Key Art, Key Changes: Sing, Assassin’s Creed, Live By Night, Miss Sloane

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.

Sing

There never was a real theatrical one-sheet for the latest Illumination animated feature, instead opting for a teaser and a bunch of character posters. So this home video art is the first time all the main characters have actually been assembled in one official bit of key art, showing all the different contestants who are vying for stardom. It also notably promotes the additional value of containing three new mini movies.

Assassin’s Creed

No big deviation from what came before here. It’s the same split image of Fassbender in the two different settings the movie takes place in that was used in the theatrical campaign.

Live By Night

It’s the same image that was used on the theatrical one-sheet but things have been rearranged a bit. Gone are the images of the rest of the cast as well as the tagline that explains some of Joe’s character. It’s questionable whether or not that singular image of Affleck is enough to get people’s interest when most everyone passed on it in theaters.

Miss Sloane

The home video release keeps the black-and-white capital building but makes the photo of star Jessica Chastain more straight-ahead, even though it retains the motif of her looming over the government building.

MMM Recap: Week of 12/23/16 New Releases

Sing

sing-movie-animals

It’s a decent campaign. As I’ve mentioned the movie repeatedly here it’s worth recapping just how much the fact that this is the second “city full of talking animals” movie this year and how much that may impact the fortunes of this one. While there’s certainly a different value proposition in the story – instead of a mystery thriller we get a feel good story of achieving your dreams – it’s hard not to view this in the context of the success of Zootopia.

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.

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.

Passengers

passengers-movie

As for the story itself, it’s…not really there in the campaign. We get the premise about the ship waking the two characters up way early and that the two start fooling around because they’re both ridiculously good looking and what else are you going to do for the 50 years you have left before you die. But what, other than some technical problems aboard the ship to keep things interesting, happens after that isn’t spilled at all. That leaves a lot of room for the audience to be either surprised or disappointed.

Silence

silence-pic

The main theme of the campaign is that his is Scorsese’s passion project, one that’s taken him decades to get off the ground. That was particularly prominent in the press push for the movie but also gets mentioned in the official synopsis on the website. That’s meant the focus can be squarely on the legendary director and provides an easy hook for the press to talk about not just this movie but also his entire career, which is much more interesting for the movie geeks currently making up much of the media.

Assassin’s Creed

assassins-creed-pic

There’s some good stuff here. The whole campaign works hard to walk the line between selling the movie as a general sci-fi fantasy movie about a cool time-travel type character who kicks butt and part of the overall Assassin’s Creed mythology. So it’s trying to appeal to both long-term fans of that game franchise and people who may have heard about it but never got into that particular part of geekery. If there’s a problem with the campaign it’s that much of it leans a bit too hard in the former direction, making it somewhat inaccessible to the general audience.

Why Him

why-him-pic

The main attraction is the interplay between Cranston and Franco and that’s everywhere in the campaign. That’s not enough, though, to actually make the case to see the movie. More than that, the story basically comes down to a father wanting to own the sexuality of his daughter. That’s not a new story – it’s actually incredibly old – but it’s still surprising to see it so clearly on display in the marketing of a major motion picture in 2016.  

Picking Up the Spare: Sing, Lion

sing-movie-animals

Sing

  • The cast – and their animated alter-egos – appeared on Fallon to an acapella version of Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” that included MacCartney himself.
  • Illumination got their Minions involved in a short MST3K-like video to help promote the movie.
  • The studio partnered with the Lumyer app to bring movie-branded augmented reality to that app’s users.

Lion

  • A new “online trailer” has been released that touts the movie’s awards nominations so far and makes the case to come see this heartwarming tale around Christmas.

Movie Marketing Madness: Sing

singThe new movie Sing is all about chasing your dreams. The story, which takes place in a world of anthropomorphized animals (similar to Zootopia from earlier this year), follows Buster Moon, a koala (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) who owns a theater that’s on the verge of closing. As one last desperate ploy to remain in business he decides to put out a call for local talent to take part in a singing competition he hopes will just keep the doors open.

The results are beyond his expectations. The call brings in amateur singers from across the city, including apes, pigs, rabbits, giraffes and all sorts of other animals. Some come because they’ve always dreamed of being a star, some come to escape their current lives for one reason or another. In addition to McConaughey the movie features the voices of Reese Witherspoon, John C. Reilly, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Edgerton and others.

The Posters

The teaser doesn’t have a lot going on. It shows a theater marquee, the name of the movie at the top and all the names of the primary voice cast on the marquee itself. On the door below hangs a sign that says “Auditions begin 2016,” signaling when the movie is coming out as well as providing some small hint about the plot.

A series of posters was up next that featured each of the main characters shown in what seems to be their natural environment in the movie. Considering the star power involved, it’s unsurprising that each poster also features the name of the person doing the voice as well as the character’s name so we can start drawing some positive associations between the talent and the movie.

The Trailers

Well, we get the premise for the movie pretty well laid out in the first trailer. A stack of fliers are scattered throughout a city of anthropomorphic animals publicizing auditions for an “American Idol”-like show and we see a group of the animals who are going to go try out for fame and stardom.

It’s cute. There’s nothing special about it, but it’s cute. Again, we immediately see what’s going to set the plot in motion but not much about what the central conflict or anything else is going to be.

In the next trailer we start off by seeing a gorilla who’s slacking on his job of being a lookout for his criminal relatives because he’s singing to himself. We cut to a theater owner who’s struggling to bring in a crowd and so decides he’s going to launch a singing competition. That leads to a montage of clips from various animals auditioning on stage and more information about what this means to both the owner and the various people who are trying to win it big, each for their own reasons.

You’d be forgiven, given the timing, for thinking this is a Zootopia sequel what with the setting of a city filled with anthropomorphic animals. And the studio will likely take whatever of that it can get. But it’s a fairly OK trailer that doesn’t look like the most annoying thing in the world, so there’s that. It devotes a lot of running time to the audition scenes, not allowing for much more room to explain the story or characters or anything like that. Make of that what you will.

Another trailer came out that didn’t do much that was new, but with the four-minute running time it allowed a bit of additional room for the character and plot introductions to breathe a bit. One more similarly wasn’t all that original, just reshuffling some elements.

Online and Social

When you load the official site you’re greeted by some full-screen animation on the home page. A series of critic’s quotes rotate on the left just above a box providing a mix of calls-to-action and a link to buy tickets. Over on the right there’s a “Follow/Share” prompt that has links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profile as well as an option to share a link to the page on Facebook or Twitter.

Toward the bottom of the page there’s a prompt to “Scroll to get on stage.” That opens up a section where you can get to know the various characters in the movie as well as see which actor voices them.

Moving to the content menu on the left, the first section there is “Videos.” That’s where you can find all the trailers and a special Happy Holidays video of the characters singing and skating while decked out in their holiday sweaters and more.

“About” has a pretty good story synopsis, at least once you get past the ties it works hard to connect this and other movies like Despicable Me. There are 17 stills, including shots of the human cast alongside their animated characters, in the “Gallery.” Those pics that put the people beside the animals can also be found on the stand-alone gallery site that’s linked to.

Finally, the Piggy Power site has audio and pictures featuring Gunter the pic (voiced by Nick Kroll) saying various empowering things.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

It appears the TV advertising campaign kicked off with an Olympics-themed spot featuring various groups of animals driving in their cars while singing along with songs about “gold” or “winning” and such. Clever.

There was also pretty generous placement for the movie during this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade broadcast, which makes sense given the NBCUniversal corporate connection.

In terms of promotional partners, there was:

  • YouTube – Worked with Universal/Illumination on a competition encouraging people to submit videos of them singing and/or dancing to the movie’s theme song, with winners flown to Los Angeles for tips on creating a successful YouTube presence.
  • Post Cereals – Created movie-branded packaging that promoted an instant-win sweepstakes that was also supported with a series of TV spots.
  • Spotify – The studio created character-specific playlists on the streaming service featuring music that’s appropriate to who they are.

Media and Publicity

The movie screened at the Toronto International Film Festival just to get some buzz, which it successfully did, earning some positive reviews and general goodwill.

Stevie Wonder and Arianna Grande appeared on “The Voice” to perform a song they did together on the soundtrack. Kroll and others from the cast did the talk show rounds to talk up the movie in various ways. And the movie got some other promotions as the cast has other movies coming out recently so they’ve talked about this as well.

sing-movie-animals

Overall

It’s a decent campaign. As I’ve mentioned the movie repeatedly here it’s worth recapping just how much the fact that this is the second “city full of talking animals” movie this year and how much that may impact the fortunes of this one. While there’s certainly a different value proposition in the story – instead of a mystery thriller we get a feel good story of achieving your dreams – it’s hard not to view this in the context of the success of Zootopia.

Moving beyond that comparison, though, there’s some good stuff going on here. The studio made some smart moves that play to a younger demographic – particularly the YouTube sweeps partnership – and really hit TV hard (even if the overall press push was somewhat lackluster. The focus is on the trailers, though, since they show off the humor and story most effectively.

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