Thursday, June 3, 2010

An Australian Movie's Poster in America

I always find it interesting to see how Australian movies get marketed overseas and vice versa. In fact, I'm always interested in how any film is marketed in different territories because I think it can say some fascinating things about a country. When I interviewed Jeremy Saunders recently I asked him why local distributors asked him - or anyone else for that matter - to make a new marketing look when they already have international pieces ready to go on the cheap and he, quite basically, said it came down to the distributor thinking there was a better way to sell a certain product to a specifically Australian audience - "international art tends to be designed for everyone and suitable for no-one".

Why did Abbie Cornish in a field of flowers work for Australian audiences (the film was a hit) when the romantic closeup didn't in America (the film was a flop)? Why did the local distributor not think a beautiful blonde would help sell tickets for The Kings of Mykonos: Wog Boy 2, but that it will in Greece? And it will very interesting to see if Sony Pictures Classics changes the Animal Kingdom poster for it's US release if they think it's Australian Gothic vibe won't work for American audiences. They could simply change the tagline to "An Australian Crime Story" and you'd have an intriguing "let's see how they do it" aura about it.

IMDb got the exclusive on the American poster for last year's biggest local hit Mao's Last Dancer. Being released by Samuel Goldwyn in early August I wonder how it will be received over there. Here in Australia it was marketed as a big blockbuster with a huge release and it debuted at #1. In America, however, it will receive a tiny arthouse release and hope for the best. In that respect I think they have gone to right route with the poster and made it a big ol' colour factory to capture as many eyes as possible.

Aus poster and then the American version

Obviously since the autobiography that Mao's Last Dancer is based on isn't as popular in America as it was in Australia - Li Cunxin, the film's protagonist, is now an Australian citizen - they have altered the "from the best selling autobiography..." line to a much broader "based on an inspirational and unforgettable true story". Accentuating films like Driving Miss Daisy and Shine is also a good move since half of the film's pull comes from its "uplifting" "prestige" aspects. Both posters keep an "exotic ethnic" vibe since that is still something that helps sell tickets, but the presence of American actors' names stops anybody from thinking, who isn't already aware, that this isn't an American movie (it helps, trust me).

Obviously, the more elegant Chinese-flag-against-black-background motif has been replaced by a swirling orange backdrop with small token shots of China and America, the film's two locations (luckily for American audiences, there are none of those crazy Aussie accents to yell "SUBTITLES!" at). I think it's quite gorgeous and definitely catches the eye. It's the sort of poster you want hanging out front and centre to get patrons' interest. I must say though that having stared at the original poster for months in the lead up to its local release (it was everywhere) last October I can't help but notice how his second arm has been erased out of this new poster. Where has it gone?!?

It will be interesting to see how this goes in America. This sort of graphic redesign gives me hope that it won't just be a three-cinema dump release. Being released in August could allow for it to accumulate a small, but noticeable, amount of box office and perhaps, just perhaps, Christopher Gordon could make a legitimate play for an Oscar nomination for his original score. It is a fantastic score and I can totally see it catching the music branch's eye... er, ear if the movie is out there enough. Mao's Last Dancer has already been released in Canada and has grossed #172,488 in three weeks. I'm not sure if that is good or not, but it's something!

I should mention that @mrpaulnelson on Twitter mentioned that he thought it looked like a Gone with the Wind poster. I believe he's talking about this one, which a case could definitely be made for. This is obviously nowhere near as good as that famous, iconic poster, but it's an interesting parallel nonetheless.

No comments: