Paramount tweaked its release days, delaying the nationwide roll-out from December to this past weekend, when the movie came in third, making $20.5 million. In the interim, they figured out how to fix a problem first detected in November:
Paramount began surveying people in shopping malls about TV spots for the film. They fully expected to get the best reaction from adults, particularly older women.
How wrong they were. Instead, it was younger women and teenagers — the "Twilight" crowd — who were the most enthusiastic.
Here's the trailer released last August. (I'm neither an "older woman" nor a teenager, but the trailer, with its candy-colored special effects, left my sister and me baffled and unmoved, particularly when it became clear that the movie was based on the bestselling Alice Sebold novel.)
As for the film itself, A. O. Scott's assessment that "it skitters and lurches from set piece to the next, papering the gaps with swirls of montage, [and] never achieves the delicate emotional coherence that would bring the story alive" seems to disqualify it from the serious adult film category. When the limited release on December 11 disappointed, Paramount pivoted by creating an entirely new marketing campaign. Per Variety:
Yet it was the film's spiritual themes, and the father-daughter relationship, that younger females responded in particular to, Moore said. Par cut ads playing these up and began airing spots on female-skewing channels, including Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network.
Studio also quickly attached a trailer of "Lovely Bones" to "New Moon."
The connection with New Moon seems intuitive, but it's surprising that "father-daughter relationship" plays more strongly to teenage girls rather than anyone else. (Such as actual parents?).
Similarly curious as to the how of this reconfiguration, we asked the Gawker Media Video team to dig up those TV spots. Here's what they turned up:
This one is pretty explicit — the intertitle of, "A father's search," and Saoirse Ronan intoning, "My murderer couldn't understand... how much a father could love his child." Interestingly, it's packaged more like a conventional thriller, both with the music and the focus on the search for her murderer.
This one foregrounds the teenage love theme — although not that much more than the original trailer — and the music that kicks in at the end (apparently Imogen Heap) seems taken out of a CW teen drama.
It's nice to see Paramount not make the same mistake as Twentieth Century Fox, failing to market a very different movie, Jennifer's Body, to teenage girls and paying the price. Then again, the grown-up critics roundly disliked The Lovely Bones, so it was that or bust.