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To Be Continued: On ‘IT’s’ Terrific Marketing Campaign

What a weekend!

New Line Cinema’s adaptation of Stephen King’s “IT” has just had the best opening weekend for a horror film ever. But, let’s be honest here, it doesn’t matter how good the movie is, no film makes an estimated $117m (!) on opening weekend without an equally strong marketing campaign and IT had one of horror’s best in recent years.

Let’s start with the record-crushing teaser trailer. Released in March, the two-and-a-half-minute promo clocked up 197 million views in the first 24 hours, more than any other film trailer in history. It’s a tightly edited teaser that does a great job of selling the film. As Brad noted in his box office report, budgets for studio horror films usually hover at around the $5m mark. If there’s any genre that can do more with less, it’s horror; but that does make it all the more special when a relatively big budget genre film comes along.

IT’s reported $35m budget puts it in the range of The Conjuring 2 and A Cure for Wellness, and the trailer makes sure all of that is on the screen. The gorgeous sweeping cameras and the biting rain make the film feel big and impressive, and in a different league to the smaller budget horror films that general audiences have become accustomed to. Also commendable is the fact that, unlike some other recent remakes, reboots and sequels, the trailers make little of the fact that King’s book has already been adapted as the very successful 1990 ABC miniseries. The teaser feels like something new and director Andy Muschietti brings a grandeur to the shared scenes that make this version feel like its own beast.

The teaser and all the following trailers and clips also did a great job of setting up scenes without spoiling them. As John brought up on Twitter, we were only given the bare bones of sequences. Beats are skipped, big final scares avoided: but without ever making the trailer moments feel disjointed or lacking. Even the preview of the storm drain sequence that played in front of Annabelle: Creation clipped the end of the scene.

The efficiency of the teaser ensured there was plenty of new footage to intrigue and excite in the eventual first full trailer. Trailer 1, below, introduces more of the mystery element and keeps the focus firmly on the Losers’ Club. As many people have pointed out, this bike-riding young gang looks very “Stranger Things”. However, IT was already midway through shooting when “Stranger Things” was released, so we can only presume that each production developed most of the shared elements concurrently, as opposed to copying directly.

That being said, it is worth discussing how the marketing team dealt with the similarities. Rather than advertising IT as “Stranger Things” on the big screen, the promotional materials harnessed the goodwill towards the show. The circular nature of inspiration means that it’s totally fair game for New Line and Warner Brothers to use “Stranger Things”, in the same way the Duffer Brothers used King as one of their primary reference points.

Like “Stranger Things”, the marketing campaign for IT played on nostalgia, which led to some really great tie-ins. Immersive screenings and the Neibolt House experience may be gimmicky, but they make for great little news stories. Promo footage of audience members shrieking at the special screenings or raving about how scary the Hollywood haunted house attraction is builds up a sense of danger around the film. Horror fans may find the finished film to be relatively mild, but the general discourse around IT has casual audiences wanting to test themselves to see if they can handle “one of the 5 scariest films ever made” (Joe Hill, King’s son). New Line didn’t leave it at that, though. I can’t remember the last time I played an 8-bit tie-in game, but I was first online to check out “Enter the Sewer”. And, as well as looking back, New Line also looked to the future with a VR Experience YouTube video: “IT: Float”.

But, most notably, IT was never advertised as IT: Chapter One. In a world of cinematic universes and Tetris trilogies, and even though they must have known they had a huge hit on their hands, New Line avoided making any big sequel announcements beforehand. Yes, film fans likely knew that was the plan. But, as far as I can tell, general audiences weren’t aware that there is a sequel on the way. Unlike something like The Mummy with its preordained “Dark Universe”, most viewers sat down to watch the full story. Now, had the movie been less satisfying than it is, maybe that would have backfired and left paying customers feeling short-changed. But, if the encouraging B+ CinemaScore is anything to go by, most viewers will have got a kick from the end title’s promise of Chapter Two.

Imagine going in and watching this epic horror film, complete with wonderful characters you care about and finding out you’ll get to spend even more time with them in a couple of years. New Line has the excitement of a self-contained hit, without the desperate scramble to churn out a sequel. IT: Chapter Two may still be two years away, but it’s obviously been on their minds and this film was structured to fit perfectly with a follow-up.

In the end, though, this does all go back to the fact that Muschietti made one hell of a horror movie, with enough brilliant scenes, ideas, and visuals for the New Line marketing department to do their thing. But thank god they delivered, because they’ve contributed to one of the defining box office weekends in horror history.



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COMMENTS

31 Comments
  • Khy

    All good shit. I just hope Mike doesn’t get fucked over in Chapter 2. Keep him as the historian and the one who calls every one home and sets the final battle into motion.

    • Bla Blah

      i wouldnt be surprised if they delegated that role to Ben, who was much more of the informant in terms of the history of derry in the film. As sad as it sounds, Mike was really pushed to the side.

      • K Nida

        I guess the director has said Mike will be in that role, but he also said he wants to make him a junkie who sees visions of It coming to Earth.

      • khail19

        although it did make sense for Ben to be the historian in the movie since he’s the new kid in town, no friends yet, only the library for solace type, I wish they gave Mike something else to do. Stan, however, which is my least liked Loser, became surprisingly likable for me in the movie.

        • Bla Blah

          really? I didnt dislike Stan, but honestly….i lowkey hated the kids guts having the knowledge that he is the one who will eventually kill himself and back out of returning to kill Pennywise in the future. So while i think the actor was great and i enjoyed him, at the same time i kept lookng at him with disdain lol

          • khail19

            haha. yeah. he just happened to be part of the group because he tagged along with other kids when one kid from the gang (was it eddie or richie?) invited him to play with them in the Barrens, and Stan decided to stay. He’s that friend in anyone’s squad.

  • jasonlives1986

    My concern with the sequel calling back to the original and what they went through isnl thst the way this movie was edited it just felt like all the action happened over the course of two or three days.

    Very glossed over and rushed. One of my disappointments of the film

    • khail19

      without the title cards marking the months. it did feel like just 3 days. lol. but i guess we’ll have to wait for vol. 2 to fill in those gaps, if there are any. and we’ll wait even longer for the combined home video version if they’ll stick to that plan.

  • Trav

    I wouldn’t call this “relatively mild”, this was truly a terrifying film. I definitely agree about the previews. The projector scene is an outstanding example of the trailers getting me intrigued with a scene, without giving away the big scare. This movie really did deliver.

  • DirkShadows

    There’s an interesting story on Entertainment Weekly that says the sequel still doesn’t have an official greenlight (as of this morning) even though development and writing are underway. The children’s flashback sequences haven’t been filmed yet and the Muschiettis are eager to get that done before the kids grow too much. It also looks like the adult Losers’ careers will tie in with the book (Mike as a librarian). http://ew.com/movies/2017/09/11/stephen-king-it-sequel-details/

    • Khy

      THANK YOU! Sweet baby Jaysus I feel so much better about Mike now <3

  • steadymobb

    I’m genuinely confused as to what people found terrifying about this film

    • Mark B

      True. I have been so de-senstized over the years I wasn’t scared. My problems is all of the jump scares. The Red Letter Media really emphasized this in their review of the movie, and I totally agree with them. Jump Scares aren’t truly scary they are just startling.

      • steadymobb

        I honestly don’t care as much about jump scares as others. Yes, they’re cheap – but see nothing wrong with a well placed one now and then. That being said, IT had some funny ones due to some horrible and unnecessary cgi

    • Grimphantom

      It’s not about being terrified, i seen scarier horror movies yet didn’t scared me one bit however like IT i enjoyed the story and atmosphere the movie had. I mean if you heard people saying how movies like Paranormal Activity and The Ring are scary, those guys get scare easily with anything.

      • Well the first remake of The Ring was something, time is passed but years ago it was the horror sensation of 2002. At the time it was an anomaly with a big budget, a big income and an eye on older audiences.
        In 5-6 years this version of IT will be like The Ring.
        Well regarded but kind of grown old.

        • Grimphantom

          I honestly didn’t see the hype for that movie. I tried watching it many times and it was just boring for me, some will say the same with IT.

          • I’m not saying The Ring it’s a mastepiece whatsoever (for me it is tho), just saying that IT, pretty much like The Ring, is gonna receive a lot of love and hype and it’s gonna mark this year as the year of IT before it eventually disappear from people’s minds

  • llcc1103

    I just read Fukinagas script. Wow What could have been. Seriously depressed. This version was a hackjob commercial cgi crapfest

    • Grimphantom

      I read it too but hey what you know……it’s too similar to the most of the movie so why are you trying to prove a point when part of Fukunaga is there? Just say you don’t like the movie and that’s it, don’t come up as little miss know it all.

      I just notice, you haven’t seen the movie, haven’t you? I say that because you’re so “i wanted Fukunaga’s version so bad” yet you DID! I won’t be surprised you haven’t seen the movie, just to bash at a movie.

      • llcc1103

        look who it is. The angry triggered baby. Your english and grammar is awful by the way

        • Grimphantom

          And you’re the moron who complains about everything, what makes you any difference.

          Look who’s talking, you couldn’t even spell Fukunaga right.

        • Grimphantom

          btw, you didn’t respond if you actually seen the movie. With all the crap you’re saying it makes me believe you haven’t seen it and you’re just bashing it because that’s the only good thing you can do in your miserable life, having some sense to why you’re in this world…..being a jackass.

          • llcc1103

            dude were on a movie forum. Why are you so freaking angry? I watched the movie opening day at 330 pm. From start to finish. beginning to the end. From the opening scene of georgie, to Will and his dad in the garage, to Ben in the library basement, to mike in the slaughterhouse, to the rock fight, to the pharmacy, to the quarry to the dumb tower of kids floating. I HATED THE MOVIE. Get over it. The only jackass is you who gets angry at people who dont agree with you. Bye

          • Grimphantom

            Sure you did, pal. LOL i think someone else is angry and that’s not me so if you’re the one with anger issues, that’s your problem.

            Get over it? Uh, you’re the one who complains the movie more……if you dislike the movie you wouldn’t comment where others seem to have a different point of view than you. Also you’re mentioning Fukunaga(oh wait, Fukinaga! lol) all the time i feel you want to get it on so bad with him that you’re still blind that the majority of the movie script YOU hate, it’s from him.

        • BloodyDisgusted

          Dude, look at what you wrote. I wouldn’t be critical of someone else’s grammar if I were you.

    • Khy

      Oh get over it. It didn’t happen. Move the fuck on.

  • The Drucifer

    As much as I enjoyed the film, and I did solid 8/10, it’s sound design was boring and cliched. If only the director put as much effort into the sound as he did the visuals. Music was overbearing and the lack of subtlety in the effects really bothers me.

    Eddies’s encounter with The Leper really could have used the sounds of summer and normalcy slowly fading and growing silent, as if the animals know something wrong is there, as the door to Niebolt Street opens.

    Maybe I’ve spent too much time this summer with Twin Peaks: The Return but the art of sound design can really heighten he wrongness of a situation. It’s too often ignored and used only for cheap jump scares or to emotionally manipulate the audience.

    • I agree here – and the excessively loud music towards the jump scares or any intense scenes made it predictable. Still I had a blast and hopefully in chapter two it might be more restrained!

  • I was opposed to Pennywise look when it was released (here) but I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by this. Towards the end it runs out of steam due to a barrage of fast paced horror pieces but Skarsgard proved me wrong. The cast is great too. One of the scariest films ever made? Hardly but it is a damn good one!

    • Chrissie-Watkins

      I completely agree with you that this film is great! I thought it really was one of the scariest that I, personally, have ever seen, so I am curious what you would say are some of the scariest. Not questioning you at all, but I am suspecting that you’re probably thinking of ones I might not have even heard of, so I’m eager to know!

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