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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Bridget Jones's Baby boom? Smart marketing, modernised values

DIRECTOR: Sharon Maguire
BUDGET: $35m
BOX OFFICE: UK $60m, US $24m, World $212m
PRODUCTION COMPANY CREDITS: Miramax*, StudioCanalUniversal PicturesWorking Title Films *presumably they retain rights as original film co-producer with WT
DISTRIBUTION: Universal, UIP 62 countries 'Universal is releasing in most territories with Studiocanal handling France, Germany and Austria' [Deadline]

Much more to come on one of the most significant Working Title productions for years. They have multiple highly successful franchises (Nanny McPhee, Bean, Johnny English...) but none are as iconic and central to their identity as BJD, the franchise based on Helen Fielding's hit novel.

Working Title page.
Daily Mail. #1 in 24 countries; biggest UK September opening ever

I've blogged on this for a few years now (here; here on novel + musical; here in a wider post on WT franchising): BJD3 was announced in July 2009! It was then formally greenlit by Universal + WT in October 2011 ... but would take another 4 years for shooting to commence, with Hugh Grant dropping out and a change of director (Paul Zeig was originally attached, but with the film seeming dead in the water Sharon Maguire wasn't attached until negotiations with the principal cast resumed again in June 2015). [details from Wiki]

Sharon Maguire was overlooked for the first sequel...
Sharon Maguire, who directed the original Bridget Jones’s Diary in 2001, returned to direct the feature film from a script she co-wrote with David Nicholls (One Day) [source]

BoxOfficeMojo BJD franchise page.

WT's deal with NBC-Universal may have been downgraded to a first-look deal, but this was a certainty for pick-up and Universal (plus fellow NBC-U subsidiary StudioCanal) have been involved from the outset. The early IMDB distributor list (March 24th 2016) above indicates global distribution by UIP/UPI.

Interest has been strong in the movie; this Aussie feature (a useful, short overview), for example, discussed the movie 2 months ago, while there were lots of equivalents of this photo-only video showing on-set images from the shoot 5 months ago. Here's another example of the many articles this simple marketing ploy inspired.

This is unusual, and highly noteworthy.
Its not clear yet to what extent this will get a staggered European release (the early announcements have a week's gap). It's getting a simultaneous UK and US release, a rare move. It was booked in for September 2016 a year in advance! Given the BJD franchise's history of exceptionally strong UK appeal we won't see Gant's rule applying, and it makes sense to ensure your second largest market doesn't resort to piracy.

Another really smart move: a 15-second teaser was released, with no dialogue, announcing the date of the main trailer! This received a huge amount of coverage in newspapers, magazines, ezines and across social media. The main trailer would be given first as an exclusive to various outlets across multiple platforms, notably The Ellen Show on US TV.

1 of the Metro's 19 things we now know...

I did a YouTube search for Bridget Jones Baby; the upload on The Ellen Show was the top hit, not the official Universal account (or WT's). In the 3 hours between a lesson on this and updating this post [on 24th March 2016] the figures went from 1m hits to nearer 1.5m. Trailer viewings are a fairly good predictor of ultimate success.

Typical of the coverage was this puff piece in the Mirror; it might as well have been written by the publicists!
The claim about surprises and twists is palpable nonsense - the film is clearly a thinly disguised re-run of the original despite the baby twist.


The international trailers are already out:








This one lacks Hugh Grant but gains Patrick Dempsey alongside the returning Colin Firth, maintaining the love triangle narrative structure. Firth's status has grown with his huge success in Oscar-winning The King's Speech (in which he played a posh bloke ... ).
The harsh hype over lead Zellweger's physical appearance after a stint out of the spotlight seems to have been forgotten, and if the virtual puff piece (it could have been scripted by the distributors!) from The Metro is anything to go by the long range marketing effort is succeeding in at least building media hype and thus audience awareness.
The 15 second teaser builds on multiple press releases: announcing Dempsey, Zellweger proclaiming she doesn't know the ending, WT shot three alternative endings ... The successful Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy played on the film's central narrative enigma with an online and offline Spy hunt, and 'who's the daddy' (yes, I squeezed in a Scum intertextual reference...) is the essence of the marketing spin here.
The audience for this could be different from the previous entries - it's certainly lacking four quadrant potential. Bridget is a decade older, likewise her suitors, so youth appeal looks limited. A basic romance plot can attract a significant male audience through the hybridity of comedy, and (as with horror) the common consumption or audience practice of attending as a date.
The pregnancy and paternity plot-lines (and their reduction of glamorising male gaze potential) are likely to be toxic for the mainstream make audience, though may work with BJD's substantial gay male fanbase (the 'pink pound'), perhaps identifying with what Judith Butler describes as the 'performativity of gender'.
The film is due out in the UK on September 16th ... and the next trailer has a release date(!) of ... today, 23rd March 2016.
Keep looking out for updates on the campaign and, eventually, it's reception and box office. I'm doubtful of its prospects. I'm also intrigued to see if they can manage to replicate the ingenious soundtrack mix of the original that was a major strand of a quite brilliant marketing campaign.
The main trailer has arrived, and the older nature of the target audience is denoted by the early, prominent 'f-word'. The accent is as terrible as ever, but perfect for the international market as it's essentially a posh southern English accent.
I also note 

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