The red carpet premiere of “My Soul to Take,” was interrupted by a staged “stabbing” that was designed to cause controversy to promote the film’s release. The move has instead garnered widespread criticism.
Moviefone and other blogs have been overwhelmingly negative in their reaction to the failed stunt. Despite the controversy, or perhaps partly because of it, the movie has been moderately successful in its first weekend, earning itself fifth place in the box office rankings in its opening weekend.
Publicity stunts can help a movie, but only if the public enjoys them on some level. Jerry Seinfeld was roundly ridiculed for the decision to fly above the Cannes Film Festival dressed as a bee. He was in town to promote his animated flick, “The Bee Movie, ” and according to Time, flew above the crowd three times before coming to land behind the stage to change clothing for his interviews. While Seinfeld pronounced himself unembarrassed by the stunt, prevailing opinion among the journalists present, and later bloggers on the internet, seemed to be that he should have been. “The Bee Movie” never did that great at the box office.
The publicity stunt leading up to the premiere of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” fared slightly better. It benefited from the public’s apparent split decision, with half the people who saw the ads thinking they’re hilarious, and the other half thinking like Movie Marketing Madness, who called the campaign unbelievably lame. The ad campaign featured an “I Hate Sarah Marshall” billboard frenzy, as well as a website, all supposedly instigated by the character played by Jason Segal in the film.
The most controversial recent publicity stunt was actually instigated by the Cartoon Network in 2007 to promote their show “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” and it’s upcoming movie. Boston.com reported that Turner Broadcasting, Cartoon Network’s parent company, ended up having to pay the city of Boston over $2 million when light displays that they had planted all over the city’s bridges and tunnels were taken as possible bomb threats or terrorist attacks. The city dispatched their bomb squad, police officers, and firefighters all over the city to defuse the “bombs.” In addition to the manpower, the city was forced to close down most of its major roadways and bridges while officials investigated.
Granted, the publicity stunt for “My Soul to Take” wasn’t as extreme as the Cartoon Network stunt, but it has generated overwhelmingly poor reactions as well. That doesn’t bode well, as publicity stunts gone wrong often sink the very movie they’re supposed to be giving a boost.
Perri Nemiroff, “‘My Soul to Take’ Uses Fake Stabbing on Red Carpet to Promote Film.” Moviefone.com
Richard Corliss, “Bee-ing Jerry Seinfeld.” Time.com
Chris Thilk, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall’s lame cross-media campaign.” MovieMarketingMadness.com
Boston.com, “Froth, Fear, and Fury in Boston.”