“Some Thing Has Found Us.”
“Get Carried Away.”
“Why So Serious?”
These three taglines can be found at multiplexes across the country. While the first hints at suspense (Cloverfield), the second states giddiness (Sex and the City), and the third is both inquisitive and foreboding (The Dark Knight), they all do their part in building the buzz or hype for a particular movie. But, interestingly enough, this buzz is never consistent, with surprises ranging from box office openings to affecting awards season. So what can buzz do for a film or an actor before that film is released?
If we look at Cloverfield as an example (an appropriate one given the film’s release today), we can see a perfectly executed ad campaign that has built enough buzz around the movie that even the most casual observer is bound to see the film. Back in July, Paramount ran the Cloverfield teaser trailer before Transformers, knowing a large audience was going to see the film and, as a result, the trailers that played before. Their move paid off, since the next morning, it wasn’t Transformers that people were talking about. Instead, the audience was more focused on the ominous trailer about an untitled movie from mega-producer J.J. Abrams.
Over the course of the next 6 months, the movie gained steam, never veering off the pop culture radar. The website only gave vague details and images, those involved did not reveal information, the title was finally released, Facebook and Myspace pages were created, and much was left to the audience’s imagination.
Undoubtedly, the secrecy behind Cloverfield is its driving force. Think of how many other monster movies that have come and gone with little fanfare. More importantly, can you name anyone starring in the film? You probably cannot, and that’s because the star of this film is the campaign itself and the “reveal” that audiences are hoping to see. Whether the film’s payoff appeases audiences matters little since the marketing has done its job in creating excitement for the film, getting audiences into multiplexes for what presumably will be a huge box office weekend.
BUT! What happens if the final box office numbers are less than exciting? What if Cloverfield is the bomb of 2008? And, probably more pertinent, was the film worth the buzz it received? Chances are we won’t have to ask ourselves these questions come Monday morning, but if Cloverfield fails to deliver at the box office, it might just be another case of a small group of fans getting overly excited about a particularly uneventful movie. Think back to Snakes on a Plane: The buzz for this movie was unbelievable given its straightforward title and B-movie plotline. Insiders expected it to make a killing at the box office; but the movie came and went and the only sound made was a collective “huh?” when studio executives wondered how a movie with such hype failed to deliver. Why did that not translate to a huge opening weekend?
If there was an answer to that question, this article wouldn’t exist as the “buzz” formula would be mass marketed and make every movie a hit. To a degree, buzz is a movie’s best and worst friend. It can build up expectations, making audiences salivate for the film’s release, but it can also create such high expectations, that if the movie doesn’t meet them on critical or monetary levels, the film’s deemed a failure.
Make no mistake, a film needs a certain level of hype to generate interest, but too much hype has the ability to create unfair expectations. For the sake of Cloverfield, let’s hope the buzz was worth it.
Next Week: Award Season Buzz – Does It Pick Winners?
Check out the la.cityzine review of Cloverfield here.
Photo by styletraxx.com