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

Last Week on Cinematic Slant

Dayveon – Marketing Recap: Ultimately I felt this is just the kind of movie that needs an extra little nudge. It seems important and one that could create an important conversation.

Is Sony Arming Itself for Battle Against Rotten Tomatoes: I don’t know if this is Sony running these ad surveys or if it’s some other party, but it’s certain someone is gathering information.

American Assassin – Marketing Recap: If this succeeds it’s easy to see at least a few more of the Mitch Rapp stories making their way to the big-screen.

The Big Winner in the Streaming Wars Could Be Physical or Downloaded Media: At some point I have to believe there’s going to be a push back against all this insanity.

Brad’s Status – Marketing Recap: What the marketing does well is use Stiller’s nervous energy, which has aged pretty well, as one of the primary hooks.

Abrams Returns to Star Wars for Episode IX: The reason the date shift is more notable to me than the return of Abrams (though that’s substantial as well) is that it directly impacts the movie’s marketing.

mother! – Marketing Recap: The focus was on creating a sense of mystery and tension in the audience with tight spaces, fast cuts, building music, dramatic visuals and other tactics.

Darren Aronofsky – Director Overview: With his latest film, mother!, hitting theaters this week t’s a good opportunity to look back at the director’s previous six films and how they were sold.

Rebel in the Rye – Marketing Recap: Salinger has been such an enigmatic figure that there’s always been a hunger for more background on him and how he created “Catcher.”

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

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

Comparing Netflix’s and Amazon’s Movie Marketing Goals

My latest post on The Drum uses two recent releases to compare and contrast the approaches Amazon Studios and Netflix take in marketing their original movies:

Amazon put out The Big Sick, a slightly-fictionalized version of the real story of how Kumail Nanjiani (who plays himself) and Emily V. Gordon (played by Zoe Kazan) met and how her sudden illness defined their relationship at an early point. Netflix put out Okja, the latest movie from director Joon-ho Bong that tells the story of a young girl who needs to rescue her pet super-pig from the clutches of an evil and greedy corporation.

Both movies have received positive reviews. The Big Sick has been praised for its unconventional take on romance and relationship comedies. Okja has been hailed as “the first great Netflix original movie.”

The key difference between them? Amazon, in partnership with Lionsgate, put The Big Sick in theaters before it’s available on its own streaming network. Okja, on the other hand, was made available immediately to subscribers of its streaming service. It’s that difference in release mindset that’s made Amazon, to date, somewhat more attractive to filmmakers since theatrical release is still the ultimate possible outcome.

Source: Is Amazon Studios’ marketing better than Netflix’s? It depends on the goals | The Drum

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