During the tent pole seasons, and no that’s not an Anthony Weiner joke, movies are driven by marketing as much as by stars or storyline. Summer and Christmas releases (again, not a Weiner gag) are lavished with marketing budgets that in some cases dwarf the overall cost of the movie. This weekend, for instance, it’s been reported that Super 8 (which I think is super great) cost $45 million before Paramount’s salesmen and women got a hold of it and spent an additional $50 million to raise awareness.
Movie posters are just one way to grab the public’s attention and this week two very different posters caught my eye. They’re weren’t the fancy-dancy new “motion posters” studios are now using to grab bored commuter’s eyes in the subway, but studies in contrast as to how two different advertising campaigns can be used to grab the same audience.
Super 8, J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg’s homage to 80s action adventure is aimed directly at the 18 to 45 year-old market and is tracking best among audiences over age 30, who have fond memories of E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial or Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
For different reasons David Fincher’s upcoming Christmas release , the R-rated The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is also looking for a piece of the 18 to 45 year-old pie. Billed by Sony as “The feel bad film of Christmas” the international poster is so provocative the only fond memories it’s likely to invoke are of an S&M dungeon.
Hence the tale of two posters.
Super 8’s artwork is a throwback to the great hand-painted posters Drew Struzan did for the holy box-office trinity of Lucas-Spielberg-Zemeckis movies. Evoking a late 70’s, early 80s vibe it blows apart the contemporary idea of poster design, replacing one central image with a photo-realistic painted collage of faces placed against a backdrop of locations pulled from the film. It’s a warm and fuzzy illustration that by its connection to the posters of E.T. and Indiana Jones subconsciously promises a Spielbergian good time.
In stark contrast the teaser poster for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a bleak black and white image, complete with star Rooney Mara’s pierced nipples and Daniel Craig’s hangdog facial expression. Unless you live in Sweden you’re unlikely to see this Robert-Mapplethorpe-by-way-of-Helmut-Newton placard hanging in your local multiplex, but it’s available online and has already set tongues waggling. Sex sells—one blogger even posted, “You don’t get to 500 million dollars worldwide without showing a few nipples.”—but it remains to be seen if this brand of hypersexualized art will attract or repel audiences.
Either way, both posters do a great job of contextualizing the appeal of the movies they represent.
Super 8 is all innocence, a throwback to a time before sexting when the world had a beautiful blue camera flare every now and again (on film anyway).
The Dragon Tattoo poster is more a character study. Lisbeth Salander, one of the great female characters of recent years, is portrayed as dangerous, defiant with a flash of menace in her eye. It’s a take no prisoners picture that dares you to see the movie.
These two very different marketing visions prove that even in our busy lives, bombarded as we are by images and information, that pictures can still elicit strong, intuitive feelings.
Need more proof? Just ask Anthony Weiner.