How to Design Marketing Strategies for Arthouse Films? A Case Study of A24 | Howide

Arthouse Cinema

The article was originally posted on Howide with 838 views, reposted with 3744 views.

Written by Jiexiao Ying 2018.07.06
Translated by Jiexiao Ying 2019.06


Some people believe that the studio-dominated movie market is a nightmare for most arthouse films. The budget for marketing is limited, the screens are occupied by big studios, and the audience prefers tent-pole franchise films. In order to reach a wider audience, arthouse films usually have to make a compromise during the campaigns by hiding their individualities, which makes it even more difficult to stand out. How do arthouse movies develop marketing strategies? Maybe A24 can give you some inspirations.


The niche market of arthouse films has challenged the veterans in the industry. They are overwhelmed in the process of marketing and publicity. It seems difficult to associate the arthouse films with a good box office record. Even professional arthouse film distributors would try to hoax the audience from watching Netflix at home to theatre by moving away from the content itself and paying more attention to the promotion of the star cast and gimmicky perspectives. These methods not only miss the arthouse moviegoers but also discourage the auteur directors.


Some arthouse film production and distribution companies are deeply aware of this concern of young directors and have chosen a unique marketing method to target niche markets and cultivate the tastes of the general public. Among them, A24, which has been established for only six years, but has won four Oscars, has the most eye-catching performance. The emergence and exploration of the A24 not only gives the film industry more possibilities but also brings more hope to the arthouse films.


A Rising Star: Catching Up with the Industry Giant “Fox Searchlight”


What is A24?

The information about the founder and the general introduction of the company cannot be found on its official website. There is only one simple sentence: This is the team behind Lady Bird, Moonlight, Florida Project, Lobster, The Witch, and Amy.


From a few interviews, I learned that the three founders of A24 are David Fenkel, Daniel Katz and John Hodges, who all have rich experience in the arthouse film industry, but they keep a low profile. They are rarely interviewed as if the mystery is part of their persona and marketing strategy. As they say, the A24 prefers speaking with films.


At A24, the core of the conversation is always art, and they only care about “how to make a cool movie.” Those familiar with the industry feel that the A24 is very different from the hierarchical studio system, but more like Silicon Valley, which focuses on an individual’s talent and teamwork. Employees do not have a formal title so they can challenge the founders at any time.

Florida Project was discovered by a public relations staff and she proposed purchasing it.


For Room director Lenny Abrahamson, A24 changes his view about film marketing. In the past cooperations, after handing over the film to the distributor, the director himself no longer participated in the promotion work. At A24, however, the director’s vision is carried  out throughout the campaigns. No one knows more about their movies than the director. This makes the marketing materials of A24 align with the film style, which in turn attracts the right fans into the cinema.


One of the most successful films ever made by A24 is Lady Bird. The film was directed by Greta Gerwig and won five Oscar nominations including the Best Film, and grossed more than $50 million in the box office in North America. The rotten tomato website critics once gave 100% Freshness. Lady Bird producer Scott Rudin praised A24 and wrote a message to them, “I have testified with my 60 years of experience, and A24 is the best team I have ever worked with in my life.”


Lady Bird’s rotten tomato freshness 100%


Last year, the A24 ranked 12th in the US market, surpassing the arthouse film distribution giant Fox Searchlight with a slight advantage, defeating the Annapurna company founded by Megan Allison. A24 should not be underestimated, and their experience may provide some reference for Chinese arthouse film producers and distributors.

Niche Market: Dig into the Marginal Story


The A24’s mavericks are reflected in their brilliant selection of films.


The three founders focus on the marginalized stories that are ignored by Hollywood studios. Moonlight is about the growth of African-American boys. Room is about the mother and boy who have been secretly imprisoned for years before regaining freedom. Lady Bird concerns the adolescent years and the tension between mother and daughter. A24 has a unique line up.


A24 team understand the value of movies and are good at exploring the overlooked highlights and traits of these films. And these film works are indeed successful, both in terms of word of mouth and box office report.  

A24’s films are favored by Oscar.


A24 movies have been often selected to Oscar. Moonlight is the black horse of 2017 and has won the Best Picture at Oscar. Ex Machina, with its strange and cool vibe, has won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects and introduced the audience to the future Oscar winner Alicia Vikander. Brie Larson of Room has won the Oscar for Best Actress. Disaster Artist was nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay. Williem Dafoe of Florida Project was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor. Oscar awards allowed A24 to gain huge recognition in a short period of time. In addition to the strong lineup, A24’s rise also has to do with their cool marketing strategy.


Social Media Campaigns and Film Related Events


The popularity of A24 has its reason. They have cultivated a group of loyal fans with unique marketing methods, and social media has become their killer.


The A24 has two secret weapons: one is Watson DG, which specializes in online marketing, and the other is data research company Operam, which helps film companies generate algorithms that target potential movie goers on social platforms. A24 usually invests 95% of the budget for online marketing on theatrical release. With data analysis, A24 weaves the film info into the social media, allowing super fans to “discover” these movies and then spontaneously spread the news to friends. In other words, A24 has “persuaded” fans to persuade more viewers.


Most established companies are new to social media data analysis tools, and they are more used to traditional marketing campaigns. Social media marketing not only reduces costs but also easier to monitor. As a result, A24 boldly uses social media as the main method of marketing, targeting at the millennial generation, and created one topic after another with creative marketing concepts.


A24 successfully create a fascinating “persona” on the social platform, winning over many fans with humor and wit. In addition to their company account, they also set up social accounts for the characters in the movie and brought the audience closer to the movie in a novel way. Take Ex Machina as an example. A24 created an account for the AI played by  

Ex Machina, Alicia Vikander poster

Alicia Vikande on Tinder to interact with netizens. This move caused a sensation on the social platform, and many users interact with it. When the film was released, the box office revenue was high.


The success of the A24 on social media depends on its active interaction with the users. On the one hand, A24 works with influencers to attract the audience. Finn Wolfhard, the star actor of Stranger Things recommended Lady Bird. A talk show host mentioned Eighth Grade. They have brought a lot of likes and retweets of the A24 social media account. On the other hand, A24 launches a variety of public events, sometimes adopting the creative idea of super fans, which provides materials for their own marketing campaigns, but also makes fans feel listened to and appreciated.


To promote The Disaster Artists, the behind-the-scenes story of the cult classic film The Room, A24 encourages everyone to act a sequence of The Room directed by Tommy Wisseau in public. The most courageous competitors can win the Tommy Award. Not only did everyone gain joy in their awkward performance with their friends and the surprised look of strangers, but they also quickly brought attention to the A24 film, The Disaster Artist.  For A24, the wonderful video submitted by fans became materials for a short video, and YouTube’s award-winning videos they put together has become marketing materials for a new round of promotion.

The third film released by A24, “Spring Breakers”


At the same time, they are also good at turning film marketing campaigns into various social or cultural events, effectively breaking out of the circle of regular filmgoers and becoming a social or cultural topic. For example, the third film released by A24, Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers”. A24 made a spring break version of “The Last Supper” on the Internet and became a hit. Harmony Colin once told Rolling Stone that he wanted to make the most radical film, which would be released in the most commercial forms, and A24 helped him achieve that goal.


“Lady Bird” Twitter screenshots


The frequent update of the social media channels of A24 requires a lot of sharable marketing assets. In order to save energy and time, A24 sometimes modifies the contents slightly and transfers them to other social media platforms. For example, the process of a dog’s image turning into a Lady Bird poster style on Twitter can be collected as three screenshots and reposted on the photogenic Instagram

A Ghost Story Still

In addition to social media, A24 has many unexpected offline promotions. The A24 teamed up with Steve Jos Pan and digital design company Watson DG to launch the immersive marketing of A Ghost Story. Because the image of the ghost is the highlight of the movie, a pop-up ghost room appeared behind a small shop in Manhattan Chinatown. By putting on the long sheets, cutting out the fabrics for eyes, the visitors are ghosts in a minimalist style. Visitors entered the room of mirrors, lingered in the ethereal soundtrack, and reflected on their existence. After the pop-up store was closed, the audience could also interact online and held the mouse to explore the ghost’s memory. David Lowery, director for A Ghost Story, loved the event and said it was not only a marketing campaign but also a mysterious journey to explore the private experience.


Reinvent the Industry and Deliver Quality Content


A24 now is even stronger. It releases about 20 movies each year, 10 of which will be screened. Among them, 2 to 3 titles will be released during the award season with personalized strategies. At the same time, they are not satisfied with doing distribution only. They are also committed to becoming an excellent production company. In the A24’s plan, about 6-8 movies are produced each year, and 60% to 80% of the movies released by A24 is produced by A24.


In addition to the production and distribution business, A24 also have podcasts, issue free magazines, sell limited editions of movie franchise online, and organize music events. Its ultimate goal is to produce quality content that is not limited to a certain form. Brand strategist DeeDee Gordon said: “What’s so interesting is that they’re tapping into a new type of entertainment enthusiast. It’s similar, I think, to what happened in foodie culture. It used to be a rarefied niche. Then it became democratized. Every income level. Every life stage. Global. That is the opportunity that A24 now has at its fingertips.”


But no matter how far they reach out, the goal of A24 is still to produce quality content. They have facts to prove that most non-commercial films can also be of great commercial value. At least from the current results, their path is correct. The production and distribution of arthouse films still have a long way to go, and it needs new blood to explore various possibilities. I hope that this film industry will be more robust to reshape the industry ecology and help the arthouse films survive and thrive.









Original Article in Chinese:

Howide: 838 views

Reposted at 影视工业网 1095 views

Reposted at 影视产业观察 3744 views














去年,A24的美国市场份额名列12,以微弱优势超越了艺术电影发行巨擘福斯探照灯影业(Fox Searchlight),打败了定位相似的梅根·艾利森创办的Annapurna公司。A24的能量不可小觑,他们的经验或许可以为国内艺术电影制片和发行方提供一定参考。








A24有两个秘密武器:一个是专注于网络营销的Watson DG公司,另一个是数据调研公司Operam,可以帮助制片公司生成算法,锁定社交平台上的潜在购票者。A24一般会投入95%的预算,用作院线电影的线上营销,通过数据分析把影片讯息植入到社交网络中,让资深影迷“发现”这些电影,再自发地向朋友们传播。也就是说,A24做到了“说服”影迷去说服更多的消费者。







除了社交媒体之外,A24还有许多出人意料的线下宣传方式。A24与史蒂夫·乔斯·潘和数码设计公司Watson DG联合发起了《鬼魅浮生》的沉浸式市场营销。因为鬼的形象是电影的亮点,所以在曼哈顿中国城的小店后间摆了一间快闪鬼屋。穿上长床单,露出黑眼洞,参观者俨然是一个极简风格的鬼魂,进入镜面重重的房间,徜徉在空灵的电影配乐里,反思自身存在。店铺关闭后,观众还可以在线互动,按住鼠标探索鬼的记忆。导演大卫·洛维称赞这个活动不仅仅是营销,更是对私人经验的一次神秘的探索。





-The End-







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