A savvy marketing campaign came up trumps in the UK this week as 20th Century Fox launched British director Danny Boyle's latest film 28 Days Later. The horror title defeated all comers in the country including Hollywood heavyweights XXX and Lilo & Stitch and fellow wide openers Changing Lanes and Mr Deeds.
The company began a£600,000 television campaign five weeks ahead of the film's release, placing TV spots mostly in male-skewed programming such as high-profile football games and terrestrial television premieres of films such as The Matrix and A Clockwork Orange. These spots featured audience reaction footage taken by night vision cameras of an invited preview audience to entice audiences in.
Equally effective was the£170,000 outdoor print campaign which included fly-posting featuring dialogue from the film such as "the end is extremely f**king nigh". This also included creating a prologue to the film (pictured) designed by graphic artist Glyn Dillon (brother of Steve Dillon, artist on popular graphic novel Preacher and comic weekly 2000 AD), which ran in newspapers, London listings magazine Time Out and on escalator panels in nine major London underground stations.
"What happens in those first 28 days is why a lot of people might buy a ticket but very little of that is in the film" said Kieran Breen, director of UK marketing for Fox, "so we looked for ways to show it and set up the concept of the film." The same approach was used for the teaser trailer.
A deal with The Times newspaper also brought a marketing first with a CD Rom featuring the visceral opening 10 minutes of the film distributed to readers.
Finally the company tried ambient advertising launching a fictitious survivalist website in August creating buzz in chatrooms and propagating the idea of what would happen if a virus as depicted in the film actually occurred, only revealing the site's link to the film the day before previews commenced. They also created flyers featuring the films provocative logo, which incorporates the international biohazard symbol, which circulated at all the UK music festivals throughout the summer and street graffiti in Dublin, as well as projecting the logo onto the Dail, the Irish parliament.
All the effort certainly seems to have paid off in the vital launch territory. 28 Days Later grossed a mighty $2.35m (£1.5m) from its 318 sites for a powerful average of $7,382 per location. These figures include preview figures on Thursday (Halloween) of $281,379 (£179,801) from 265 sites.
Starring Cillian Murphy, Naomi Harris, Christopher Eccleston and Brendan Gleeson the film also led in London's West End where it grossed a mighty $207,520 (£132,605) over the weekend. Playing at 14 West End venues this score provided 28 Days Later with a $14,823 average.
The campaign is expected to remain much the same when the film is launched in other European territories next year, starting with France on March 5. 28 Days Later then rolls out in most other western-European territories in mid-April, including Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and the Nordic territories.
Elsewhere in the UK chart top five openings were recorded for Adam Sandler comedy Mr Deeds ($1.4m from 293 sites) at four, distributed by Columbia TriStar and UIP's dramatic thriller Changing Lanes ($1.3m from 311 venues) at five.
Holdovers XXX and Lilo & Stitch took second and third with $1.8m and $1.7m respectively. XXX now boasts a total gross of $14.9m after three weeks on release for Columbia. BVI's Lilo & Stitch has taken $18.4m since release five weeks ago but faces tough competition in its market from next weekend when Warner Bros' Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets has three days of previews ahead of its official launch in Nov 15.
Entertainment's horror film They also made the top ten, placed ninth, with $353,469 from 185 locations. Momentum Pictures scored two chart entries. The Magdalene Sisters landed at 14, taking $138,208 at 33 sites in the Republic of Ireland only, up 15% from its opening last weekend. Eclipse Pictures handles the film for Momentum in Ireland.
Meanwhile Lynne Ramsay's Morvern Callar, starring Samantha Morton, saw a strong limited launch taking $128,347 off just 17 sites for an average of $7,550 - the highest of any film on release this week
Also continuing to play well in the limited release market was Metrodome's Donnie Darko. The film retained 10th position for the second week with $273,469 from 51 sites and after just 10 days on release has already outperformed its North American release last year. Donnie Darko has grossed $786,399 in the UK compared to a final tally of $517,375 in North America, where it was launched by Newmarket Films in October 2001.