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The Weinstein Co. has released the theatrical poster for August: Osage County, John Wells‘ adaptation of Tracy Letts‘ Tony- and Pulitzer-winning play, which premiered at September’s Toronto International Film Festival and will be released nationwide on Christmas Day. Regardless of what one thinks about the film, which elicited a variety of reactions in Toronto, one has to acknowledge that its poster is visually cool and strategically smart.
The job of a movie poster is primarily to excite people enough to get butts in seats once the film opens, and I suspect that August‘s will accomplish that goal. By showcasing a large chunk of its impressive cast — namely Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Julianne Nicholson, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Chris Cooper and Abigail Breslin — the poster ensures that most moviegoers will be able to spot at least one person they like and will pay to see on the big screen. There’s something for everyone — the Meryl loyalists, the Julia fan base, etc. Other star-studded films have taken a similar approach, but rarely in such an organic way — instead of using headshots (like Valentine’s Day), August‘s poster features an image derived from an actual scene in the film, which is much more compelling.
A secondary job of a movie poster is, or can be, to frame a film in the minds of awards voters — in other words, to create certain expectations for it. This is extremely important because most voters make time to watch only a handful of contenders each awards season, and in order to get their votes a distributor must convince them to watch a film in the first place. Trailers, Q&As and parties certainly help, but so too do movie posters’ taglines — with which TWC’s marketing folks and its longtime awards strategist Lisa Taback have a strong track record. One example: “Find your voice” for The King’s Speech, which hinted that the film offered an inspirational journey. The August poster’s tagline is cute (“Misery loves family”), and the image clearly suggests a raucous sort of dramedy (a woman attacking an older woman while others look on in shock). I’m told that August will be competing in the musical or comedy categories at the Golden Globes, as opposed to the drama races, and, while it could have been placed in either, this image reinforces the case for the former, in which it will have an easier time competing.
“We knew our poster had to feature the incredible ensemble cast but wanted to avoid anything that felt contrived,” Stephen Bruno, TWC’s president of marketing, told The Hollywood Reporter. “This image has a wonderful duality in that it entices the audience going in and serves as an iconic reminder of an extraordinary film on the way out.”
Whether or not August: Osage County will snag any major Oscar or Globe noms — aside from a lead actress one for Streep, which seems like a no-brainer — remains to be seen. But it seems to me that this poster is sure to get people talking about it, thereby teeing it up for awards voters as effectively as any could.
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