Movie Marketing Madness: The Little Hours

Religious humor is funny, at least if you’re the kind of person who can laugh at themselves to any extent. Seeking to test the boundaries of even that concept is this week’s The Little Hours. Based in part off a section of The Decameron, a 14th-century Italian collection of short stories, the movie stars Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie, Kate Mucuci and Molly Shannon as nuns in a convenient overseen by a priest played by Fred Armisen.

These aren’t your conventional nuns, though. Not only do they drink, swear, threaten the local farmers and have wanton sex, they…well, there’s no kicker there. They do all that. One day a young man played by Dave Franco seeks shelter in the convent, passing himself off as a deaf mute so as not to draw attention to himself. But his presence in the convent just adds another to a long list of temptations the sisters already can’t resist.

The Posters

The first poster is pretty on-point thematically. It’s meant to look like a stained-glass window and features an image of Reilly standing over the other characters like he’s a prophet or something, with everyone else dressed in the garb of a convent. It’s not all that funny, but it conveys the basic premise that the story takes place in a religious setting well, so we’ll call it a success.

Another poster took the same approach, framing all the main characters in a halo of heavenly light. This time at least the faces of the actors are more clearly shown. There’s no tagline or copy, just some positive critic’s quotes at the top.

A series of character posters put each one of the major characters within an angelic glow that’s undercut by the often horribly-inappropriate quote from them. These are pretty funny.

The Trailers

The red-band trailer that really kicked off the marketing starts off serenely enough, right up to the moment a couple nuns tell a passing farmer to fuck off. From there on out the story and characters are presented within the framing device of a priest enumerating the sins of those nuns, which are plentiful and graphic. We see scenes of the the incredibly inappropriate things that happen, which are too plentiful to describe.

I can’t believe I just saw that and I immediately need to watch it.

A green-band trailer came later that told pretty much the same story, just without the cursing and overt sexiness. There’s a bit more context about how Brie’s Allesandra wants to get married and not be a nun, but that’s about it in terms of new material.

Online and Social

The pretty simple official website is in keeping with the small scale of the release. Two big buttons in the middle of the page encourage you to either “See the Film,” which takes you down the page to the list of theaters it’s playing at now and a calendar for future expansion, or “Watch Trailer” which offers you the option of the red-band or green-band versions to enjoy.

Scroll down the site and you’ll see a story “Synopsis” that decently recaps the plot of the movie and shares some of the credits. Keep going and there are photos and short bios for the cast. Then there’s the same list of theaters it is or will be playing at, the trailers and a “Gallery” of stills. Up at the top of the page there are also links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The only paid efforts I’ve seen so far are some promoted posts on Twitter and Facebook that have used the trailers to drive ticket sales. Not surprising this would be a movie that’s hard to translate into TV spots and may not be big enough to warrant a sizable online or outdoor push.

Media and Publicity

Just before it premiered at Sundance there was a first look still released along with a brief synopsis. More photos followed just a week or so before Sundance, where it was eventually picked up for distribution.

Plaza would bring up the movie and her research for the role in various other interviews about other projects. Of course some of the publicity was pretty off the wall, including a video of Plaza smoking and discussing weed with a couple of nuns.

Plaza and others involved in production talked here about the journey the story took over years of drafting and such as well as how the shoot was largely improvisational and how the Catholic League has (predictably) gone after it.

Baena and Plaza did a joint interview where they talked more about making the movie and what it was like to adapt something like this and make it this outrageous. Franco also had a few opportunities to weigh in, especially on the love scene he had to shoot while real-life wife Brie was on-set.

Overall

I feel like this campaign is the very definition of “only going to appeal to a select group.” It’s foul-mouthed, borderline blasphemous and completely off the deep end. There’s no attempt to actually adhere to the period the story takes place in, nor is there any to make the main characters anything but wholly unlikable. It’s not a big enough campaign to reach a mass audience and a good portion of the niche it does reach will be actively turned off by some aspect of what’s on display.

On the other hand, it leans into being unlikable and accepts that as its brand identify. It’s actively and aggressively and intentionally unlikable. If you can just focus on the material and humor and not get caught up in thinking too much about it (looking at you, Catholic League), the campaign promises a raunchy good time with some of the best young comedians working today.

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Movie Marketing Madness: The House

Two veterans of “Saturday Night Live” team up in this week’s new release The House. Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell play Kate and Scott Johansen, a married couple who are so proud and excited for their teenage daughter as she’s been accepted to a prestigious college. There’s just one problem: They’ve apparently spent all the money they’d put aside for that education.

Faced with the prospect of telling their baby girl she can’t go to school, they do what anyone would do: Open an underground casino in their house to make up the shortfall in cash. To help with that they enlist Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) and of course things quickly get out of hand. Not helping matters is that a local law enforcement official (Nick Kroll) is on their trail, suspecting something is going on.

The Posters

The first poster is all about selling the audience on a couple of amiable comedy stars that they’re likely to enjoy. So Ferrell and Poehler are seen fully decked-out in their Vegas-like duds, the lights of their makeshift casino win the background. “If you can’t beat the house, be…The House” we’re told in copy that leads into the title. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with it as it clearly conveys the value proposition of the movie, it’s just that it’s blandly boring in the same way the posters for many recent comedies have been.

Character posters for both of the stars showed them at the height of their new gaudy lifestyle, with quotes that are pulled from footage we’ve already seen in the trailers. Another series of two posters took a similar approach.

The Trailers

The first trailer lays out the premise, which is that Kate and Scott have somehow lost their daughter’s college fund. Not wanting to disappoint her, they resolve to come up with a way to pay for her dream school. Enter Frank, who convinces them to open a casino in their house. Things of course escalate as they become more adept at operating the illicit operation, getting deeper into the personas they’ve adopted to do so.

It’s pretty funny and it looks like, unlike his last few roles, Ferrell is actually trying here. Poehler is always great and it’s clear she’s given just as much material to chew on as Ferrell, which is nice. And the presence of Mantzoukas is always a welcome one. Sure, it looks like a series of variations on the same note and it’s not clear how the daughter could continue to live in a house with all this going on and remain clueless, but let’s just assume that gets cleared up in the full movie.

Another trailer, a red-band version, hits most of the same story beats about the parents not being able to afford college and turning to an illegal casino operation to make money. It ends with an extended, graphic version of the “cutting the guy’s finger off” scene we’ve seen previously.

Online and Social

You get a recreation of the key art when you load the official website, with the addition of Mantzoukas. There’s a big button to click to buy tickets in the middle of the page and links to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles in the upper right corner.

Scroll down the page – or use the content menu at the top – and the first thing you’ll see is a surprisingly well-stocked “Gallery” with about two dozen stills. The “Story” is light on the actual story synopsis but heavy on mentioning all the producers and other technical personnel.

“Trailer” opens a pop-up window that plays the all-ages trailer. Next – and finally – there’s the “Pit Boss Name” generator that, from all appearances, takes your name and spits out some random combination of gambling-related words.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Outdoor ads used images of Ferrell and Poehler rolling in the cash from their illicit enterprise, just using the familiarity with the stars as the main selling point without any information or context of the story.

Both Poehler and Ferrell appeared in a commercial for “SportsCenter” with Kenny Mayne to offer the host some ideas on new catchphrases.

Media and Publicity

Just before the first trailer dropped EW shared a first look photo from the movie alongside some comments from Poehler and others. Another new photo came in EW’s summer movie preview. Yet another was featured along with an interview with Ferrell where he talks about both the comedy and genuine emotion of the story.

A little viral video hosted by Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) showed us around the underground casino he operates and resulted in a nice little press pop.

Both stars made the talk show rounds, engaging in the usual hijinks with late night hosts, many of whom the two stars had worked with on “SNL” and more. That included Ferrell appearing in tiger face paint as if he’d just left a child’s birthday party, Poehler recreating old routines with Seth Meyers and so on. There was also a big profile of Ferrell where he talked about politics, old sketches and more, including this new movie.

Overall

You’d be forgiven for feeling like you’ve seen this movie already. Will Ferrell acts slightly stupid and shouts about how he loves something so much. Amy Poehler acts stoic and responsible until she lets her wild side loose. Jason Mantzoukous is a vaguely shifty and sleazy bro who will definitely get other characters into trouble. It’s not selling anything new.

That’s probably the point, though. The campaign seems to *want* to feel as generic and unmemorable as possible. Not that it’s not trying to be funny or bring in ticket buyers, but it’s trading on the well-known personality types of its three leads, offering the audience exactly what they would expect. That even extends to the title, which tells you nothing about the movie or the story but is just a label slapped on the box. There are a few genuine laughs here, but for the most part it’s not making a case for anything intriguing.

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Movie Marketing Madness: Baby Driver

Director Edgar Wright is back, bringing his unique cinematic storytelling sensibilities to this week’s new release Baby Driver. Far from his collaborations with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, this new movie isn’t a genre satire but instead a crime thriller with musical sensibilities. The story follows Baby (Ansel Elgort), a savant behind the wheel of a car who uses music to compensate for an incessant buzzing in his ears. Baby is in hock to Doc (Kevin Spacey), a crime boss who uses Baby as a getaway driver for his heists.

Baby is tired of the life and wants to get out. That desire only increases when he meets Debora (Lily James), a beautiful young waitress who he immediately falls in love with, and vice versa. Those plans to escape a life of aiding and abetting crime are hampered by Doc’s insistence Baby help him out with one more score. But as the plans come together it looks more and more doomed to fail and Baby must decide when and how to make his stand and make his own getaway with Debora.

The Posters

“All you need is one killer track” we’re told on the first poster. Along with the title and the cast list the main element on the poster is a car that’s tearing away as if it’s being shot out of a gun. It’s simple but it’s great, a very artistic effort that thankfully just doesn’t show the big heads of the cast.

The artistic direction of the poster campaign continued on the second one-sheet. This one is more focused on the entire cast, with images of all the major players arrayed here. The fact that this looks painted, though, in conjunction with the bright pink background and the action shot of the car on the highway at the bottom makes it much more interesting than the usual collage of photos you see. It looks like the cover to a comics trade paperback collection. The same copy point from the first poster is used here as well.

Each character gets their own poster in a cool-looking series that features a pop-art looking background and a key quote from them. These are a very cool way to show off all the big names individually while maintaining the movie’s overall brand identity of snazzy visuals.

The Trailers

We meet Baby as the trailer starts. He’s flirting with a diner waitress who’s interested in his job and he’s a bit evasive. He tells her he’s a driver but we see he actually means a getaway driver for some very unsavory people. Then we find out via some exposition why Baby is always sporting earphones and listening to music. He’s warned by various bad guys about the danger of forming any connections but also see that he can’t extricate himself from the violent criminal life he’s in the middle of.

It’s insane, the movie that’s presented here. It looks fast and funny and bright and just great. It’s not the kind of thing we might normally expect from Wright, but that’s alright since he’s made a career of defying expectations. There’s just a lot of fun stuff going on here as the characters and situations are all introduced.

The second trailer is even more focused on style and attitude, working to present the movie as the coolest cinematic choice out there. It heavily features the positive reviews it’s already received from early screenings and has the great soundtrack that’s been assembled at its core. There’s minimal story here, just vibe.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website plays the “TeKillYeh” trailer when you load it up, so settle in and watch it again as you like. Close that and you get a full-screen version of the key art of the car being shot from the gun. A