Key Art, Key Changes: Arrival, Billy Lynn, Edge of Seventeen, Bleed for This

Reaching an audience in the home video market is much different than reaching the theatrical audience. That often means the key art that’s used for home video releases is changed significantly from the one-sheets that were available during the theatrical marketing cycle. What I’m going to try and do is see what those changes are and what they mean for the appeal being made.

Arrival

No big change here, just the same key art that was used theatrically. I always thought that poster, with the big floating heads, looked like a DVD cover anyway so this just makes sense. The only addition is the positive blurb at the bottom of the design.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Actually quite different from the theatrical campaign. Where that focused on the spectacle and the big event Lynn was facing – literally putting us behind him to view the dancers and fireworks from his perspective – this is much more straightforward. The four-stripe design shows Lynn amidst all the fireworks and fanfare at the top and in the midst of battle just below the title. Kristen Stewart, who wasn’t on the first poster at all and barely popped up in the trailer, now gets real estate all to herself.

The Edge of Seventeen

Woody Harrelson’s performance as a put-upon teacher two whom Hailee Steinfeld’s character confides received a good amount of praise when the movie was released. And while he was a big part of the trailers he wasn’t on the poster. That’s corrected here, as the home video release uses an image of the two talking to each other across his desk. It also touts the movie as being “One of the best reviewed comedies of all time,” which is quite the claim.

Bleed For This

It’s not a huge change from the theatrical poster. That same key art showing Teller and his costars walking toward the camera is used at the top of the DVD box while the bottom half is a shot from the conclusion of one of the fights from the movie. That seems to be designed to make sure the audience not only knows that it’s a movie about boxing but also that it has an inspirational and happy ending.

The Marketing Campaigns for 2017’s Academy Awards Best Picture Nominees

The nominees for this year’s Academy Awards were announced yesterday. While Deadpool didn’t get the nomination the filmmakers and many in the press had been hoping it would there were still a few surprises, including that the acting categories actually featured people of color after years of #OscarsSoWhite being the dominant theme of the reactionary commentary. To mark the occassion, let’s look back at the marketing campaigns for this year’s nine Best Picture nominees

Arrival

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As for the marketing itself, it all seems to be working together to create a slick, stylish brand identity for the movie. Everything here is crisp and clean, presenting an adult thriller that’s geared for the adult and discerning audience. There’s little pandering here to the unwashed masses. Many have drawn the connection between this and previous movies like Interstellar and Gravity and it’s very much in that vein, an art film for grownups that’s dressed up like a big-budget alien movie. It’s more about the themes of the story, though, a message that comes through clearly in the campaign.

Fences

Denzel Washington plays Troy Maxson and Viola Davis plays Rose Maxson in Fences from Paramount Pictures. Directed by Denzel Washington from a screenplay by August Wilson.

The movie that’s being sold looks incredibly powerful. It’s a story about long-delayed dreams, unfulfilled potential, what you owe the generation after yours and how all that relates to race told by some of the best of today’s working actors. It’s a vital story in this time in history and it’s one that will hopefully continue to garner not more awards consideration but also an audience to see that story told.

Hacksaw Ridge

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It’s hard to get a sense of the scale of the actual movie from the campaign. This seems like a big release and an important movie. But there’s only one trailer, a mismatched TV campaign and a press push that was kind of light for what seems like it should be an awards contender. It just seems like there should have been more. And there certainly should have been something on the official site that offered a bit more background on Doss, considering his story is so important.

Hell or High Water

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Somewhere around the second trailer, though, that started to turn and it became more and more interesting as the story came more into focus. Foster’s performance came more to the forefront and the dynamic between him and Pine was more clear and the campaign started to show audiences what the movie was trying to say, what it’s message was. If the audience caught that message it could be enough to turn out some specialty box office success.

Hidden Figures

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I honestly feel like this movie couldn’t be more 2016 if it tried. At least the marketing campaign couldn’t. It’s all about how women of color have been removed from the narrative of one of the country’s – hell, mankind’s – greatest achievements. If “men get all the credit for something women were an integral part of” doesn’t sum up this past year I’m not sure what does. So the campaign has worked not only to tell people there’s an important story here, but it’s one that’s likely repeated daily as men talk over their female colleagues and mansplain what’s it’s “actually” about. For that reason, the movie is likely to become a lightning rod as one group claims the story as their own and the other complains how it downplays the contributions of white men. I’m guessing the phrase “white genocide” may even come up in one or two Facebook comments.

La La Land

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The entire campaign is meant to evoke a timeless nature. The throwback images that were used in early posters and the way the trailers make you think the movie could take place this year or in 1961 all creates a sense that the story exists out of time to some extent, reinforcing the slight nostalgia-esque approach to the marketing. Add to all that the almost universally positive word of mouth that’s resulted from festival screenings and the love the soundtrack has received and you have a campaign that’s…yeah, it’s ridiculously charming

Lion

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In terms of the marketing itself, it’s more or less consistent across the elements as to what it’s selling, which is Saroo’s search to uncover his true identity and find his family. That comes through just about everywhere. The website is lightest on this angle, but considering it sacrifices story for a charitable appeal, it’s hard to fault it on that front. The repeated use of the search box in the graphical elements works pretty well once you figure out what’s going on and helps to setup the story. All in all this is a decent campaign for a movie that counts on emotions more than other traditional commercial appeals to turn out the audience.

Manchester by the Sea

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There’s a ton of emotion in this campaign and it’s great to see. As with other movies from Lonergan, the focus is clearly on the relationships that are driving the story here. These are not shallow emotional waters we’re wading into, something that comes through in most every aspect of the marketing. The audience is expected to connect with all the characters, from Lee to Patrick to Randi, throughout the campaign.

Moonlight

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The movie’s personal focus and touch really comes through in this campaign. Everything here is focused on making sure the potential audience sees that it’s a human story with a very small scale, focusing on Chiron’s journey and emotions. The trailer, the press push and the posters all work to make it clear the spotlight will never leave him and his struggle for identity and acceptance.

Picking Up The Spare: Lion, The Arrival

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Arrival

  • The FiveThirtyEight looked at how the movies’ RottenTomatoes score became part of the marketing campaign and puts that in the context of the site’s continuing efforts to poke holes in RT and other rating aggregate sites.

Lion

  • Brent Lang at Variety gives the movie a big cover story about how this inspirational human story is trying to connect with moviegoers who are feeling pretty cynical right now in the wake of the U.S. Presidential election.

MMM Recap: 11/11/16 New Releases

Operator

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Admittedly, it’s a slight campaign. The trailer is the main element and makes the strongest appeal, showing the chemistry between the stars as well as the impressive ensemble cast that’s been assembled. There’s a lot to like here, so here’s hoping the marketing reaches enough of an audience that will be attracted to its low-key appeal.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

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While there are elements of that in the campaign, it suffers quite a bit from the fact that it’s just not as robust as a large-scale awards contender should be. Just one trailer, just one poster and a website that doesn’t go into any depth on the true story being portrayed all seem a bit lackluster and underwhelming. Add to that the fact that the focus of the publicity wasn’t really the story and instead kept harping on the frame rate and other technical innovations and you have a slightly disappointing marketing push from one of film’s most-admired filmmakers.

Arrival

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As for the marketing itself, it all seems to be working together to create a slick, stylish brand identity for the movie. Everything here is crisp and clean, presenting an adult thriller that’s geared for the adult and discerning audience. There’s little pandering here to the unwashed masses. Many have drawn the connection between this and previous movies like Interstellar and Gravity and it’s very much in that vein, an art film for grownups that’s dressed up like a big-budget alien movie. It’s more about the themes of the story, though, a message that comes through clearly in the campaign.

 

Movie Marketing Madness: Arrival

arrival_ver16We’re back to alien visitation at theaters with the new release Arrival, the latest movie from director Denis Villeneuve. The movie stars Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks, a high-profile linguist who’s recruited by the U.S. military after the arrival of a series of mysterious alien craft around the world. Those visitors have begun trying to communicate, but their language is completely incomprehensible to most everyone and so they decide they need professional help.

Aiding her is Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), who acts as her assistant and liaison with the military, personified here by by Col. Weber (Forest Whitaker) and Agent Halpern (Michael Stuhlbarg). They all want to know what the aliens are saying before it’s too late and largely for their own reasons. So it becomes a race against time to translate their language and divine their intentions, with Banks leading the charge.

The Posters

The first round of teaser posters was released right after the first trailer hit. They show the alien ship hovering over various locations around the globe, in some cases a recognizable major city, in others just a generic location like a desert, over the ocean in the middle of a group of aircraft carriers and so on. The idea here is to show that the titular arrival is planet-wide and is impacting everyone everywhere, not just in the one location where the story actually takes place.

The theatrical one-sheet took a very traditional approach, featuring the big floating head of Adams hovering over Renner and Whitaker. The alien ship is off to the side, shown hovering over the landscape as a few military helicopters swarm it. Oddly, there’s no copy or tagline on the poster, just the names of the cast, the credentials of Villeneuve and the credit block. Still, it presents the scope of the movie and it’s easy to get the basic premise that the characters on the right must deal with the situation on the left.

The Trailers

The first teaser trailer starts off with Banks playing with her kids because we need to establish that she has a family she’s fighting for. She’s quickly whisked off by the military and given a hasty briefing by the team on their way to the site of an alien ship. As they prep her to enter the ship they explain what’s going on, telling her that the ship opens every 18 hours to allow visitors as part of a whole routine.

It’s a decent teaser that lays out the basic idea of the movie – that aliens have arrived and Banks is an expert on language who’s being recruited because of her knowledge of greetings and translations. We don’t get a shot of the aliens themselves, something that’s likely being held for a later trailer. But this is a good first outing that establishes the rough outline of the story.

The second trailer starts off roughly the same, with Banks seeing the news of alien ships landing on Earth. She meets her team that will join her and they all make their way into the alien ship. When nothing happens Banks decides she needs to take off her hazmat suit, which leads to actual contact. As tensions around the world rise, the pressure on her to translate their message for the world and make sure our own words and actions aren’t being misunderstood rises.

What’s being sold here is the modern version of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a story that’s more about trying to establish the baseline for communications as opposed to shoot outs and peace brigades and everything else. It looks tense and pulse-pounding as opposed to thrilling and action-packed, the very antithesis of the modern alien movie. Basically it’s everything Independence Day: Resurgence wasn’t.

The final trailer is short – just a minute long – but gets the point across. We start with Banks recounting the day the aliens arrived before we see her recruited by the military for her translation skills. The rest is largely pulled from footage we’ve already seen in the previous trailers as we go from first contact to misunderstanding to panicked actions to avert a showdown.

It’s still a good trailer, despite the short runtime, and gets the point across. This almost seems like simple reinforcement, not a wholly original case being made. That’s unusual for a non-franchise movie but the lack of new footage on display here speaks to the studio’s desire to maintain the mystery behind the story.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website starts with that short final trailer. When you close that trailer and get to the front page you…can watch the trailer. That’s the only prompt on the page aside from a few links at the bottom to view  the credits and register for updates. Seriously, that’s it. The only other links on the site are those to the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles for the movie.

It’s linked to if you scroll down Twitter but nowhere on the site, but you can visit this microsite to create your own portrait in the style of the alien’s language.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV advertising with spots like this was pretty pervasive. Spots generally tried to distill the story down to 30 seconds, showing Banks being recruited, her making first contact with the aliens and then the drama that builds in the race to decode their language. They all set the movie up as a very dramatic, pulse-pounding thriller.

Plenty of online advertising was done well in advance of release, mostly using footage from the trailers involving either Adams’ recruitment to the project or shots of her and the rest of the team in their hazmat suits. A series of video ads were run on YouTube in the days before release that used just a couple of the same

Media and Publicity

The first real buzz around the movie came out of its presentation by the studio at CinemaCon, where the first footage was shown and the stars appeared and spoke. Several months later the movie was given an official release date along with a name change from its previous “Story of Your Life” moniker.

It was quite a while then before the first official still from the movie was released, showing Adams and Renner as they take in the spectacle of the alien ship.

The movie was among those which debuted or otherwise screened at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. At the movie’s Venice premiere the stars and director were interviewed a bit about the direction of the story, their own thoughts and hopes for what might happen if aliens were to visit and more. The movie was also among those selected for the Telluride Film Festival.

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Around the time of the Toronto appearance director Villeneuve was interviewed his experiences making the movie, his sci-fi influences and more. It was also one of two powerhouse performances at the festival by Adams, who emerged as the centerpiece of a lot of narratives during the festival for her understated and impressive acting and who kept talking about her role and the approach to the character Villeneuve encouraged her to take. Adams and the rest of the cast also made comments about the story at the movie’s premiere.

Overall

What’s not really captured here is the incredibly positive word of mouth that’s been generated by the festival and other screenings to date. That all has contributed to a great sense of anticipation among the informed movie fan for the movie, with critics and others singing its praises and stoking the fires among the general public and helping the campaign out by providing a steady supply of quotes and praise to choose from.

As for the marketing itself, it all seems to be working together to create a slick, stylish brand identity for the movie. Everything here is crisp and clean, presenting an adult thriller that’s geared for the adult and discerning audience. There’s little pandering here to the unwashed masses. Many have drawn the connection between this and previous movies like Interstellar and Gravity and it’s very much in that vein, an art film for grownups that’s dressed up like a big-budget alien movie. It’s more about the themes of the story, though, a message that comes through clearly in the campaign.

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