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Roughly 48 hours shy of the premiere, even agoraphobes without cable or Internet likely have some awareness of The X-Files revival.
Fox has been more than aggressive in its promotion for the Jan. 24 return. And, for any shoppers who have yet to catch the windfall of that marketing, the network just dropped a flying saucer in the middle of one of Los Angeles’ most-trafficked malls.
Day players in yellow hazmat suits, ominously blasting ruptured soil with a fog of CO2, circled a felled “UFO” at The Grove for several hours on Friday afternoon. This massive photo op, a facsimile of an alien spaceship measuring 26 feet wide, 12 feet long and 17 feet high, is the punctuation mark on a nine-monthlong pitch to lure viewers back for another six episodes of the iconic ‘90s drama.
“Obviously, coming after the NFC Championship Game on Sunday night, we’re going to have a huge lead-in,” Fox Broadcasting executive vp and CMO Angela Courtin tells The Hollywood Reporter. “But this has been about building a really strong strategy that resembles more of a political campaign. You shore up your base. You go find your fans. You bring them to the table, offer them content they want to share, so they do some of the heavy lifting.”
Whether or not the network and its sister studio have efficiently courted the old audience, 27 million strong at its height, it’s not for lack of trying. The X-Files‘ premiere has been screening for fans at various events since October, and an ambitious social media campaign kicked into full gear back in July with “201 Days of X-Files” — a nostalgia-heavy pitch in which the network’s various platforms encouraged a re-viewing of the original series’ nine-season run.
It’s a discernible shift for Chris Carter. The creator, who attributed the lack of marketing for the 2008 X-Files film to its smaller box office in THR‘s recent oral history of the series, has been vocal about that not being an issue this go around. “Everything, including this, is a breath of fresh air,” Carter said Friday. “I was asked if I would come to a marketing meeting very early on. I thought it would be, you know, 10 people. It was 50 people.”
The showrunner, joined at The Grove by his two dogs, took photos with fans and locals on their lunch breaks for over an hour. Some of those who stopped by also received free tickets to a screening of the episode at the neighboring cinema. And while the number of people able to physically connect with the stunt is admittedly few, Courtin says that’s no reason to not do it.
“We want to continue to find ways to connect the online and offline experience,” explains Courtin, not yet a year on the job. “Crashing a UFO at The Grove, while obviously very geographically central to L.A., that is going to proliferate on the social sphere.”
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