Case Study: Juno, 2007's Top Indie Hit Outdoes Studios, Sets Target for MovieBank

by Michael Sellers, MovieBankIf you haven’t heard of “Juno” yet — you will soon. The studios got lucky with this one and indies like MovieBank and Quantum need to take note.   It’s a wonderful indie comedy-drama directed by Jason Reitman and released by Fox Searchlight on December 7. It had wonderful buzz from festivals and reviews going into its release, and it did $8,000 plus per screen when it opened. Since then it has grown steadily and it’ now at $70M and going strong. It’s hard to say where it will end up but it shows signs of being the “Holy Grail”…maybe not “Big Fat Greek Wedding” but close. I saw it on Sunday and given all the indie universe hype, I was expecting to be a little disappointed. I wasn’t. Aside from being entertaining, edgy/funny, and very humanistic … it also has a nice freshness to it, a feeling that it’s not a movie you’ve seen before. (By contrast, I felt that WAITRESS, the other indie hit of 2007, had a completely ‘been there, done that’ feel to it. And WAITRESS didn’t do anywhere near the numbers that Juno is doing.) Anyway — I do recommend that you go see Juno if you can. And even if you don’t — remember the name Ellen Page. She’s definitely going to be a star.Obviously when I watch something like this I’m not just enjoying the film….I’m trying to learn something. I’ve also been studying the marketing campaign and I’m going to reprint an aritcle here that reprises the marketing and comments on it. I think the marketing was good but at the end of the day the film sells itself. It just has that “it” factor, that spark that makes people love it. Alchemy. But the marketing could have ruined it and it didn’t do that — and it probably helped.Movie Marketing Madness: JunoPosted on December 5th, 2007 by ChrisI honestly don’t know how to start this column without diving into the meat of the column itself. I could start with a description – a high school girl (Ellen Page) gets pregnant after having sex with her best guy friend (Michael Cera) and decides to give the baby to a couple looking to adopt – but that would only get me, well, that far.If I start talking about how the movie has been critically lauded since, roughly, the day it first hit the festival circuit then I’m going to wind up sounding like I’m repeating myself, which I don’t want to do.So I’ll just say let’s look at how Fox Searchlight is trying to sell a movie that’s been widely regarded for many months now as one of the year’s best, a serious contender for awards season and generally just a good, solid movie featuring some truly original talent.Juno_teaser1bigThe PostersThe first teaser poster that was released didn’t show much while at the same time showing the main driving force of the movie. It simply contained a striped shirt under which was a swollen, pregnant belly. The movie’s title treatment appeared stretched across that shirt along with a copy point reminder that the movie was “Due this holiday season.”As a teaser this poster worked really well. The audience was appropriately teased as to the movie’s plot and told when they could expect the movie. By the time the poster first appeared the critical buzz was already in full swing so this poster served to reinforce the movie’s brand identity in the minds of that audience while also selling it as a dry comedy to the unfamiliar public.The later theatrical poster I did not think worked as well as the teaser. The striped orange theme was retained but this time was shunted to the background. In the foreground now stood Page and Cera, each in their signature outfits from the movie. Page was looking directly at the audience, as is often the case on movie posters. So that was fine. But Cera’s image was obviously lifted from the film, with him looking off, kind of down and to the side.That kind of thing might seem like a minor point to make about an otherwise just-fine poster, but it’s that kind of graphical disconnect that can – and did – take me right out of my experience of looking at the poster.Junoposter2TrailersFor domestic audiences the movie only had one real trailer. But what a trailer it was.By the time it debuted in August I was already familiar with the movie and its general plot. I had read a number of stories about the sharp, intelligent, funny writing and the rest of the critical adoration for the flick. So I was prepared to be underwhelmed.I wasn’t.The trailer takes the viewer through the movie’s story more or less chronologically. It starts off with Juno finding out she’s pregnant (with Rainn Wilson from “The Office” offering up some of the year’s most memorable movie quotes) and then goes from there. She tells her parents, she meets the couple hoping to adopt the baby, all with little character moments from the supporting cast thrown in for good measure. If this trailer doesn’t charm you with the way these characters are portrayed I don’t know what to do for you. The dialogue combined with completely effortless acting from Jennifer Garner, J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney is just great.The trailer is paced perfectly to allow you to enjoy these moments before moving on to the next one. By highlighting the dialogue and the performances and making them the vessel through which the story is told I think the studio will effectively be able to snare audiences that are looking for low-key quality movies.Here is the link to the trailer on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0SKf0K3bxgOnlineI’ll start out this review of the Juno official website in the same way that I did last week for the site for The Savages. Being that it comes from Fox Searchlight the site’s bottom half is loaded with links to videos featuring the movie’s cast and crew, links to various blogs and MySpace pages as well as to news stories and blog posts about the movie.On the top of the page, though, is where you’ll find most of the site’s standard content. You can access information on the cast by clicking their name as it appears at the top of the main graphic. Once you’ve done that you’re presented with the option to kind of scroll through the other cast members, with bios appearing for each one like thought bubbles next to a picture of them. When you open the Menu from the upper-right corner you see that you’ve entered the “Cast” section of the site. But it’s cool that you can just sort of jump right into the content like this.Next on the menu is a “Gallery” of 11 stills if I’m counting correctly. Most of these are taken from footage we’ve seen in the trailer. “Video” is just the trailer, but it’s worth re-watching. “Filmmakers” is surprisingly robust, offering information on a over a dozen of the behind-the-scenes players, including director Reitman and writer Cody and moving on down the line.“Synopsis” contains what just might be the best-written description of a film I’ve seen on an official site to date. It lays out the characters in rough sketches, goes through what the story is and how the characters interact and, while it’s still written with a bunch of marketing-speak, it’s still a good read.There’s a bunch of downloads in “Fun Stuff,” including a Diorama to download and print out, AIM icons, Wallpapers and Ringtones of some of the movie’s more memorable audio clips. “E-Gifts” lets you cruise some of the items that appear in the mo

vie – orange Tic-Tacs, a guitar, etc – that you can send as a virtual present to a friend via email. The only suggestion I would have here is that they should have been part of the Facebook execution that I’ll go into shortly as presents you could send to friends there.Wrapped within the site is the Junoverse, sort of a mini social network for members of the Fox Searchlight online community. You could create your own Junoverse profile and earn points by doing various things like attending screenings of the movie and more. The person with the most points got to win a Gibson guitar and a screening in their hometown.Just as he did for his previous Fox Searchlight effort Thank You For Smoking, Reitman kept a blog of the movie’s production and promotional tour. It’s so insanely good, just like his previous effort, that Reitman seriously needs to consider just starting his own blog, something that could then be fed into the site of whatever movie he’s working on at the time. This needs to happen.Like many recent movies, Juno has a Facebook presence, in this case via the Fox Searchlight group page. From there you can access a number of the features that are also on the website.The main one is a chat widget you can grab from the official site and embed on either your MySpace or Facebook profile page. That’s a very cool play that takes the branded tool and allows people to put it where they are.There’s also the “Jargon Generator” that plays audio snippets from the movie. Each time you do that on the Facebook page it prompts you to add that particular audio clip to not just your Facebook profile but also your MySpace, Friendster or other page. That’s a really cool way to break the effort out of the Facebook confines and into the larger social web.Advertising and Cross-PromotionsFor a small film I’m guessing Juno has a huge advertising budget. Online ads have been ubiquitous and TV ads have been at least frequent, the latter mostly made up of footage from the trailer.PressIf memory serves the movie first started getting noticed back in about May or June, well ahead of its December release date. That’s an incredibly long time for a little movie – meaning one with out a big star, that’s not based on a comic book, is not a sequel or otherwise part of an existing brand – to maintain buzz and anticipation. But that’s exactly what it’s done. The studio (Fox Searchlight) seems to have planned out screening schedules well, rationed out the movie’s talent for interviews judiciously and otherwise done a lot of things well to keep people talking about the movie.OverallThis is a fantastic campaign that manages to walk the line between being one that appeals to indie-minded audiences and being one that has mainstream appeal. The trailer is very much geared toward the latter whereas other executions – especially the press plan – are intended to sway the minds of those looking for off-the-beaten path movies.There are only some small chinks in the armor of this campaign’s components. The theatrical poster, I think, is a weak spot with its awkward graphics. And the website it doesn’t seem devotes quite enough space to how praised this movie is. The Savages site had a section devoted to Accolades and I think the sheer volume of positive reviews for Juno more than warranted a similar dedicated section.But it’s hard to find fault with the campaign overall. Everything about it sells the movie as something that’s charming and funny, two things that are sorely lacking in theaters right now.

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