Six months ago a mysterious viral marketing campaign was seeded on the internet. Last weekend it eventually delivered.
And just how did it deliver? By securing no less than the biggest January opening of all time for a movie in North America.
An estimated 46 million dollars in ticket sales were taken during the opening weekend in U.S. and Canadian theatres.
It surpasses the January record of 35.9 million dollars set by ‘Star Wars’ special edition in 1997.
The movie in question is ‘Cloverfield’, set to open in the UK on February 1 with experts predicting no less enthusisam amongst cinema goers this side of the pond.
There are no big name star actors and its budget was tiny compared to the usual Hollywood blockbusters, but thanks to clever online marketing it’s breaking American box office records.
It all started around six months ago. Myspace.com/robbyhawkins is the page of a 26-year-old marketing guy in New York. Nothing unusual there.
But now go to 1-18-08.com. The site features a selection of photos you can move around. Look for a picture of three smiling people and a red cup. On the right is Robby Hawkins, while the smiling girl on the left is Jamie.
Around the same time a five-minute ad was released on the net. It shows a group of twentysomething New Yorkers partying, before cutting to scenes of devastation as the city comes under attack. Who’s the party for? Robby Hawkins. And who’s also there? Jamie.
The ad caught the attention and imagination of the media and a second ad followed. Both close with the image of a headless Statue of Liberty and details of the US release date of ‘1-18-08’.
To date, combined they have been watched more than 1.5 million times on YouTube.
The film is the brain child of J J Abrams, producer of the award-winning TV series Lost, who has described it as "Godzilla meets The Blair Witch Project.”
Just like ‘The Blair Witch Project’, the movie features unknown actors and is shakily shot in the style of a grainy camcorder.
By avoiding most of the costs associated with big-screen action films, Abrams’ reportedly blown much of Cloverfield's budget on special effects.
But rather than big name actors being the star of the show, for once it’s the marketing strategy that’s been hitting the headlines..
Warner Bros has reportedly been using a similarly inventive strategy to generate public interest in its July release, the new Batman film, ‘The Dark Knight’..
Six minutes of the film were ‘accidentally’ screened in Imax cinemas in December. The footage was quickly uploaded on to YouTube, where it has received thousands of hits.
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