The BLAIR WITCH and 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE Switcheroos Show Studios How to Generate Genuine Excitement
Last night, Lionsgate invited a handful of people at Comic-Con to see a screening of an upcoming movie called The Woods. But as I'm sure you've heard by now, Adam Wingard's The Woods is actually called Blair Witch, a secret sequel that was so secret, even some of the people working on the movie and Lionsgate employees didn't know they were making it. (Read all about how it was made in this exhaustive EW profile.) The studio created posters and trailers marketing a movie called The Woods, and then snuck the reveal during a time that would create the most buzz. The best part? Fans only have to wait a few weeks to see it, because the film comes out this September.
This is a more extreme version of what Paramount and Bad Robot did with Dan Trachtenberg's 10 Cloverfield Lane earlier this year. That movie was known to movie press as Valencia (or The Cellar) when it was in production, and it was only revealed that it was loosely connected to the Cloverfield universe when the studio retitled it a few weeks before it came out.
More than ever, fans are rabidly consuming as much as possible about movies before they see them. We obviously contribute to that because we love writing about pop culture, but I'll admit that even with something like Suicide Squad — a movie I'm looking forward to — it gets a little tiring watching trailer after trailer, and I can't help but feel like I've already seen most of the movie at this point. WB just released another trailer at Comic-Con earlier today, and it's the second consecutive year the studio has done that. We've been talking about this movie for a long time, tracking every development, and most of the trailers have been great...but there's something to be said for the pure surprise and genuine excitement that a big surprise reveal can have on the movie landscape. When a movie gets all the way through production and this close to release without the surprise leaking out in a big way, it makes it feel like anything's possible. I think to some degree it automatically lends those movies a sense of goodwill, too — people want them to be good so they live up to the hype.
I'm not advocating that every studio start doing this with every movie, because obviously that would be ridiculous and impractical. But I'd love to see this trend continue on a smaller scale, because it's always heartening to see how fans can reignite excitement for something when they had no clue it was coming. The only thing studios need to beware of is making sure they have a finger on the pulse of what people will actually like — I can see an embarrassing situation in which one of them reveals a certain movie isn't what we think and it's actually, like, a stealth Jaws sequel or something like that, and everyone groans because they aren't interested.
I realize that's easier said than done, but here's hoping they keep trying to surprising us.