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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

How Anyone But You Became A Global Romcom Phenomenon

Sony’s Will Gluck-directed Anyone But You crossed $200M globally over this past weekend, injecting fresh life into the romcom genre and proving yet again that when done right, these films can travel theatrically and bring audiences together for a communal experience. 

Savvy marketing, viral moments and two hot young stars in Glen Powell and Sydney Sweeney — each with significant social engagement — were a key factor to the $25M film’s success. Some of the numbers are staggering: There have been 2.8 billion views of the hashtag #AnyoneButYou on TikTok. And, it was unexpected icing that a 20-year-old song, Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten,” became an anthem for fans.

Since it began a staggered overseas rollout in December with the UK and Australia the only majors in play until mid-January, Anyone But You kept seeing incredible holds, some weeks down infinitesimally and some weeks up by a good margin. 

Domestically, we understand this is currently the movie with the 5th highest multiple (at 14.5) for films that opened in wide release in modern box office times (ie, since 1982), and the best that Sony has ever had. Part of those multiples at home and abroad has been the younger crowd going for repeat viewings.

Sony Pictures Releasing International President Steven O’Dell tells us, “Strategically we chose a staggered release over the January/February holidays because we knew the best advocates for the film would be our audiences. We were confident every release would give confidence to exhibition and that the film just needed a chance to let audiences to speak authentically about their cinema experience. We knew we had the perfect recipe for a long, cold winter… It was a big decision not to rush it for Christmas in most parts of the world to let Stephen (Basil-Jones, Head of International Marketing) and the team do their job.”

Anyone But You has played very broadly. Typically with Hollywood comedies internationally, the English-speaking markets are the most receptive, followed by Germany and, oftentimes, the Netherlands.

But Anyone But You crossed even more borders. It is now the 5th highest-grossing romcom of all time in Mexico, and in Italy it is the biggest since 2012. In Brazil, it was No. 1 for two weeks; the just-concluded Cinema Week discount promotion there resulted in last Thursday selling more tickets than the film’s opening day on January 25. This past weekend’s admissions were the most in any weekend over the course of the run in the market.

Domestically, Anyone But You is the top-grossing R-rated comedy since 2015, and globally it’s the highest grossing R-rated romantic comedy since 2016’s Bridget Jones’s Baby. Beginning February 9, Sony released Anyone But You: The Valentine Encore, which includes new bonus content, exclusively in theaters in North America, the UK and Australia.

For Basil-Jones, the marketing became a “phenomenon” with materials working “everywhere, from Paris to Peru, Lithuania, Iceland to Lithuania, Israel, Australia to Austria – it didn’t matter.” Certain markets leaned into different aspects of the film, with Germany and other European hubs responding to the comedy versus Latin America and South East Asia “which wanted more appeal of the two stars,” he says.

Shooting in Sydney was another important factor, with its lush backdrop of sea and sunshine providing an element of escapism to audiences during winter in the northern hemisphere.

Explains Basil-Jones, “When Will arrived in Australia with the team and crew, right from the word go there was a buzz about the stars who were really current and had a contemporary appeal for that younger female audience. Especially Sydney with her social following and fan base built from Euphoria and The White Lotus, but you also had her relevant beauty and fashion endorsements too.”

A smart move from day one was to capture “a lot of early content from the set, highlighting that cast camaraderie and behind-the-scenes shots,” he adds. The chemistry of the leads helped heat things up as well. 

The film partnered with influencers for the Gen-Z crowd in every market, pushing the trailer out and creating their own content which had massive appeal on TikTok, including from Kylan Darnell and Bella Grace Gates who created “Get Ready with Me” videos across TikTok and Instagram Reel.

The cast too did a large social media push, creating bespoke and creative content which was “a huge part of not only driving pre-release awareness, but post-release, too,” notes Basil-Jones. It didn’t hurt that Sweeney and Powell, as well as filmmakers and Bedingfield dropped into theaters to surprise fans. (See videos below.)

Says O’Dell, “Getting that pilot light lit is the hardest part, but once you do, social media can fan that flame so quickly and audiences can be reminded of the fun this genre brings to cinema experience.”

The overall social stats are impressive with 2.8B views and 84,300 videos under the #AnyoneButYou hashtag; 808M views and 42,700 posts under #Unwritten and 7.3M views under #UnwrittenNatashaBedingfield.

For Basil-Jones, “The one thing that really surprised, that we didn’t realize was going to be so viral and contagious was the fans responding to and singing along with that song. It’s not a classic and familiar Beatles or Taylor Swift song, yet it was from 20 years ago and it suddenly spoke culturally to people. It became contagious because that end final scene wrapped it up so beautifully and that’s what people carried away.”

The idea to use the song came from Gluck whose previous successes with Sony include Easy A and the Peter Rabbit films. “He knows young audiences, knows what they’re about and how to speak to them and how not to,” says Basil-Jones.

After the film’s release, “Unwritten” hit Spotify’s 200 chart and rose to No. 7 on TikTok’s viral chart as well as being up 156% in streams. 

Female moviegoers were targeted with high-profile linear and streaming television, digital, social, radio and custom media promotions. The film aligned with E! the Rundown to create a custom video on Snapchat featuring host Erin Lim, and partnered with CUT to create a “Truth or Drink” custom video highlighting couples and their “first date fails,” while a “Dinner & Movie Night” sweepstakes was created in partnership with Tinder.

As for what the success of Anyone But You means overall for romcoms going forward, O’Dell says, “It validated our confidence that the romcom genre is alive and kicking. Will Gluck gave audiences the laughs and wish fulfillment that reminded them why romantic comedies have been and will continue to be a staple for decades as a great, social cinema experience.”

And, Sony is still betting on the genre, recently boarding Past Lives director Celine Song‘s next movie, Materialists, a romcom that has Dakota Johnson, Chris Evans and Pedro Pascal in talks to star.

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