Movie studios are going ‘next level’ to promote blockbusters, and it’s paying off

Over-sharing? Or are production stills like this from <i>Red Notice</i> part of deepening our relationship with the stars of the moment.

Over-sharing? Or are production stills like this from Red Notice part of deepening our relationship with the stars of the moment. Photo: Netflix

Traditionally, when big budget blockbuster movies are about to hit our movie and television screens, we’ll get a two-minute teaser package via social media, on streaming services or in cinemas to whet our appetites.

We’ll see the lead actors fulfil their contractual obligations and do a series of perfectly timed sit-down press and television appearances.

Not anymore.

Over the past 12 months, there’s been an increase in “interesting and strategic displays” from stars to promote their films, including releasing behind-the-scenes packages, posting production stills of key scenes online, and delivering candid interactions between stars aimed at showing one big happy family on the film set.

Some say it’s all designed to show the hard work and fun that goes into making a movie, a look at the stars’ real personalities and, most important, make the actors relatable, approachable, and more human.

Sure, all that.

But in the case of The Rock (Dwayne Johnson), Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot, who’ve been heavily involved in promoting their comedy crime thriller Red Notice since early November, it has paid off big time, becoming the most watched movie in Netflix history.

Shattering records

When the film landed on Netflix on November 12 – two weeks after its theatrical release – it shattered opening day records.

Reynolds was quick to share the record-breaking achievement on Instagram: “[The] biggest-ever opening day for a film.”

Added Johnson (Jungle Cruise, F9): “Still processing this historic industry news … Red Notice shattered opening day records for Netflix around the world.”

And just over three weeks later, according to the streaming giant, Red Notice has so far brought in 328.8 million viewing hours, topping the previous record held by Sandra Bullock’s Bird Box in 2018 with 282 million viewing hours, CNN reported on December 2.

Stars go above and beyond

Cleverly, the stars have been sharing behind-the-scenes vision clips, promotional material and skilful, well-rehearsed comedy routines on their social media platforms to promote the FBI-catches-an-art-thief film.

Netflix has released dozens of production stills and behind-the-scenes images, as it typically does for key titles.

The Rock has been posting from his gym, where he’s telling fans to hashtag the movie with the line “12daysofRedNotice” to win a $50 Uber Eats voucher and an energy drink.

Reynolds will never totally shake off his Deadpool persona, so anything he does on and off camera is bankable.

Gadot (Wonderwoman) has been showing us her COVID tests and tongue-in-cheek posts: “I’m so excited for the biggest Netflix project ever, staring two totally anonymous unattractive guys with no charisma.”

“I’ve been waiting to share with the world the many ways I beat them for so long, so here it goes,” she says.

And overnight, Johnson updated us with the big news that almost 60 per cent of all Netflix accounts have watched his film.

“Thank u guys,” he wrote.

Associate Professor Bruce Isaacs, a University of Sydney expert in cinema and the film industry, told The New Daily “cinema – and this is to say, all cinema to some extent – creates deeply immersive experiences, and stars are absolutely central to that fantasy.”

He says it may also have something to do with creating a momentum as the film is released because “studios fear that audiences have been sheltered by COVID”.

‘Closeness of engagement’

“The Rock is a special figure in what I’d call a hyper-capitalist Hollywood. The Rock is almost a perfect commodity for the studio: a kind of transferable action figure, but a great actor with fantastic charisma and comic timing.”

Professor Isaacs says the “domestic TV screen has a higher level of intimacy for the spectator – so building on this by adding in layers of star appearances, demonstrations …  may increase that closeness of engagement you see with the Netflix platform.

“It doesn’t surprise me that he’s the bankable star right now.

“So this ‘humanity’ is part of the connection with potential audiences and audience groups,” he explains.

It’s been hard work keeping fit to play James Bond. Photo: Netflix

Does it spoil the movie?

Two years ago, a behind-the-scenes photograph of Daniel Craig went viral after he was spotted wearing a moon boot while training on set for No Time To Die.

Audiences had become so invested in Craig as Bond after playing the secret agent five times in 15 years, Professor Isaacs explains, that the actor becomes “a product and a mythology that people buy into and imagine themselves part of.”

“Craig was also strategically promoted as a rugged, physical Bond, so that focus makes sense from a studio marketing perspective,” Professor Isaacs continued.

“We enter into a relationship with the movies we invest in – expanding that relationship with still, or behind-the-scenes ephemera of any kind – deepens that relationship,” he says.

The “deeper and more compelling the allure of the relationship”, he noted, the bigger the success at the box office.

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