by Stefan Abrutat
There’s not much that sickens me more than J.J. Abrams. He nonchalantly bangs out brilliance while I deftly master procrastination. This damned showoff creates, writes, produces and directs one massive international hit movie or TV show after another, whereas I struggle intensely with the decision to go hog wild and get cheese on my burger. Such alien hustle drives me to distraction. Hasn’t he got any hobbies? Doesn’t he go to the pub on occasion? Hasn’t anyone told him about crumpled paper wastebasketball? Modern Warfare 2? Girls?
I want to hate him, I really do. But I can’t, because he directed Star Trek, that wonderful prequel/reboot of two summers ago that shepherded me hypnotically into the Abrams fan camp. I don’t particularly care about Lost, or pretty much anything else he’s done, like the vaguely interesting Cloverfield and the forgettable Mission Impossible III.
What I am looking forward to, however, is Super 8, his collaboration with Steven Spielberg, wherein he alludes to the legendary filmmaker’s formative years in a story about some kids messing around with a Super 8 mm camera in the late seventies. They witness a suspicious (and somewhat spectacular) train crash carrying Area 51 paraphernalia, heralding the emergence of all manner of plot.
What’s most intriguing about this release is the marketing angle they’re using. Instead of spending oodles of the usual cash on advertising, the producers are hoping for word-of-mouth through social media derived from sneak peek previews at 300 theaters (240 of which are IMAX screens) around North America starting a day before general release. Bribing consumers with free popcorn to attend the previews means they’re pretty much guaranteed full houses, ensuring blanket coverage on twitter (no small expense there: the last time I was forced into buying a bucket by my loved one I had to sell the car. Since then I’ve guilt-tripped her into carrying one of her larger purses, so we can fill it with reasonably-priced goodies at the grocery store on the long, lonely walk to the cinema. Sure, my “mule” may initially feel like a derelict fugitive smuggling contraband, but all I need do is point at the concession stand prices in the foyer and remind her of the recent hike. Her resolve swiftly stiffens. I think I may be evil).
What I find fantastic about this marketing technique is it flies in the face of traditional big movie buildup: there’s been none. Thus, movie business “analysts” are predicting a weak opening and therefore failure at the box office. Personally, I think analysts live up to the first four letters of their job description. Not every movie opens big and then diminishes exponentially in successive weeks; that’s just the trend. What these analysts fail to understand is movies are seen by people, people talk, and good movies endure. Especially now, when you can talk to all your acquaintances with a simple tweet or facebook missive. The producers of Super 8 are trying to start a new trend, where showing a compelling movie is the marketing, rather than shouting the loudest and most often in the preceding months. I, for one, applaud them for it.
Super 8 opens on June 10, 2011.