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How ‘Hocus Pocus 2’ Became A Spellbinding Success As Disney+’s Most Watched Movie Ever

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It is quite clear from a theatrical and a streaming front, Disney is already dominating.

While CEO Bob Chapek has of course championed the booming Disney+ during the pandemic, the fact that theatrical remains powerful is not lost at all on the company. They will obviously conquer November with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever which had many breathless the other night after its Hollywood premiere, and December also belongs to Disney at the box office with 20th Century Studio’s Avatar: The Way of Water. Wakanda Forever is set to open to $175M-$200M, and it won’t be surprising to see if it emulates or surpasses its first chapter which did $700.4M stateside.

The rich man’s problem for Disney is where to best exploit its legacy IP.

But this has been a situation for Disney for decades, and a winning attribute as well. With such powerful brands Disney can traverse frontwards and backwards the theatrical-to-home ancillary pipeline, stoking their family audiences to wherever the content is placed.

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HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3: SENIOR YEAR, from left: Vanessa Hudgens, Zac Efron, 2008. ©Walt Disney Co./courtesy Everett Collection

Read, they decided to go direct-to-video with sequels to their Jeffrey Katzenberg-developed feature animated musicals like Aladdin, Lion King, etc. while they’ve even succeeded in reverse engineering their home-grown successes, i.e. the High School musical franchise saw its threequel get a theatrical release in 2008 with an excellent $42M U.S/Canada opening, $90.6M stateside gross and near $253M WW. Ditto for the Disney Channel property Hannah Montana which made a big segue to the screen in 2008 with Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concerts which had a $31M opening at 683 theaters, still excellent for a limited release with $45K per theater, for a $65.2M domestic, $70M-plus global gross. That concert film only cost Disney $7M before P&A.

Hocus Pocus

HOCUS POCUS, from left: Kathy Najimy, Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker

Everett Collection/Disney

So when it came to making a sequel to their 1993 cult family film, Hocus Pocus, Disney decided to eventize it on Disney+. Yes, arguably the autumn theatrical marketplace would have propped this movie greatly, however, realize that the films hitting the marquee now were developed roughly two years ago and at a time when it wasn’t clear whether female moviegoers would be back in droves. Hence, the most responsible financial bet for a sequel to a near 30 year old movie, which only made $44M at the domestic B.O., with such demographics was on Disney+. This despite the fact that during the first of weekend of October 2020 when New York and LA theatrical markets were shuttered, the Disney theatrical re-release of Hocus Pocus led the box office with around $1.7M. The re-release had something of a day-and-date release with an airing on Disney sister cable network Freeform two nights before its theatrical; the pic’s star Bette Midler live-tweeting.  All of this was enough of a litmus test for the Burbank, CA-based studio to move forward with a reteam of Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as the Sanderson sisters.

Still, Disney was always aware of the heated fandom for this film: On the sequel’s drop date of Sept. 30, teachers showed up wearing Hocus Pocus shirts at a local Santa Clarita, CA elementary school reading “I Smell Children”.

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Disney’s proper reading of tea leaves resulted in Hocus Pocus 2 bewitching the masses with the movie not only the most watched ever on Disney+ todate, but notching a Nielsen record for a streaming movie in its first weekend with 2.7 billion minutes views.

This success of Hocus Pocus 2 was propelled by a D-Day marketing campaign, not unlike that which Disney would execute for any of their theatrical tentpoles.

“It was the simple idea of these three iconic characters returning,” says Disney Studios President of Marketing Asad Ayaz, “We started the campaign with the tagline ‘We’re Back, Witches’ And that line served as the ultimate marketing hook of these three actresses coming back 29 years later.”

The campaign officially kicked off in June with the surprise debut of the first trailer online. That piece garnered over 43.5M views in the first 24 hours and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive at 90% on social media metrics. The second trailer was revealed as a surprise to fans attending Disney’s D23 Expo on Sept. 9 and was released online immediately after, that piece yielding 20M views with the momentum continuing. All in the social media universe for Hocus Pocus 2 spanned 201M followers spiked by custom stickers, GIFs, character emojis and a Snapchat AR lens. There were team-ups with key influencers across Instagram and TikTok for hosted Watch Parties, thematic crafts & recipes, beauty, drag queens, and custom videos to celebrate the movie. The targeted activations included a Drag Brunch & Drag Bingo takeover featuring the Sanderson Sisters in LA, NYC and Miami, along with Hocus Pocus 2-themed mailers to regional influencers, and custom morning show segments in ten markets the week of launch.

Leaning into a theatrical marketing tactic on Hocus Pocus 2, Disney lined up 11 promotional partners which were organic to the movie.

This included Airbnb recreating the Sanderson sisters’ iconic cottage in Salem, Massachusetts, making it available to reserve during the film’s launch window. Disney’s D23 club also hosted a Hocus Pocus 2 celebration in Salem, Massachusetts for members over launch weekend.

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Walgreens was not only a promo partner, but made an appearance in the film. The national pharmacy had a custom spot and paid digital media along with in-store signage for the pic and giveaways at their 9,000+ stores.

Swiffer’s mop became Sarah Sanderson’s (Parker) new mode of transportation in the new film and the brand also had a custom TV spot, developed custom digital creative, sponsored the premiere, and activated influencers.

courtesy Kellogg’s

Kellogg’s created an exclusive cereal for Hocus Pocus 2 across roughly 400K boxes that were available at grocery stores nationwide. They partnered with Walmart for an exclusive sku that offered an extra promotion with the retailer, that being a special book of Winifred Sanderson’s (Midler) Spells. The cover of the cereal box is the book.

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Shark Ninja robot vacuums became Mary Sanderson’s (Najimy) new mode of transportation in the film and the placement was supported with a tailor-made TV spot, retail displays nationwide, premiere sponsorship and paid digital.

Lovesac created a custom TV spot featuring their custom ‘sactionals’ with StealthTech sound and had a placement at the film’s world premiere.

Several other brands came aboard with custom product including Goose Creek Candles (custom Hocus Pocus 2 Candle line), Mooncat (themes nail polishes & accessories), Colourpop Cosmetics (licensed collection), Babybel (Hocus Pocus 2 packaging), all of which includes online, media, and retail support.

And of course, having already excited audiences on Freeform with Hocus Pocus, Disney delivered and doted on that audience again with a massive program that was part of the network’s 31 Night of Halloween programming. There were ABC logo integrations and a special look during the network airing of Hocus Pocus on Sept. 29. Disney also pushed the sequel across its sister brands with custom historical social content across National Geographic’s social communities, and a heavy spot rotation across Disney Channel, FX, and Hulu.

Over at Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts there was show signage and digital app exclusives splashed everywhere with the Anne Fletcher directed title also having a footprint at such local events as Quinceanera Expo (LA), Atlanta Black Pride Festival, and Fiestas Patrias Olvera Street (LA), and activations with local sorority houses.

More proof that the small screen launch of Hocus Pocus 2 has tainted the franchise: The pic’s EP David Kirschner has teased that a Broadway musical version of the 1993 film is in the works.

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Says Ayaz about the power of the Hocus Pocus franchise, “The film has become like a Rocky Horror Picture Show in some ways, just this classic that is a whole generation of kids, families and adults who love the film and love how funny it is.”

“What a great Halloween film it is.”



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Netflix & Paramount+ To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’ ; TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome With Toon Series; ‘One Piece Film Red’ London Takeover — Global Briefs

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Netflix & Paramount+ UK To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’

Netflix and Paramount+ have struck a first of its kind-of-deal over a true crime documentary telling the story of the strip search caller in the U.S. Paramount+ has taken UK rights to Pervert: The Hunt for the Strip Search Caller and Netflix has rest of world on the doc, which it will be calling Don’t Pick Up the Phone. The deal is believed to be the first time two streamers have worked in such a way in the UK and rest of world. The doc tells the shocking story of a hoax caller who targeted fast food restaurants across the U.S. – posing as a police officer investigating a theft, the caller instructed managers to strip-search the young female employees he said were suspects. For many victims, what began as a humiliating strip search escalated into sexual abuse.

Canada’s TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome In Animated Series ‘Griffin And Turner’

EXCLUSIVE: Ontario, Canada’s TVOkids and Big Jump Entertainment are working on 2D-animated series Griffin and Turner. Based on real Canadian brothers who a significant online following, the show follows the supportive pair as they, their friends and family undertake personal challenges but focus on the journey rather than winning. Turner has Down syndrome, and TVOKids executive producer Kirsten Hurd noted the series has been developed in consultation with the Down syndrome community. Producer Big Jump is behind shows such as Shutterbug and Big Words, Small Stories.

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London Gets ‘One Piece Film Red’ Takeover After Record Haul

To celebrate the record-breaking haul of One Piece Film Red in the UK, the Straw Hat Pirates are set for a takeover of iconic London locations on November 26. Via local distributor Anime Limited and Toei Animation, the cast and memorable scenes from the series will be projected onto the County Hall of London, opposite the London Eye as well as other key locations. One Piece Film: Red has grossed over £800,000 in the UK and Ireland since it released earlier this month, making it the biggest of the long-running franchise. A phenomenon in Japan, One Piece Film Red has grossed $162M to date worldwide 



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‘All Quiet On The Western Front’, ‘Belfast’ Top 2022 EFA Arts & Crafts Awards

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Edward Berger’s All Quiet On The Western Front and Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast top the European Film Academy’s Excellence Awards honoring achievement in the arts and crafts categories, the winners of which were announced on Wednesday.

Belfast won best European Production Design for Jim Clay, whose credits include Children Of Men, for which he won a Bafta in 2006, and Murder On The Orient Express.

The drama, set against the backdrop of the beginnings of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland in 1969, also won best European Costume Design for Charlotte Walter (Blithe Spirit, Misbehaviour)

Netflix-backed German WWI drama All Quiet On The Western Front won best European Make-up & Hair for Heike Merker, and Best European Special Effects for Frank Petzold, Viktor Müller and Markus Frank.

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 In other categories, best European Cinematography was won by Kate McCullough for her work on Colm Bairéad’s Irish-language drama The Quiet Girl.

Best European Editing went to Özcan Vardar and Eytan İpeker for Turkish director Emin Alper’s drama Burning Days.

Polish composer Paweł Mykietyn won best European Original Score went for Jerzy Skolimowski’s EO.

Best European Sound went to Simone Paolo Olivero, Paolo Benvenuti, Benni Atria, Marco Saitta, Ansgar Frerich & Florian Holzner for Michelangelo Frammartino’s cave exploration drama The Hole.

The winners, which are decided by a special expert jury, will receive their awards at the European Film Awards ceremony on 10 December in Reykjavík.

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Jennifer Lopez’s Social Media Mysteriously Goes Dark

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EXCLUSIVE: The actress, producer and top-selling performing artist’s social media channels including Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter have suddenly gone dark in their featured/cover images.

Reps for Jennifer Lopez were unavailable for comment, but we hear from others that The Hustlers and Marry Me actress is on the verge of announcing a new project.

Here’s a look at her Instagram tonight:

While Lopez’s Instagram had erased all posts, a trail of her previous postings remained on Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter. Across all four social media portals, Lopez counts close to 347M followers, the majority of that coming from her Instagram.

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Lopez’s Nuyorican Productions in June 2021 signed a multi-year first-look deal with Netflix spanning feature films, TV series and unscripted content, with an emphasis on projects that support diverse female actors, writers and filmmakers. Lopez co-runs Nuyorican Productions with her producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas.

Lopez scored her best opening for a live-action movie at the domestic box office with STX’s 2019 stripper caper Hustlers which debuted to $33.1 million, and grossed $105M stateside, $157.6M worldwide.  As a recording artist, Lopez has sold over 70 million albums, with J.Lo became her bestselling album with 3.8M copies sold in the U.S. and 12M global. Her Netflix thriller The Mother from director Niki Caro is set to debut in May. Her romantic comedy Shotgun Wedding with Josh Duhamel will hit Prime Video on Jan. 27.

On Facebook, one of her followers, Steffany Merino wrote, “What’s happened? Hope you and your wonderful family are ok. I’ll pray for your health and safety.”

Again, we hear something special is in the works in the next few days.



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