I watched a lot of television this weekend. Mainly because my wife went shopping with a friend on Saturday and was preparing to be a kindergarten teacher for the week on Sunday. A promo for “The Ghost Writer”, starring Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor (two of my favorite actors) found its way into the commercial breaks throughout the random movies and shows I viewed. A TV promo for the movie is below, though I don’t believe it is the one I saw this weekend:
At first glance, this looks like a very straight-forward action/thriller type of film…so why only open in “selected cities”, or in other words, New York, Los Angeles, or other major cities? Simple. Because most films have to build on word-of-mouth advertising after the first weekend, and the American public is rather disgusted with Roman Polanski presently. In case you need to catch up, here’s an opinion piece by E.J. Graff (emphasis on opinion) about the crime Polanski pleaded guilty to about 30 years ago.
Agree or not with Mr. Graff, a large part of the American public feels the same way as he, which presents an issue for Summit Entertainment, the studio distributing the film. It’s no secret that the film community has rallied to Mr. Polanski’s side, defending him. It’s also no secret the two biggest hubs of the film industry in the U.S. are in New York and Los Angeles. Starting the film in these cities allows it to build positive word-of-mouth before releasing it to places like Denver, St. Louis, Memphis, Des Moines, and other cities that represent Middle America. Many potential moviegoers will have a difficult time reconciling their desire to see the film against knowing a portion of their ticket is going to a man they may very likely despise.
I find it incredibly interesting that trailers and television promos for this film highlight Mr. Polanski as the director. In my mind, that’s a marketing liability. Obviously, hiding the fact Mr. Polanski directed the film is not an option; but do you need to promote that fact? I’m not so sure. To me, the film looks like it will be very good. I’m a sucker for political thrillers, and as I mentioned, the two main actors are two of my favorites (however, truth be told, I could do without Samantha from Sex and The City). Maybe this is what the studio is hoping for. A desire to see a (potentially) above average film in the wasteland that is February cinematic releases that outweighs any negative feelings moviegoers may have towards Mr. Polanski. Address the issue in interviews, let the actors speak their opinions about Mr. Polanski, but branding the film as a Roman Polanski picture is a mistake, in my opinion.
If I was marketing the film, I’d market the stars of the film, especially Kim Catrall. Her presence allows the studio to tap into a demographic that normally wouldn’t be interested in the film. Sex and the City fans are incredibly loyal, and with opening weekend being more important than ever for a film, “The Ghost Writer” will need any advantage it can gain in a crowded marketplace.
What would you do? Market the film by branding it as a Roman Polanski picture, or do you leave him out of the mix? Vote below, and let me know what you think in the comments.