A major movie studio is making a sudden about face just before releasing a $63 million, Oliver-Stone directed motion picture. And the late change could have a huge impact on the bottom line for the movie and studio
The movie is the 9/11 drama, “World Trade Center.” It’s got a big budget, famous stars and a very famous director. But with just two weeks to go before the film’s, Paramount is turning its carefully orchestrated $35-million marketing campaign on its heels.
The new marketing plan for this serious, historic drama, is a big surprise. Wary of turning off viewers with a gloomy tale, the studio had planned to advertise the film as a story of heroism, not terrorism, taking a low-key approach, to avoid appearing to cash in on the tragedy.
But now, Paramount is unexpectedly tailoring its reported multi-million-dollar marketing campaign to target two specific demographics -- teens and conservatives.
“Teens and Christian right tend to never overlap in their movie-going tastes,” said Devin Gordon, who covers Hollywood for Newsweek magazine. “In fact I would say they never do - they all liked Napolean Dynamite - and that's about it. And so having a cross over for ‘World Trade Center’ is kind of interesting . It’s an audience they see opportunities with, but they will have an uphill battle to get the teens to go out.”
Screenings have revealed the film's resonance with those who watched the attacks five years ago as kids. Paramount marketers are now changing the film's tag line to "Every generation has a defining moment… This was ours."
As part of that plan, on Friday, Paramount sister network MTV was set to join in with a half-hour special – including teens, filmmakers and a survivor discussing the issues.
To win over conservative movie goers, Paramount is hiring the group behind the successful marketing of 'The Chronicles of Narnia' to religious audiences. That’s curious since conservatives have never been seen as big fan's of Stone's anti-war and extremely violent movies.
But in search of the big money, Paramount is doing whatever it takes to surpass the low box office return of only $31 million that Universal took in with it’s 9/11 film, ‘United 93.’
“World Trade Center,” is also a crucial film for the company because it’s the first completed by Paramount Chairman Brad Grey and President Gail Berman.
“This is absolutely a big film for them,” said Gordon. “When you take over a studio like they have, with their credentials not yet established, both of them new to this work -- Brad Grey -- people are really watching how their decisions turn out.”
It's tough to open a serious drama in the midst of the summer blockbusters; serious films tend to do better any season but summer. But Paramount's hoping to make it easier by targeting these two very different audiences.
Stone knows a lot about big, generation-defining films. But if this latest succeeds, it'll be a big comeback for him. His last film, “Alexander,” grossed only $167 million worldwide, though it cost $155 million to make.