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Expect they conspicously didn’t. Following on from the recent 20th Century Fox fake-news controversy, Roe McDermott rounds up other notorious film marketing disasters.
In February, 20th Century Fox were forced to apologise for disseminating fake news stories about Trump in an effort to promote A
Cure For Wellness. The controversy surrounded about half-a-dozen websites created by backers of the film, sharing fictional, click-bait style news stories including tales about Trump secretly meeting with Vladimir Putin, Trump banning vaccinations, and Trump refusing to send aid to a &alifornia disaster area.
There was no hint the stories were made up, and readers were encouraged to send objections about the purported actions, using the movie promo hashtag #ACureForWellness. Upon discovering that the stories were false and merely a movie campaign, 20th Century Fox received a major backlash from the media and on social media.
“In raising awareness for our films,” a statement from the studio said, “we do our best to push the boundaries of traditional marketing in order to creatively express our message to consumers. In this case, we got it wrong. The digital campaign was inappropriate on every level.”
The campaign would have been irresponsible at any time, but given that President Trump’s favourite accusation against the media and new rallying cry is “fake news”, it seems particularly ill-timed and damaging.
However, it’s far from the only film marketing disaster that Hollywood has inflicted upon the world.
In 1993, Arnold Schwarzenegger was starring in Shane Black’s smart, genre-lampooning Last Action
Hero, and it should have been box-office gold. Colombia Pictures went all out on their marketing stunts, erecting a genuinely terrifying giant inflatable Schwarzenegger in the middle of Times Square. The snarling monster-man was also brandishing a bundle of dynamite – a fact deemed ever-so-slightly insensitive because it was erected three days after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Following widespread outrage, the bundle of dynamite was replaced with a badge, but it was still hugely unpopular, and eventually exiled to a barge in the ocean. Millions of dollars, literally put out to sea.
Even worse were the actions taken by a Missouri cinema, who decided to hire a fake gunman wearing full tactical gear to storm a screening of Iron Man 3. Though the cinema thought this was a clear nod to S.H.I.E.L.D, audience members weren’t in on the joke – unsurprising seeing as the stunt took place less than a year after the mass shooting in Aurora at a screening of The Dark Knight. Several terrified calls were made to 911, and Jefferson City police arrived on the scene, ready to deal with an active shooter. The cinema issued a lukewarm apology.
Then there’s Gone With The Wind, the epic Civil War drama that’s widely regarded as one of greatest films of all time. The premiere took place in Atlanta, and the city welcomed the film’s stars with wild celebrations and open arms – except, that is, the film’s black cast members, who weren’t allowed to come. Segregation laws in Atlanta meant that the actors couldn’t attend the premiere of their own film, including Hattie McDaniel, who won an Oscar for her role. An exception was made for several black choir members who were invited to sing – but only as part of a “Southern Plantation” pageant that required them to perform while dressed as slaves.
And who could forget A Belfast
Story director Nathan Todd, who decided to promote his film about paramilitaries in Northern Ireland by sending out a promotional pack that included a balaclava, nails and a roll of duct tape? The move was called “the most distasteful freebie ever” and several film critics boycotted it.
See, 20th Century Fox? It could be worse. %ut only Must.