stars to make the talk show rounds or anything, but it would be reasonable to expect some sort of continued capitalization on the buzz that started at Sundance. There doesn’t seem to be any of that, though, meaning what looks like an original, amusing movie didn’t get a very solid marketing push.

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