“Rocky Balboa,” which MGM is releasing Dec. 22, poses the challenge of reviving a franchise that’s been dormant for nearly two decades. And unlike other long-running series, such as “Superman” or “Batman,” “Rocky” is not being updated with a new leading man.
The new “Rocky” stars the old Rocky: Sylvester Stallone, now a sexagenarian (and a very fit one).
The re-casting of an older Stallone raised some eyebrows when the film — which was co-produced by MGM, Revolution Studios and Columbia Pictures — was announced last year.
“There was a lot of pessimism,” says Irwin Winkler, who’s produced all six “Rocky” pics.
MGM and the filmmakers have confronted doubts by “showing the movie,” says Winkler, and in the process winning over auds.
“The story has a great deal of heart and passion — it’s about loyalty, courage and people seem to be attuned to that,” he says.
(When the trailer for “Rocky Balboa” was recently screened in a Hollywood theater, there were some giggles when the series’ familiar theme was played. By the end of the trailer, many in the aud applauded. Rocky, it seemed, can still deliver a punch.)
MGM and Stallone have been aggressively marketing the pic over the last several months, with Stallone appearing at events to promote the film, which he wrote and directed. Last month, he was at ShowEast, where “Rocky Balboa” was shown to exhibitors and Stallone received the event’s Icon Award.
More events are planned closer to the opening of the film, including multiple premieres in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Las Vegas.
MGM is banking on Rocky story to draw older fans of the original movie, and younger auds more familiar with “Rocky” on DVD.
“A lot of people see ‘Rocky’ as just a boxing movie, but there’s always been a lot more to it than that — character, emotion, the underdog story,” says Perry Stahman, prexy of domestic theatrical marketing for MGM. “Those are things that don’t age.”
Younger fans are the harder draw, however, and to help lure them MGM is playing up the movie’s youth aspects, such as thesp Milo Ventimiglia, who plays Rocky Jr., and the premise of the movie, which centers on a boxing videogame that hypothetically pits Rocky against the current reigning champ.