Abstain from Sony's new movie, not its 'Still a virgin?' billboards

By T.L. Stanley on Thu Sep 2 2010

Virgin-330

On a scale of 1 to offensive, where does this Sony Pictures advertisement rank? I'd say it's somewhere south of the Youth in Revolt stunt, where a producer of the Weinstein Co. flick paid a homeless guy to stand on his usual panhandling corner holding a one-sheet. And it's fairly even with the Universal campaign for Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which dropped the "fatty" bomb and other misogynistic gems. These new billboards, for Sony's The Virginity Hit, are undoubtedly anti-chastity, but they're so unsubtle that I can't believe anyone's confused that this is an ad campaign. Guerrilla, it's not. The R-rated movie is targeted squarely at the Dane Cook audience (God help us) and not at children. But youngsters are likely to see the ads anyway, and that's what has some folks peeved. The comedy opens Sept. 10 in some markets, with rollout depending on how well it does. I don't think we should worry. Both the billboards and this flick will probably be gone soon enough.

Macy's getting all smurfed up early for next year's 'Smurfs' movie

Posted on Wed Jun 16 2010

Smurfs

Sony Pictures is really smufing up the smurf for The Smurfs, a movie that doesn't open until next summer. The studio has made a deal with retail giant Macy's for a holiday-centered promotion to put the Smurfs in the famous Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and at 800-plus stores. The cuddly three-apple-high characters will act as "holiday ambassadors," with plush versions sold exclusively at the chain. (They talk when you push their tiny blue hands. Say something smurfy, Papa!) They'll be plastered across a half-million Macy's shopping bags, and star in a TV spot, magazine ads and in-store events across the country. The high-traffic Macy's on 34th Street in New York will get a huge outdoor inflatable Smurf (or Smurfette?), window displays and jumbotron exposure. The live-action and computer-generated movie, which has been knocking around in development hell for years, will debut next July with the bad guy Gargamel tracking the Smurfs to New York City. Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria and Sofia Vergara star in the family flick, which includes voices of Katy Perry, George Lopez and Jonathan Winters. Though the original TV show, from Hanna-Barbera, aired in the '80s, the characters have stayed popular over the years. They've floated in the Macy's parade before, but they've never had such promotion from the retailer during the busy Christmas season. Can't blame Sony for sewing the seeds early. Kid flicks aren't a sure thing, even the ones based on well-loved characters. (See: Marmaduke.) Maybe the aggressive push for this little blue army will turn into a lot of green. Smurfy Christmas!

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

'Grown Ups' getting more than a little play during the NBA Finals

Posted on Mon Jun 14 2010

If Grown Ups doesn't open huge at the box office, it won't be the NBA Finals' fault. Or maybe it will. The cast of the Big-Chill-meets-bathroom-humor flick has been relentlessly plugging the movie's June 25 debut during every game, via a deal between Sony/Columbia Pictures, the NBA and ABC. Cast members Adam Sandler, David Spade, Chris Rock, Kevin James and Rob Schneider have appeared in a series of on-air vignettes, the type that marketers and TV networks love to do, especially during sports programming, to juice those media buys. The comedians have been shown sitting around waxing philosophical about basketball, pro players and camaraderie. (See, they're all really good friends and they hang out together. It has nothing to do with shilling!) And there are trailers galore, most containing a pee joke. Several of the stars have shown up courtside, too, and that's likely to intensify as the game moves back to the Staples Center in L.A. for game 6 on Tuesday. The NBA Finals do provide the right demo for the comedy, but let's not forget that this exposure alone isn't enough to put Grown Ups into The Hangover territory (as much as Hollywood needs that kind of a hit). After all, the movie that sucked up a lot of air time during last year's finals? The giant bomb, Year One. 'Nuf said.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Will movie-theater concessions ever get some heathier foods?

Posted on Tue Mar 16 2010

Popcorn

It's not an image I'd ever have conjured up in my own head, but let's indulge Michael Lynton, the head of Sony Pictures, who had this to say during his keynote speech at the Showest convention in Las Vegas on Monday: "I can almost imagine the Romans eating popcorn and drinking Coke at the Coliseum 2,000 years ago. Or the Greeks munching on Sno-Caps at the Theatre of Dionysus in Athens." Really? Anyway, the point he was trying to make was that junk food will always be part of the moviegoing experience—Milk Duds, you're safe—but he called on theater owners to branch out with fruit cups, veggies and dip, yogurt, baked chips and the like. Lynton shared the results of a survey in which 42 percent of parents said they would buy food at theaters for their kids more often if healthier choices were offered, and two-thirds of moviegoers overall said they'd buy healthy concessions if available. It's a nice thought, and an opportunity for marketers. But I seem to recall that no one went for the air-popped popcorn years back, turning that experiment into as big a flop as The Wolfman. It's more acceptable (when confronted with a survey) to say you'd turn down greasy popcorn, sugary soda and candy, but would you? Honestly? I say, bring on the Hot Tamales and start the show.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

'2012' ads unlikely to mention that Mayan elders dispute premise

Posted on Mon Oct 12 2009

So, what happens when you get exposed for building your entire marketing campaign for a mega-budget disaster movie on a foundation of sand? Probably not much if that movie is Sony's upcoming end-of-days CGI-a-thon 2012, whose ads scream, "We were warned," referring to Mayan predictions of a worldwide apocalypse that year. Now, Mayan elders say that while 2012 does mark the end of a significant cycle on their traditional calendar, it won't be the end of the world as we know it. But that's not a great tagline (and filmmaker Roland Emmerich has never been known for being subtle or grounded in truth). With the film still a month from release, Sony has sunk millions into its alarm-bell-style marketing, including a roadblock on Oct. 1 that stretched across broadcast TV, local and Spanish-language stations and 89 cable channels and was expected to reach more people than a Super Bowl buy. Every piece of the campaign, including a network of Web sites, has tried to steep potential moviegoers in its "truth," while relying on them to suspend disbelief. If history is any guide here, it'll work, and the flick will be a monster. But before you go, check out this video above, which strips the trailer of its special effects and leaves only the "acting" and "dialogue." Don't say you weren't warned.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Twinkies faring better than Coke, Pepsi in current film cameos

Posted on Mon Oct 5 2009

It was a big weekend for product placement at the movies, with Hostess Twinkies mentioned almost as often in Zombieland as Jesse Eisenberg's rules for avoiding the living dead. (Rule No. 1: Cardio). High-concept comedy The Invention of Lying also takes a stab at advertising in a world where there are no fibs. A Coca-Cola ad features an unenthusiastic pitchman who says: "I'm Bob; I work for Coke, and I'm asking you to not stop buying Coke." The tagline for the soda is, simply, "It's very famous," but no one's pretending it's not "just brown-colored sugar water" that makes you fat. The slogan for Pepsi sums up what we're all thinking anyway: "When they don't have Coke." (Don't look for the brand-backed cross-promotions on that flick.) Sony Pictures' Zombieland, where even a truckload of pink Sno Balls didn't make the snack-cake cut, led the box office this weekend with $25 million. Warner Bros.' The Invention of Lying, from first-time director Ricky Gervais, pulled in a sad $7.3 million. There won't be a sequel. No lie.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Good luck avoiding the multi-channel blitz for Sony's 2012

Posted on Fri Sep 25 2009

Enough of that cryptic outdoor, viral-Comic-Con under-the-radar stuff—Sony Pictures has decided it's time to bring out the big guns for Roland Emmerich's latest disaster flick, 2012. And if you happen to be watching ad-supported TV on the night of Oct. 1, you'll be hard pressed not to see a sneak peek of the apocalyptic thriller that will air simultaneously across the Big Three networks, local stations, Spanish-language networks and a whopping 89 cable channels. The studio's predicting a reach of 110 million viewers, an audience even bigger than the Super Bowl's. That doesn't come cheap—the ad buy is pegged at $4 million, which is at least a million bucks heftier than a 30-second Super Bowl spot. The special-effects-driven feature, from the guy who brought us Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, stars Danny Glover, Thandie Newton, Amanda Peet and John Cusack as survivors of a global cataclysm. Sony has been seeding the movie with sci-fi fans via graffiti-ed billboards and a District 9-style Web campaign, including ThisIsTheEnd.com and a site dubbed the Institute for Human Continuity with its tagline, "Ensuring the end is just the beginning." On it, fans can register for a lottery number to be part of the population that's saved from the inevitable end of days. Cheery! But a guerrilla campaign can only go so far, and no studio would trust a $200 million flick to word of mouth these days. For three more minutes of the film, the Oct. 1 sneak will direct viewers to fancast.com or Comcast on Demand. Expect tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanoes, oh my. The movie opens Nov. 13.

—T.L. Stanley

Julia Child empire doing brisk business in wake of 'Julie & Julia'

Posted on Wed Aug 12 2009

Not since Babette's Feast, Chocolat and Big Night have people been so hungry when they leave a movie theater. Seems that food-porn chick flick Julie & Julia has turned out some ravenous crowds, reviving the Julia Child brand, sending the late chef's cookbooks to the top of the charts and packing French bistros and cooking classes. Seriously, do not see this movie on an empty stomach. Some stats: Child's 50-year-old tome Mastering the Art of French Cooking shot to the top of Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble's most-popular lists over the weekend, when the Sony Pictures movie launched with more than $20 million at the box office. By the beginning of this week, it was sold out on Amazon, where Child claimed six of the top seven best-sellers. Restaurants and cooking schools, meanwhile, have reported a surge in interest in Child's calorie-rich cuisine, according to the Los Angeles Times. Filmmaker Nora Ephron, herself an avid cook, had to know she'd cause this by bathing the movie's food in a buttery glow. And Meryl Streep did her part to make Child an appealing character for a new generation of foodies. (And Amy Adams is adorable, as always). Bon appetit, indeed.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

'District 9' ads stir up plenty of human-vs.-non-human animosity

Posted on Thu Jun 25 2009

D9

So, the second season of HBO's True Blood has begun, with the American Vampire League reminding us that the undead deserve rights just like the rest of us. And now comes the latest piece of Sony Pictures' campaign for the upcoming thriller District 9 that says aliens shouldn't be abused just because they're, you know, monsters. In other words, can't we all just get along?
  Apparently not, judging by the Sony-created war of words and images around the documentary-style sci-fi flick directed by up-and-comer Neill Blomkamp and produced by Peter Jackson. On one side, there's a conglomerate called Multi-National United that aims to keep those pesky and potentially dangerous aliens in their place. (That would be a segregated, heavily guarded homeland in South Africa. How's that for a subtle apartheid reference?) On the other, there are the "non-humans," who are reaching out to the bleeding hearts among us with tales of exploitation and genocide. Oh, who to believe?
  Sony's stealth marketing includes some arresting bus-shelter ads that read, "Bus benches for humans only. Beware! Non-human secretions may corrode metal!" The campaign seems to be hitting its fanboy target, with 33,000 calls to an alien-reporting hotline in two weeks and more than 20 million views of the trailer in about a month. Watch and see if you agree with me—I'm leaning toward the aliens and against the evil corporation. At any rate, I don't see this battle royale ending well. The movie opens Aug. 14.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Is the PG 'Pink Panther' really what Peter Sellers had in mind?

Posted on Mon Feb 2 2009

The famous bumbling French detective Inspector Clouseau, now played by comedian Steve Martin, will spend time with Cartoon Network movie-fan puppets Jib & Crash for an on-air stunt to promote Friday's release of Pink Panther 2.
  The 60-second vignette will air this week on the kid-targeted cable channel, touting the movie franchise's new positioning as slapstick, safe, all-family fare. No subtlety or nuance here. Just straight-out pratfalls and goofiness. That reimagining of the classic Peter Sellers movie series happened in 2006, when Sony re-edited a finished version of the Pink Panther remake (the studio had inherited the film from MGM), cutting out all the naughty bits and earning it a PG rating.
  The tactic not only worked—the to tune of $158.8 million in worldwide grosses—it has spawned a viable franchise that could exist as long as the studio wants to produce it, proving that Hollywood will never go broke going for a squeaky-clean style for this audience.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley


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