‘Jurassic World’, ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’, and the New-Age of Blockbuster Promotion

Remember the days when we learned about new movies coming out by watching previews at the theatre? Yeah, me neither. History lesson: movie promotion used to be a pretty simple, rinse and repeat process. Get a solid trailer to show before films that share a similar audience, have posters hanging all over the place, maybe give out toys with Happy Meals, put your star on Letterman or Leno, and finally bombard the television with short trailers in the weeks leading up to the films release.

Those were simpler times, the 2000’s. But the internet has shifted from a convenient tool into the fourth necessity for life (food, shelter, water, internet…clothing is not a necessity in my opinion). Movie studios have had no choice but to find creative new ways to promote their upcoming releases, and it’s more complicated than simply coming up with a cute hashtag and giving a trailer to Itunes.

Whether it’s creating an interactive website where fans can complete tasks and find hidden clues (The Dark Knight, Jurassic World), announcing your slate of releases years in advance (Marvel/Disney, DC/Warners), or being so damn secretive it almost comes as a surprise when the first teaser trailer actually comes out (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), something has to be done other than the classic promotion cycle I explained above. Marvel went as far as to promote their future releases with post-credit scenes attached to their current ones.

To see just how far this has gone, I suggest visiting the official Jurassic World website. Two weeks before the trailer came out, this website was active and driving fanboys like me crazy. This a popular tactic nowadays. There were some photos and a little bit of information, but much like the trailer, not enough to give anything away. This makes sense for a movie like Jurassic World, where half the mystique surrounding it is the question of what dinosaurs will be used.

The teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which I’ve included below, is similar in the sense that it provides enough to have fans licking their lips but doesn’t actually give anything away. Teaser trailers didn’t used to show any footage from the movies. They were mostly just some titles, music, and a catchy tagline. Star Wars reportedly just wrapped principal photography this month, so the fact that they’ve already shown us some clips, albeit extremely brief and non-enlightening ones, says a lot about how things have changed. The movie won’t be out for literally over a year. Doesn’t matter. Disney wants you to circle December 18, 2015 on your calendar well in advance. Just like with all the upcoming Marvel releases, I already have.

If you ever go see a movie in IMAX, they often are preceded by an entire scene scene from an upcoming movie. The Star Trek Into Darkness producers chose to show the films entire opening before IMAX showings of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The same thing happened with The Dark Knight Rises, which had its opening shown before before Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol.

These promotional tactics are aimed at obsessive movie-watchers, like me, more so than the casual movie-goer. Twitter and cell phones cameras have made it nearly impossible for a movie to go into production without everyone knowing about it. The studios have realized that, and countered by playing along.

Oh, and toys. Both Jurassic World and Star Wars: The Force Awakens are likely to sell a lot of toys. My parents donated all my old dinosaurs and Star Wars guys to charity. It’s a nice thought, but damnit, I want to have Darth Vader fight Spinosaurus again. Even though I’m pretty sure I used Darth Vader so much I broke his thumbs, which renders the toy useless.

I’m out. Happy holidays. This year, I’m thankful for Chris Pratt.

Jurassic World comes out June 12th, 2015. Star Wars will be released on December 18th, 2015.


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