Portions of this post were originally included HERE
As I mentioned in an earlier post on this blog (and in several others elsewhere**), I’ve been following the progress ofAntoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen since March of 2012 when Millennium acquired the rights to the screenplay by Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt and Gerard Butler signed on to star. While it was briefly retitled White House Taken, it was always described as “’Die Hard in the White House’ that follows a down-on-his-luck ex-Secret Service (Butler) agent who becomes America’s only hope when 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is taken over by terrorists”.
That tag brought with it immediate recognition for most movie-goers, as well as some derision from quite a few who write about film. Having just seen it, I can not only say the comparison was apt, but that it seems everyone else who’s actually seen it thus far would agree. (What’s the Scottish equivalent of “Yippee Ki-yay Motherfucker”?)
Olympus Has Fallen seems to have decided that the best way to get the word out about their film and how good it is, is to actually show it to people. Not to critics or press necessarily, but to people interested in seeing movies for their own sake; members of the ticket-buying public. THIS, in my humble opinion, is the way it should be done – take it to the people and avoid self-important “critics” or at least side step them.
Last Wednesday night (3/13/13), as I waited in line for one such screening here in Boston, I passed the time talking to a couple of guys who had never been to a screening before, but Fandango had been offering passes and the movie looked “kind of cool. Plus it was free”. Once inside the auditorium, we parted ways (because I like to sit in front), but after it was over, they waited for me outside. Since I like to stay for the credits (not only does one learn a lot by doing it, I think we owe it to the hundreds of talented people it takes to make a movie, most of whom go “unsung”. But I’ve said all this before. And as usual, I digress.), one of them even snagged me a souvenir, the official “Olympus Has Fallen” lapel pin, that they were handing out that I would otherwise have missed. They were both SO excited about the movie, they wanted to talk about it with me, but best of all, they planned to not only tell their friends about it, but wanted to come back with them and see it again. This is exactly what a screening is designed to do.
While the idea of free screenings is not a new one, Millennium Films, Film District and the producers of Olympus Has Fallen (Fuqua and Butler among them) are taking the game to the next level. Through the use of social media like Twitter and Facebook, coupled with the screenings, they are currently riding a wave of tremendous (and tremendously positive) buzz. What’s more they’ve done it in about six weeks. I know I lamented the lack of PR for Olympus Has Fallen when the first images from that other, similarly themed movie, White House Down, were released way back in November of last year. Despite the fact that a new, earlier release date was announced in December, the first trailer for Olympus Has Fallen wasn’t released until mid-January. Since then, however, there has been a steady stream of posters, clips, and images leading up to a flurry of interviews, appearances, pre-press and a LOT of nationwide screenings.
To my knowledge there haven’t been any press screenings yet. The PR team is using social media to publicize the screenings and advertise the feedback ahead of giving the film to the usual outlets or websites. That’s not to say they don’t want favorable press or that write-ups by well-established reviewers won’t appear. They are, after all, also utilizing tv spots and releasing clips to some of those websites and the director and his cast have been hitting the press junket hard, including countless interviews. My point is that even if critics trash the movie or the press pans it, it won’t matter. The buzz is already too strong, word-of-mouth too favorable. With less than a week to go before general release here in the US, it would seem they’ve effectively neutralized any possible negativity. That’s probably a rosy-hued opinion, but this could become a new model for movie marketing.
Of course, this does all hinge on having a quality product to begin with and it is because the producers of Olympus Has Fallen believe so strongly in their film that they could go this route successfully.
According to the New York Times, when the special Cinema Society screening ended on Monday night (3/11/13) in New York “and the credits rolled, the audience cheered. ‘Wow,’ said Harvey Weinstein as he shook Mr. Butler’s hand with gusto; in the lobby, he accosted Antoine Fuqua, the director. ‘You’ll do a hundred-million-plus,’ he told him (box-office-speak for big).” Have I mentioned this one has industry buzz as well? So not only did Harvey attend the screening of a movie he had nothing to do with, but he predicted it would be huge. HUGE! (In Harvey we trust.)
Congrats G (and the rest of the producers)…oh, and suck it Ryan Kavanagh.
Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen features an all-star cast including Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Dylan McDermott, Rick Yune, Radha Mitchell, Robert Forster, Cole Hauser and Ashley Judd. It opens in the US on March 22 and in the UK on 17th April.