Netflix gives old-school marketing a shot with ‘The Gray Man’

Netflix is pulling out all the stops for its biggest blockbuster yet — The Gray Man from Marvel stalwarts the Russo Brothers.

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Netflix gives old-school marketing a shot with ‘The Gray Man’


The Future. Netflix is pulling out all the stops for its biggest blockbuster yet — The Gray Man from Marvel stalwarts the Russo Brothers. The worldwide marketing push is the first test of Netflix acting more like a traditional studio, hoping that the extra love for a fewer number of films becomes a subscriber-growth engine for the platform. Known throughout Hollywood as the most welcoming place for more niché, original films, Netflix’s next round of greenlights’ may demonstrate what stories and genres the company finds meaningful in the context of its new business model.

The Ad Man
Per Bloomberg, Netflix recently tested letting the world know that one of its new movies is coming out.

  • For its film The Gray Man (which was released in limited theaters last weekend and opens on the service this weekend), Netflix rolled out a traditional blockbuster marketing campaign.
  • That includes a worldwide press tour, commercial spots during NBA games and the Indy 500, and huge 3D billboards from Vegas to Poland.
  • It also released the film in 450 theaters last weekend for an exclusive run (something the streamer wants to expand) — still down from the minimum 2,000 theaters a blockbuster typically plays domestically.

We don’t know how much the marketing impacted The Gray Man’s box-office revenue, but the streamer knows that most people will see the movies on the service — so Netflix brass will be watching closely on that key first-month viewership total.

If you build it, they will stream
In the past, Netflix has focused on marketing its platform more so than any specific film. This move has irked both execs and filmmakers looking to let the public know that their movies exist beyond an algorithm’s recommendation. That’s not to say Netflix has never marketed its films beyond the vanity billboards and For Your Consideration ads in L.A. and NYC. Mega-popular titles like Stranger Things and Ozark, and newer films like the Adam Sandler-starring Hustle and animated The Sea Beast, have gotten the royal treatment.

But the $200 million The Gray Man is on an entirely different level and represents a paradigm shift for the streamer. According to Netflix’s head of global film, Scott Stuber, the company is getting out of the “volume” business, which means that the company will make fewer films, with the hope that the better-positioned, smaller number of films will connect with a wider audience.

That requires development, the ability to eventize… and some good old-fashioned marketing, no matter the movie’s budget.

David Vendrell

Born and raised a stone’s-throw away from the Everglades, David left the Florida swamp for the California desert. Over-caffeinated, he stares at his computer too long either writing the TFP newsletter or screenplays. He is repped by Anonymous Content.


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