CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, FOX SEARCHLIGHT
Not only did Nancy Utley, the studio's chief operating officer, one-up herself by helping the film snare four Academy Award nominations, she led a remarkable marketing effort that pushed "Juno" to a gross of more than $100 million at the box office (a record for Searchlight). The studio's former marketing chief, with the assistance of a studiowide effort, helped make the film's Diablo Cody-penned script part of the pop-culture lexicon. Remember this the next time you hear someone replace a noun with the word "blog" in everyday speech ("What the blog?").
Photo: Doane Gregory
Dan Pittman, the studio's VP-media, kicked off the "Juno" campaign in late November to go after the tastemaking art-house cinema crowds and females 18 to 24, the film's target demo. After building a significant amount of buzz among both demos in a limited December release, he moved on to target adults 35 to 54 and ultimately proved that "Juno" could play in Peoria despite its controversial teen-pregnancy theme.
"The movie was both pro-choice and pro-life," Ms. Utley says. "We believed 'Juno' was speaking to their cause, and it helped the movie to penetrate into smaller towns in a smaller way."
Similarly, studio PR chief Michelle Hooper and VP-Creative Stephanie Allen pushed key aspects of the film's script. In Southern California, Ms. Hooper set up a series of pop-up replicas of Juno's bedroom, dubbed "Juno-verse," featuring Juno's posters, signature sweater and, of course, hamburger phone. They also trotted out director Jason Reitman and star Ellen Page in an 11-city promotional tour across the country to discuss the movie's themes and creative process.
Ms. Allen edited the film's trailer and TV spots to ensure that Ms. Cody's unique brand of sharp-witted humor stayed true to the movie's subversively heartwarming message.
Promoting a film-fest favorite in the post-Thanksgiving Oscar rush presented Mr. Pittman with two challenges. "The first one was how competitive the landscape was in December. ... Claiming you have award acclaim really isn't enough," he says. The other was being a casualty of Hollywood happenstance. "The writers strike knocked a lot of shows off the air. We couldn't a) get any publicity and b) get any spots out there."
With the instant reach of original broadcast programming virtually locked out by the nationwide launch of "Juno" in mid-January, Mr. Pittman used strategic media buys to draw distinct lines between his two target demos. For the 18- to 34-year-olds, he turned to female-targeted reality shows such as "Project Runway," "The Hills" and "Keeping Up With the Kardashians." He bought into cable news' election coverage and key morning and evening news shows to lure the 35-to-64 movie fans.
The online effort saw a mix of social-networking sites (MySpace, YouTube, Gawker) and "smart sites" (Comedy Central, NYTimes.com, Huffington Post) to zero in on potential Juno-heads. Some Facebook users were treated to a free gift, Juno's hamburger phone, to post on their friends' walls.
Having officially broken nearly all her once-boutique studio's records, Ms. Utley has high hopes she and her team can top themselves again soon. Already on tap for 2008 are two high-profile literary adaptations: a hard-hitting take on Chuck Palahniuk's "Choke" starring Sam Rockwell and a movie version of "The Secret Life of Bees" with Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson.
"Sometimes when I meet somebody and tell them what I do, people will go, 'Those are all my favorite movies!' " Ms. Utley says. "I think among our niche group of consumers, our name means something."