A24’s The Witch took in an estimated worldwide total of $40.4 million USD at the box office. When compared to major Hollywood tentpole films that doesn’t sound like much.
But when you consider…
- It’s a historical period supernatural horror film
- With an estimated budget rumored to be between $1 – 3.5 million it was shot in just 26 days
- It was not an easy sell to mainstream audiences
That’s a wonderful return on investment.
A24 had a 13-month window to roll out the marketing campaign – from the initial purchase of distro rights for The Witch (at Sundance, Jan 2015) to the theatrical debut in Feb, 2016.
“Filmmakers—often the toughest audiences for their own films’ marketing campaigns—recognize the company’s real excitement for their films. That’s the chief message of an A24 campaign, really, from elegant design to sharp social media to clever co-branding choices: This is a company that gets it.” [source]
It takes creative and strategic thinking to outmaneuver the giant blockbuster films put out by Hollywood’s major studios. Good thing A24’s marketing game is on point.
January 24, 2015
1. Sundance Film Festival
A24 and DirecTV have closed a deal for U.S. rights to Robert Eggers’ ‘The Witch” which sources peg in the low-seven-figures range
The film had its world premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Prior to the film’s debut at the festival, A24 Films acquired theatrical distribution rights to the film in the US, with Universal Pictures taking the European distribution.
July 7, 2015
2. Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
During the summer of 2015, A24 placed The Witch in a couple of prestigious international film festivals. In July, the film screens at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
— Kino Aero (@aero_kino) July 11, 2015
August 6, 2015
3. Melbourne International Film Festival
Then on to the Melbourne International Film Festival in August. After a brief tour around the world A24 gets ready to put into play their social media marketing machine – ahead of the TIFF.
— Melbourne Film Fest (@MIFFofficial) June 12, 2015
August 15, 2015
4. Twitter account for The Witch launches
It’s now 6 months out until launch date. A24 starts firing up the individual social media accounts. First up is Twitter. Since going up, it racks up over 10 thousand followers and puts out over 200 tweets.
— The Witch (@TheWitchMovie) August 19, 2015
August 19, 2015
5. The Witch Facebook page launches
The Facebook page for The Witch becomes one of the most important social hubs for the movie. As of today it has over 445,000 fans and some of the videos that have been posted have accumulated over 1 million views.
6. The ‘Black Philip’ Twitter account
The ‘Black Philip’ Twitter account goes live as well. Hilarity ensues. A24 allowed their campaign one single bit of brevity and this was it. Sheer brilliance. Amongst all of the grim and foreboding images, clips and trailers that dominate the campaign – they create a Twitter account for ‘Black Philip’ the goat and breakout character from the film.
And they have a lot of fun with this account – even going so far as to poke fun at Trump’s presidential campaign. @ also ends up with almost 10 thousand followers.
666 retweets and ill consider it pic.twitter.com/ssRaiXSvXg
— Black Phillip (@BlackPhillip) March 7, 2016
7. The Official Trailer is launched on YouTube.
The Witch trailer debuts and instantly garners attention for being one of the most memorable horror trailers in quite some time. Word quickly spreads around the web. It amasses over 6 million views by the time the film debuts the following February.
It has now crossed over 12 million plays.
September 18, 2015
The film is selected to be screened in the Special Presentations section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.
TIFF is one of the largest publicly attended film festivals in the world, with over 480,000 annual attendees. Knowing how much media attention the film could receive at TIFF, it’s no accident that A24 had all of their social media ducks (Twitter, FB, YouTube) lined up in advance.
— TIFF (@TIFF_NET) September 24, 2015
November 13, 2015
9. Launched Snapchat account
Not one to leave out the millenials – a Snapchat account goes online.
10. Instagram account goes live
A24’s marketing team posts 62 times on The Witch’s Instagram account over a 10-week period.
The posts consist of images, short clips and stylishly rendered quotes from critics maintaining brand consistency with the rest of the social media output.
Feb 1, 2016
11. ‘Satanic Revolution’ microsite is launched
The Satanic Temple and A24 partner and the ‘Satanic Revolution’ microsite is launched. This is perhaps their ballsiest and riskiest piece of co-branding.
But if you’re dealing with witchcraft and satanism – how cool is it to get a stamp of approval from the Satanic Temple themselves?
— A24 (@A24) February 1, 2016
12. ‘Peek A Boo’ trailer debuts
With less than 3 weeks to go – A24 pushes out a third and final trailer. With anticipation already sky high the trailer ends up netting 4.6 million plays on YouTube.
“The third (and seemingly final) trailer for director Robert Eggers‘ The Witch has arrived and hopefully you’re sold on this immaculate horror film by now. This new preview is tonally in line with the first and second trailers, only hinting at the plot and characters while leaning heavily on the film’s oppressive atmosphere and chilling visuals. And since this movie has atmosphere to spare, why not utilize that and save everything else for when you’re in the theater?” [source]
Feb 19, 2016
13. Release date (moved up from Feb 26th).
The Witch opens on 2,046 screens in North America battling it out with the immensely successful Deadpool. Kung Fu Panda 3 and the faith-based Risen (which comes with its own built in audience).
It takes in an impressive $8.8 million that weekend or $4,301 per screen. Not bad at all for a cinematic oddity.
The film plays in theaters globally for a total of 14 weeks ending up with a worldwide gross of $40,423,945. I have no idea how much of that would be profit after marketing costs, distribution fees, and theatrical cuts are accounted for. But I guarantee you at the end of the day there were some smiling faces.
And now it gets to play out on Blu-ray, VOD, cable TV, streaming services and iTunes until the end of time.
— The Witch (@TheWitchMovie) February 24, 2016
— Vulture (@vulture) February 21, 2016
The Witch scared the hell out of me. And it's a real movie, tense and thought-provoking as well as visceral.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) February 16, 2016
Feb 26, 2016
Director Robert Eggers Does Fan Q&A on Quora
Director Robert Eggers goes on to Q&A site Quora to answer audience and fan questions.
Author Katherine Howe does an AMA on Reddit
Katherine Howe, bestselling author and Salem witch trial expert answers dozens of questions on Reddit via an AMA the about facts & folklore of The Witch.
— Katherine Howe (@katherinebhowe) February 26, 2016
- Having a killer product to begin with makes things ten times easier down the line when you’re mapping out your marketing strategy.
- Sheer down and dirty creativity can help a lot when you’re going toe to toe with data-driven marketing behemoths with deep pockets.
- A successful campaign may need months to roll out. Never underestimate the amount of lead time you’ll need to execute.
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