Variety has posted an interesting article looking at the marketing and release of Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones. The film was pushed back to December from it’s original release date in March 2009, which was supposed to give Peter Jackson time to finish and improve the visual effects. It would also mean the film would be released in time for the awards season we are currently in now.
Paramount thought the film would appeal to adults, and could potentially be Oscar bait. After all, the film tells the story of a raped and murdered 14-year-old girl who watches over her family as they mourn and try to find her killer.
However, after test screenings Paramount found that adults weren’t responding to the film, then when The Lovely Bones was given a limited release in December it performed poorly. This caused Paramount to re-think how they marketed the film.
In early November, Jackson called Paramount vice chair Rob Moore to say he’d seen 20th Century Fox’s “Avatar,” and that “Avatar” was going to suck up all the oxygen at the box office once it opened Dec. 18. Jackson suggested that they not open the film nationwide on Dec. 11, but just go out in a few theaters.
How wrong they were. Instead, it was younger women and teenagers–the “Twilight” crowd–who were the most enthusiastic. Moore arranged for a test screening with this audience in Kansas City on Nov. 19. Ken Kamins, Jackson’s longtime manager and exec producer of “Lovely Bones,” was at the screening. “The results were tremendous. That night was when the campaign began to change,” he said.
If that’s when the change began, the film’s disappointing opening on Dec. 11 made it abundantly clear adults were no longer the target demo. Yet it was the film’s spiritual themes, and the father-daughter relationship, that younger females responded in particular to, Moore said. Paramount cut ads playing these up, and began airing spots on female-skewing channels, including Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network (LMN). Studio also quickly attached a trailer of “Lovely Bones” to “New Moon.”
Paramount was able to do an about-face and completely revamp the marketing campaign and go after young femmes. The studio abandoned plans for an awards campaign, and decided to wait until after Christmas to begin advertising in earnest.
It worked. “Lovely Bones” stunned box office observers in coming in No. 3 for the four-day weekend, grossing an estimated $20.5 million from 2,563 theaters for a total cume of $21 million. Of the audience, a full 72% were female, while 40% were under the age of 20.
I haven’t seen The Lovely Bones and it’s not really on my ‘to see’ list, but I think it’s great how Paramount completely changed their marketing campaign and produced results. I doubt Peter Jackson, who’s films such as Lord of the Rings and King Kong mainly appeal to male fanboys, thought he would be making a film aimed at the Twilight crowd.