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By Chris Thilk | December 20, 2004

I began writing Movie Marketing Madness for Film Threat in May, 2004. Since then I have applied my spectacular lack of writing ability, misguided sense of what will be enjoyable to the general public and a sense of humor that consists mostly of referencing the movies of my childhood to over 25 new releases. For that, I am paid handsomely.

As we approach the end of the year, I thought I would jump on the bandwagon of those doing year end pieces. It’s a lazy writer’s tool, but at heart I too am a lazy writer. So I picked eight of my columns and decided to see how what I predicted compared to what the critical and box office receptions were.

Shrek 2

WHAT I WROTE: “Not bad, but there’s absolutely nothing original in there.”

WHAT THE CRITICS THOUGHT: Reviews were generally positive (except for our own Pete Vondar Haar’s review). Most said it improved upon the original. (but really: wouldn’t it have to?)


THE LESSON: I’m a bitter man who just doesn’t like Mike Myers.

The Day After Tomorrow

WHAT I WROTE: “…Memorial Day escapism. Anyone remotely interested in movies won’t and shouldn’t expect more”

WHAT THE CRITICS THOUGHT: Overwhelmingly negative, most compared it to the 70’s Irwin Allen disaster movies, only without half the fun those had.


THE LESSON: When a campaign gives away half the movie, run like hell.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

WHAT I WROTE: “2003 could prove to be the bathroom break for the Harry Potter film franchise.”

WHAT THE CRITICS THOUGHT: A stronger movie than the first two, with better performances and production.


THE LESSON: In my defense I did think the campaign was truthful in showing a darker movie and it did gross less then either of the first two movies.

BONUS LESSON: If a metaphor takes more than half a paragraph to setup I should just abandon it by the roadside.

Spider-Man 2

WHAT I WROTE: “There are few such things as a slam-dunk but this I have to believe is one of them.”

WHAT THE CRITICS THOUGHT: Tons of fun melded with emotionally deep and real characters.


THE LESSON: I am an omniscient being and you really all should be bowing down to me right now.


WHAT I WROTE: “Guys may want to see the hottie in the nine-square inches of torn leather but they have almost an allergic reaction to the female empowerment genre.”

WHAT THE CRITICS THOUGHT: Worst. Superhero movie. Ever.


THE LESSON: Really? $40 million?

Alien Vs. Predator

WHAT I WROTE: “Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the end of creativity as we know it.”

WHAT THE CRITICS THOUGHT: Reviews label this one as almost unwatchable. The few exceptions remind us that this is not something to be taken seriously.


THE LESSON: At an average ticket price of, let’s say $8, that’s 10 million people who couldn’t find some other way to amuse themselves. Think about that.

Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow

WHAT I WROTE: “..this movie will tank in a spectacular fashion, ala ‘Wild Wild West’.”

WHAT THE CRITICS THOUGHT: Let’s not worry about the shortcomings in writing, directing and acting, the movie looks really friggin’ cool.


THE LESSON: When a campaign does little but look really cool, it’s usually trying to hide something.


WHAT I WROTE: “The campaign as a whole is geared toward adults who actually enjoy film and aren’t just looking for the most generic form of entertainment available.”

WHAT THE CRITICS THOUGHT: One of the year’s best movies. It’s also garnered a number of Golden Globe nominations and critic’s awards.

BOX OFFICE: $14M (still in theaters)

THE LESSON: Pay attention when someone who usually tackles large-scale releases sets his sights on something off the beaten path.

Overall, I think 2004 was the first year studios put much effort into the websites. Warner Bros. consistently assembles great interactive sites (and they only seem to be getting better at it) whereas 20th Century Fox seems to think that as long as they make the site accessible in two dozen languages they have put more than enough effort into it. Trailers as a whole seem to be fairly effective if not well assembled and the best posters out there are legitimate works of art.

There have been some terrific movies that I haven’t reviewed because they are so small almost no effort has been put into their marketing campaigns. There have been some big releases that I passed over because there were easier targets out there. There have been some awful looking movies that had great campaigns behind them and some great movies that barely had coherent trailers. Whatever 2005 has in store I’ll be here cracking wise about it.

As moviemaking costs increase, the pressure to successfully market those movies becomes greater. In an attempt to show how marketers are trying to put the most hinders in the theater seats, Chris Thilk breaks down why some movie campaigns work and some don’t. The posters for “The Rocketeer” and “Unforgiven” remain two of his all-time favorites. For Chris’ ongoing movie journal and other various musings, visit his Movie Marketing Madness blog.

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