×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Warner Bros. Plots Careful ‘Gravity’ Launch

Marketing chief Sue Kroll hopes to follow 'Argo’s' trajectory for Clooney, Bullock film

What kind of pull will “Gravity” have on moviegoers when it hits theaters Oct. 4?

The looming question for Warner Bros. is how to sell a unique 3D saga set entirely in space that predominantly relies on the performance of one star — Sandra Bullock — with virtually no supporting cast.

Moreover, director Alfonso Cuaron, despite being a highly respected auteur, hasn’t made a film since 2006’s “Children of Men.” That critically acclaimed sci-fi thriller cost around $80 million, and grossed less than $70 million worldwide.

Gravity” isn’t a recognizable property (it’s based on an original script by Alfonso and his son, Jonas), and its harrowing premise — the terror of being stranded in outer space — doesn’t have an obvious marketing hook.

That said, Warner Bros.’ marketing maven Sue Kroll has had plenty of experience taking non-slam dunk movies such as “Argo,” “The Departed” and “Million Dollar Baby” from the starting gate to box office success — and even the Oscar finish line.

She has been campaigning carefully for “Gravity” since the spring, starting by unveiling a minute of footage in April during the film’s CinemaCon presentation in Las Vegas for exhibitors and press.

Three months later, in late July, Warners continued “Gravity’s” promotional trek, with a key stop at Comic-Con, where fanboys were shown about six minutes of footage, and Cuaron, Bullock and producer David Heyman tubthumped the pic. The movie then embarked on the Big Three late-summer festival circuit, opening Venice (Aug. 28), where it generated a burst of strong reviews, en route to Telluride and Toronto (premiering there Sept. 8).

Kroll notes that being promoted at a fan fest like Comic-Con and at three prestigious film festivals is quite an unusual distinction. “That’s a very rare combination for any film,” she says.

SEE ALSO: Alfonso Cuaron’s Signature Style Offers Unique Viewing Experience

Warners’ key selling point is that audience members will feel as if they’re in outer space with Bullock and George Clooney after space debris destroys their shuttle.

“ ‘Gravity’ is a unique movie that’s very visceral,” Kroll says. “As a viewer, you’re put right in the middle of the experience. I get a bit of a stomach ache from watching it.”

Warners has used only one tagline so far — “Don’t let go” — on its stark poster art, and has released several straightahead trailers (“Detached,” “Drifting” and “I’ve Got You”). One trailer began thusly: “Explorer, this is Houston.” “Go ahead, Houston.” “Mission abort.”

The studio is targeting a broad audience with spots that will run on football games, morning shows, TV season premieres and shows that include ABC’s “Modern Family,” NBC’s “The Voice” and AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” concurrent with an awards-season campaign, just as it did last year when it launched “Argo” at Toronto.

Kroll also believes that Bullock is a huge asset. Four years ago, the studio released “The Blind Side,” which grossed more than $300 million worldwide and won her the actress Oscar.

“Women and men really like her,” Kroll notes. “You really care about what happens to her character. You really want her to win.”

“Avatar” director James Cameron, who says he’s a huge fan of “Gravity,” which his pal Cuaron showed him weeks ago, says he hopes Warner Bros. “is going to sell it as the human story it is.”

Kroll, recently named president of worldwide marketing and international distribution at Warners, played a major role in the campaign for “Argo” — leading to the movie’s top Oscar and better than $230 million in worldwide ticket sales. But that film’s story was gossamer compared with “Gravity’s.”

The studio is also opening the Cuaron movie day-and-date in several major overseas markets including Australia, Germany, Italy, South Korea and Spain.

So sometime in early October the studio will begin to get a global answer to the question: Will audiences be drawn to “Gravity,” or will it land with a thud?

More Biz

  • China Spying Technology Tik Tok Placeholder

    TikTok Gains Global Momentum -- but Also Raises Sticky Privacy Questions

    Bay Area rapper Saweetie didn’t intend for “My Type” to come out as a single. But when a clip of the bouncy anthem about desirable (and slightly vulgar) attributes in a partner started to take off on TikTok as part of a social media challenge, it became clear the song would be her defining hit. The [...]

  • Carlyle Group, Investors in Taylor Swift

    Carlyle Group, Investors in Taylor Swift Catalog, Address Scooter Braun Drama (Sort Of)

    Kewsong Lee, co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, a private equity fund whose assets include a minority investment in Big Machine Label Group, the record company that’s home to Taylor Swift’s catalog, spoke to CNBC’s “Squawk Alley” on Wednesday. During the interview, held at the Goldman Sachs Financial Conference, host Wilfred Frost asked the business executive [...]

  • Mergers and Deals Placeholder

    Top 19 Media Trends of 2019: Mega Mergers

    Media consolidation has been rife in the past two years, as traditional media companies have scaled up in order to protect themselves against the new entrants challenging their business.  Traditional media has spent $229 billion since March 2018 on just six key mergers as rivals opted to combine their assets to compete in the new [...]

  • Conde Nast Deirdre Findlay Mike-Goss

    Condé Nast Names Former Google, Sotheby’s Execs to CMO and CFO Posts

    Condé Nast announced the appointments of Deirdre Findlay — previously a senior marketing exec at Google and Stitch Fix — as chief marketing officer, and Mike Goss, previously with auction house Sotheby’s, as chief financial officer. The hires are the latest reshuffling of Condé Nast’s senior leadership under CEO Roger Lynch, who joined the media [...]

  • Chris Cotton

    Comedian Chris Cotton Dies at 32

    Chris Cotton, a comedian best known for his online talk show “Every Damn Day,” died Thursday from unknown causes. He was 32. Comedy Central confirmed Cotton’s death in a tweet saying, “We’re devastated by the loss of Chris Cotton — a hilarious comedian, a beloved member of the Comedy Central family and a joy to [...]

  • Orlando Bloom

    Orlando Bloom Sets First-Look Deal With Amazon

    “Carnival Row” star Orlando Blook has inked a first-look deal with Amazon, Variety has learned. Under the deal, Bloom will develop television and film projects for Prime Video. Bloom currently stars on Amazon’s “Carnival Row” alongside Cara Delevigne. The series premiered back in August and was renewed for a second season ahead of the series premiere. The [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content