Commentary

'It: Chapter Two' Scores Big With Marketers

“It: Chapter Two,” Warner Bros. and New Line’s sequel to the 2017 smash   on a Stephen King novel, took the weekend box office with worldwide sales of $184 million, including $91 million in the U.S.

“While those ticket sales are behind the jaw-dropping $123 million launch of its predecessor … the follow-up still ranks as the second-best horror opening in history, as well as the second-highest bow for the month of September (both behind 'It'). The original 'It' stands as the most successful horror film to date with $700 million worldwide,” reports  Rebecca Rubin for Variety.

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“Over half of the opening weekend crowds were male, while 33% were under the age of 25. Younger moviegoers appeared to be even more enthusiastic: Ticket buyers 25 years old and younger awarded the film with an A- CinemaScore and those under the age of 18 gave it an A,” Rubin adds.

The story, you may recall, involves Swedish actor Bill Skarskgard playing an evil clown named Pennywise who terrorizes “a group of people as kids -- and then again, as adults, 27 years later,” as Miles Surrey reminds us  for The Ringer

“But categorizing It as the ‘evil clown book’ betrays the true spirit of King’s text: It’s a messy, melancholic, but ultimately engaging story about inherited trauma, growing up, and confronting your fears. Even Pennywise is just one of many forms the novel’s principal evil takes; the creature is not a clown so much as an amalgam of all the central characters’ fears and anxieties.”

“The Pennywise character really speaks to [younger audiences] in a big way,” Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros.’ president of domestic distribution, said on a call yesterday that Variety’s Rubin was on. “We have such a strong millennial audience, which tells us we should have a long play in front of us.”

“To sell audiences on what may be the official kickoff to the fall movie season, Warner Bros.’ campaign has relied on the same sort of immersive experiences used two years ago for the first film,” Chris Thilk writes  for The Hollywood Reporter before revealing details about the posters, teasers, trailers, advertising and publicity. 

And “just as it did for the first movie, the studio engaged in some experiential marketing with The It Experience in Los Angeles. Announced in late July and running from mid-August to early September, the experience recreated Derry Canal Days, a town celebration that includes a funhouse.

“Created with the input of some of the filmmakers and featuring the same funhouse facade used in the movie’s production, visitors navigated a series of 10 escape rooms, many of them themed to connect with part of the movie. Actors interacted with visitors, moving them along the story, and branded merchandise was available for purchase,” Thilk continues.

It also had a large cast of marketing partners, including Carl’s Jr, AT&T, Cold Stone Creamery, Shell, Virgin Mobile and Pop Secret popcorn.

“Typically, when it comes to raising the profile on a major studio horror film, studios will rest on the standard online trailer, or some sort of social media stunt. However, Warner Bros. has amassed around 35 global promotional partners for New Line’s Sept. 6 tentpole 'It: Chapter Two,' which is arguably unprecedented for an R-rated horror pic,” writes Anthony D’Alessandro for Deadline.

“The fact that we were able to attract such an impressive group of partners speaks to the event status of the film franchise, and further highlights how these films have become iconic, must-see experiences on the big screen. Following the huge success of 'It,' the brands joining us were eager to be aligned with such a powerhouse property,” said Gene Garlock, executive vice president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Promotional Partnerships and Alliances, D’Alessandro reports.

All that co-branding success aside, reviews were less generous for the sequel than the original. It has a 64% score from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. The audience gives it an 80%.

Consider this assessment from Rich Juzwiak for JezebelThroughout the crawling duration of 'It: Chapter Two '-- all two hours and 50 minutes of it -- I felt like I was being taken for a ride by a driver who was wearing a blindfold. This movie is so meandering, so stuffed with easily excisable scenes whose revelations wick off with the arrival of the next fit-for-the-cutting-room-floor vignette, it’s as though everyone made this all up as they went along. What a strange effect for an adaptation of a legendary Stephen King book to have.”

There are a heckuva a lot of people, and marketers, along for that ride.

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