It seemed inevitable, and now it’s finally happened: Movie marketers are mining critics’ Twitter feeds for blurbs.
Open Road Films last week dropped a new trailer for “The Grey,” the indie action thriller starring Liam Neeson. Sprinkled throughout the spot are six blurbs, all excerpted from the Twitter accounts of movie critics and bloggers who saw the film last month.
“@THEGREYMOVIE has floored me,” reads the first, attributed to @JHoffman6, the Twitter handle for Jordan Hoffman, a freelancer on assignment for IFC. “Kicks unholy ass,” reads the next, from @headgeek666, the well-known handle of Ain’t It Cool News poobah Harry Knowles. The final cards credited director Joe Carnahan and other filmmakers by their Twitter handles.
It’s not the first time Twitter activity has been used in traditional marketing materials — that precedent appears to belong to “Paranormal Activity 3,” whose trailers included several positive tweets prior to its October bow. The difference: Those 140-character-and-under reviews were issued by average citizens who got into early screenings, not professional writers and critics.
But that threshold was crossed Wednesday when Open Road debuted its third “Grey” trailer on iTunes, culling those six tweets from five different movie bloggers who saw the film Dec. 10 at the annual Butt-Numb-A-Thon, a 24-hour screening series hosted by Knowles at the Alamo Draft House in Austin, Texas.
The movie scribes were told they were free to talk and tweet about the movie immediately after seeing it, though they were not told their tweets could wind up on promotional materials. And why would they have been? Open Road came up with the idea only after seeing the response online, marketing prexy Jason Cassidy told Variety.
None of the critics cited said they had any problem with Open Road’s groundbreaking move.
“I thought it was really, really cool that they did that,” said Alan Cerny, who writes for Ain’t It Cool. Via his Twitter handle @NordlingAICN, Cerny tweeted directly at director (and relative Twitter newbie) Joe Carnahan: “That, sir, was DIRTY DOZEN good” — a sentiment Open Road saw fit to include in its trailer.
Neither Cerny nor any of his colleagues who spoke with Variety expressed any concern that the blurbing of tweets — as opposed to the traditional reviews they’re paid to write — would undermine the influence of those reviews. Hoffman did indicate that some fellow writers (not included in the “Grey” trailer) have resisted the idea; he also wondered out loud whether the practice would gain momentum, particularly at this month’s Sundance Film Festival, where hundreds of media types will stream out of screenings nightly, tweeting reactions to dozens of films.
Cassidy said Open Road is happy with the result and won’t hesitate to use the strategy again “when it’s the right film and the right reactions.” Though the “Grey” trailer has only appeared online, Cassidy he wouldn’t hesitate to use it theatrically or on television, where the use of tweets and Twitter handles can’t be far away.