Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Is it smart of Super 8 to be subtle with their advertising?

This upcoming weekend at the movies,Super 8 is the big film that everyone will be watching to see how well it does.

There's a lot of risks attached to this flick in the eyes of the money men in Hollywood;the only star names on board here are producer Steven Spielberg and director J.J. Abrams and the trailers have been very careful not to revel the mysterious menace of the story.

To me,that approach is rather refreshing. Letting the audience use their imagination a little during a promo used to be the norm but nowadays,you can watch the whole movie in less than 5 minutes,thanks to the overabundance of imagery and plot lines shoved into a teaser.

Since Super 8 is set in 1979,an era where the major technical advances in special effects were still taking baby steps,it only makes sense to hold back some of surprises here:

This tactic can backfire but more often than not it's proven to be a success. Especially in genre films,altho this ploy has usually taken up by films with way smaller budgets,as a means of catching the media eye and starting up much needed buzz.

Horror films have in particular mastered this craft,with the likes of The Blair Witch Project(the first one,anyway) and the Paranormal Activity films. The folks behind Paranormal Activity were also clever enough to create hype for the movie with small screenings and film festival showings that build up strong word of mouth.

By taking footage from those screenings and having audience reactions as the major part of the film's trailer,Paranormal Activity tapped into our collective fears without showing us a drop of blood and became one of the scariest sleeper hits of that year. Good enough to warrant a sequel that was just as nerve wracking and successful to boot,a rare feat in film these days:

Hollywood is no stranger to these methods,once heavily relying on them in the past to lure folks into the theater for both A and B list features. One of the grand masters of this technique was Alfred Hitchcock,who paved the way for cinematic twists that directors such as M. Knight Shyamalan have sprung on movie goers.

His best known trailer tease is for the now classic Psycho,where Hitch gives a tour of the film set and broadly hints at some of the terrible things that happened at the Bates Motel. His dark sense of humor is at play here,until the final little shock towards the end.

As a further inducement,he insisted that no one would be seated late at any of the movie's showtimes once the film started(a gimmick that worked for the 1955 French thriller Les Diaboliques). Theater owners was reluctant to give in but that gambit really paid off. It was such a big hit that the studio re-released it five years later before selling the viewing rights to TV,a pretty sweet deal all around:

So,I wouldn't count out any success for Super 8 just yet. It does help that the movie is coming out between other blockbuster releases like X Men: First Class(which opened with a very respectable box office take) and Green Lantern,set to arrive next week. It may slip in as a sleeper hit,which would prove that audiences don't have to be spoon fed the entire movie in every ad. Spelling out all of the good stuff for us is insulting and makes us more eager to wait for home video:

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