Commentary

'Super 8' Breaks Out Of The Box With Twitter Campaign

I first heard about "Super 8" -- an ambitious movie epic that's "the kind of film Steven Spielberg used to make" -- when I read my daily email from The Observer's Very Short List (VSL) last evening that was posted at 4:06:03 p.m. EDT to inform me, and many others, of exactly that sentiment. I immediately forwarded the notice to my wife, who has been scouring the Yahoo movie listings on Saturdays for months, it seems, in search of a worthwhile flick that doesn't require a long trip to an art house with rickety chairs and a screen about the size of our television set.

J.J. Abrams of "Lost" is "Super 8"'s director; Steven Spielberg is, indeed, its producer.

"Super 8" officially opens tomorrow but, according to Michelle King's story in the Wall Street Journal this morning, market research showed that it lacked buzz in households other than ours, particularly "among the younger viewers it needs to reach." (And I can tell you for a fact that, with a one-day-old granddaughter, there is no household younger than ours.)

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VSL tells us that the trailer "doesn't do it justice" before gushing that it is "smart and sweeping, visually literate, genuinely heartfelt, and not at all solemn. ('Super 8' is not an effects movie, though the effects it does have are supereffective.) In other words: It's everything you could ask for in a grand-scale Hollywood movie, and the kind of film you've probably given up hope of ever seeing again."

Wowser. Sounds like it's worth springing for some Mild Duds. But with all the lack of chatter, and the fear that it would generate "only" about $25 to $30 million in box office this weekend, Paramount and Twitter yesterday announced "secret" screenings on about 329 screens today, including 239 Imax theaters, effectively opening the film a day early, King writes.

"We know we have a movie that people respond to, so we wanted to get it into as many people's hands as possible so they can talk about it," Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore tells King. "It's risky, because if word of mouth is bad, it won't even make it to opening day."

This is the first time Twitter has run a sneak-preview movie campaign, Julianne Pepitone of CNNMoney tells us. Paramount is using the hashtag #Super8Secret to promote the sneak peek and also purchased the tag as a promoted tweet, which means it appears on the Twitter homepage.

"Twitter is how we hear about new movies and share our tiny reviews before the credits finish rolling," Twitter co-founder Biz Stone says in a statement. "Creating more excitement about the film with sneak previews and free popcorn is a smart way to make this film a global conversation even before it's released."

The Los Angeles Times' John Horn goes so far as to write that Paramount is "handling the release with the kind of special care typically bestowed on an art-house endeavor." He quotes Paramount vice chainman Rob Moore's remark that "the strength of 'Super 8,' is the movie's heart," before pointing out that "heart" isn't the stuff of your usual summer blockbuster.

Horn also delves into several other marketing challenges the movie faces, such as the fact that it has "no big names to chat up David Letterman or Jimmy and a plot that's hard to condense in a 30-second television spot."

Abrams, who is also the filmmaker behind "Alias" and the movies "Mission: Impossible III" and "Star Trek," tells Reuters' Zorianna Kit that this is his most personal film to date.

""The original idea of the film was to set it in a time that was based on my own ridiculous experiences making really bad movies as a kid on Super 8. Obviously, there is a lot of wild, hyper-real stuff and spectacle in this film that I certainly didn't go through as a kid."

Asked about whether the title makes it all sound a bit dated, like a rotary phone or a graying grandfather, Abrams responds: "The fact that the title is not a known thing is probably a sign that we're used to being pre-sold. I'm hoping that people see it, like it, and the title becomes what the title is." It happened to "District 9" and "Inception," after all, he points out.

As for the Twittersphere, here are the most recent five @#Super8Secret from viewers I saw early this morning:

  • lunchbox85 Bryce Ament - Just left the sneak peek of @Super8Movie and I have to say it was great! What a mint movie!
  • Krollivar Justin Kroll - Had a blast at the "Super 8" premiere. Totally geeked out meeting j.j. Chris pine, kyle chandler and michael bay
  • geoffstults Geoff Stults - Saw @super8movie tonight with @OfficialMCD awesome movie. Highly reccomend it. @@OfficialMCD jumped in his seat like an 8yrd old kid. Dork.
  • Hydesy Angel Robles - @super8movie Finally! A movie that brings back all the reason's I loved movies, but with a modern twist! #super8secret
  • edgarwright - Had a blast at the Super 8 premiere. See it large & loud on the best screen you can this weekend. Watch all the end credits. Very enjoyable.

Little old press agents with stinky cigars dangling from their mouths couldn't make this stuff up. Or could they? Whatever. Let the record show that we did our viral part this morning.

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