It's been a tough year for documentaries at the box office. How do you market a critically-acclaimed film about five Indiana high school teens that just happens to be a doc?
The film is American Teen, and the hurrahs began at Sundance this year. James Rocchi described it as "an engaging, stylish and surprisingly smart piece of non-fiction entertainment." Paramount Vantage acquired distribution rights and then released a poster a couple of months later that intentionally reminded everyone of John Hughes' The Breakfast Club (note poster on the left, above).
The company changed tactics somewhat with their campaign inviting people to become "fans" of the real-life characters in the movie. You can see more about this at the film's official site. Filmmaker A. J. Schnack questioned the wisdom of selling documentary subjects as marketable commodities. A new poster took a different approach (see above, right), though the trailer is still selling the nostalgia element.
In the Los Angeles Times, Mark Olsen examines the marketing challenge in detail. Among other things, he quotes director Nanette Burstein as not wanting the Breakfast Club poster as anything more than a teaser. But Paramount Vantage exec Megan Colligan claims they are not "trying to hide the fact that it's a documentary ... One of the challenges of this movie is making people feel like this is a cinematic experience that will feel to them like a great teen comedy." American Teen opens in limited engagements on Friday, July 25.Do you plan on seeing American Teen?