Fearless Women Rattling Hollywood

My latest post at Adweek deals with just some of the issues of sexual abuse, harassment, and misconduct that have shaken the foundations of Hollywood – and upset many marketing plans – and other industries.

It’s been an … eventful … couple of days for Hollywood.

Two days ago, Sony TriStar shocked the entertainment world when it announced that, per the decision of director Ridley Scott, Kevin Spacey was being replaced as J. Paul Getty in All the Money in the World—with the scenes being reshot with Christopher Plummer. This followed a growing number of allegations of sexual abuse of minors and others by Spacey, and was all the more notable for coming just six weeks before the movie was scheduled to be released, a date that (at least for the time being) remains intact.

Then, yesterday, I Love You, Daddy, written, directed and starring comedian Louis C.K., was suddenly pulled by distributor The Orchard from its planned debut in New York City. That announcement cited a then-upcoming New York Times story that hit just hours later with stories of sexual misconduct by Louis C.K. related by five women. Then, on Friday, The Orchard pulled the movie from its release calendar entirely.

Making Thor Fun Again

My latest post is up at Adweek, a look at how Marvel Studios embraced a sense of fun on many fronts to revitalize Thor and help sell Ragnarok as a goofy buddy comedy, not a heavy and confusing story of dark elves and weird stones.

Not knowing what to do with a character hasn’t stopped Marvel from making multiple solo films featuring Thor. As played by Chris Hemsworth, the God of Thunder’s two solo outings to date have been a decidedly mixed bag. 2011’s Thor was a decent bit of drama that mixed comic book pulp with Shakespearean drama, the latter resulting from the influence of director Kenneth Branagh. At the other end of the spectrum is 2013’s Thor: The Dark World, which was dreary and slightly depressing, with a generic “ancient evil threatens the world” story that did no one any favors.

The marketing for the third movie, Thor: Ragnarok, which hits theaters today, promised something drastically different. With director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) at the helm, Marvel has taken a very different tack in the pitch it’s making to the audience. In particular, there are a few ways in which the studio’s tactics are looking to tap into what’s hot, what’s unique and what’s worked about the character’s other movies.

Blade Runner 2049 Keeps Underperforming

In my latest Adfreak post I take a look at three possible reasons Blade Runner 2049 has failed to spark at the box-office.

While it was the top movie in its opening frame of Oct. 6-8, it took in only about $33 million, well under the $40-50 million that had been forecast. This weekend, it slipped to the No. 2 slot, dropping by over half to bring in just over $15 million, and coming in behind Happy Death Day, a horror movie about a college girl who dies and comes back to the same day repeatedly to try and solve her own murder. True, the Blade Runner sequel has brought in almost $100 million overseas, but it hasn’t been able to capitalize on the strong word of mouth and positive reviews that have earned it an 89 percent “Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes and acclaim as a worthy successor to the original.

Source: Blade Runner 2049 Is a Good Movie. Why Wasn’t It a Box Office Hit? – Adweek

Booze and Views

Both KINGSMAN and BLADE RUNNER have whiskey tie-in promotions, so I looked at other booze-fueled movie marketing efforts in my latest Adfreak post:

You may have noticed that movie marketing campaigns of late have a powerful thirst. Specifically, they’ve tapped into the growing taste and demand for whiskey, part of an overall move away from beer as the drink of choice.

Source: As the Movies Fall in Love With Whiskey, a Look Back at Their Other Favorite Drinks – Adweek

Deeper Into the Sewers of IT’s Marketing

My latest post at Adweek dives a bit more deeply into some aspects of the IT marketing campaign I didn’t focus on last week to see what it was that helped make the movie a success.

It, the film adaptation of Stephen King’s best-selling 1986 novel of the same name, was an unexpectedly big hit at the box-office this weekend. Days before release, the smart money was on ticket sales of $50-60 million, which would have been totally respectable. The $123 million take that It pulled in was well above even the most aggressive expectations, leading to the widespread belief that Warner Bros./New Line will greenlight a sequel that adapts the second half of the book, where the kids from the first part have grown up but find Pennywise the clown isn’t yet defeated. So, what lessons can we learn from the marketing of a movie about an ancient evil that takes the form of a clown with a red balloon?

Source: Inside the Scary-Good Advertising That Made ‘It’ Such a Killer at the Box Office – Adweek

We’re About to See Lots of Authors on Screen

My latest post on Adweek is about this year’s hottest movie trend: The stories of authors as they create their most famous works:

If there’s an overwhelming trend in media today, it’s the “pivot to video.” Publishers left and right are letting go of writers and reorienting their workflows and platforms to incorporate more and more video. That’s partly in response to audience behavior both on mobile and desktop and partly a desire to grab some of the still-substantial budgets allocated for TV advertising. So it’s a bit surprising that Hollywood’s hot fall trend this year is not just a focus on writers but on old-school writers who plied their trade using paper and either pen or typewriter. No fewer than four movies are hitting theaters, albeit likely in limited release, in the last few months of the year that tell the story of authors who created some of the most enduring works of literature in history.

Source: Famous Authors and Their Stories Are Hollywood’s Hot Fall Trend – Adweek

When Punching Nazis Is Your Central Message

My latest post on Adfreak was my way of reminding everyone that the only proper response to Nazis or anyone claiming to be the “master race” is at the very least a good swift right hook to the jaw.

For more than 50 years, Nazis were a good go-to antagonist for movies. Not only were they unquestioningly evil, but the stakes were implied by their presence: World domination, mass extermination of those deemed “undesirable,” and the collapse of the Western world.

In the past 15 years or so, they’ve been replaced to some extent by Middle East terrorists, who provide similar built-in stakes and seemed more relevant to the moment. World War II, after all, ended over 70 years ago, and those who fought in that conflict are disappearing every day. Young people in America today primarily know a world where non-white people are the go-to enemy, both in politics and popular entertainment.

In light of (cough) recent events, it’s worth revisiting the trailers for six movies that made it clear that America’s preferred response to those violently espousing Nazi ideology was a swift punch in the jaw.

Source: For Decades, Nazis Were Hollywood’s Ultimate Villains. Will Recent Events Get Fists Swinging Again? – Adweek

Stephen King and Movie Trailers

My latest post over at Adfreak looks at how despite being a well-known author, the movies based on his work haven’t always used Stephen King’s name as a major selling point:

King is a household name, with his books gracing many a family trip to the beach for the weekend. To date, there have been over 60 feature-film adaptations of novels, novellas or short stories from the author, along with dozens of retellings on TV. That number will grow even before the end of the year, with a new version of It (previously adapted as a TV mini-series in 1990) coming to theaters and Netflix releasing an adaptation of Gerald’s Game.

So, with King working hard to keep his name and work at the top of the pop-culture pile, it’s a good time to look back at how that name has been used in the marketing for just a handful of previous movies based on his writings.

Source: How Movies Made From Stephen King Books Have Been Marketed Through the Years – Adweek

Marketing Endings When Nothing Really Ends


My latest post at Adweek is about the marketing of The War For The Planet Of The Apes and Hollywood’s rule about how nothing can ever really end:

There’s an unwritten rule in Hollywood—or it may actually be written down, considering how pervasive it is—that nothing can ever end. Franchises built on existing intellectual property, whether adapted from previous media or sprung wholly on film, are the key to success, according to the big movie studios.

Not only can the marketing never tell the audience this is the last time they’ll see these characters (they may not feel it’s worth the effort), but you have to actively take the opposite approach and make every movie a small part of a bigger picture. It’s an approach perfected by Marvel Studios, and since used in the campaigns for The Mummy, King Arthur and other movies, though those efforts have largely failed to launch.

Source: How Hollywood Markets Final Chapters in a World Where Nothing Can Ever End – Adweek

Spider-Man: Homecoming’s DIY Influencer Campaign

My latest for Adfreak covers a campaign for Spider-Man: Homecoming that enlisted a number of YouTube stars to create their own Spidey costume:

To return to that handmade concept, Sony Pictures reached out to digital content agency Portal A, which launched the Spider-Man DIY campaign. The agency was tasked by Sony to produce a video that was focused on the costume, and so Portal A recruited a number of YouTube stars, including RoxyRocksTV, AWE me, RobotUnderdog2, TechnoBuffalo and Professor Pincushion.

Those stars were brought to a special “Spidey Lab,” created by the agency, and given the job of creating their own Spider-Man suit. The five influencers were brought into the custom-built design studio at YouTube’s L.A. headquarters, stocked via a partnership with Goodwill, and given access to whatever materials they needed to bring their vision to life. At the same time, fans on Twitter were asked to submit their own custom Spider-Man suit designs using the #SpiderManDIY hashtag for a chance to win a trip to the movie’s world premiere.

Source: Spider-Man Now Has a High-Tech Suit, but This Influencer Campaign for the Movie Went Pure DIY – Adweek