'Paranormal Activity 2' will market itself. Let's hope it's worth it.

By T.L. Stanley on Thu Sep 16 2010

How do you avoid the curse of the Blair Witch? First, don't go into the woods around Burkittsville, Md., with a couple friends and a video camera. Second, don't make a rotten follow-up movie to a groundbreaking thriller. We won't know for about a month if Paranormal Activity 2 will be able to top the 2009 "found-footage" original, an indie gem that became one of the most profitable movies ever made. (Will the potential franchise be as dead as Micah? Oops—spoiler!) The first film has been compared to the still-legendary Blair Witch Project for its ability to scare the bejeezus out of audiences and rake in mounds of cash on a paltry investment. But everybody in entertainment and marketing knows how tough it is to catch lightning in a bottle twice. So far, all Paramount has had to do for the sequel's Oct. 22 debut is put out one trailer (above)—in front of this summer's hit The Twilight Saga: Eclipse—and one slightly enhanced version of the same snippet to set the blogosphere on fire. There are folks out there dissecting every nanosecond of this Easter-egg-dotted teaser. Is that Katie? Is that her (disappearing) baby? Is that a ghost voice talking backwards? The speculation is endless, and that has to be music to the studio's ears. Let's hope the product doesn't disappoint, but for now, even the pre-release chatter is fun.

Paramount Pictures working on a live-action Magic 8 Ball movie

Posted on Wed Apr 28 2010

Magic-8-ball

All signs point to yes. That's the answer when the question is: Will Hollywood continue to raid the toy chest for ideas? The latest in a rash of toy-to-movie deals comes from Paramount, which has optioned Mattel's Magic 8 Ball for a live-action feature, according to Deadline.com. The studio has already had a money-gushing run with action-movie versions of Hasbro's Transformers (which has become a billion-dollar franchise) and G.I. Joe. Next up is a Paramount/Mattel collaboration on Max Steel, starring Twilight's shapeshifting hunk Taylor Lautner. Others in the plastic-to-celluloid pipeline include Mattel's View-Master (at DreamWorks, probably in 3D!), He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (at Warner Bros.) and the vintage action figure Major Matt Mason (at Universal). Hasbro's Oiuja board, Monopoly and Battleship games are set for big-screen treatment, too. What, no My Little Pony? Just give them time.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

'Twilight' fans come out in droves for 'The Lovely Bones' after all

Posted on Mon Jan 25 2010

It's shaping up to be one of the marketing success stories of this young year, and oh boy, color me surprised. The Lovely Bones, the Peter Jackson-directed drama based on the best-selling novel, pulled in $20.5 million on its first broad-release weekend, coming in third place after a grassroots campaign that gunned hard for the Twilight crowd. Despite a story that revolves around the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl, 72 percent of the weekend's audience was female, and 40 percent were under 20. (The rape was written in the book but dropped from the movie.) A tidbit of background: The movie was supposed to be a prestige, art-house flick and Oscar contender. (It's had to settle so far for a single Golden Globe nom for co-star Stanley Tucci.) But when it rolled out in limited release last month, reviews were lukewarm and box office was pitiful. Strategy changed. Paramount began focusing on college women and teen girls after research said they liked the movie better than any other demos. Some scoffed. (Yeah, that was me.) It's still to be determined if its fans will spread the word to more Team Jacob/Team Edward devotees. Seems clear, though, that the marketing is leading the way, rather than, as a friend suggested, that Tiger Beat cover for Tucci. She was kidding.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Will 14-year-old girls really all line up to see 'The Lovely Bones'?

Posted on Fri Jan 15 2010

Who's the target audience for a drama about the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl? Parents of 14-year-old girls? Maybe not. How about 14-year-old girls? Paramount Pictures is going after just that demographic for today's opening of The Lovely Bones, a movie that's racked up north of $150 million in production and marketing costs. Despite a heavyweight director in Peter Jackson and high hopes that the book-based drama would be Oscar bait, Bones hasn't been able to muster any buzz at all. Well, actually, negative buzz. It's been in limited release since last month, when it started getting its first critical drubbings. (It's made less than $500,000 at the box office.) Studio research showed that 13- to 20-year-old girls, not the older art-house crowd who were the initial focus of the marketing campaign, had the most interest in seeing the movie. So, studio execs have been screening the flick aggressively to high-school and college girls, who reportedly have liked that they've seen. Will they tell their friends to rush out to the multiplex? This weekend will tell. It's just too bad Paramount didn't release Precious. Then it could've been a downer double feature. 

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Cameras are always on in 'Paranormal Activity' and its marketing

Posted on Wed Sep 23 2009

Paranormal Activity is a movie about a young couple filming themselves non-stop in their bedroom (solely for demon-hunting purposes, of course), so it's fitting that Paramount would make a camera the centerpiece of the marketing around it. The studio is hoping for a hit on a Blair Witch scale, or, barring that, at least on par with Cloverfield. Produced on a micro-mini budget of $15,000, Paranormal Activity has a no-name cast and a grainy, hand-held look that it came by honestly. (First-time director Oren Peli and some friends shot the film in a week.) So far, TV spots for the horror flick have shown audiences jumping, screaming and otherwise flailing about during screenings. The action was captured on video cameras strategically placed in the various venues. Juiced up? Maybe. Still, that's a lot of flinching. Next up: Webcams will be installed in the theaters where the movie opens in limited release this Friday, so fans can describe just how the gore-free flick scared the bejesus out of them. Paramount's taking an unconventional route with the movie's distribution, too, aligning with the Demand Web site and planning release patterns according to fan requests. Wondering if the reverse could work with Tucker Max's I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell? I'll vote to keep that piece o' tripe outta my town. As for Paranormal Activity, it's reportedly horrifying for all the right reasons. Probably worth a peek, especially if you don't mind having your terrified expression caught on tape. 

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

G.I. Joe ads attack New York beaches via the air

Posted on Mon Jul 6 2009

G.I.Joe-Promotion-at-Robert-Moses Yesterday, a black helicopter raced up to the shore of New York's Robert Moses beach. As it hovered above the water, people rose from their beach blankets and chairs and walked to the shoreline to see what was happening. Was someone being rescued from an undertow? Was it a coast guard training exercise? A rope ladder was unfurled and a man climbed down to its end. He stood there dangling some 20 feet above the water and then started waving as the helicopter slowly pushed forward. As the copter came closer, you could see that the words painted on its sides were not "police" or "coast guard"; rather it read "G.I. Joe." The dramatic event was just another promotion. Albeit a far more effective one compared to the little propeller planes sputtering by, pulling banners promoting the new McCafe coffee and some women’s hygiene product that promoted itself as the ultimate solution for unwanted hair. After the helicopter cruised off, the beach was abuzz about G.I. Joe. Well done Paramount.

—Posted by Kenneth Hein

Michael Bay slams Paramount over marketing of 'Transformers 2'

Posted on Mon Jun 22 2009

Not enough buzz being built, not enough cash being tossed around, and not nearly enough fawning from the MTV Movie Awards. How could Paramount Pictures' marketing team possibly let this happen to Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen?
  Filmmaker and notorious hothead Michael Bay tapped out a poison e-mail to studio bigwigs last month saying he was shocked at the lame non-zeitgeist-y promotion for his action sequel. Example: Not enough ads in the Los Angeles Times! (Note to Bay: No self-respecting 13-year-old boy, the bulls-eye of your demo, would be caught dead reading that pub.) Bay later did a 180 in another e-mail, saying execs at the studio brought their "A game" to the flick's marketing. Seems he can no longer ignore the Hasbro-toy-based film's anticipated monster opening. Despite a tepid 38 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Transformers 2 could rack up a five-day $175 million opening. According to Fandango, Tuesday midnight shows are selling out all over the country, and multiplexes are adding 4 a.m. shows to meet demand. (The pre-dawn scheduling is because the movie's two and a half hours long).
  Fanboys don't care about snipes from critics in the U.K. who deemed it "a lumbering idiot of a movie" and "at once loud and boring, like watching paint dry while getting hit over the head with a frying pan." Or my personal favorite: "Even if it were a more tolerable 90 minutes, it would still sum up everything that is most tedious, crass and despicable about modern Hollywood."
  Now, that has event written all over it.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

GM still riding with 'Transformers 2,' but they're not going as fast

Posted on Thu Jun 11 2009

So much for General Motors turning its back on Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. This first TV spot blending the upcoming Paramount flick with the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro just launched (directed by Transformers filmmaker Michael Bay), with print, online and in-theater ads still to come. Though the automaker is in the throes of bankruptcy, it's still advertising its new muscle car, which reprises its starring role as Bumblebee in the Transformers sequel. There had been widespread reports this spring that GM would back away from the second film, but studio insiders say the deal has just been scaled back—focusing on a single car brand instead of the fleet of nameplates that advertised the original. (The second movie has a bunch of GM cars in it, but there will be Transformer-themed ads for the Camaro only.) But don't cry for Paramount. Additional marketing heft is coming from LG Mobile, 7-Eleven, Kmart, Burger King and Hershey, which has transformed Bay into a purple M&M with a five o'clock shadow.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

'Benjamin Button' is great, for a totally unoriginal piece of trash

Posted on Thu Jan 22 2009

There's nothing like a pointed viral video to torpedo a multi-Oscar-nominated film.
  Just as the Academy was bestowing 13 nominations on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button on Thursday, a video was going around comparing that film to Forrest Gump, the 1994 Best Picture winner, which had the same writer, Eric Roth. The video, which compares footage from each movie, makes a pretty good case for Button's unoriginality. In each film, the lead character is raised in Louisiana by a single mother, overcomes a disability and learns to walk, meets the true love of his life when he's a child but sees her move away to the big city, becomes a war hero, finds his girl (but she's not ready), returns home to his mother, spends time on a boat in the Gulf with a drunk, "befriends a weird black dude," and gets cryptic advice from his mother ("Life is a box of chocolates," "You never know what's coming").
  The video also points out that both tell the "touching story of a man-child told through flashbacks with a thick New Orleans voiceover," only with Button there's "no AIDS." See the video while you can. As of this morning, Button's distributor, Paramount Pictures, was busy trying to the "Curious Case of Forrest Gump" down. If you see one bitchy viral video this year, see this one.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman


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